TSA watch: They’re looking for the wrong thing – and congratulating themselves for it

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

If that’s true, then I should probably feel privileged that my old friend Bob Burns has started a “week in review” feature on the TSA site to highlight the positive things his agency has done – and presumably, to counter all of the unfortunate events I tend to write about every week in TSA watch.

But in this week’s post, Burns covers one event for which the TSA deserves to be recognized — and several that left me puzzled.

Let’s start with the one I liked. It involves a passenger at Syracuse International Airport who discovered she had left her cell phone in her rental car after she’d gone through screening. A helpful TSA agent retrieved the handset for her, reported the Consumerist.

“She was polite, courteous, professional and extremely helpful,” the passenger wrote. “I feel like she went above and beyond the call of duty without compromising security at the airport.”

Neat story.

But TSA also tries to connect this customer-service coup with another “success” story that, like the first one I mentioned, has practically nothing to do with making air travel safer.

It notes,

So far this week, our officers have discovered 10 loaded firearms in carry-on bags at security checkpoints across the nation.

In addition to these loaded weapons that we’ve kept off of airplanes, there were also unloaded firearms, loose ammunition, and firearm parts detected that aren’t mentioned in this post.

TSA then goes on to list all of the incidents, which is a little unusual. Maybe it’s because only two of them – a loaded .380 caliber pistol in Salt Lake City and another in Seattle – made the news. Perhaps the agency wants full credit for discovering this cache.

But the problem, as any levelheaded observer will tell you, isn’t guns on planes or ammunition on planes. After all, some pilots keep loaded pistols on the flight deck and air marshals carry weapons, too.

It’s guns in the wrong hands that are the problem.

The TSA’s post leaves me with the impression that the passengers behind these and other gun incidents may have had nefarious motives (it denies that — see Blogger Bob’s comment below). Maybe they should have also provided the names of these would-be terrorists and the charges that were filed against them.

Indeed, the agency mentions nothing about who these passengers were or what actions were taken against them. In truth, these cases are handed over to local authorities, who might prosecute them — or drop them. TSA has no law enforcement authority.

Maybe it’s me, but I think the TSA should wait a while before patting itself on the back again. Even though I love the story about the agent who retrieved the cell phone, that can be done far cheaper by one of those meet-and-greet volunteers who work at the airport, saving American taxpayers billions of dollars a year.

Likewise, the obsessive search for weapons, while it may make some of us feel a little safer, is wrong-headed. The agency should be looking for terrorists instead.

When TSA catches its first Jihadist trying to incinerate an aircraft over American airspace, then it should post its next week in review.

Until then, maybe it ought to keep its “successes” to itself.

(Photo: Publik 18/Flickr)

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 . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • http://twitter.com/travelingiraffe Crissy

    Well it does show some hope that they are capable of finding something, doesn’t tell us much about how well they actually do it.  

    I think the job of catching terrorists is the job of law enforcement.  The TSA is in many ways the last line of defense for finding and stopping terrorists. But I have my doubts that if the FBI, CIA and all the other Law Enforcement agencies can’t find a terrorist, I don’t have much confidence that the TSA is going to do it.  And if they found someone who was a terrorist, what the heck are they going to do, they’re not even armed!  Not that I’m suggesting they be armed, I’m scared of that.  

  • Dave

    So, if someone goes on a rampage but using a 10″ cast iron skillet, would there then be a clamor to end the sale, manufacture, and use of 10″ cast iron skillets?

    Or how about if that paid assassin’s weapon of choice was a deftly-swung aluminum bat? What then?

    As a friend in law enforcement told me many years ago, if someone wants to cause harm to someone, they will find a way to do it – whether by gun, bat, poison, or even a Mack truck.

    There has to be a point where it is the PERSON who has to be held fully accountable for their actions – NOT the “tools” they use. That is all.

  • cjr001

    War and muggers would exist with or without guns. And the gun problem in this country came along long before.

    Crackheads and carjackers, on the other hand, are only encouraged by how easily they can get their hands on guns.

    There’s a pretty good reason why we have a lot more violent crime than a lot of other places in the world. And no, you don’t need more than one guess to figure out why that is.

    (And no, I’m not entirely against the 2nd Amendment.)

