Disappointed in Responses

I am not posting this to start a debate, but rather to note my surprise and disappointment at the total lack of responses to the post titled, “Editorial by Peter Garrison.”

Following the link and reading the article in the LA Times, sent shivers up my spine, very similar to the responses noted by Garrison, the author.

The fact that the TSA has absolute authority at this point to order the FAA to revoke a pilot’s license, without any hearing whatsoever, if the pilot is “suspected” (those are my quotes) of being a security risk is surely worth a few responses.

As soon as I read the article I contacted AOPA and Phil Boyer personally responded within 15 minutes, telling me he was actually meeting with members of Congress that very day.

I figured the possibility, real or imagined, that a pilot’s license could be taken away without any hearing, was worthy of some discussion, so after a few hours, I returned to the Public Forum to see what others had said.

What did I find? Approximately 24 posts, all of which dealt with the design of a COPA logo. Not one irate or angry post attacking the TSA for this heavy-handed effort to circumvent basic Constitutional rights.

In no way am I attacking those who posted, but rather questioning why no one so far has seen fit to comment on what AOPA and others consider one of today’s most important issues facing all of general aviation.

Sorry to sound like I am preaching, but I am still disappointed at the lack of interest about this thread.

John Stewart

In reply to:

Sorry to sound like I am preaching, but I am still disappointed at the lack of interest about this thread.


For me, it was more resignation than anything else. Knowing what local pilots and airport managers have been doing to prevent the DC TFR from being permanent (and seeing the failure of the TSA to listen to them) doesn’t exactly make me feel that complaining to the TSA is very effective…

(See my post on the members forum about the DC TFR, or read the aero-news.net article here).

In the broader sense, given that anyone (US Citizen or non-citizen) can be detained indefinitely by the government, with no rights to counsel or charges against them, the fact that one’s pilot’s license can similarly be taken without much recourse is regrettable but not surprising. And given how unsuccessful larger groups (like civil liberties groups) have been in turning back these broader abuses, I guess I’m just not convinced that we can do much about the revocation of pilot’s licenses.

That’s probably not a great attitude, but it’s how I feel.


Well, what it amounts to is that bin Laden won. All those speeches made by everyone from Bush on down about how we would not let them take away our freedoms have long ago been forgotten. What is particularly galling is that most of the new “measures” that have been put into place are laughable in terms of their effectiveness in preventing the next attack. The usual crap. Punish the innocent. Be re-active instead of pro-active.


While the TSA has the “authority” to do this, how many have lost their certificate? Do we know the answer to that? Many of those that “bust” the Washington, D.C. TFR (the most visible TFR around) get an investigation by the Secret Service. Once they have determined they don’t represent a risk (they were just navigation challenged) they let them go. Then it becomes an issue of whether or not the FAA wants to pursue a violation. I guess the TSA could go crazy and pull all the certificates of any pilot that busted a TFR, but that’s not what is happening at the moment.

You are right, this lastest blow to our perceived personal freedom by the federal government is terrible. The phrases Fascist, Gestapo tactics, etc. come to mind. However, these tactics have been part of the current administration’s response to the public’s whining about protecting them against perceived terrorist intent ever since the 11 Sept. 2001 attacks. The fact that all these rules, TFRs, added airport security, etc., ad nauseum, will have absolutely no effect whatsoever is actually funny. (Ever see a terrorist obey the law?) It reminds me of the old “Three Stooges” episodes. “When in trouble or in doubt, run in circles, scream, and shout!” The fact that all of our constitutional rights RE the legal system went right out the window is terrible. However, like driving a car, piloting an airplane is a privilege granted by our government, not some sort of basic civil right. Therefore, there’s not much to be done about it, except work the system to have the rules revoked or modified. Besides, if you know how to fly an airplane and you know how to use navigation aids to get from point A to point B, whether you have a licence in your pocket has no bearing on those abilities. How are they going to stop you unless you somehow draw attention to yourself by having an accident or violationg some regulation?

Personal bottom-line opinion: You have EXACTLY as many “rights” as you can stand on and defend by force of arms. Any other rights are merely privileges granted to you by society in an attempt to prevent total anarchy.

By the way, if you think our first amendment rights are safe, read this.


Well, I thought this TSA development was unfair to pilots, and I sent emails and
FAX’s to my senators and representatives.

If you feel strongly on a subject, I suggest you do the same.

