Another day, another abusive TSA experience

Following is an account by a TSA News reader. She asked that she remain anonymous. After verifying her identity, we agreed. Informed readers will immediately recognize that her story accords with that of thousands of others, stories we’ve been documenting for years:

I am contacting you because I was subjected to a pat down in the Asheville airport before my flight to LaGuardia. I asked the worker why she couldn’t use a scanner (which I now have found is potentially harmful). I was told that the airport doesn’t have this equipment. Do you know if this is legal? I thought pat downs were used if the scanning was refused; I have never heard of not getting an alternative to getting a pat down.

I was told I was being given the pat down because of a lack of photo ID. I brought my birth certificate and other ID which were accepted by the initial checkpoint worker. He said now I was “cleared” and didn’t indicate I might be given the pat down.  I find being touched by strangers incredibly upsetting and began to sob when I was told that I was going to be subjected to it. I revealed to the female worker that I had been sexually molested but she said I had no choice, other than leaving the airport. As I had to fly home from vacation to return to work and couldn’t afford to buy another ticket I felt I had no choice but to submit.

The other really upsetting thing is that at first I didn’t even know what was going on, as I didn’t know that pat downs were done on people just because they didn’t have photo ID. There was a lot of confusion and other passengers and workers talking and I guess I didn’t respond to the worker’s directions to “come this way” as fast as she would have liked, so she took my arm in her hand and pulled me, which I felt was a violation, as she could have just pointed what direction I should go.

Throughout this whole ordeal I was sobbing, but this seemed to have no effect on her. My husband insisted on accompanying me to the room where they were going to do the pat down, and he looked extremely distressed as he couldn’t do anything to stop them. The woman that did the pat down was at least neutral in how she addressed me, but her supervisor was horrible, and said she had to be there for the other woman’s “protection.” The supervisor said “it’s no big deal” which only made me cry harder, and then said, “it would have been over sooner if you had just stayed calm.” I consider that to be psychologically abusive as now I was having to go through something which was triggering for me while at the same time being told that it is my fault that I was crying.

I’m not sure what I could do about this incident, other than report it to the TSA, who I have heard usually don’t do anything about it. I guess I’m writing for your opinion about whether I could file against the airport for 4th amendment violations, or if there is any group of people who are writing letters to Congress, demonstrating, petitioning, or taking actions of other types. I do not want to feel like a victim, I want to do SOMETHING to feel more empowered.

As we’ve written till we’re blue in the face, scanners and gropes have little to nothing to do with each other. Even where there are scanners, even if you acquiesce to going through a scanner, that doesn’t mean that you won’t also be subjected to a grope. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. And again, TSA clerks routinely disregard official rules and make up their own on the spot. When you go through a TSA checkpoint, you are subject to the whims of the TSA workers on duty, no matter what those whims might be. Period.

I advised this woman to do what we’ve been advising all our readers to do for months now — submit her comment to the government during this public comment period that goes on until June 24th. You can do this by clicking the link in the upper-left-hand corner of every TSA News Blog page or just by clicking here. You can see what kinds of things your fellow citizens have already written here. As of my writing this, 4,069 public comments have been received, and 3,228 have been posted in the public docket.

I also urge people to copy their Congressional reps (even though said reps have been worthless so far) on their comments. You can also file a complaint with the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security. Frankly, I think that’s a waste of time, as we’ve written before, but at least you’ll have a paper trail and can say you tried.

  • CalmDownHulk

    You really need to suck it up and go along with the pat down. They don’t know if you have a bomb or something in or on you. Have you ever heard of the underwear bomber? Clearly not, since you are making a huge scene for everyone just because you were being patted down. Calm down and stop bitching about procedures at an airport. If you don’t like it, then don’t fly.

    • Another sheeple bleats.

    • Yes! You should be following orders, no matter how wrong those orders are! Just give up and bow before the authoritarian boot that crushes you, O voiceless, powerless human.