  • cjr001

    Get over yourself, Raven. You love your guns. Yippee freaking skippy good for you.

    But last I checked, it is perfectly reasonable to not want guns in the hand of every man, woman, and child, as some of the pro-firearms crowd want it.

  • cjr001

    When the only purpose of the tool is to kill, then analogies to baseball bats and skillets and whatever other nonsense people come up with completely fall apart.

  • Linda Bator

    They search for those things NOT allowed in your carryons, and weapons are one of those things not allowed.  There is a way to legally transport them, but these folks chose not to follow the law in this instance.  Nothing to crow about catching, as it is their job, but they do need to make folks aware of what they can do to legally transport those items, rather than try to carry them on.

  • Daisymae

    I wonder about that too.  What if one of these high school dropouts actually finds a bomb one day?  What are they going to do other than say, “Oh, s**t!”

  • Linda Bator

    Agreed – but not loaded and in your carry-on!  Which is why they were confiscated.  And if people get more information on the site as how to legally transport, all for it.  But crowing about doing your job is no biggie IMHO.

  • Linda Bator

    Not against having a gun at all – just don’t want a loaded wepon carried on board the plane.  You can legally transport safely, and NO ONE needs access to a dangerous wepon on board the plane.  But not against guns or legally transporting them. 

  • Mark K

    I don’t find anything that says the TSA is there to catch terrorists.  They exist to prevent things from getting on planes that could be used by terrorists.  They are doing that, admittedly not 100% but thay have some successes.  I don’t see where the TSA bragging about their “successes” serve any purpose other than a a weak attempt to justify their cost.
    I am happy the TSA are finding the loaded guns.  Loaded guns don’t need to be on planes (except for those for air marshals and properly trained pilots).  While I am sure that most of the people caught with the guns don’t intend to shoot up the place, you just never know what might set someone off or what their intention is and one of them might just be a terrorist.  If you need your gun with you where you are going, there are proper ways to carry it in checked luggage that are legal and safe.

  • Martin

    I’m no fan of the TSA, but how exactly would you have had them handle this case?  A guy with cognitive difficulties is caught with a weapon. Clearly the gun gets confiscated.  Maybe the arrest is avoidable depending on how he responded to questioning. But did he fail to cooperate because he got upset or couldn’t answer or understand the questions?

    Guns aside, I’m not tickled with the idea of somebody traveling who can’t tell me what is in the briefcase he carried onto the plane. It makes me wonder if he’s going to be able to make his way where he needs to go, or even if he’s going to be able to keep himself safe. What you call harassment, I call looking out for the guy’s welfare and the welfare of everybody he’s going to come into contact with.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Are you happy to have your genitals touched in order to stop a gun from getting onboard? How about your wife’s? Your teenage daughter? Are you okay with having your elderly disabled mother publicly humiliated, and forced to remove her adult diaper in order to supposedly stop guns from getting on planes? Are you find with having your prepubescent daughter’s naked body viewed by some nameless faceless man hidden behind a screen? How about with your uncle having his urostomy bag squeezed until it spills urine all over him?

    Nobody thinks guns belong on planes. But nor do they belong on a bus, or train, or in a courthouse filled with criminals, or a sporting event filled with drunk & disorderly fans.  But nobody is sexually molesting children and grannies to stop them from getting in those places, are they?

    Metal detectors stop guns. Pawing the genitalia of innocent passengers does not.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Do you know what they are doing with the “prohibited items” they confiscate today? They are putting them in a bin right there at the checkpoint. So when that bomb blows up, it’ll take out all the TSOs, and the hundreds of passengers waiting there for their own scope-or-grope.

    I think that pretty much says it all.

