5 things you should never say to a TSA screener

5 things you should never say to a TSA screener

It happened to Ann Holley again last week. As she passed through the security checkpoint at Atlanta’s busy airport, she asked a TSA agent to “opt out” of being screened by a full-body scanner.

Under the agency’s rules, she received an automatic “enhanced” pat-down.

She wishes she hadn’t.

“I was left waiting for an agent to come by and give me a pat-down,” says Holley, who works for the federal government in Hartford, Conn. “I waited 15 minutes.”

She adds, “I’m wondering whether TSA has decided to leave those who opt out hanging so we’ll eventually get tired of waiting and give in, the way nearly everyone else does. I never see anyone else opting out anymore.”

Holley — not her real name because she’s afraid the TSA will make her wait even longer the next time she’s in Atlanta — committed one of the passenger screening “no-nos” that you need to know about before your next flight. They include cracking jokes, mentioning certain laws and sometimes, just asking simple questions.

But to answer her question: Does the TSA intentionally keep passengers waiting? If there is such a policy, it is almost certainly an unofficial one. There’s ample evidence of its existence, including this passenger in Phoenix who had to wait in a glass cage nearly an hour when she balked at TSA screening of her breastmilk (see video, above).

What should you never, ever, say to a TSA agent?

“I demand to opt out!” See example, above. Personally, I avoid those untested scanners just like Holley, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Taking a loud, principled stand at the airport is likely to end you up in that glass penalty box. Instead, look for the line without a scanner and if you’re sent into the wrong queue, say that you’d prefer not to use the scanner. I suspect that exclaiming, “I opt out!” will force a supervisor over, and good luck making your next flight. (For the record, Holly made her flight — but just barely.)

“May I take your picture?” Although the official TSA policy is that taking snapshots are allowed at a screening area, the truth is, agents don’t like to be photographed at work. I know, because I’ve been at a major airport with a public affairs officer and a professional photographer, and have been told that the policy isn’t worth the HTML it’s coded on. A careful read of the actual rule makes that reasonably clear: “Taking photographs may also prompt airport police or a TSA official to ask what your purpose is,” it says. Who in their right mind would want to be subject to a police interrogation?

My advice: Unless you see abusive behavior that must be documented, don’t provoke the agents by pointing a camera at them or asking if they’d like to be part of your vacation photo album. (They don’t.)

“Ever heard of the Fourth Amendment?” That would be the one about the right of the people to be secure against unreasonable searches and seizures, in case you were wondering. Aaron Tobey famously posed that question on his chest last year, and was arrested. Of course, we can hope that most TSA agents have heard of the Fourth Amendment, as well as some of the other constitutional questions surrounding the latest screening methods.

Although I agree with the protesters that the TSA is treading on thin ice, constitutionally speaking, I think the best place to bring this up is either in a court of law or at the ballot box this November.

“So a terrorist walks into a bar …” TSA agents aren’t supposed to have a sense of humor (although when they do, it makes the failed comedians of the world sound funny). The agency dryly warns that quips about bombs will not expedite the screening process. No, duh.

The real joke, of course, is that we’re paying $8 billion a year to fund this circus. It’s a joke no one is laughing about, except perhaps the well-connected subcontractors who are building the gadgets and scanners that are supposed to protect us from those funny terrorist bombs that haven’t shown up at the airport yet. And those subcontractors are laughing … all the way to the bank.

“How can you live with yourself?” If you haven’t already guessed it, being a TSA agent can be a thankless job. Many workers disagree with their agency’s policies, but they stay on the job because they need the work. The last thing these federal workers want is an angry confrontation with a passenger who thinks they are all gate rapists operating above the law. (Fact is, what the TSA does is highly questionable, and when they aren’t on the job, I’m sure agents do a great deal of reflection — but there’s a time and place for it.)

Dressing down a TSA agent at the airport, while tempting, serves no useful purpose. These federal employees answered a call to duty printed on the side of a pizza box and are protecting us from airborne jihadists, or so they think. You have decided to fly, and in doing so, to subject yourself to their wrongheaded screening. If you have a problem with that, do something well in advance of your flight, not half an hour before departure.

