3 reasons you’ll shut up after being humiliated at the airport

tsascanLike most infrequent air travelers, Vicki Burton just wants to get through security without causing a scene. So on a recent flight from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Miami, she obediently stepped into the airport’s full-body scanner, held her arms up, and waited for the agent to wave her through.

He didn’t.

Instead, a female screener was summoned to give Burton an “enhanced” pat-down. “My breasts were patted down right there in front of God and everybody,” she says. “I wasn’t even afforded the privacy of a screen. I was so stunned, I was just mute. What do you say without being arrested? What should I have done?”

Good question. To paraphrase Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, she should have said something.

Why do people keep their mouths closed when they feel violated? A combination of powerful motivators keeps air travelers quiet. Only by understanding these influences can we end them.

Reason #1: you’re not crazy, are you?

Many passengers are afraid that if they speak up, they’ll end up as the hysterical passenger on YouTube — reacting irrationally to what many consider “rational” airport security.

I wrote about this incident after it happened. Although there were good reasons for her reaction, according to her son who taped the entire episode, she was nonetheless tarred as a loonie by TSA supporters (read the comments on her video if you doubt me).

Reason #2: everyone else is doing it

Another effective tool of persuasion: peer pressure. Everyone else is going through the scanner; everyone else is getting patted down. What’s your problem? Don’t you care if there’s a 9/11 sequel?

Besides, American airport security is the “gold standard,” isn’t it?

I encountered these faulty arguments the first and only time I was prodded into a full-body scanner. It was months before the opt-out protest, and the devices were still being tested in only a handful of airports. A friendly TSA agent told me I had nothing to worry about. “We’ve all been through them, everyone else is going through them, and you won’t feel a thing,” she assured me.

Well, if everyone is going through them, then what do I have to worry about?

Peer pressure — the fact that no one else seems to be complaining — keeps you quiet when your conscience tells you to speak up.

Reason #3: you’ll miss your plane

The final, and perhaps the most persuasive trick, is the implied threat that if you resist, you’ll miss your flight. Unfortunately, it’s not an empty threat, and the TSA agent screening you knows it. If a blueshirt believes your attitude is anything less than docile, you could be subjected to a retaliatory wait time.

It doesn’t help that airlines are unforgiving when their passengers miss a flight — a “no-show” in airline parlance. Often, air travelers either have to pay for a new ticket at an expensive “walk-up” fare or get sent to their destination by a less convenient route, missing appointments or a valuable vacation time. No one wants that.

Had Burton stopped, asked to speak with a supervisor, and filed a report, she would have been threatened with these three possibilities: becoming a poster girl for crazy, being made to feel like a problem passenger, or missing her flight.

It wasn’t an anomaly. On her return flight, TSA agents did exactly the same thing to her.

Time to say something

This has to end. There’s no evidence that patting down passengers like Burton has made air travel any safer. The only thing it’s accomplished is to erode a number of constitutional rights we once took for granted, say critics.

If invasive, prison-style pat-downs are accepted by air travelers, then who knows what other kinds of searches the TSA might someday try?

The agency has ruled out more invasive searches, at least for now. But in a recent poll, one-third of Americans said they would be in favor of cavity searches to board a plane. No, you didn’t read that wrong. Cavity searches.

The next time a TSA agent asks you to do something you’re uncomfortable with, say something. You won’t just be helping yourself, but all of the passengers who pass through the checkpoint after you. And if enough passengers speak up, the TSA might stop treating us like inmates when we exercise our constitutional right to travel.

It can’t happen soon enough.

Is it too difficult to speak up at a TSA screening area?

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

    “This has to end.”

    Unfortunately, it won’t. We’ve crossed the Rubicon. The United Sheeple of America have made it clear that they’ll accept anything.

  • Raven_Altosk

    I would love to see our President and his family subjected to this treatment. THEN…we might have a change. But while they’re all flying on Air Force One, this subject won’t get a glance at the White House.

    ETA: Congress, too. As I understand it, they can “bypass” security when flying commericial

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

    No, they can’t. Canseco, Chaffetz, Paul, to name a few who’ve been abused. But a lot more of them — and their family members — have to be before they’ll get it.

  • BillCCC

    I voted no. Free speech is alive and well. It is up to each individual to decide whether exercising their right to free speech is worth the time and effort. If it is then missing a flight or getting labeled by the TSA should not bother you.

    Until there is enough support to reform the TSA or to make them more accountable each person will have to make up their own mind.

  • TonyA_says
  • backprop

    You’re right. Most can’t. But some can (say, the House Speaker or other high-level Congresspeople) if they are traveling with security detail. Most Cabinet members can also skip the line for the same reasons, but they don’t represent us per se.

  • Susan Richart

    I think it goes further than fear of retaliation by the TSA, Chris. There’s some deeper reason why more people don’t speak out after being violated by the TSA – the same reasons that sexual assault victims don’t speak out, feelings of shame, fear that people (other than the TSA) will say unkind things to you, wanting to forget it ever happened.

    What’s the answer? The answer is that everyone who has felt violated by the TSA should speak out; if they did, this could end. Perhaps it is safer to not speak out at the airport while one is in a state of shock over being assaulted, but certainly one should speak out afterwards.

    After all, speaking out was what ended the practice of groping all women’s breasts after the alleged bra bombings in 2004.

  • EdB

    Free speech is alive and well in general, but the question is if free speech is alive and well around a TSA screening area. To this, I would say, No, it is not. Read the story TonyA just posted. In the story, a man makes an offhand comment to his wife which is overheard and he is charged with a felony for false reporting? What did he report? NOTHING!

  • cjr001

    The Courts have all but ruled that airports are Constitution-free zones, and TSA treats each security checkpoint as their own little fiefdom (and, far too often, flight attendants do the same with their airplanes).