  • Celt12377

    Oh, please, the melodrama is a bit over the top at this point. I’m one of the lucky ones who always seems to get singled out for the extended pat down. I’m a white, chubby, middle-aged woman. On a flight earlier this year I was even taken into a private room and given a thorough pat down…by two female agents, who explained what they were doing. And yes, one of them put her hand between my legs. But she did not “grope” my labia, or come anywhere near any sort of invasive touch of any degree. I think LeeAnne, you are way over-exaggerating both your experiences and your reaction to them. Just earlier this month I was told — after the full-body x-ray experience — that they thought they saw something in my back pocket (there was nothing in my pocket) and the agent would need to “touch [my] buttock,” with the gloved, back of her hand. Did I want a private screening?  No, no worries, do what you need to do right here. It wasn’t any more invasive than bumping into other people on a crowded…well, airplane.  Do I enjoy being singled out every time I fly?  No.  Do I call the slight touches I’ve received “pawing at genitalia”?  Absolutely not.  Trust me, LeeAnne, there is nothing special about YOUR genitalia. We’ve all got one kind or the other, and those TSA agents most likely don’t want to touch you, either. Suck it up and do as asked, or drive or take the bus. No one is forcing you to fly.

  • Daisymae

    Yeah, that’s what the TSO did with my sunscreen when I passed through San Francisco a couple of years ago.  She actually tossed it through the air into the bin.  Another sucess story for TSA!  Dangerous sunscreen (that had already flown on two previous flights from Maui and Honolulu) confiscated!

    (What a boom that would have made if it actually had been a bomb!)

  • Daisymae

    Your lack of humanity is astounding.

  • Celt12377

    Again…oh, please. There are horrific acts of violence inflicted on women all over this planet every day. Actual rapes, torture, murder, abuse, enslavement. A brief pat down by a TSA agent in a busy airport doesn’t begin to compare to the actual violation, pain, and suffering of far too many. No one is forcing LeeAnne to fly. She has a choice. Many woman do not. I have an abundance of humanity, thanks, but I also have perspective, and true suffering is something to be outraged about.

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

    Shocked.  I don’t know how to feel other than shocked that you would scold another woman who has been sexually violated about the inappropriateness of her reaction.  The TSA doesn’t give women a choice of whether flying is worth unwanted sexual contact: instead, the TSA blatantly lies or lies by omission about what will be touched and then just goes ahead and touches without permission.  Just this week a woman went on TV to complain that she wasn’t told her “v-word” would be touched, then suddenly felt a stranger’s hand on her sex organs.  http://www.krdo.com/video/28854237/index.html
    So, no, many passengers don’t know that this is happening and are not being given a chance to make an informed choice.

    And no, not everyone has “one kind or the other” of genitalia.  Your ignorance is showing.  Just scroll down this very thread to see one story of how the TSA abuses and humiliates travelers with non-normative genitalia.  One litigant in one of the dozens of lawsuits against the TSA working slowly through the courts is a man with an enlarged testicle who was subjected to a humiliating sexual assault in the secret room.

    I’m ashamed of you.  How dare you minimize another woman’s experience of sexual assault?  What’s no big deal to you may feel like a big horrendous deal to someone else, particularly for victims of prior sexual violence.  For instance, Alaska State Representative Sharon Cissna has made it very clear that an airport patdown revived her memories of a childhood assault.  The TSA sexually assaulted me seven years ago, and I can tell you that I will never, ever get over it or ever forget it.  Whether my suffering has been worse than someone else’s is something I won’t judge.  But whether I will fight to prevent every woman’s preventable suffering is a foregone conclusion.  TSA, stop hurting people!  And Celt12377, stop insulting sexual assault victims.

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

    Do the screeners touch your labia through your clothes, or not?  I can’t tell from reading your post.  You mention you’ve had many patdowns: are your labia consistently touched, sometimes, never?  I still, after following this topic intensely for a year, have no idea whether labia and testicles are supposed to be touched, are accidentally touched sometimes by sloppy screeners, are maliciously touched sometimes by sadistic screeners, or are intentionally missed sometimes by sympathetic screeners.  Since John Pistole won’t tell us what a patdown is, we can only go by guesses based on travelers’ reported experiences.

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

    No, I’m referring to the incident involving the brass knuckles and the sword and things that were in checked baggage.  The TSA does not ban those things in checked baggage.  Instead, the TSA was playing amateur cop and tattling to the real police about something that was totally irrelevant to airline security.

  • Mark K

    The guns collected that were reported by the TSA were found by the xray machines within carry on luggage.  None were found on people.  They would have been found regardless of what type of search method is being used on the people. 