That said, there are times when you ought to speak up. But that’s a topic for another time.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • BobChi

    Do everything possible NOT to call attention to yourself and life will be better for you at the screening points.

    It is amazing how much quicker, easier, and less intrusive the screening process is when out of this country flying to other places out of this country. On one airline, I took an international flight from Point A to Point B (both outside the U.S.) and breezed through security. Then, same airline, a flight from Point B to the U.S. and security was endless, topped off by a manual search of every last carry on bag for every last passenger at the boarding gate. They had 10 agents there doing that. Someone asked why this was happening, and the answer was simply, “The U.S. government.”

    Many places you don’t take off shoes, and you don’t need to separate liquids out into see-through bags. I guess they never got the message of the importance of security theater and just focus on actually screening for real dangers.

  • chevy4wd

    Its best not to call them “idiots” either. I did that a few years ago in Denver. I was passing through a checkpoint with an inert bullet keychain (think truck stop souvenior; totally useless) as I had done dozens of times before. This particular time, they pulled my keychain out of my carryon and proudly announced I wasn’t allowed to have that at a checkpoint. I tried to reason with them that I had passed through dozens of checkpoints previously (including this one) but they stood firm. That is when I made the declarative statement “you all are a bunch of idiots.” That earned me a conversation with the local police officer near the checkpoint. He admonished me and sent me on my way. He did say I could have my novelty keychain back if I wanted but had to pick it up on my return trip. I told him no thanks and caught my flight.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tkelly Tom Kelly

    Here’s a story about a Utah man who was imprisoned for a week and now pending trial for an inadvertent mistake in his conversation with Canadian border authorities. http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/54721123-78/jacobson-kraig-canada-brother.html.csp

  • davork

    Well I opt out too… thing is I always ask if they want me to move my trays out of the way so that the xray belt won’t be jammed up… they always say now, so my two carry on’s, cpap machine, laptops (x2) and ipad + kindle sit there… 1 time in 5 someone realizes that it’s probably easier to let me go through the normal x-ray..

  • MarkKelling

    Can’t vote because I never say anything while in the screening area unless directly questioned by the TSA.

    I usually travel alone and find most people passing through the screening area don’t really want to have a conversation at that time. I don’t ever say anything to a TSA person because I simply have nothing to say to any of them. I will answer any questions asked with as short and simple an answer as possible.

  • MarkKelling

    I am also amazed how much more efficient foreign airport security is.

    Coming back from Norway last summer connecting in Frankfurt, I went through the airport where they only had a metal detector and xray for baggage. Seeing the line, I thought I would be in for a very long wait (30 minutes or more) as similar lines cause here in he US. Surprisingly, I got through in about 5 minutes. No one even checked my passport or boarding pass and I did not have to remove my shoes. But at no point did I feel unsafe. Once I got to FRA, I did have to pass through border check and have my passport stamped, but that was it. Boarding the Lufthansa plane to the US from there was simple, easy and fast. A UA plane was boarding at the next gate for the US and each passenger was being asked the old 3 questions about packing the bags and if anyone gave you something to carry. It took them 90 minutes to get the plane loaded. I thought the Lufthansa flight would be the same and we would be late leaving, but the gate agent just said “Achtung” and everyone boarded. We were done (with a much larger plane) in about 20 minutes. Once again I never felt unsafe.

    So, if foreign countries have good enough security, why do we have to have so many confusing layers that don’t really do anything other than create more jobs for more bureaucrats?

  • cjr001

    “Yes, I’m afraid if I speak up I’ll miss my flight.”

    Congratulations all of you who voted for this choice in the poll. You’ve willingly allowed the government to completely trample your 1st Amendment rights (by way of self-censorship), along with your 4th.

  • http://www.orlandolocal.com William Beem

    I was very disappointed to read you comment about photography. Although photography is not a crime and the policy is written, you advocate giving in to intimidation rather than supporting our legal rights.

    TSA workers are uniformed government agents in a public place. They have no expectation of privacy and may be legally photographed.

