Tell TSA clerks to keep their hands to themselves

by Sommer Gentry on April 12, 2013

anna gutermuth
Last Friday I told the TSA no. You should, too.

I stepped into a millimeter wave body scanner in the Baltimore airport, the kind that displays a generic outline rather than a detailed nude image. (A nude image is still created, but the TSA claims no one is looking at it.) The machine gave a false positive, flagging something on my back. Perhaps it was my bra fastener.

Then again, it could’ve been anything: as we’ve written repeatedly, the millimeter wave scanners have a 54% false-positive rate, so they alarm on people for no reason all the time.

A horrific sexual assault by the TSA at this very same airport a few years ago left me shattered. I can never and will never endure another TSA grope. So I told the screeners that I absolutely would not allow anyone to touch me. At first, they tried to push me into accepting a private room screening, but I replied that I would not allow them to molest me in private nor in public.

I asked for a second body scan instead, and received one. The second time, nothing was flagged. Everyone at the checkpoint could see from the green “OK” that the first scan was a false positive.

But then the big boss bully arrived, a woman in a navy-colored polo shirt labeled “TSA Inspector.” She was angry. She threatened me, telling me I was in real trouble now, that she was a federal agent, that I was testing their system, that I knew too much about TSA procedures, that she was going to pull an NCIS (criminal background check), et cetera.

As the TSA’s rottweiler yelled these accusations and warnings, she kept moving closer and closer to me. I kept backing up, telling her aloud that she was standing too close, that I wanted her to leave me alone, that she was scaring me. I told her to stop coming at me. She kept advancing, pushing me backward until I was comically wound up in the vinyl Tensabarrier they had caged me in.

I thought to myself, Wow, do they teach these tactics in bully-school or what? She’s trying to provoke me. It’s textbook TSA behavior.

I demanded that the police be called. At least police officers have had training in the Bill of Rights. When the police got there, they studiously avoided taking sides and claimed they were “just there to keep the peace.” One officer offered to help me obtain the checkpoint video.

The impotent bully in her ill-fitting TSA shirt huffed and puffed and threatened to fine me for refusing screening. I told her that as many times as that bogus $11,000 fine has been invoked, not one person has ever paid it, and that she wasn’t going to intimidate me. She protested that I was “over here making eyes at [one of the police officers], trying to get his sympathy.”

Yes, after insinuating that I was a terrorist, she tried to slut-shame me.

I told the police that I wanted to leave immediately. That I wouldn’t let the TSA assault me. That I understood it meant I would miss my flight but that my safety comes first. After about ten minutes I reminded them, “I don’t want to be here; I want to leave the airport. I want to leave now. Am I being detained? Are you detaining me? Why am I being detained?” This effort was rewarded within 30 seconds when I was escorted to the checkpoint exit.

I changed my flight from the 7:15 to the 9:35, and had an entirely uneventful second pass through security. At the later flight, all body scanners had ceased operation and I walked through a metal detector.

What do I hope you take away from my experience? First, the TSA’s body scanners have an enormous false positive rate that leads to patdowns. Scanner-versus-patdown is not an either/or choice. Often, passengers endure both. Please remember to mention that scanners cause patdowns that otherwise wouldn’t occur when you register your complaint about the body scanner program here: tinyurl.com/TSAcomment

Second, there is nothing to fear in telling the TSA no. Because the TSA has steadfastly refused to explain in plain English what their screening procedures are, it’s always possible you will be ordered to do something abhorrent or sexually exploitative (TSA’s sexist nonsense has a long history).  It’s possible you will be ordered to do something that you can’t do safely. Be ready to say no!

The TSA might try to strip-search you, assault you, confiscate your medical supplies, or damage your medical devices. The TSA might illegally question you, demand that you pump your breast milk for them (or drink it), or photocopy your credit cards and checks. Listen up, TSA bullies – the answer is no.

The worst thing the TSA can do is bar you from your boarding gate. No, strike that: the worst thing that the TSA can do is force you to participate in your own victimization. Missing a plane pales in comparison. There is always another plane, and since checkpoint experiences are so inconsistent, it’s possible that the next checkpoint visit won’t be objectionable in the same way.