  • EdB

    “After all, speaking out was what ended the practice of groping all women’s breasts after the alleged bra bombings in 2004.”

    I guess the TSA hasn’t gotten that memo since this story illustrates how the groping is still happening.

  • cjr001

    IIRC, they get to bypass when leaving DC, but not when flying to DC.

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

    EdB, what Susan R means is that there was tremendous push-back in 2004 when a few TSA agents starting pawing women’s breasts. Maureen Dowd wrote a column about in the NYT. It wasn’t TSA policy for every “pat-down” to be a gropefest like it is today. That was years before John Pistole came on board and instituted the Reign of Molestation.

    What I believe Susan is saying is that if there had been as much resistance in 2010 when the Pistole gropes were implemented as there was in 2004 when they were haphazard and rare, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

  • Alan Gore

    If you get to the airport as early as possible on flight day and check through security as early as possible, you increase your options if a problem occurs at security.

    The one time had a real security problem was the one time I flew during the after-Thanksgiving rush. Because I arrived four hours early, I was helpfully offered the last open seat on the prior flight soon departing. Though this was before shoe checks and body scanners, I found myself in a “something beeped” loop at Security, desperately stripping off every piece of clothing I could while I heard my name being paged at the gate.

    That was the last time I have ever taken the earlier-flight option.

  • jerryatric

    TSA is not the only problem.
    I’m a 75 yr. old who was singled out in St. Lucia, on leaving. I was “treated” to a VERY thorough pat down, had to remove my shoes a 2nd time & they even felt the undersides of my feet! I also had to unpack my carry on to the last item.
    I did complain & the poor young fellow even asked the old bag security drill sgt. if she really wanted the “full” pat down. She ignored him as well.
    What’s strange, with all the young people there she seemed to pick on older passengers. I watched, in every case it was an older person. Behind me, a middle aged woman was treated to the enhanced pat down as well.
    I did complain & was ignored, so what else can a person do?

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Sounds like age discrimination by that screener.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    I don’t believe free speech is alive and well when people are feeling cowed, abused, and fearful simply for wanting to travel. This is America?

  • mom_in_amarillo

    I voted yes, but only because I have experienced the idiocy pervasive at the TSA firsthand. You even wrote about it. That being said, on our last flight, my four year old REFUSED..and I mean, r-e-f-u-s-e-d to go through the “detector thingies” as she called them. She was in tears, my partner and I were nearly there, and all of the persuasive techniques in the world were not getting her through that scanner. So, enter a wonderful agent named Crystal here in our Amarillo airport. She gave my daughter her own line, her own plan, and let her RUN through the scanner. It worked. We made it to Disney. Now, I know this isn’t the norm at most airports and I hate that. While I can understand security (really, I do) there exists a need in the TSA for plain old common sense….and sometimes that works the best.

  • Cruise Adventure 4 U

    I just do what they ask because I just want to get where I’m going and I know they hold my fate in their hand if I make my flight or not. Do I like it? No. But I travel too much to get on some list. And I might not mind if I felt any safer but then you read how they screened people for hours and no one noticed the machine wasn’t working or even turned on.

  • Joe Farrell

    Ok, miss your flight? Retailiatory wait time? Thorough search?

    Why part of freedom is not free don’t you understand?

    Every time I exercise my rights at places like DUI checkpoints or with officers by simply refusing to answer questions I am not required to answer, I am detained and inconvenienced. Exercising my freedom costs me time ans inconvenience. Do I challenge it at the time? Of course not. Do I after file a complaint? Of course.

    Whining about it accomplishes nothing. Doing something to exercise your rights has consequences. Do you have the guts to stand up for your rights?

    There I was at an airport in Savannah. And they began to strip-search a military enlisted man going back to the desert. I stopped it. I am embarrassed the smurfs. They then threatened me with the usual. I told him to bring it on, and to just try. The Police officer at the checkpoint turned around and walked away. It can be done.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    As long as people can rationalize abuse of “others,” nothing will change.

    People who have been mistreated by the TSA have a difficult time complaining because of the automatic labeling done by the general public. Even in 2013, if a woman complains, she’s “hysterical” or “emotional.” Minorities expect “special treatment.” Youth or the elderly “just don’t understand.” People with mental or physical issues “shouldn’t travel if it’s so difficult.”

    It’s easier to label the abused as “troublemakers” than to actually check and see if they’ve been mistreated. I think a lot of people ignore injustices and mistreatment of others because if they really learned about it, they would feel compelled to do something, and they don’t want to spend the time. It’s painful to read about how poorly flyers are treated, and humans don’t want to experience pain unless they are forced to do so.

    IOW, the general public just doesn’t give a crap unless it happens to them or someone they love.

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

    Mr. Gore, a good plan, but remember that the TSA can — and does — still search you even after you’ve passed the checkpoint. They grope at will. Here are just two accounts:



    There are more examples in this document:

  • Mundane Lustrator

    I understand. I don’t think one has to fight with the TSA every time one flies, but filing complaints when needed and writing your representatives about TSA failures could help. :)

  • Jack Norell

    I was going to make a joke out of the fact that if you speak up, you might end up getting a cavity search. Then that’s referenced in the article. If a third of Americans are actually in favor of that for getting on a plane, there is no way this’ll get any better.

    I think the reason most people don’t speak up is the same as sexual assault victims don’t: At the time, it’s too shocking and after it’s far too embarrassing and they doubt their own experience of being abused.

    The TSA relies on that psychological mechanism to keep us compliant with what is at times an absolute disgrace. On top of that, the very real and immediate consequence of missing the flight.