    I don’t like the TSA any more than you do.  While I and no members of my family have had any of those types of things you listed happen to them so far, I am not like many who turn a blind eye to what is going on.  I have actively worked with members of congress to work out a way to change things through constructive conversations not accusations.  I have heard all of those stories you listed posted over and over by you and others here.  Repeating them over and over to us here isn’t changing anything.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Celt, whoever you are…I’ve BEEN raped. Yes, I am a victim of a long-ago rape. So your insensitive comments about horrific acts of violence happening to women come across as rather hollow. Try, for just a moment, to find an ounce of humanity inside of you and imagine what it feels like to a rape victim to have strangers touch my genitals against my will…just so I can exercise my right as a US citizen to travel.

    I believe my past qualifies me to know when I’m being sexually assaulted yet AGAIN. I also believe I have the right to decide who touches my genitals – something that I feel even more strongly about than someone who is not a rape victim. I do NOT choose a strange woman in a blue smurf suit to touch the intimate parts of my body. And yet I MUST allow her, or I am prevented from using my legally purchased plane ticket.

    As for “no one forcing me to fly” – so I suppose you think I should have NOT gone to my uncle’s funeral two weeks ago – the man who raised me from childhood after my father died? So I suppose I should skip going to see my son graduate from his Army training…the only time I got to see him for a whole YEAR? So what about my job – should I quit, since it requires travel, and…what…go on unemployment? Is that a valid choice in your world?

    Have YOU been raped? Until you have, don’t even THINK about saying such insensitive things to me, or anyone else, about our experiences.

    My TSA assaults happened. They were witnessed. Other passengers came up to me later to tell me how horrified they were. Are you calling me a liar? I have described in detail what happened to me, and it was all 100% true. Every detail.

    I’m happy that none of your pat-downs have been as abusive or violating as mine. But you have just taken the top spot in the “if it hasn’t happened to me, it hasn’t happened” club. Yeah, great logic, dear. Thousands of others can attest that it HAS happened.

    When you’ve been raped, and then had a strange woman slam her hand up into your crotch in a clear punishment for opting out of the nude-o-scope and forcing her to actually *work*, then come back and post. Until then…shut the hell up.

    :::shaking head::: I’m ashamed of you too. And you should be ashamed of yourself. If you’re not…well…that says it all.

  • LeeAnneClark

    First of all, if you don’t want to read my reports again, then don’t read them.  I will continue to post them, knowing that there are always new readers to see these reports for the first time, and have their eyes opened to what’s really going on in our airports.

    Second, what makes you think that ALL I’m doing is repeating my stories? I’m doing much more. This is but one small part of my activism. And I will continue to fight against TSA abuse until it STOPS.

    Thank you for not turning a blind eye, and for your efforts with members of congress. ALL voices are needed – including the voices of those of us who’ve been viciously abused. We’re entitled to our anger…and we’re entitled to speak out as we see fit.

  • Celt12377

    Yes, I have been raped. That’s one reason I know there’s a universe of difference between a TSA pat down and an actual violation — sexual or otherwise — of my body. I cannot begin to equate the two, as you seem determined to do.  And I seriously doubt that “thousands” can attest that what you describe as violent TSA pat downs have happened. In my experience, I’ve seen other passengers going into hysterics over being asked to remove their shoes. I do not like removing my shoes, but I also do not consider it a gross, humiliating violation of my body and my rights…as I’ve seen some people claim. Perspective. Use it or lose it.

    As for being “ashamed” of me…have at it.  I don’t care. 

    And yes, if you do not want to fly because of these potential perceived violations, then you make the choice to not fly and find other modes of transportation, or don’t go.  Flying is not a right, it’s a commodity that you purchase. You can purchase a car, too, but there are a boatload of restrictions surrounding your use of that commodity, or your right to use it — legally purchased or not — can be taken away. 

    I have friends and acquaintances who refuse to fly. Yes, they occasionally miss distant family events, and they make it clear to their employers that they will not fly if travel is part of the job requirements. There are positions in my life I take a stance on, too, but I also accept that it is then my responsibility — and mine alone — to make the accommodations for my own choices.