You can find how to contact your representatives on this web site


John: Wow! I think by the responses we have found out that the nature of the responses on these forums are not necessarily indicitive of the depth of feelings and convictions of the readers. In a case like this, many have decided to take actions which may help (email, telephone calls, etc.) as opposed to just speaking about it.

I am as concerned as most about the ‘rights*’ of pilots, due process and constitutional issues, etc. I also know the the AOPA and various other alphabet orgs are all over it. They live a breathe for fights like this one. I will support them.

On the other hand. In an instance where there is a bona fide emergency, the last thing I want is for the authorities to wait for due process! As an American, former New Yorker who lived near and worked in the City, former military and friend of many directly affected, I would have loved someone to have stopped, detained, or for that matter shot, the terrorists on 9/11. Yes, this can lead to an abuse of power, but our society and its institutions are designed to punish this when it occurs. The hard questions is where and how do you draw the line. IMHO, this relies upon the judgment (there’s that word again!) of those in place to enforce the rules and those in place to watch the enforcers.


PS: For you constitutional laywers out there: As pilots do we have the right or privelege to fly?

Last night on PBS:
There’s an important story developing tonight at the Justice Department. The non-partisan Center for Public Integrity obtained a closely-guarded document that shows plans for a sweeping expansion of the government’s police powers.
Until now, few people outside of the department, not even members of key congressional committees have seen this draft legislation. It could lead to increased surveillance and greater secrecy - all in the name of the war on terror. It raises questions about how we balance liberty and security - the rights of individuals versus the rule of law.

Bill Moyers talks to Chuck Lewis about the significance of the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003 and how it would affect civil liberties.
I did not see the whole show the little I saw made me wonder where the administration is going?
See http://www.pbs.org/now/politics/lewis.html

Hold on a second . . . won’t anybody be honest enough to admit that we GA pilots have no rights. We sold our rights long ago! We fly at the mercy of our federal government precisely because we’ve accepted the gift of federally subsidized aviation. Let me ask a question. Do you favor a privatized ATC? Most of us would say no. We can’t live on both sides of the street. If GA wants flying to be a “right” then GA has to be willing to own it and fund it.

Well, I will respond. I’m based at one of the DC-3 airports. We’ve been living with the heavy-handed, idiotic rules of the TSA for 18 mos. now. We fight and fight, and the rules just become more idotic. Getting my license yanked without any due process is on my list of concerns, but not that high. I’m concerned every time I take off or land whether some idiot 22 year old in a Cobra helicopter is going to get some strange alert over his military radio, perceive me as a threat and blow me out of the sky. I have one radio in my Pitts and cannot monitor 121.5 while also talking to ATC. Doubt it would do any good, anyway. Hey, if a Harvard educated doctor can put the wrong organs in a transplant recipient, a military educated kid can certainly put a missile up the wrong butt.

An equally likely scenario: the helicoptors don’t bother to monitor my airport frequency, when ATC lets me go, I am obliged to land immediately. 5 out of 6 approaches, there is a Cobra circling my airport at low altitude. I try to call him to tell him to get out of the way…no answer. So I either take the chance of flipping on final approach, due to his downwash, or climb back up and hope he goes away. The latter would simply entice him to get even closer to me to inspect. They are not only stupid…they don’t give a crap what safety hazards they are creating.

Yes, the powers of the TSA are awesome and unchecked…even worse, the TSA is mostly idiots. To take off in my own private airplane, alone, I get personally checked by a TSA agent (every flight) and once even had to go through a metal detector. Their only possible rationale for this nonsense is that I might carry a knife on board, hold it to my own throat and hijack myself. I kid you not…these are the rules they NOW have in place. And they are quite satisfied that these rules actually enhance national security…that they are doing something meaningful!

Stewart, your question is an excellent one, one that gave me pause as I was struggling to get caught up with the COPA forum postings. As a non-citizen who is resident in the US, the past 2 years of policy shifts have a much greater potential impact on me. If I stop posting on COPA forums, it won’t be because I relocated to Canada, rather it will be because I’m held incommunicado in the US. And then Steve’s admission of resignation jolted me into a realization that I’d like to share.

Dissent is not an option!

Peter’s editorial is a courageous example of standing up for principles that are under attack. Yet the attacks are both cloaked in shrouds of secrecy and highlighed in the glare of patriotism. How do you argue with “trust us because we know more than you should know”? Damned if you do and damed if you don’t.

TFRs. Security risks. Non-combatants. Surveillance without probable cause. Arrest for expired visas while waiting for green card processing. Preemptive use of nukes.

Makes whining about warranties and customer satisfaction much more satisfying.