    It’s probably better to write your mayor, write your Senator & Congress reps, write the ACLU, etc.

    And don’t fly unless you have to, and let the airlines know it’s because being humiliated by the TSA is the reason: They’ll soon lobby for changes if enough of us do.

  • KaraJones

    Last week, I went through the screener and they stopped me on the other side – said there was something showing up on my left hip. I felt my left hip and realized that I’d forgotten to take my iPhone out of my pocket. I took it out and apologized and handed it to the agent and she was actually nice about it and just patted down my left hip to make sure that’s all it was. They then put my iPhone through the xray thing. What struck me, though, was that if that machine can actually see me naked, how do they not recognize an iPhone?
    And more germane to this specific conversation, I really did not want to go through the screener. But they had announced that my flight was actually going to leave early and to hurry up to get to the gate (I’d arrived with more than enough time but then they decided to have the flight leave early because it wasn’t full – and because they could.) So what could I do? If I asked for a pat-down, I’d have missed my flight. So I said nothing, and I stepped into the machine and stood with my hands over my head, like someone under arrest, worrying how many years this was taking off of my life.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    AFAIK, if you went through the MMW scanner, the naked image is taken and stored in the back room, but the screeners standing there with you only see the outline image, which is why they wouldn’t know it was an iPhone.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    I haven’t given up yet.


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

    Oh, I’ll still fight. Of course. That’s why I write for and edit TSA News every day. But that’s because I think it’s more noble to go down fighting than to sit on my ass doing nothing. I don’t have any illusions, though. I don’t believe this abusive system will improve in my lifetime. And if it ever does, it will have to get worse before it gets better. I’ve quoted Frederick Douglass on this more times than I can count.

  • john4868

    I really hope that this guy gets counter sued. Sorry but saying you have a bomb in a TSA checkpoint is right up there with screaming “fire” in a crowded building or “gun” at a presidential event. All of them are incredibly dumb acts and not covered by the first amendment.

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


  • TonyA_says

    I’m glad it all worked out for you and you got to Disney. I hate to ask this question – could a TSA agent get fired for using his/her common sense? Are they supposed to do everything by the book or lose their jobs? Maybe the system is preventing TSA agents from using common sense. I just want to know.

  • Annapolis2

    Why don’t people speak up? Well, I can tell you that every time I tell my story of being sexually assaulted at an airport checkpoint (a woman penetrated me with a hand-held metal detector), some ignorant bully calls me a liar. I have been told, over and over again, that I am a liar. This is what it feels like to report a sexual assault. So it doesn’t surprise me that many women, including my very close friend who was strip-searched in a private room down to her panties and bra at LAX, have declined to go public with their stories.

    Rape culture tells people that the victims are to blame for sexual assault. The TSA has somehow managed to avoid responsibility for the thousands upon thousands of rapes they have surely committed at checkpoints. If the standard practice is to ram one’s hands up in between people’s legs and buttocks, then yes, penetration is going to happen. There were at least three letters in this batch of 200 that reported penetration: http://www.scribd.com/doc/105000289/104904507-TSA-Complaints-2010

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

    TonyA, given that they make up their own rules on the spot all over the country, I don’t see how they’re being fired for not doing things by the book. According to Molester-in-Chief John Pistole himself, they’re not supposed to be sticking their hands down your pants, yet they do.

  • emanon256

    I am not a fan or sympathizer of the TSA by any means, but I am totally with you on this. That was such a stupid thing to say. Anyone with an ounce of common sense would have known better than to make a joke about having explosives at a security check point. Or should I say more than 3oz of common sense.

    As a side note, I routinely see jars of peanut butter get confiscated. My theory is it becomes the TSAs lunch.

  • KaraJones

    Oh. That makes sense. (You’re much more fluent in online acronyms than I am, LOL! I had to look up your last two.)

  • EdB

    Well apparently it didn’t do any good since it came back.

  • Daddydo

    I don’t believe that any person will miss their flight if they speak up in a nice way. Check-in is 2 plus hours, 20 minutes in line at the airline, 10 minutes waiting to get “felt up”, and 20 minutes to speak to the supervisor about getting “felt up”. That gives 1 hour and 10 minutes to get to your flight. I will “never” allow my wife or myself to go through the full body scanner, or be “felt up” again. Get names, get badge numbers, be ready to send a letter to your congressmen with the facts. REBEL and get our rights of decency back.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    As I read this, I was reminded of an incident that received a great deal of attention, one where the person subjected to the invasive search didn’t have to say a word, and he was still arrested and charged – Aaron Tobey, who had the 4th Amendment written on his torso in anticipation of his being searched.(Who also recently won a lawsuit against TSA, to the tune of $250,000) The TSA clowns actually questioned him with regard to his belonging to a terrorist organization; in their pea-sized minds, believing in the protections afforded us by the Constitution is a terrorist act.

    TSA treats everyone who isn’t falling in line like a bunch of robots as a subversive and they prefer to do that. These are people who have little or no power in their private lives and, the second they go to work, have all the power, over thousands of people, every day.

  • ExplorationTravMag

    Susan, I completely understand what you’re saying, however, I feel it’s simply a matter of the traveling public being too afraid.

    When flying on airlines, now, the slightest bit of dissension, even if it’s to complain there’s no ice in your drink, can be met with, “Get off the plane” and some lovely men with guns and handcuffs escort you off.

    People are terrified to speak up, anymore. In the age of cell phones and the internet, w/n seconds, a person is made notorious and subject to the scrutiny of a judgmental public. TSA counts on that, as well as other psychological ploys, to keep us all in line.