    The reasons for doing so are varied. Some people may want to document their travel experience. Others may want to record a video of their own property and experience. Perhaps someone sees misbehavior by the TSA. Should we be intimidated out of photographing someone who is stealing a laptop or other items, as the TSA has been known to do in the past? Maybe some people just want to keep a record of the 15 minute delay while waiting for a pat-down so they have something to use to file a complaint about the process later.

    Shame on you for giving in to intimidation and suggesting the same to others.

  • Miami510

    “Trample your First Amendment rights?” Ha! Just treat TSA people as you would the cop who stopped you for any reason. TSA, just like cops, come in all shapes and sizes. Most are just bored, some have an agenda based on anger… which might be as simple as “you look like their favorite hated uncle,” or they missed something yesterday and are trying to show their immediate superior that they are being zealous, or, as I personally suspect, they are people from the lower rungs of society who are suddenly, by virtue of their badge, been given a measure of authority that they enjoy using.

    They’ve heard about wise-guys/gals who want to clog up the system by asking for a separate screening rather than the x-ray, so if you don’t want the x-ray, give them a logical reason; i.e. I’ve had a lot of medical x-rays lately and I’m

    I suspect the best answer is to just smile because they don’t see much of that from the public.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone


    Or you could just bend over and spread ’em.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    I have been a longtime, steadfast supporter of our right to photograph TSA agents at work. But to suggest that pointing a camera at a TSA agent would not provoke a confrontation and lead to a possible delay is to live in a fantasy world. Also, you should never ask an agent for permission to take a photo; you already have permission.

  • S363

    I usually say “Good Morning”. That’s it.

  • Aaron Gold

    I always opt out. The wait times seem to vary, and I allow for a lot of extra time. I do it because of the 4th amendment, because I don’t mind the pat down, and because I don’t believe the scanners have been thoroughly tested by independent 3rd parties and I don’t trust the TSA’s word that the machines are safe. I am *always* polite to the agents, but I *never* say thank you.

    I wish every regular traveler would opt out, too — that would create massive delays at security and wreak havoc with flight schedules. Imagine the strain on the airline’s systems with all the rebookings. Imagine how people will reconsider flying when the TSA recommends arriving 3 hours early to clear security. Maybe then the airlines would grow some stones and start advocating on behalf of their customers!!

  • S363

    This wasn’t an “inadvertent mistake in his conversation”. It was a perhaps inadvertent (we can all have our own opinions of the likelihood of that) attempt to smuggle a handgun into Canada, which is a serious no-no.

  • http://www.dmuth.org/ Douglas Muth

    For what it’s worth, I’ve opted-out a half dozen times in the last year, and never had any problems with having to wait around. I was screened (read: “searched”) quickly and efficiently.

  • OldUncleDave

    The purpose of TSA terror theater is not to make us safe, it’s to make us compliant and obedient to authority as the police state descends over our formerly free country. Sadly, it is working.

  • Spysea

    TSA is relatively worthless …. they waste time searching granny, kids, women, no water no liquids take your computer out …. a 100,000 person government nightmare sucking billions of dollars of tax payers money …. TSA ……

  • emanon256

    I fly out of Boston every week and unfortunately the terminal I use has a back-scatter machine at every open line. Maybe once or twice in the last year have the opened the one line without one.

    I politely ask to opt out every single week, and while 50% of the time they call for a male assist and give me a pat me down, that’s not always the case. The other 50% of the time I meet resistance. Typically they tell me I am going to hold up the process for everyone and to just go through or I am told the machine is safe and I need to go through it like everyone else, I still politely decline, and always receive a pat down. Several times times I have been told there will be a 30 minute wait for a pat down and I might as well just go through, I still politely decline and a few times they have just asked me to stand there and don’t ask for a male assist until I remind them a few times. Twice, by the same person, I have been told that I am not allowed to opt-out, that I must go through, and they then stop the line and try to force me though at which point I asked for a supervisor and then had to wait for about 30 minutes. And one time an agent asked me for my wallet when I opted out (I have had my wallet searched in other airports when I opt out, thought they always keep it in view and hand it back). I handed him my wallet, her turned his back to me and went through it and then put it in his pocket. I asked for it back and he said “no.” I asked for a supervisor, and started getting yelled at, which eventually did result in a supervisor and several other agents appearing. Eventually my wallet was returned to me and I was lectured by the supervisor about “talking back.” Fortunately nothing was taken from my wallet.