  • Celt12377

    Sommer, yes, the pat down is done while you are fully clothed. Women screeners pat down women. They wear gloves, and explain in detail what they are going to do before they do it. “I am going to pat your chest and underarms with the back of my hand…” etc.  I have been quite thoroughly patted down in a private screening room in three different (U.S.) airports, and it is no more invasive nor “sexual” than going to a seamstress for alterations. Also, in my experience, there have always been two female agents present — one a supervisor called in to observe — when I’ve undergone this process. I’ve also been patted down three or four times that I can remember out in the public screening area when they thought they saw something on the full-body scanner, after being offered the choice of a private screening. 

    Do I think there may be the occasional sloppy or sadistic screener?  Probably. Human beings are what they are. But I can also attest that in my experience any sort of physical pat down is done with at least two agents present, whether done in a private room or (at the passenger’s choice) in the public area. I seriously doubt that there is a systematic conspiracy in place to sexually harass and violate as many people as possible, as some people seem to believe. 

  • LeeAnneClark

    I’m very sorry to hear that you too have been raped. And I’m even more sorry that, as a victim yourself, you have so little compassion or understanding for the different ways in which such a crime affects people. Clearly it has not affected you in the same way as me: you seem to have no problem with strangers touching your body against your will. I, however, DO have a problem with it – as do many rape victims.

    Again, let me remind you that the fact that something hasn’t happened to you, doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened to others. Yes, there are literally thousands of reports of abusive gropings done by TSA agents – just go read the ACLU website and you’ll see. You can dispute this all you want, but the facts are the facts: there are thousands of similar reports. Are they all lying? Are they all exaggerating?

    Nobody has said that these assaults are done for sexual “reasons”. But the fact (yes, FACT) is that some gropings involve touching sexual organs. TWICE mine have been touched – once, so violently that it lifted me up off the floor. As a rape victim, you of all people should know that rape isn’t about sex – it’s about power, control, violence. Many of the abusive TSA assaults were clearly efforts to exert power and control – keep in mind the type of people the TSA is hiring: uneducated, inexperienced, ill-trained, low-paid. Many of these people have never had power over others before, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen hostility directed at passengers by TSOs (screaming at them when they don’t put things in bins right, barking orders, rudeness for no reason).

    And yes, many of them do their pat-downs abusively for no reason other than punishment for having made their lives a little more difficult by opting out of the nude-o-scope. That is the only reason I can think of for that TSO in LAX to jam her thumb forcefully into my vagina. And there are innumerable similar reports of punitively-done pat-downs. Are they all lying? Exaggerating?

    As for choosing not to fly – Really? So in your world, you see no problem with Americans HAVING to make a choice to skip family funerals, quit jobs and miss important events solely to avoid having to go through an offensive physical groping? REALLY? You’re okay with that? Wow. I feel sorry for you. But, at the risk of being the first to exercise Godwin’s law here…I suppose that’s what the Germans thought as the clamps on personal freedoms were squeezed tighter and tighter…until they squeezed them into oblivion, and personal freedoms disappeared.

    Me? I will continue to fight, to ensure that nobody has to choose between a sexual assault or visiting their grandchildren.

  • LeeAnneClark

    So you’re accepting of the “sloppy or sadistic screeners”? That’s okay by you? You acknowledge that they exist – but you’re fine with that?

    Wow.  Just…wow.

    Seeing blatant inhumanity in front of my eyes is always a shock.  But I suppose it’s a good reminder that people like you exist.

    Yes, human beings are what they are. Some of us, however, are willing to stand up to the inhumanities we see out there.  Others, as we can see, just don’t give a hoot if it hasn’t happened to them…and will actually attack the victims for speaking out.

  • Sadie Cee

    Celt12377 you should realize that you are responding from your own individual experiences and perspective.  Please do not deny, decry or belittle the reactions or feelings of others.  In other words, you are coming across as being very insensitive.  Here no one size fits all because in these matters people have varying sensiblities and degrees of tolerance. 

  • Sadie Cee

    From your inside knowledge, can you tell us if we are to begin hoping for a speedy end to the personal violations that take place every day? 

  • Celt12377

    There are people who choose to be victims, and there are people who choose to not be victims. I choose to not be a victim. Been there, done that, didn’t like it. And I most certainly do have a problem with anyone touching my body against my will.  But I do not and cannot equate a pat down through clothing by a gloved hand in a public place — or even in a “private” screening area with at least two people other than myself present — with “groping” of my “sexual organs” and something akin to rape. Having experienced both, there is a universe of difference.