I agree with Steve. In the scheme of things – for the country as a whole, and even for GA – the proposed TSA rule is far from the most intrusive indication of an over-reaction to security threats. No long thesis here, just a few points:

  • I live and work in Washington DC now, as I have for about half the time since I left college 30 years ago. The simple impediments on movement – automotive and pedestrian – would have been unimaginable even 15 years ago. When I worked in the White House during the Carter years, reporters could walk from office to office asking questions. Even two years ago, reporters and citizens could stroll through much of the Pentagon and most Congressional office buildings. Now everyone is escorted strictly in and out. Much of the downtown looks like some ugly East German fortified zone, with the cement “Jersey barriers” around monuments.

  • The sheer economic drag on the commercial air-travel system – and by extension, to businesses that depend on mobility – may be the most economically harmful aspect of the response to terrorism. It would be more heartening if it were more likely actually to keep us safe.

  • AOPA’s own President Phil Boyer just sent out a mailing to pilots in the capital area – perhaps everywhere. He said that the “good news” scenario was that the lockdown of capital airspace would be extended for two more years (virtually gauranteeing the bankruptcy of College Park airport, among other effects). The bad news scenario, which I know independently is being pushed by the Secret Service, is a 55 mile absolute no-fly zone around DC, up from the current 15 miles. That would close 20 or 25 airports. The closest airport to my house would become Martinsburg, West Virginia, about two hours away by car.

  • I don’t know if Steve Lin or Art P or Brian T has noticed this, but the last few times I’ve been at GAI, I’ve seen people in dark SUVs sitting there all day, taking down the license plates of people driving in and noting the tail numbers of all planes in motion. That’s fine, but a little creepy. (Yes, yes, maybe this is simply pilots or citizens being vigilant, as we’re all supposed to be.)

  • This is not even to open the subject of habeus corpus, classified documents, and so on.

This is not to disagree with your concern about the TSA immediate-suspension rule. It’s just to suggest why your battle-cry might not have roused as many troops as you hoped. If that TSA ruling were the main problem, I’d be relieved.

Bin Ladin didn’t win.
Why would he care if America oppresses its citizens and residents? Bin Ladin wanted the US to stay out of the Middle East. I can’t think of any way of interpreting that he achieved those goals.
Bin Ladin is an excuse for our oligarchs to do what they want. Look at the pattern. There’s always a bad-guy of the week. Castro, Kim Il Sung, Ho Chi Minh, Kohmeni, Sadam, Bin Ladin, Sadam, Kim Jong Il…
Bin Ladin didn’t win.
We’re going to war and fighting for the right to control who taps Iraq’s oil fields. We’re hated by folks in the Middle East for many reasons, some are even not our fault. However, one could hardly claim that we’ve acted in a responsible fashion there over the past 50 years.
In Kuwait, less that 50% of the residents are citizens, and of those, less than 10% can vote. In Saudi Arabia, women are beaten, the Saud family props up radical Islamic clerics (who are anti-US) in order to maintain their own legitimacy.
Sure, Sadam should be deposed. But why do we care about Iraq and turn a blind eye to King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and the Saad family of Kuwait? What about genocide in Rwanda. Oh, no immediate profit in changing those regimes.
At my company, we made it clear that our mission was to enhance long term shareholder value. When you look at the big picture, you aren’t tempted to play smoke and mirror games to inflate profit reports, you don’t screw customers, you don’t screw suppliers, you invest for the future and build a healthy franchise.
How many people remember that Ho and Castro were both originally pro-US and came to the US for help? Ditto the democratic factions in Iran who opposed the Shah. What would have happened if we had supported them in their bid to replace their corrupt governments with ones more like the ideal we aspire towards ourselves?
Bin Ladin didn’t win.
Do you think we are making progress towards our own democratic ideals with totalitarianism at home and abroad? Why shouldn’t we have foreign and domestic policies that invest in long-term shareholder value?
Pilots talk about civil rights all the time. We’re mostly a bunch of conservative, libertarian, old white men.
Let’s talk about civic duty instead.
“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

That paragraph was written by a group of anti-British terrorists in 1776.

Whether through dissent, civil disobedience, elections, infiltration, public embarassment, or armed insurgency, we have a right to choose our government and alter it as necessary.

Bin Ladin didn’t win.

Lockheed won.

Haliburton won.

Chevron won.

British Petroleum won.

We lost.

Get involved. Be an instrument of change.


people in dark SUVs sitting there all day, taking down the license plates of people driving in and noting the tail numbers of all planes in motion.