    I have written an e-mail to the TSA every time I meet resistance, documenting the time, lane, and agent’s name. I always get a generic form reply stating that they have policies in place for my protection, blah, blah, blah.

  • http://twitter.com/lanaowens Lana Owens

    Don’t mention your insulin pump. Waited 45 minutes for a pat-down, and they really freaked when I told them I could simply detach it and run it down the conveyer belt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sommer.gentry Sommer Gentry

    Thank you for opting out and for insisting on holding on to the absurdly limited version of “rights” that TSA claims we have at the checkpoint. That you complain regularly is very important. Great work! Please cc: your congressional representatives also.

    Your story about a screener putting your wallet in his own pocket is outrageous! I can’t believe you couldn’t get a decent response from a supervisor after that happened.

  • KongRooo

    lol, the TSA is the biggest waste of an agency there is, PERIOD!

    Total-Privacy dot US

  • http://www.facebook.com/sommer.gentry Sommer Gentry

    A very important example of how our most fundamental rights are null and void at an airport checkpoint: a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel was arrested, handcuffed, and briefly jailed for reciting the Fourth Amendment at a checkpoint in Albuquerque.

    How anyone can sit by and let these things happen in the United States of America is beyond me. I’m fighting with everything I’ve got. I think that anyone who tells these TSA scumbags to their faces exactly how far on the wrong side of history they’ve landed is taking a serious risk of being delayed or arrested – but I applaud the protestors for their courage and dedication to American values. Everyone needs to be taking any and every action they can manage to stop the TSA’s un-American campaign of sexual humiliation. I’m very proud of my fellow citizens who have taken risks to take a stand against the TSA.

  • flutiefan

    my choice was YES, but not because of that stupid “miss my flight” caveat added to the end. because like @MarkKelling:disqus said, i don’t really have much to say when i’m at screening.

  • flutiefan

    it’s best not to call anyone “idiots”, in general. civility is lacking in everyday life…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1272423131 Scott Leard

    The problem with this thinking is..The TSA SCREENER is not a cop, but nothing more than a government clerk with a tin badge and a power trip. The TSA has zero accountability, believes that as an agency it is ABOVE THE LAW, and that mentality permeates the entire disgusting agency from Nappy all the way down to the lowliest shoe runner.

  • Julie Northrop

    Okay, I have a question. I am flying for the first time since 2009, and I have no other alternative but to fly in this case. I have rods in my back from scoliosis, a plate and pins in my chin from corrective surgery and 72 staples in my knee from another surgery. I am not sure how to go about the screening process when I get to the airport, and I cannot afford to miss my flight. My prior physician lives in Ohio, and I no longer live there. Should I volunteer the information, or just explain if questioned.


  • flutiefan

    if the TSA holding her an extra 15 minutes caused her to nearly miss her flight (“Holly made her flight — but just barely.”), then she didn’t allow herself enough time in the 1st place.

  • flutiefan

    volunteer the info to the 1st TSO person, and GET THERE EARLY. even if you think a certain time is enough, give yourself 20 min more.

    (i am NOT affiliated with the TSA, but i do work at an airport and i see people missing their flights all the time due to extensive TSA lines and screenings.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nunuv-Yurbiz/100002873869882 Nunuv Yurbiz

    I chuckled at the screener for going through my credit cards one by one and he gruffly said, “is something funny?” This is fascism.