  • naoma

    I have been patted down in public and seen men given such a complete pat down that I was embarrassed. Up and down the legs — as far “up” as they could go from the front and the back. I asked a policeman nearby if this was frequently done. He said sometime they get more “vigorous.” Once my flat stomach was exposed about an inch when I went through a puffer machine. Woman looked at me like I’d committed a crime and said “pull down your t-shirt.” I did not say anything. But some women come on half-dressed. Quiet is best.

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

    Jill, exactly. Which is precisely what Martin Niemoller pointed out 70 years ago, but people still haven’t learned the lesson:

  • BillCCC

    Anyone dumb enough to mention explosives at a security checkpoint deserves what they get.

  • John H.

    We are a conformist society, which works against acting as an individual and speaking out. Not only does that cause our fellow travelers to side against us but it enables the TSA agents to violate our constitutional rights. I’m sure that in TSA training that cultural norm is mentioned. It sure got a lot of German and Japanese citizens “going alone,” even to that terribly destructive ending.

  • naoma

    Personally, I think she was getting “out of hand.” This could have been handled more quietly. It was terrible to hear the screaming. Once I almost said to a female screener who was squeezing my breasts “I’ll take them out if you insist.”
    But, I kept quiet.

  • Daisiemae

    Predators always seek easy prey. They only attack people who seem vulnerable and unlikely to fight back. Elderly people appear more vulnerable to a predator.

  • KaraJones

    I wonder if they mixed it with my expensive goat yogurt that was confiscated last week. : (

  • KD

    As a woman, I often find I have to get manually patted down because my bra sets the metal detector off. Lovely. Or maybe ironic? Once time the screener said, “I think I know what the problem is,” even before I got the manual pat down. If it’s a predictable problem, why not find some way to fix it?!

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

    KD, because they’re not interested in fixing it. It’s not about security; it’s about obedience.

  • William_Leeper

    What gets me is as a service contractor for our local airport, I enter “sterile” areas of the terminal building all the time while doing maintenance, and have NEVER been through their check point. This includes those times when there are departing passengers waiting. Not saying that I mind, but still that’s just plain silly. TSA is more interested in bothering passengers than they are security.

  • KaraJones

    Oh, wonderful. So if we have big boobs and require underwire, we’re more fun to pat down. Why would they fix it? >:-(

  • Susan Richart

    Your child went through a scanner or a WTMD? Children are not supposed to be going through the scanners.

  • KaraJones

    I’ve been using the internet forever, yet just today, I’ve learned two more texting acronyms and a UseNet phrase just from reading this blog!
    “Godwin’s Law” – great phrase. But I do feel that your usage is appropriate and doesn’t set off Godwin’s law. : )

  • Susan Richart

    Allegedly, screeners are now able to use their “discretion” to a certain point, but I’m sure the reported event could have led to the screener being fired depending on how much of a harda** the checkpoint supervisor/FSD/whoever is.

  • TonyA_says

    The non-pasteurized milk police might be after you :-)

  • Joshua

    I can only hope that the one-third of Americans who said they would be willing to undergo a body cavity search to board a plane misunderstood the question.

  • BillCCC

    I don’t necessary think that my ideas are warped but you are entitled to your own opinion. The question was is it too difficult to speak up at a TSA screening area. I said no.

    Exercising your right to free speech has always had the potential consequence of being detained, being prevented from traveling or being arrested. Some people are willing to risk the consequences and some are not.

  • abouthadit

    two words: stop flying

  • Jolanda Robbins

    If you ever look at a TSA agent wrong 10 of them come from no where and surround you.

  • john4868

    Depends on the machine that was in use at the time. The one they are allowed to use now just puts a yellow blob over the area in question (its a strawman outline). It doesn’t show a pic of you or the item. You can tell if these are in use by looking a the machine itself or if you see the TSA agent looking a screen instead of listening to the radio. The other type wasn’t detailed enough to show what the item was. The agent in the back room would have seen a rectangle about the size of an iPhone but wouldn’t know for sure (could be a pack of cigarettes too).

  • jmtabb

    Back in 2001 when security was still super tight after the shoe bomber was arrested, I remember the line for security at the Oakland CA airport was hours long.

    As we approach the metal detectors, sure enough, almost every woman is setting off the metal detector and is being subject to the hand wand and some to a physical pat down. I was sure then (and now) that every one of those women was subject to a more thorough screening because of the under wire in their bras.

    The metal detectors are set to find certain levels of ferrous and non-ferrous metal, and can be adjusted. Someone had set these metal detectors so tightly that it “caught” too many people, nearly all women, and caused chaos at the security screening. Many people missed their flight that day. Arrival at the airport 3 hours in advance of your flight was just barely enough to catch a domestic flight….

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

    Or they can just kick the metal detectors to make them go off, one of their favorite tricks:

  • cjr001

    One question: why do you support terrorism?

  • TSAisTerrorism

    I believe your story. I know it’s true based on my own experiences. Now, I’m male, and therefore don’t have a vagina to penetrate, and as a side note isn’t is sad that we would even need to have this kind of discussion on a public IB?, but based on how I’ve been treated, I know your incident is true.

    And as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I know, deep in my gut that what TSA is doing is wrong. It’s sick. It’s barbaric. It’s wrong.

  • scapel@suddenlink.net

    1. The film shows the woman was hysterical. It looked like an inappropriate reaction by the woman on the film. Looked like a setup to discredit the TSA. Why didn’t the video show the alleged molestation.

    2. Don’t know why the fliming is forbidden. It just proves that the woman is hysterical and the TSA would be exhonerated.
    If it is against the law to film then the the TSA shold have a copy of the law available to prove they are right.

    3. The palpatiion is a joke. I had a back brace on and the person palpating didn’t even ask what is that hard thing on your back. He also didn’t ask about my pressure gradient stockings which are quite thick. I wonder what the scanner showed that required me to be patted down. If they tickle me I do laugh. I guess if he grabbed me I might jump.