If that happened at my airport, I would immediately report them to the National Response Center for Airport Watch, by calling 1-866-GA-SECURE. I would be specific, and I would probably document their activity from a safe distance with a camera.

Just trying to be a good citizen, occifer.



I don’t think anyone is concerned about pilot certificates being at additional risk due to aviation violations. The scary part is that the TSA can direct the FAA to pull your ticket without giving ANY reason, beyond their belief that you are a security risk. If this happens, you will not be able to find out why they think you are a security risk, since that information is classified.

There’s a good reason why the sixth amendment of our constitution says “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to … be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation.” It’s because accusing someone of a crime without giving them specifics has long been a favorite tool of tyrannical governments.

Whiile we are not talking about criminal cases here, it’s plain that the new TSA rule violates the spirt of the Constitution.

How can it happen to you? Let’s suppose that you happen to attend a rally against the war in Vietnam, oops, I mean Iraq. Let’s suppose that people in dark-colored SUVs attend that rally and take down the license plate numbers of participants. One day, you get a letter from the FAA, and …

Can’t happen in the U S of A? You bet your ticket it can, and if it does, there won’t be a thing you can do about it. If you’re lucky, the popular press will pick up the story and embarrass the government enough to return that little piece of paper that you spent so much time and money getting.

Kinda makes you think, don’t it?


“Then it becomes an issue of whether or not the FAA wants to pursue a violation. I guess the TSA could go crazy and pull all the certificates of any pilot that busted a TFR, but that’s not what is happening at the moment.”

One of the points Garrison (and myself ) was trying to make is that we are not talking about violations or, for that matter, anything to do with flying. The mere suspicion by the TSA that you are somehow a “security risk” is in itself enough to have the license revoked.

As for how many licenses have or might be revoked under this policy? I don’t know, but I suspect not many. On the other hand, one revocation of a U.S. citizen’s pilot’s license without a hearing, without an opportunity to see the evidence, is one too many in my book and ought to be challenged by every pilot who values individual freedoms and responsibilities.

I still believe individuals can make a difference and can bring changes about. Is it easy? No, but it can be done and has been done throughout our history. Enough ranting for the day . Thanks to those who have responded.

John Stewart

In reply to:

As for how many licenses have or might be revoked under this policy? I don’t know, but I suspect not many. On the other hand, one revocation of a U.S. citizen’s pilot’s license without a hearing, without an opportunity to see the evidence, is one too many in my book and ought to be challenged by every pilot who values individual freedoms and responsibilities.

There have been 11 so far. Following links from the AOPA news item, I got to the rule on Ineligibility for an Airman Certificate Based on Security Grounds, which states that a year after 9/11 there were 11 recovocations. The relevant paragraph:

The Under Secretary receives information from intelligence sources
that identify specific individuals who pose a security risk. In some
cases, these individuals hold airman certificates issued by the FAA. On
August 14, 2002, the Under Secretary advised the Administrator of 11
such individuals and asked the Administrator to revoke the airman
certificates held by them. On August 20, the FAA took the requested
action by issuing emergency orders of revocation. These orders became
effective immediately.

And in the “Cost of Compliance” section of the Threat Assessments Regarding Alien Holders of, and Applicants
for, FAA Certificates
, there is this little gem:

Estimating the number
of FAA certificates that will be issued in the next ten years, from
2003 to 2012, TSA has found that an estimated nine persons out of an
estimated 1.11 million airmen certificates over the ten years will be
flagged or at least one person per year.

All this for one person per year!

Oh, by the way, the rules for what happens after revocation are different for US citizens than for us aliens with FAA certificates.



Okay, I see your point. However, maybe I’m just very naive or trusting or too gullible, but I don’t stay awake at night worrying about such things. I’d probably be more likely to be mistaken for an armed bank robber, put in jail, convicted and sentenced to death before I’d have my certificate revoked by the TSA. However, I do worry that our airspace that we fly in might continue to shrink. I instruct out of an airport that is just a few miles from the Washington, D.C. “TFR.” Extend it to 30 miles and I’ll have to move my plane. More emphasis needs to be placed on keeping this from happening rather than the TSA issue you raised. Otherwise, we could all lose our freedom to fly which means our certificate becomes a very expensive bookmark.

So what if they actually do pull a bad guys ticket? What possible good does that do for someone hell bent on taking himself and a bunch of others out with him?

Next step will be to outlaw Flight Sim. 2000.