  • bayareascott




  • Edward Boston

    Now this is a new one. I never heard of them searching wallets. Guess they are looking for those credit card size plastic explosive bombs I have heard about…. No wait. Haven’t heard anything about something like that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nunuv-Yurbiz/100002873869882 Nunuv Yurbiz

    Well, don’t even emote or you risk incurring the wrath of a petty tyrant TSA agent. Maintain an entirely neutral facial expression; stand straight, but not too straight; walk casually but don’t saunter; look at them when they’re talking to you (“look at me when I’m talking to you”) but don’t look them in the eye, as they will view that as a challenge (much like a male gorilla). Don’t follow the rules – rather follow what they tell you, as they are the rules (e.g., don’t bring ice, like a frozen water bottle, thinking it’s OK because it’s not a liquid). If they confiscate your deoderant because it says “flammable” don’t point out that all deoderants are flammable. Men should have short hair and no facial hair; women should have long hair and be in skirts. And if you get out of line, you will politely be redirected through a re-education process.

  • anc1entmar1ner

    You can say anything you want about the way you were treated afterward right here:


    While you are at it, also contact your congressman, both your senators and the White House. If you can find a contact for the airport administration, complain to them as well.

    If everyone did this, both the naked body scanners and the institutionalized sexual molesting of innocent passengers would go away.

  • anc1entmar1ner

    Yes – I have taken to concealing my wallet in my computer case so that they won’t put their grubby rubber gloves on it. This is the result of a confrontation with an agent who objected when I removed money and credit cards before I would let him take it out of my sight. I also insist on standing facing my belongings while being molested after I opt out of the porn-o-scan.

  • Fedor Pikus

    Your “5 things” read like “how to avoid setting off a bully so he won’t go beserk on your ass”.
    I think the real problem is that we have a bully agency staffed with bully workers whose entire job is to bully the travelers.

  • mmendel46


  • jamessavik

    Before I fly, I go to Whitecastle/Crystal and load up.Then I just walk up to the Government approved fondler and fart really loud.

    They get me through as fast as possible.

  • Extramail

    Contact Senator Rand Paul who seems to be trying to reign in the TSA though, as per his latest form letter to me, a constituent, his effort isn’t going as far as I would like it to. His letter says he has sponsored two bills (S3302 and S3303) that would turn screening over to private contractors instead of government employees and not allow screening of anyone under the age of 12 or over the age of 75 except in special circumstances. Doubt that will make any difference but it’s a start, I suppose. Any opinion on his effort, or lack thereof, Chris?

  • http://twitter.com/NancyNally Nancy Nally

    I always opt out of the backscatter scanners and I’ve had patdowns three times in the past year. I’ve never had anyone try to force me to the scanner or talk me out of it, or had to wait more than 2-3 minutes while they located a female agent to do the screening. I just always matter of factly state when I approach the scanner to the nearest agent that I want to opt out and it’s never been an issue. I actually had a very good experience during the last one in Orlando – the lady was extremely pleasant and did things like went out of the way to make sure that I could see my bags while I was screened. Really improved the whole experience.

    That said, I voted in the survey that I was afraid to say anything to the TSA because I am afraid of the results.

    Interesting comparison – I personally find that dealing with the TSA is very similar to dealing with prison guards. They are both pseudo law enforcement personnel with badges but no real authority and tend to be bullies. You don’t challenge their authority or disrespect them or they will rain all over you to prove they can.

  • http://analteredreality.com Kevin

    Kinda like your comment.

  • mbraynard

    Writing to the TSA is not enough.

    You need to at least write to your member of Congress and both members of the US Senate.

    You may also want to write a more extensive article for your local newspaper, and include the specific names of agents.

    Ideally, a travelers association should harness this issue and get a legislative solution done.

  • danheskett

    There is a pretty good chance this not an accident. They have your boarding pass, they know how to make you miss the flight as punishment.

  • mbods

    I can’t answer because I’m boycotting flying. I simply refuse to fly under these horrible conditions. It’s not worth it to me anymore and thankfully I don’t have a job where I have no choice. I know I’m not alone…

  • technomage1

    Try going through a checkpoint in a military uniform. Though I had deployment orders and an ID card, I was still subjected to the body scanner, a full pat down, taking my laptop out of my bag, having to remove my boots and shirt, and having my hands wiped for explosive residue. The whole process took about 45 minutes by the time I had to reassemble my uniform. All while being thanked for my service.

    Yeah, right.

    And yes, I know they’re not supposed to do this. But they do it anyway. I had to go through 2 airports and I mentioned it to the screener at the second airport. She was horrified and made sure it wasn’t her airport that did it.