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

    Filming isn’t forbidden. Only if a particular airport has regulations against it, which only a few do. Otherwise, it’s perfectly legal. That hasn’t, however, stopped the blue-shirted goons from lying and telling people it’s illegal and then trying to bully them to get them to stop.


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

    That’s not what I said at all.

    Perhaps you should review the civil rights movement in the US. In some cases people were exercising their right to free speech when they were arrested, detained, beaten and in some cases killed. They still spoke up. Were they not exercising their right to free speech?

    I am sorry that you are gobsmacked. I did not mean to do that.

  • http://www.myrightfitjob.com juliaerickson

    I have had trouble with the TSA several times, in Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Newark airports.

    In the first case, the agent doing the patdown refused to continue doing it after I asked why there wasn’t a full-body scanner. She just stopped, said “I will not continue this,” summoned her supervisor who chastised me for asking the question and stalked off. The supervisor then refused to give me a form for reporting the person – no, wait, she had no forms available. Right. I was so upset and angry that, despite my fear of appearing on a no-fly list, I submitted a complaint on the TSA site. I also copied my Senators. I received a canned response from the TSA pointing me to regulations. No apology, no recourse, nothing personal at all. I received a similar response from both Senators.

    The next time, I asked to go through the full-body scanner only to be told it was too late, I should have spoken up sooner, and if I kept asking questions about why, I would be pulled aside and have to speak to a supervisor – probably missing my plane. And the last time, I was kept waiting for 10 minutes in the closed area until they could “locate” someone to do the private patdown.

    Janet Napolitano is fooling herself if she believes the rank-and-file TSA and on-the-ground supervisors will ever treat air travelers with respect. There is so much power in their hands to make or break someone’s travel plans at the very least, and to label them a “flight risk” (so to speak) at worst.

    I rarely fly now because I will only go through the full-body scanner so I can be spared the almost inevitably negative personal interaction forced by a pat-down. And I don’t want that much radiation in my body. The TSA accomplishes our enemies’ goal – to reduce the freedom enjoyed by ordinary Americans.

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

    “The TSA accomplishes our enemies’ goal – to reduce the freedom enjoyed by ordinary Americans.”

    Bingo. The TSA is the Terrorist Support Agency.

  • KaraJones

    Ha! Actually the mean one who made me get rid of it was chunky – she was probably going to mix it with LeAnne’s chocolate and that guy’s peanut butter…come to think of it, maybe I’ll get a job with the TSA…this sounds pretty tasty.

  • http://www.myrightfitjob.com juliaerickson

    ditto to LeeAnne – speaking up in a nice way doesn’t work – at least not for this woman.

  • KaraJones

    What a ridiculous comment. He said something stupid and could have gotten a pat-down after that, but he didn’t deserve to go to jail.

  • emanon256

    Yogurt is always hit or miss with me. Sometimes they take it, most of the time they don’t. I was worried about bringing conollis through, but they made it.

  • KaraJones

    Being nice doesn’t matter with the ones who are power-hungry. I’m always very nice to them. Some of them are nice back, some of them are just asses. In fact, some of them make it a point to be nastier if you’re nicer. I’ve experienced the same thing at at passport checks coming back from Canada.

  • emanon256

    I saw them confiscate a burrito from a woman in BOS, and there was a small argument, and the TSA agent kept insisting that a burrito is liquid. As soon as the woman left, the guy unwrapped it and started eating it. I got his name and reported him. Nothing ever came of it I’m sure.

  • BillCCC

    While you might think that it is ridiculous I stand by it.

  • BillCCC

    II guess that I cannot. My loss.

  • KaraJones

    They “deserve what they get”? So, if the guy mentioned explosives as a joke (which it obviously was – although he WAS an idiot for doing it), and then he went to jail, and while he was there, they kicked the crap out of him and raped him, would he have “deserved what he got”? Set some parameters on your comments or they’re meaningless.

  • KaraJones

    The flatulence that ensued after he ate the burrito probably laid to waste the other TSA agents.

  • KaraJones

    Yeah, yogurt’s not a liquid nor completely a solid, so I don’t know where they draw the line.

    But if I were standing behind you on line, I would have stolen your cannoli!! As Clemenza said in “The Godfather”: “Leave the gun. Take the Cannoli.”

  • tiredoftheunamericanbs

    Unless Congress (or Local law enforcement) gets a back bone and stops the TSA it will only get worse. The TSA has detained at least two senators which is absolutely illegal according to the US Constitution and NOTHING happened to the TSA employes or the LEO’s that allowed it to happen.

  • KaraJones

    Interesting. I’d like to get a look at what they really see.

  • cjr001

    Then he/she can feel free to explain themselves further, because we’ve seen the “Don’t like it, don’t fly” enough that I my knee does a healthy jerk when it comes up again.

    As for my comment, that’s going to be my reaction to those who say don’t fly from now on. Because to not fly because of TSA is letting terrorists win, whether they be the ones overseas who have succeeded in making us change our way of life, or the ones who work for our government (re: TSA) who terrorize their fellow citizens every day.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I bet if we saw a picture of Vicki Burton, she’d be an attractive woman. TSA agent getting his jollies on some girl-on-girl action?

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

    Depends how you look at. Were the bus boycotters of the civil rights movement letting “them” win? Economic boycotts — or “campaigns of economic withdrawal” as MLK called them — are tactics. Effective tactics. I don’t know if commenter ‘abouthadit’ was saying “Don’t like it? Don’t fly” or “Withdraw your money and don’t support the complicit airlines.” Perhaps he/she will clarify.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    gun control & TSA – have you Americans gone mad ?
    You should have the 1st & not the 2nd.
    US borders are so porous, you can’t even keep out poor Maxican & latin American peasants.