    And yes, since I have seen people throw tantrums that they are being “violated” because they’re required to remove their shoes (which I find useless and annoying myself), I do think MANY of the reports of “violence” and “assault” by TSA agents as exaggerated. I seriously doubt that any TSO “jammed her thumb into [your] vagina,” since the vagina is an internal organ. Unless you were naked and spread-eagled, nothing — no thumb, nothing else — entered your vagina.  Did she run a hand into your crotch area while you were fully clothed?  Probably.  Are you exaggerating what was done?  I believe so. 

    And once again, yes, I believe that if you’re going to take a stance on not participating in what is required to fly, then that is your choice. There are many people who will not fly for any number of reasons. There are trade-offs for our personal choices on any number of levels on a daily basis.

  • Celt12377

    Oh, trust me, I stand up to inhumanity. But actual inhumanity — rape, enslavement, torture, abuse, neglect, murder, tyranny, etc. — is not in the same category as the TSA situation. It just is not.

    Am I accepting of “sloppy and sadistic screeners”? Of course not. I acknowledge that they most likely exist, since they are all human beings. I am not accepting of sloppy and sadistic dentists, either (have had a couple of those), physicians, veterinarians, police officers, college instructors, pedicurists, or any other profession. But I also have enough perspective to not damn an entire profession or agency because of the bad conduct of a select few. 

    One time in Heathrow Airport, on my way back to the U.S., the security agent checked my passport, looked at me, and said, “You need to come with me.”  I did. I was taken into a private room where he — and he alone, no woman, no other agent — proceeded to go through EVERYTHING I had. He unpacked my suitcase and went through everything. He unpacked my carry-on, and went through everything. He questioned me on where I had been and what I had done during my eight days in London and England. I was not required to remove anything other than my jacket and shoes, but believe me, he gave me a thorough going-over. Why?  I have no idea. I did not speak unless asked a direct question, and I did not challenge his actions. When he was satisfied, whatever his basis was for satisfaction that I was not carrying contraband, weapons, bombs, live animals, was not an enemy agent, whatever — he repacked everything into my suitcase and carry-on and escorted me back to my travelling companions. Who asked me what that was all about. To this day, I have no idea. Despite being pulled aside more often than not when I travel within the U.S. for more thorough screening, I have not encountered anything that has approached that level of thoroughness.  So again….perspective.

  • Brooklyn

    I gather you’ve never lived outside the US?  The western European countries and Canada do have occasional gun crimes, but nothing like the number we have and their legislation allows them to confiscate all the guns that they find.  Unicorns? Not so much.  And only the TSA knows about our butts.

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

    What about my point below: the TSA does NOT tell travelers that their sex organs will be touched, so travelers are abused without any prior warning and without the opportunity to “choose” whether or not their flight is worth being sexually violated?

  • Celt12377

    In my experience — and I’ve been quite thoroughly patted down about half a dozen times — if anything, the TSA agent explains quite thoroughly and at great length what she is about to do. The explanation takes far longer than the actual pat down. Just last month when I was about to be subjected to it again I said, “No need to explain it, I’ve heard it before, just do what you need to do.”  So sorry, but no, when properly performed, the pat down carries ample prior warning. There is no surprise groping or anything like that. 

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

    Many women do not have a choice about the abuse being inflicted on them in airports.  What about minors? They can’t legally “consent” to this, and it doesn’t seem they can refuse it, either.  Do you seriously argue that a father has the right to force his 17-year-old daughter to let strangers touch her labia?  That a 13-year-old girl doesn’t have enough autonomy to decide for herself whether she is comfortable with a stranger touching her breasts?  And if you advocate forcing this kind of offensive touching on very young women, how do you expect these women to be able to stand up to other strangers who make them uncomfortable?  I want young women to trust that queasy feeling in the pit of their stomachs that says … this isn’t right … and then shouts and yells NO, STOP TOUCHING ME!  You seem to think it’s okay to force them to submit.  I do not.

  • Celt12377

    Everyone responds from their individual experience and perspective. You may interpret my words as “insensitive,” but the same brush can be used on anyone’s words who also declare that all TSO’s are uneducated, power-hungry, sadistic, untrained, lazy, etc., etc. As you say…one size does not fit all. My experience, both as a semi-frequent flyer and as an observer of human behavior, is that some people “doth protest too much, methinks.”