    Norfolk International Airport, you ought to be ashamed.

  • http://twitter.com/SaytheFourth Say the Fourth

    I see your poll has revealed that 80% of the populace would gladly choose fascism. My prediction timetable for the end of America has just moved up drastically. It won’t be long now before the cavity searches begin and people will only open their mouths to wonder aloud whether it comes with a free prostate exam. After all, the TSA is a bunch of professionals just trying to do their jobs. And if they can be hired with as little as a GED and trained to psychologically dismantle the criminal or terrorist mind via a home study course, how hard can it be to do a quick check for an enlarged prostate or cervical cancer?

  • Emanuel Levy

    I recently flew from PHL to TPA then to MSY and on the way back MSY to FLL to PHL with my father (over 75 and needed assistance on the return flight)

    At PHL we didn’t use a backscatter machine and my laptop was able to stay in it’s case which is marked checkpoint friendly. As we did not leave the secure area at TPA we didn’t go through security for the flight to MSY

    On the return flight back the airport employee bringing my father through in a wheel chair instructed me to remove my laptop from the bag. I thought about explaining why it didn’t need to be done but I kept quiet. At this airport I went though a backscatter machine but didn’t ask to opt out because I didn’t realize that’s what it was. It triggered on the wallet that I forgot was in my pants. I took it out and no problem.

    We did leave the secure area at FLL so we had to go back through security. Again at this airport the employee pushing my father’s wheelchair directed me to remove my laptop. I decided this was silly and asked of the TSA agent if I needed to remove the laptop. The TSA agent said no and I continued through with no problems. I did have my wallet in a bin at the time.

    I have to say all the TSA employees my father and I dealt with were polite but neither of us tried to carry on a conversation with them.

  • Daisiemae

    I also did not answer for the same reason. My husband and I do not fly since the scanners and gropedowns were instituted.

    My husband travels in a motorized wheelchair and wears Depends. We can’t take the risk that he will be targeted for abuse.

    I am a survivor of childhood sexual assault. I will not be scanned and I will not be groped. I can’t take the risk of being forced to do either one or of being arrested and then strip searched anyway (and in that scenario what will happen to my husband in his wheelchair?)

    I don’t have anything to say to TSA because I don’t allow myself to have any contact with sexual predators, thieves, bullies, and perverts.

  • Sendin theClowns

    We used to live in a free country. The TSA is just the most visible symptom of a government that considers the public chattle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nunuv-Yurbiz/100002873869882 Nunuv Yurbiz

    Careful, you could be arrested for assault. Seriously. “contact of a noxious nature”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nunuv-Yurbiz/100002873869882 Nunuv Yurbiz

    We are so screwed.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Rand Paul’s bills merely expend lots of verbiage to say we have the 4th Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure. And his bills are full of might, maybe, perhaps, could, should, if, except, but, and every other qualifier in the book.

    Private security is meaningless. Getting groped by a private sector goon is no better than getting groped by a public sector one. At airports with private security, the TSA still calls the shots. Even if you don’t see them on the front lines, they still set the rules. SFO has private security, and there are just as many horror stories coming out of there as anywhere else.

    As long as people continue to put up with this abuse, it will continue. It’s that simple.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone
  • Daisiemae

    Yes, we are slaves bought and owned by the federal government. They control our movements and they own our bodies.

    The 14th amendment ended ownership of slaves by private individuals.
    Perhaps now we need an amendment ending our ownership by the federal government and their corporate masters.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    danheskett, you’re right. The goons have admitted this outright. Some links:

    Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Public Utility Commission, told KTBC-TV, “FOX 7” (see raw interview clip below), that he was pulled out of the line to a standard metal detector to inste ad go through a full body scanning machine. This was at the discretion of a TSA worker, he said.
    “The TSA agent goes ‘Opt out, opt out! We’ve got an opt out! — calling everyone’s attention to me,” he said, of the ordeal.
    After what he called an “aggressive” pat-down in public, and a search of his baggage one item at a time (even one asprin pill at a time, he said) he asked why the laborious search.
    “You’re punishing me for opting out, aren’t you? And to her credit she said ‘Yes we are.'”


