The TSA is losing friends - Jay Maynard

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Monday, 15 November 2004

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1025 - The TSA is losing friends

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reprinted a column in today's issue from the New York Times. The second in a series, it talks about how travelers - especially women - are getting fed up with the TSA's recent adoption of pat-down searches.

I've had a couple of bad experiences with those, myself. Here's a commentary I sent the Star-Tribune:

Twice now, I've been assaulted by the TSA in the name of "security". Both times, I was selected for special screening, once on my boarding pass (the dreaded SSSS) at MSP, and once in Little Rock because I asked why I had to take my shoes off.

Both times, the screener started to grope me after doing the business with the wand. Neither time did they tell me what they were doing before they started, much less their usual fiction of asking permission. Where I grew up, in Texas, that constitutes assault - although apparently not in Minnesota, according to the police officer I spoke to about filing charges.

At no time was I offered a private area for my screening.

When I complained to the checkpoint supervisor at MSP, the first time, he took great glee in telling me that I should be glad that my zipper didn't set off the metal detector, because that would mean they'd have to search my genitalia - and as he said that, he made a groping gesture with his open hand. He also laughed off the failure to tell me what was going on as a "customer service failure". I'd certainly consider assault a customer service failure.

When the screener in Little Rock started groping me, again without explaining what he was doing, I said "stop!" loudly. At that point, not one, but two, supervisors came over and took me aside. They explained to me that this was a new procedure, and that it was their policy to explain what would happen before beginning the pat-down. I mentioned my Minneapolis experience, and one of the supervisors said, "Well, you knew what to expect, then, didn't you?" I replied that, in the past, the TSA had made a point of having
procedures at different airports be different, and they considered that a good thing for security. To expect me now to know what one airport will do based on what another airport does is unreasonable.

The simple reality is that the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments have been effectively repealed at the security checkpoints. The TSA's official position is that, by entering the checkpoint, the passenger gives them permission to do whatever they darned well want to. If that's the case, they should post a large sign, stating exactly that. (Okkay, maybe they can clean up the language if they want to. How about, "Abandon all personal rights, ye who enter here."?) They also say that you have the choice to not fly. That may be true for most, but for me, it's different: If I don't fly, I don't work. Both of my jobs require that I be able to get elsewhere in the country on a few hours' notice.

I'm fighting back in my own way. I now go through the security checkpoint wearing nothing but a spandex bodysuit. That way, it's blatantly obvious I'm not carrying a thing on my person, and maybe the rest of the folks passing through will see just how silly it's all become. Even this is enough to provoke retaliation from the TSA, though: the last time I went through MSP, the checkpoint supervisor who laughed me off took my boarding pass away for a few moments. I still don't know what he did with it.

I'd considered writing the TSA, but the only contact information I was able to get for a complaint was email. I decided not to bother, as I didn't think they'd care. Their checkpoint personnel certainly don't.

In the end, it's not about security. It's about making the traveling public feel secure so they'll keep traveling by air. That's not enough reason to destroy our civil rights. I have no trouble understanding why the traveling public is getting fed up. I certainly am.

current mood: [mood icon] pissed off

(2 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date: - 0000

The TSA folks still seem to be polite down here in TX. Maybe it's just the Minnesota Crowd?
[User Picture]
Date: - 0000

Give 'em hell, Jay!

I've been lucky so far, but I've only flown five times in my life. Sooner or later, I am going to be the "random" one, and I only hope that things have gotten better by then.

This whole story brought me back to when I worked at the theater and we caught a couple of girls smoking pot in the theater. I had to bust them. Everyone could smell the smell permeating out into the hall.

So I called the cops. Who showed up and grabbed the girls. Since only male cops came, they couldn't (apparantly) search them with their hands. So they had me do it. I guess I could have said "no" but I was 17 years old and they were cops. How was I supposed to know I couldn't?

That was themost imbarrasing and overwhelmingly shitty thing that an officer of the law has forced me to do. I am now alot more grown up and know the power of "NO".

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