  • emanon256

    Technically glass is liquid, yet that is okay to bring through, but I am arguing semantics. Actually, I had a dozen connoli’s. My mom was having a party and requested I bring them. I thought I may have to hand a few out as bribes along the way. I checked my bag so the Cannoli box would be my carry on, and some nice person with a small bag let me put it on top of their bag in the bin and turned down my offer of a cannoli. The only casualty was when some jerky business person tried to grab his briefcase out of the bin from 3 rows back after we got to the gate and every one was standing. He pulled his briefcase knocking down the other persons small bag and my cannoli box as they were between him and his briefcase. Luckily I caught the box and only one broke. And my seat mate has soft things in their bag, so all was still good.

  • technomage1

    In fairness, were not surrounded by water on all sides. Land bridges make it more difficult. Also, our video game laws and pricing is better than yours.

  • ERic

    I just have to say I’ve seen in plenty of places signs that say, “You can ask for a private screening.” I have no problem asking for this at all. I don’t think anyone should. You just look at the TSA agent and say, may I please be screened in private.

    Other than that, this isn’t an issue of whether or not you are comfortable it is an issue of “security” in which case comfort tends to take a back seat. Not that I agree with that but that’s how it is.

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

    Kara, what they see vs. what they claim they see:


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

    Eric, a private screening practically guarantees abuse. I don’t think I have to spell this out.

    As for “security,” you’ve apparently drunk the Kool-Aid, and nothing any of us can say to disprove this bogus claim will make a difference.

  • Fisher1949

    TSA resorts to bullying to force people to comply with their circus act.

    They do nothing to improve security but think that the more offensive they are, the more people will think they actually accomplish something.

  • Annapolis2

    Thank you for believing me, TSAisTerrorism. I appreciate the support.

  • http://twitter.com/wilcamp wil b campbell

    Yes, it feels bad when you make decisions that cause you unexpected unpleasant consequences. Even if you are a member of the “Jet Set”.

    Air Travel is not a human right in non-emergency situations. It is an extremely nice privilege. There are often requirements or responsibilities associated with privileges, especially ones only a small percentage of the human population has access to. Answer: Don’t Fly.

    Seriously, you are just stoking the fires of idle complaint here. If you don’t like the security measures used in an airport, don’t go there. That applies to lots of countries for me. Also, some US airports. Just like some better than others. Do you know what is cool? I can choose. If I need to go to one of those places, do you know what magic power I call forth from the distant past? Planning!

    Seriously, schedule more time and take a train, or a boat, or just videoconference. These are highly avoidable issues.

  • KaraJones

    I actually meant I would have eaten ALL of your cannoli – “cannoli” is also plural! : D
    I’m very relieved that you were able to rescue them…and frankly, there is nothing wrong with a broken cannoli either!

  • emanon256

    Haha :). I never knew the plural for cannoli. I ate the broken one and it was just as good.

    Sent from a mobile device

  • ChBot

    I wouldn’t be willing to bet on it ! But as a huge portion of the American public probably never took or intend to take a plane in their life, … the figure doesn’t mean anything !!!…

  • Mundane Lustrator

    I disagree, ERic. It is about the public “feeling” safer, not actual security. The “private room” is also a red herring. For some people, they don’t want to be seen being touched by strangers. I object to the TSA touching anyone at all on their genitals, buttocks, breasts, and down their pants. It’s assault for nothing but intimidation, not safety. They made the “enhanced patdown” so onerous, so offensive, that most people will risk having naked photos taken in a scanner and risk cancer than allow someone to touch them invasively.

    Plus, going into a private room with two screeners, one witness for the flyer who cannot interfere, and no video or photos allowed opens the flyer up to even more abuse.

    So, it is not about comfort, it is about dignity, respect, and control of my person.

    (grammar edit)

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Oh, sorry! I get on a roll, and the acronyms fly!

  • Mundane Lustrator

    How did keeping quiet make you feel?

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Air travel is a right codified under US law.

    Where do you live, wil? Do you realize that millions of Americans don’t have access to trains or boats? Not to mention the millions without high-speed (or any) Internet or proper equipment to do videoconferencing, due to location, cost, or technical expertise. Also, one cannot always afford the time to ground/water travel.

    Scenario for many in the energy industry: Live on Gulf Coast. Work in North Dakota. Or Canada. Or Alaska. Or Brazil. Not a desk job, so can’t conference in. Not quitting their jobs after 5, 10, 20 yrs. Gotta feed their families. What plane or boat are they going to take? How many days to ride a (potentially non-existent) bus or drive? They can’t stay at the camp or rig during their off-time.

    What’s your plan?

  • http://twitter.com/wilcamp wil b campbell

    There are 0 North Americans, much less US citizens, with “0 access” to boats or trains. The overwhelming majority of these can be arranged, with handicap access, ahead of time.
    Afford the time? Answer: Plan.
    Emergency? Perhaps you should carefully consider your reaction. Telephone technology is very old, and available to anyone willing to do a day’s work at minimum wage.
    If it is offensive you to consider manual labor or planning or personal gratification delay for a greater good, perhaps it would be best if you reply to your friends. I remain ready for civil debate.

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    Let’s keep this civil. I would hope this forum can be a place where people feel free to disagree with others (rightly OR wrongly) and not be called names for it.

  • pauletteb

    Another SSDD column from Chris . . . yawn.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Sadly ironic, I said this in an earlier comment here:

    Even in 2013, if a woman complains, she’s “hysterical” or “emotional.”

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Please look at Amtrak’s US map. You will see vast tracks of this wonderful country are not on any passenger train line.