    Another account, this time from Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic:

    I asked him if he was looking forward to conducting the full-on pat-downs. “Nobody’s going to do it,” he said, “once they find out that we’re going to do.”
    In other words, people, when faced with a choice, will inevitably
    choose the Dick-Measuring Device over molestation? “That’s what we’re hoping for. We’re trying to get everyone into the machine.” He called over a colleague. “Tell him what you call the back-scatter,” he said. “The Dick-Measuring Device,” I said. “That’s the truth,” the other officer responded.


    And more links from what I wrote last year:

    Then again, sometimes the TSA punishes people just for the hell of it, as I discovered, as travel writer Charlie Leocha discovered, as Texas Public Utility Commission chairman Barry Smitherman discovered, as Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic discovered, as this couple discovered.

    And, of course, Stacey Armato’s infamous experience.

  • DavidYoung2

    Oh good Lord, really? Let’s see — I frequent the same restaurant every week and then constantly e-mail the manager about their crappy service and crappy food. That will help me how? I bet if I did that, the chef and waitstaff’s first reaction will be, “Oh goody, Mr. Sniveller is here. Just can’t wait to do my best for him.”

    Too funny – you have time to compose e-mails the TSA. Wish I did…. (too busy replying to hilarious posts :-)

  • emanon256

    I have had my wallet searched at 3 other airports too. But normally its done in front of me the whole time.

  • S E Tammela

    I reckon it’s political… you know, every time a terrorist attack happens, they’ve got AROUND the security measures anyway, no matter how stringent someone makes them. They are largely a big fat waste of time and money intended to convince the public that the govt can somehow protect them from terrorism.

    Most countries, however, prefer prevention rather than cure. If you don’t try to piss off the whole world by promoting wars as an election stunt, then fewer terrorists will care that your country exists.

  • emanon256

    I’m sorry, I don’t follow your analogy. I would simply not go to that restaurant, with the airport I don’t have a choice its TSA weekly or loose my job. Besides, it not like the agents even know my name or who complained. However, I believe in standing up for my rights when they are violated.

  • emanon256

    I have written to my congress person and senators (Not every time, just the first few). In all cases I got a generic form response. I did write one letter to both the the local paper and USA today, neither were ever published.

  • sofar

    Yes, flights originating in a foreign airport heading to the US are the WORST. I just flew Johannesburg to JFK. First, they took all the water we’d bought IN the airport terminal. Then they asked for receipts for our duty free chocolates, and then confiscated them when we couldn’t find the receipts. The best was when they told me the tiny bag holding my travel-sized toothpaste, toothbrush and mouthwash was “not acceptable.” It was the self-same little plastic ziplock “goodie” bag that we’d gotten on our flight INTO Johannesburg the previous week. Why was it not acceptable? Because it wasn’t fully transparent (it had the South Africa Airways logo and design on it). I wanted to hand the agent the mouthwash and tell her she needed it more than I did, but didn’t fancy an overnight stay in an interrogation room abroad.

  • emanon256

    They arrested a guy for ejaculating during a pat-down, I wouldn’t be surprised of they arrested someone for farting next.
    And please be considerate of the other passengers on the plane.

  • cjr001

    Worse, TSA employees treat their checkpoints as their own little fiefdoms, where they can do whatever they want without repercussion, to whomever they want, for as long as they want, and they do it on a whim.

    Failure to speak out and speak out will not spare you, but using your 1st Amendment rights at them will incur their wrath.

    They are GOVERNMENT employees, who use fear and intimidation to keep you from speaking out. That is the very definition of censorship.

  • Chasmosaur

    Write to the local state representatives and senators where the airport authority lies, as well as the airport authority. Point out that you are considering changing airports to a different district or not flying at all.

    You have to make this about the finances. Realistically, there will never be a full flight embargo, but targeting on a local level – where they’re not all acquainted with someone in DHS or TSA – might get a better response.

  • cjr001

    I think Edward was being a bit sarcastic.