The TSA’s clerks behave as though they have limitless power to abuse innocent travelers. It’s time we put a stop to it, and saying NO is a powerful message. Don’t let checkpoint bullies intimidate you into participating in your own defilement. Standing up for yourself and your safety is always an option.

(Photo: anna gutermuth/Flickr Creative Commons)

  • j

    All of you all sound so bitter and stupid. Who wants to be the one on a plane that is taken control of by terrorist and use to wreck havoc? Bet none of you stupid people would raise your hands. In other countries security is much worst than a simple pat down. Say thanks to all the previous terrorists that made everything about security as it is today. I know no one would want to experience anything about September 11, 2001. By the way, who is a terrorist? No one can say who exactly is a terrorist. It can be a child being used to carry something to an elderly person. Terrorism has no face, sexual preference, or race. When they instill there teachings and beliefs in someone from an innocent age and they have the hatred toward your kind, see if you will be exempt from their horrific acts.

  • Susan Richart

    You, sir, seem to be the “stupid” one as you cannot see through the sham that is the TSA and it’s “screening” procedures.

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

    “All of you all sound so bitter and stupid. Who wants to be the one on a plane that is taken control of by terrorist and use to wreck havoc? Bet none of you stupid people would raise your hands. In other countries security is much worst than a simple pat down. Say thanks to all the previous terrorists that made everything about security as it is today. I know no one would want to experience anything about September 11, 2001. By the way, who is a terrorist? No one can say who exactly is a terrorist. It can be a child being used to carry something to an elderly person. Terrorism has no face, sexual preference, or race. When they instill there teachings and beliefs in someone from an innocent age and they have the hatred toward your kind, see if you will be exempt from their horrific acts.”

    Normally, I don’t stoop to correcting people’s grammar/spelling, but when someone boasts his or her ignorance, all bets are off.

    First of all, it’s “wreak” havoc, not “wreck” havoc.

    Second, we know there are terrorists in the world (some of them populate our own government, but I digress). Terrorism is a fact of life, as is being struck by lightning, or being killed in a car accident, or getting shot by one of the many goobers with a grudge in this country — all occurrences that are more likely than being killed by a terrorist. Please explain to me how bullying, harassing, robbing, assaulting, and abusing passengers at an airport is preventing terrorism, given that in all the years before, on, and since 9/11, before the Reign of Molestation was implemented, planes weren’t being blown out the sky left and right. In other words, between September 11, 2001 and October 30, 2010, we weren’t being scoped and groped. So where were all the terrorist attacks in this country?

    You people never want to answer this question. I’ve asked it hundreds of times, at this blog, at news sites, in personal conversations, and all over the blabbosphere. Yet none of the TSA apologists have ever answered.

    Will you, j?

    Oh, and you’re wrong about security in other countries. I’ve traveled all over the world — I’m in Vienna as I’m typing this, having flown from Berlin — and the majority of other countries don’t engage in the paranoia, hysteria, and rank stupidity of the U.S.

  • Michael Landers

    You’re another ignoramus who will never take in to account the amount of knives and guns that were allowed on board planes because the incompetent TSA did not see them using the AIT and enHANDSed pat-downs they are so fond of. I say again, if you believe the TSA is needed, it is you who shouldn’t be flying due to your overwhelming fear of terrorists and hijackers.

  • j

    First of all, one simple word you choose to talk about grammar and misspelled words…oh please! You really think anybody want to just grope you as part of there job? It’s you all low minded mentality that want to think of it as that way so that’s what it is. I never agreed with the bullying, but the sick mentality you want to come with about groping is crazy. Probably if it was a male patting you down I would say patience, but it’s the same sex and you still complaining. The terrorists evolve their way of thinking and way of doing things all the time. Thanks to the underwear bomber TSA had to evolve the way of doing screening on people. If you think the terrorist are just sitting back and sipping tea, you’re wrong. It’s only a matter of time before they strike again and God only knows in what way. They are always planning and always trying to find how and where to make the next move. You don’t think they try to run test through airport security all the time? I’m sure they do, just to try find that loop hole to get something or someone through to create that fear in people lives once again. It may not be a plane, but why make yourself vulnerable for another attack in that area.