    Please look at a regular US map. You will see many landlocked states without navigable rivers.

    I wasn’t clear when I said “afford the time.” Some people do not have a generous vacation plan. Some companies do not allow employees to bank hours. So no matter how much planning is done, the vacation time simply isn’t there. Many of these people cannot afford to take time off without pay, or are at risk of being fired for taking time off without pay. These people have the right to travel by the most expeditious means, which includes airplanes.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “Perhaps you should carefully consider your reaction” in regards to an emergency.

    Using a telephone is really neat, and one of the greatest 20th Century inventions. So what? Workers need to leave their work sites. How are they going to travel 3000 miles round trip in a week and spend any time at home taking care of their family?

    I’m also not sure what you mean by “If it is offensive you to consider…” Is there a word missing? What do you mean by “manual labor?”

    Are you saying all air travel is “personal gratification” and therefore unnecessary?

    Also, not sure what you are saying by “perhaps it would be best if you reply to your friends.” That makes no sense at all, especially when followed by the last sentence.

    (grammar edit)

  • Susan Richart

    I wholly support your notion that the majority of people who support the TSA have never traveled by air – at least not in the last 11 years.

  • mfriedlieb

    The survey result says it all and aligns with your article’s basic point, if passengers are passive in their experience through TSA security the probability of anger and the sense of violation increases. I’ve been traveling for work 2 times a week pretty much every week for the past 12 years, both before and after 9/11. For focus, I’ll avoid diving into the debate over whether TSA security is necessary or even whether how they do it is effective, “right,” or even reasonable. I’ll take the status quo as is, and simply address the question of how do we, individual passengers, ensure our individual safety and dignity. 1) Arrive at the airport AT LEAST 1 hour prior to your departure time for domestic and 2 for international…period. Of the folks I’ve seen all these years freaking out at delays of one form or the other at the security check-point, the majority are owing to personal anxiety brought on by not allowing enough time for the process. Every passenger has personal control over this variable, use that control. If circumstances prove otherwise, take a deep breath and DON’T have the expectation that you’ll make your originally scheduled flight. Sub-point to personal control, if you get to the airport late, make your first stop the ticket counter to re-book to a later flight, not the security line. 2) Dress for security. Slip off shoes with socks on so you don’t have to get put-off by bare feet on dirty floors or risk getting someone else’s foot diseases by walking with bare feet. (If you don’t care about foot diseases, go bare, I don’t care.) Limit your layers and put coats, sweaters, scarves in your checked and/or carry-on BEFORE getting in the security line. 3) Know the TSA rules and follow them to the letter whether you “like” them or not. Keep your laptop handy and put in a separate scan tray and don’t try to fudge around on the single quart-sized baggie for liquids. Consolidate – put hand bags, reading material, etc. inside your single carry-on to go through security. You can un-consolidate on the other side. Want less hassle? Check your bags and take as much liquid materials in them as you want. 4) For personal safety, consider your personal long-term exposure to the various forms of radiation used in the non-metal detector archways that are now in use. If you travel 3-6 times per year, probably not an issue. For someone like me, I KNOW going into the airport that if I’m directed to a security line that will put me through something other than the old-fashioned metal detector archways, I’ll immediately exercise my right to “opt-out” with the TSA officer at the detector and have a manual pat-down performed (one that by the TSA regs has some modesty standards of no palms touching sensitive areas (typically only a “swoosh” underneath each breast for women in the breast area). (I know, the newer technology isn’t using x-ray, but, I’ve not seen 10, 20, 30-year studies yet on the effects of long-term exposure to the newer technology on human tissue. My personal CHOICE given my higher level of exposure rates for the amount of travel I do, I don’t go there.) 4) IF you feel violated or in any way uncomfortable during your experience, calmly and professionally ask to speak to the supervisor. Get their name and ID number. If you feel you don’t have time to discuss the matter with them then and there or you don’t receive satisfaction, you have that name and ID number to file a formal complaint via the TSA website and other TSA contact points along your travels. Heck, you can even copy your state and federal government representatives with your complaint. 5) If all of this just sounds like too much for you, then don’t use air travel. I respect your opinion and YOUR choice. If folks want to continue to be reactive rather than proactive, I’m afraid I have very little sympathy. Stop whining and start taking personal action and responsibility. If you don’t speak-up, it definitely will not change.

  • Heather

    I’m so proud that you stuck by your mom. I used to travel a lot for work, but avoid it at all costs now. Some TSA are trained better than others, nevertheless, I’ve been singled out and even had my breast milk searched right after I had a baby and I was pumping. They told me they wanted me to drink my breast milk – no kidding. I almost fell out of my chair.

    The bottom line is – SOME of the TSA WORKERS treat travelers WITH OUT any respect. It’s almost like power trip. They are ill qualified for that type of a position, and use it to demean the public.

  • kathymcn

    Gotta agree with LeeAnneClark here- after reading her “as yet unposted”comment, it may be emphatic, it may be strident, but I don’t see name calling, just ardent defense.

  • cfg

    Just got one of those “enhanced” pat downs because I’m 6 months pregnant and didn’t want to go through the scanner. I offered to go through a standard metal detector instead (which were available, but roped off for some reason) and the answer was “no”. It wasn’t horrible, but it was definitely invasive.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Some people who are critical of the TSA on this blog also contact their representatives, so I guess they can “whine.”

    Although you have some good suggestions, one can be proactive and still get a bad TSA screener and thereby a bad checkpoint experience. That’s the issue. Even those of us who try to make things as easy for ourselves as possible still are potentially subject to the whims of government employees with too much power and not enough accountability.

    (Please note I see where you talk about making a complaint, but I have no confidence that bad screeners are dealt with properly.)