    Suffice it to say, NEVER let TSA paw through your wallet, and never let them take anything out of your sight if it can be helped.

    Because who knows what they’re likely to walk off with.

  • cjr001

    David has a history of giving a thumbs up to just about everything TSA does. After all, he’s had no problems, therefore problems do not exist.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Sorry, it’s so hard to tell anymore. People write the most outrageous things and are dead serious. If you were being sarcastic, Edward, I apologize.

  • M Sarkar

    Mostly agree with Mr. Elliott here.
    I doubt the average American really has much of a choice (re: changing the TSA’s methods) at the “ballot box this November”.
    A lot, of course, depends on the agent as a person and even the general population of the area that you are flying out of. The agents at my local airport in Iowa are usually nice and cheerful. That’s Iowa, though :-)

    Waging wars are profitable for the well-connected folks, but they draw too much public scrutiny. Protecting the nation’s flyers is a much better slogan/idea to pour billions of taxapyer $$ into, and then share in the profits with well-connected companies. For that sadly-practical reason, I don’t see any downsizing in the TSA, or a mitigation of its policies, until the next decade.

  • M Sarkar

    I like the idea of making it about finances. Thanks.

  • http://gspirits.com/ Zod

    I don’t carry a wallet anymore…so there’s nothing for them to go through!

  • M Sarkar

    You could start a line of luggage (suitcases etc) where these tips are embossed into the sides of the luggage. Seriously, as long as you do not mention the TSA/govt anywhere, I think this could be a nice business idea!
    3sarkar on Twitter

  • flutiefan

    that may be so, but holding you for only 15 minutes should NEVER make you nearly miss your flight. i mean, come on, 15 MINUTES? you need to give yourself much more time than that in a buffer.

  • anc1entmar1ner

    It’s a science. I can complain to the TSA, my congressman, both my senators, the White House AND the airport administration while waiting to board my flight. Almost all airports have free WiFi these days, so why not take advantage of it?

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Good luck, Julie. No matter what the TSA says publicly and what they post on their website and tell you on their “help line,” they have absolute power and wield it capriciously. Many people have documentation from their physicians — even TSA-approved documentation — about their medical conditions, only to be told by the little power-trippers at the checkpoint, “That information is out of date” or “Those rules have changed” or “We don’t do things that way here.”

    You might not get hassled, you might not get scanned, you might not get groped, you might not get robbed, you might not get detained. Might, might, might. But whatever happens, the TSA Is Always Right!

  • kerpow69

    This article and the people who are willing to shrivel up like a beaten dog make me sick. Every reason you cite not to say anything to the TSA is exactly why everyone should. This is the most cowardly thing I’ve read in a long time.

  • Edward Boston

    Guess I should have put the *sarcastic* tag with that. Thought it would be obvious but I guess some people just take everything said serious. Did you just stop reading after that line you quoted? If you had kept reading, you would have seen I wasn’t being serious.

  • Food for thought!

    We have to use common sense and be fair…just like your job everyone at your job does not do a good job nor do they actually know it…ur always going to meet officers that may have just harassed by some one or had a bad day or maybe there on there last strike… Another thing that most people do not know is that TSA still has a lot of people that worked there from before 9-11 (R.I.P) it need to be refined ………TSA has a look to learn and our ignorance of the military and spy tactics the US uses to keep us living the best lives on this planet is going stunt their growth!

  • Gabby

    Just get to the airport early. Sometimes the screeners are really busy checking bags, etc. Even small airports can be really busy. They’ll get to you. No one is deliberately making you wait. They have other responsibilities. I’ve also noticed that one opt-out seems to prompt several. I’ve had some officers confess to me that they would opt-out as well.


    Can i just remind everyone that flying is a PRIVILEGE and not a right so if you feel your rights are being trapled on then do a little brainstorming and lets see, take a bus maybe a train or if you really want to relax and time is not to important a nice long 5 day cruise. “Oh but those are all too impractical!” Well then drive your own damn car ohhhh but wait if you do 72 in a 70 you might get pulled over oh yea driving is a PRIVILEGE also but i don’t hear anyone b****ing about that eyyy?