  • j

    I’m not a Sir, excuse you very much. So stay generally speaking when you don’t know.

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

    “First of all, one simple word you choose to talk about grammar and misspelled words…oh please! You really think anybody want to just grope you as part of there job?”

    That would be “their,” not “there.”

    As for whether or not a TSA goon wants to grope me or anybody else, I don’t give a shit what he/she wants. It’s irrelevant. He/she is violating people’s rights.

    And as for all the other nonsense you write, we’ve addressed these arguments repeatedly at this blog. Not going to spell it all out for you again.

  • Susan Richart

    You’re an idiot and a troll.

  • Susan Richart

    “If you think the terrorist are just sitting back and sipping tea, you’re
    wrong. It’s only a matter of time before they strike again and God
    only knows in what way. They are always planning and always trying to
    find how and where to make the next move. You don’t think they try to
    run test through airport security all the time?”

    You know this how?

    You’re illiterate and stupid. But that’s your problem, not mine.

  • Daisiemae

    “One simple word?” There were three errors in that same sentence. Plus an additional one in the rest of your rant.

    I’ve found eight errors in this ignorant and badly phrased post.

    Did you graduate from high school? If you did, you should immediately file a lawsuit against the school system there.

    Oh, I get it…you’re a TSA employee. I forgot that TSA employees are not required to have a high school diploma or even a GED.

  • Michael Landers

    “You really think anybody want to just grope you as part of there job?”

    Is that why people are “randomly selected” for additional screening? Because they don’t want to grope you?

    “Probably if it was a male patting you down I would say patience, but it’s the same sex and you still complaining.”

    So it’s okay for all of those male pastors to molest little boys? According to that perverse logic of yours, it is!

    As for the rest of your bullshit, I have only this to say: What? You thcared, wittle chicken shit? Afwaid of the wittle tewowiths gonna thteal your pwane and make it eggthplode? GROW A FUCKING PAIR! I would rather deal with the terror threat, than deal with these walking shit stains you trust with security! Besides, if a terrorist enters an airport, all TSA is going to do is cower in a corner and suck their thumb assuming it’s not in their ass! The chances of a terrorist attack is very slim, the chances of TSA saving you are even smaller! Now fuck off!

  • j

    Willfully misspelled that word to see if you would jump on it. This is so funny since I knew you would…so typical of you. You keep on blogging, as for me there is more to life than just this stupid blog that can’t help you with nothing. Go ahead and vent, I’m going about my life. I just came upon this blog and decided to shed some light in this dark and gloomy space.

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

    Oh, thank you for shedding light! How lucky we are to have been graced with your presence, however brief!

  • Susan Richart

    Sweetie, you “willfully misspelled” a word? What a grand laugh you’ve given me. “..that can’t help you with nothing.” Did you know that two negatives equal a positive?

    “One negative word in a sentence is fine, but if the Double Negative Team gets you to use two negative words in the same sentence then they’ve succeeded in tricking you into saying the exact opposite of what you mean. ”

    http://www.supergrammar.com/2010/12/double-negative.html

    Write another post, please, and keep us entertained!

  • Daisiemae

    Willfully misspelled that “one” word, did you? What about all the other ones?

    Did you willfully talk like an illiterate idiot also?

  • Susan Richart

    ?????

  • Daisiemae

    How do we know what gender you are? You have “willfully” concealed any possible clue about your identity. I’m not even sure if you’re human.

  • Daisiemae

    I’ve always been in favor of the South Carolina Nullification Act. We definitely need a lot more nullification of all these unconstitutional decisions being made by the federal government these days.

  • Daisiemae

    Actually, it is our problem because we are probably paying this person’s wages. He/she is probably a government employee.

  • Susan Richart

    Only a coward signs on to Discus in a manner that hides a profile. She, if she is a she, is truly a coward.

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