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

    There’s no surprise groping, except when there is!   How do you respond to the torrent of reports that women weren’t warned before being violated: Susie Castillo’s story, the news report I linked below,
    the flight attendant Megan N., blogger Erin at Our Little Chatterboxes?

    Here’s what Megan said at http://wewontfly.com/flight-attendant-tsa-sexual-assault-story

    “I was asked by the female TSA agent if I wanted a private screening
    and I said no because I had did not expect what was about to happen.The
    agent went up my right leg first and then met my vagina with full
    force…the same on the other leg with the same result. She then used
    both of her hands to feel my breasts and squeezing them. At this point I
    was in shock.

    When I came out of security my husband asked me.
    “What the hell was that?”. I have never felt so humiliated and violated.
    I have gone through the stages of being a sexual assault victim … Shock, Denial, Blame, Pain, Anger … I have yet to come with the
    Acceptance stage.”

    Here’s a bit of Erin’s story from http://www.ourlittlechatterboxes.com/2010/11/tsa-sexual-assault.html:

    “She reached from behind in the middle of my buttocks towards my vagina area.

    She did not tell me that she was going to touch my buttocks, or reach forward to my vagina area.

    She then moved in front of my and touched the top and underneath portions of both of my breasts.

    She did not tell me that she was going to touch my breasts.

    She then felt around my waist. She then moved to the bottoms of my legs.

    She then felt my inner thighs and my vagina area, touching both of my labia.

    She did not tell me that she was going to touch my vagina area or my labia.”

    It doesn’t get much more clear and concise than that.  TSA screeners touch people’s genitalia without permission.  That’s a fact.  You can insist on your illusion that these women chose to be violated all you want, but many of us were assaulted against our will and without any prior warning.

  • LeeAnneClark

    So…there it is – you have openly called me a liar. It is impossible to have an intelligent discussion with someone who will simply call me a liar.

    Just FTR – it happened exactly as I said. I was wearing tight black leggings. She made me spread my legs, such that my labia were actually separated. She ran her hand up the inside of my thigh, thumb sticking up, FAST and HARD. Her thumb penetrated between my labia, shoving my leggings up into my vagina.

    This was all done against my will. That, dear, is the very definition of a sexual assault.

    But of course you think I’m making all this up. Oh how I wish I was.

    One other thing: it is exactly my activism to STOP THIS ABUSE that makes me NOT a victim. I refuse to be victimized again…and, unlike you, I am willing to put myself out there to help ensure that no other woman ever has to go through this traumatic experience again.

    But then clearly we are very different kinds of people. (As in…I actually have some humanity, sensitivity, and concern for others.)

  • LeeAnneClark

    Ah, but in Celt’s world…she’s exaggerating. :::rolling eyes::: Remember, if it hasn’t happened to Celt, it hasn’t happened!

  • LeeAnneClark

    Yes, perspective. And that is clearly what you’re lacking. Because it hasn’t happened to you.

    You come back and talk with us when you go through a screening, and someone slams their thumb up into YOUR vagina.

    Until then, bottom line, you have no idea what you’re talking about. It hasn’t happened to you…so from your perspective, it hasn’t happened.

    There are varying degrees of inhumanity. The Nazi’s started out with a few small boycotts of Jewish stores and some anti-Semitic literature. Then, disorganized hooliganism by a few radical SA’s. Followed by more organized beatings & boycotts.  Followed by pickets and barricades in front of Jewish-owned factories and stores. Then, removal of non-Aryans from the Civil Service. More baby steps, followed by larger steps. By then, the German populace was so inured to the Nazis’ brazenly anti-Jewish practices that nobody blinked when they enacted anti-Jewish legislation. Eventually, they rounded ‘em all up and killed them.

    Of course, to people like you…it wasn’t happening. Because it wasn’t happening to YOU.

  • Celt12377

    Um, no, I have not called you a liar. I have said that I believe you are exaggerating. And I seriously, seriously doubt anything entered your vagina, since once again, that’s an internal organ. The fact that you had any clothing on — leggings, as you report — would prevent that from happening. Also, if this “assault” was as violent as you describe it, what did you do about it then and there? If someone assaults you, you call law enforcement. You press charges.