  • Annapolis2

    I don’t think you understand that there are American communities that are inaccessible without air travel. Alaskans can not generally reach advanced medical care without boarding a plane. You can’t drive, bus, or tram into many American communities. A man was stranded in Hawaii a few months ago because he got placed on the no-fly list while he was there on a layover. He was literally stuck there – he had no options for getting off that island. There is no common carrier boat service between Hawaii and the U.S. (because of an obscure law). http://www.hawaiireporter.com/customs-agent-blocks-politically-outspoken-military-dependent-from-leaving-hawaii-tells-him-hes-on-the-no-fly-list-after-hes-already-arrived-in-hawaii-from-california/123

  • http://flyicarusfly.com/ Fly, Icarus, Fly

    “because you and the Taliban are cut from the same cloth”.

    Surely, someone with an intelligent, solid argument can learn to make their point without disparaging people who disagree. Wasn’t it you who mentioned Godwin’s Law? Ironic…

    And BTW, I didn’t flag your comment. Anyone can flag a comment as inappropriate. It then goes to the moderation panel to discuss what to do with it.

  • David Krueger

    So are the ladies gay and enjoy feeling up the women. What if a guy had a boner? would they have to verify it wasn’t a gun in his pants? Who would verify that? Would they have to feel to see if it was part of his body or something strange in his pants? The mistery widens.

  • David Krueger

    I saw them once patting down an 80 year old lady in a wheelchair with a military man holding a machine gun overseeing the patting down. Don’t you think that’s going overboard? I do.

  • Laughing Skeptic

    If every passenger who missed thier plane because of TSA filed a tortious interference lawsuit in small claims court requesting treble damages for TSA’s legal interference in the contract of the ticket the passenger is holding, their behavior would change. Not for the reasons we want, but in reaction to onslaught of paperwork their attorneys won’t be able to manage. The TSA’s lawyers could not possibly keep up with all the complaints and some of the small claim court judges would provide default judgements that TSA’s attorneys would then have to appeal. The winner of judgements that fall through the cracks can show up at the airport with a sheriff in tow to claim a reasonable amount of TSA property, say one of their cars.

  • EdB

    Problem with this is I believe the TSA has immunity from lawsuits unless the government agrees they should be sued. So even if you were able to get it through Small Claims and get a default judgement, it would be dismissed and you would never be allowed to collect.

  • EdB

    You confuse this PRIVATE board with the government. You have no rights of free speech on a private board.

  • Daisiemae

    It doesn’t necessarily have to be sexual fulfillment that drives them. Most sexual crimes are more about humiliation and degradation of the victims than sexual pleasure.

    These female screeners (not ladies by any definition of the word) do not have to be gay. Their pleasure can be totally derived from the suffering and misery of their victims. Simply holding that kind of power over helpless, vulnerable people gives them a very sick high.

    The same holds true for the male predators working for TSA. It’s not all about sex…it’s about using sexual humiliation to give themselves a feeling of power over people who can do nothing to defend themselves.

  • PsyGuy

    I just wish they would give the TS handcuffs, guns and arrest powers. Then everyone would just keep their mouth shut, go through the scanner, so I can get on the plane.

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

    In other words, bend over and spread ’em.

  • cheyennecowboy

    This is exactly why, after being in the airline business for 35 years, I choose to drive. I just simply don’t like being touched by some TSA pervert that wants to “touch my junk,” as the gentleman from SAN said so tactfully.

  • Kirsten Tynan

    I have been opted out consistently over several flights. When asked if any part of my body is sensitive, I typically reply firmly that I don’t like to be molested. I have commented that if the screener were doing what she were doing to me in any other context than as a federal employee, she would be arrested for it and become a convicted felon. I tweet the names of any TSA employee (listed on their badge) who molests me (name and shame). I have done this when going to and returning from a job interview, a wedding, a funeral, and a vacation. So far I have not missed a flight. I just make sure to get there very early so there is plenty of time for this hooha to take place.

  • Linda

    What kills me is that these machines don’t seem to be very accurate anyhow. At least twice in the last year, after going through the scanner, I was stopped by a TSA agent who patted down a very specific area of me (two different areas), maybe a few square inches, because the machine told her there was something suspicious there. In both cases there was absolutely nothing – no jewelry, nothing in my pocket, no bruise or tumor or oddity of physiology, nothing. If the machine can see something that’s not there, who’s to say it couldn’t miss something that WAS there? We pay gazillions for these things and they do nothing but make us crazy, and they don’t even work right?

  • Linda

    The bus boycotters had an alternate way to get to work. If I want to travel to Europe or other distant points, I must get on an airplane. I enjoy foreign travel and I’m not going to give it up. I detest the TSA and their Nazi tactics but I see no choice at the present but to put up with them. And there are enough like me, not to mention business travelers whose livelihood depends on air travel, that boycott is just not a viable hope for changing the system at this time, sad but true.

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

    Linda, as I’ve said till I’m blue in the face, there are many ways to resist, not just one. Facial color redux, I’ve never suggested people stop flying for all eternity. A few months, and we’d bring the airlines to their knees. Hell, they almost went belly-up in just two weeks after 9/11. I’ve written about this extensively:

    I don’t think that two to six months of sacrifice is too much to ask.

    And I, too, love to travel and have had to give up almost all of it. Though I am taking the QM2 to Europe this year and flying back — on the airlines’ dime, not mine — because there are no blue-shirted thugs on the QM2 or at European airports.

  • Benji

    Really, a “machine gun”? Do you have pictures? Do you know how heavy a machine gun is? The extremely heavy weight of a machine gun makes it unlikely that someone would stand somewhere holding it. They are meant to be put down and shot, not fired from the shoulder or hip.