    I have been groped, and assaulted, quite a few times throughout my life. In bars, at concerts, on public transportation… And I have been raped. Again, there is a significant difference between an intentional groping/assault and a TSA pat down.  If I were to be groped or assaulted by a TSA agent, I would press charges. Did you?  In my experience, the pat down is NOT done in secret. There is the person performing the procedure and a second, supervisory agent, even in a private room. Did you have a witness to this assault who corroborates your experience?

  • Celt12377

    Ah, but in YOUR world, all TSA agents are low-life groping uneducated power-hungry perverts. Because if one bad experience happened to YOU, then it must be universal.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Nobody has said they are *all* sadistic, power-hungry, etc. But there are certain facts to take into account here: TSA hires thousands upon thousands of people with little formal education, pays them low wages, and gives them barely 2 weeks of training before sending them out to perform manual searches on the bodies of innocent civilians. They advertise for TSA jobs on pizza boxes – what kind of person do you think that’s going to draw? This is the demographic from which they are drawing their workforce.

    As for being sadistic & lazy – many of us have witnessed enough of this type of behavior from TSOs to be able to state, from our own experiences, that these are not uncommon traits. Certainly there are good ones – I travel frequently, and get groped EVERY SINGLE TIME that I fly (the metal in my spine sets off the metal detectors)…and the vast majority of my gropes have been at least tolerable, if unpleasant. But the two that I experienced that were downright abusive…well, they HAPPENED. And they should NEVER happen. Ever. To any American.

    You can think I protest too much…but I guarantee you that those who HAVE suffered abusive TSA gropes are happy that people like me are out here protesting, so that eventually nobody will ever have to suffer such abuse at the hands of our own government again.

  • LeeAnneClark

    “I seriously, seriously doubt anything entered your vagina.” That, dear, is calling me a liar – because I’m telling you that it DID.

    There is an external opening to the vagina. Take a look down there. I didn’t tell you how far her thumb penetrated. But the simple, bare fact is…even if all she did was touch the OUTSIDE of my vagina – that’s unacceptable. That’s sexual assault. That’s my genitalia.

    I DID try to call an LEO. I repeatedly said “Call a law enforcement officer. NOW.” But she didn’t. She did eventually call a supervisor, who gave me a more humane pat-down that did not involve touching my genitals

    Witnesses? Oh yes. There were the three TSOs standing around watching it. There was my mother, who was my traveling companion that day. Several passengers who witnessed it came up to me afterward to tell me how horrified they were. I also have a full audio recording of the event on my cellphone, which I’d placed on audio record mode before I put it in the bin (I started doing this after my first TSA assault). I have listened to the audio, and you can hear me say several times “Call a law enforcement officer. NOW.”

    But none of this means anything to you…because you think I’m lying. Not much point in continuing this conversation.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Not only do you call me a liar…now you put WORDS IN MY MOUTH that I didn’t say. Look, just stick to posting insensitive, inhumane attacks on crime victims. Stop saying I said things I didn’t say. Can you show me where I said this?

    Yeah.  Didn’t think so.

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

    I don’t think TSA agents are low-life groping power-hungry perverts.  I think their boss orders them to sexually assault people.  The TSA’s “screening procedure” is sexual assault, regardless of the mindset of the screener. I don’t care what the screener thinks or wants.  I care that her hands are touching the sex organs of people who don’t want sexual contact with her.  Forcing unwelcome sexual touching on someone is called sexual assault where I come from.  What difference does it make if they did it because someone paid them to do it?  They did something morally repugnant, something indecent and shameful, they did something no caring human being would do to another. 

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

    Well, Celt, I’m still waiting for your reply on how all the women who have been surprise groped really wanted it deep down, you can see they were just begging for it, they showed up at a checkpoint didn’t they, dressed that way, just asking for a hand up the crotch. 

  • LeeAnneClark

    Funny – that’s pretty much what my rapist said after he raped me.

  • Grant

    Will you, Sommer, and Celt PLEASE put a sock in it?! Thank you.   

  • Raven_Altosk

    Well, I’ll agree with you on the TSA knowing our butts… LOL.