    • Robert Hollis Weber

      By your logic, Hulk, everyone who passes near an airport should have to undergo a full cavity search and probably an MRI (to make sure they don’t have a bomb surgically implanted). You can never be too careful. Because, after all, terrorists are everwhere!

      I hope that one day you tell your 18-year-old daughter to “just go along” with whatever the nice Mall Cop in blue asks. It’s for her own good, you know.

    • Susan Richart

      Ah, yes. A true TSA apologist who I would wager works for that despised agency.

      How does a pat down determine if one has bomb internally secreted? It doesn’t, just like the Nude Body Scanners can’t tell if one has an internal bomb.

      I could wear an adult sanitary product and put a bomb between my body and that product and no pat down would ever find it. The pat downs and the NBS are total invasions of privacy and need to be done away with.

    • 1amWendy

      Really? Are you kidding??? Have you ever had a pat-down? Have you ever had a pat-down after being violently assaulted? Have you ever heard of innocent until proven guilty? Have you ever heard of probable cause? Reasonable suspicion? The Fourth Amendment? BTW, if you did your research, you would have found out that the underwear bomber was escorted onto the airplane by a suit after Amsterdam did not want to let him on. Oh – did I mention Amsterdam? Neither he nor Richard Reid were departing from a US airport. So please, stop bitching about people who reasonably care enough to complain when their Constitutional rights are being trampled. Oh — I guess you’re not terribly keen on the First Amendment, either….

    • Fisher1949

      If you’re so fond of Police States, I hear North Korea is taking in new sheep.

  • KellyKAFIR

    bottom line is that TSA “officers” have ZERO law enforcement training yet they are given badges, shoulder boards and uniforms (and a uniform allowance that is bigger than the military). They started out only as screeners wearing polo shirts and slacks. There will be a bill to de-militarize these morons introduced in the house soon. Just got a Legislative brief this last week… congress is aware and concerned at the abuses.

  • aussiewoman

    AND on a final note it is good to remind ourselves that NONE of this TSA screening and groping at every airport would be necessary if the world had never heard the name of ISLAM!!

    • aussiewoman,


      Wrong, wrong, wrong. Proof:

      Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, Eric Rudolph, Richard Reid, Andrew Joseph Stack, James Holmes, Jared Loughner, Dylan Klebold, Eric Harris, Seung-Hi Cho, Adam Lanza, and all the many others who’ve mass-murdered people in this country — not a Muslim among them.

      For your convenience, here’s a timeline of mass killings in the U.S. over just the past 30 years:

      • dhimmi tool #1

      • aussiewoman

        oh my bad !! of course I forgot all those you mentioned above tried to hijack and blow up planes, hence why we have to be groped by TSA, ,, stay on subject instead of going off on the usual leftard rant , tool

        • Enaylius

          Name callimg now? Any creditbility you may have had is gone.

        • Peter35

          Aussie, we appear to have a number of brain-dead, masochistic, islam and TSA huggers here, maybe they get “off” by getting patted down–can’t wait to get to that airport!

      • KellyKAFIR

        Richard Reid WAS Muslim you moron!

    • Enaylius

      LOL Your arbitrary comment not rooted in any facts only reveals your own ignorance and fear

    • 1amWendy

      OMG I better buy guard dogs, rifles and put up an electric fence… THERE’S AN ISLAMIC FAMILY IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD!!! [sarc] aussiewoman, please get a grip. You are every bit as bad as the TSA – assuming I am a potential terrorist because I have the temerity to require an artificial leg to walk.

    • Annapolis2

      No, none of the TSA’s groping is necessary or ever was necessary. Terrorism is a red herring – you’re more likely to be crushed to death by your own furniture than to be harmed by a terrorist. This is about our government choosing to scare the public about a microscopic threat in order to dominate, indimidate, and control us.

    • Peter35

      Absolutely correct Aussie, sad that some of us are no longer travelling–sick of being insulted because of the sick, barbaric, murderous cult called islam.

      • Oh, what a load of shit. It has nothing to do with Islam. It has to do with the paranoia and hysteria of the United Sheeple of America.

  • aussiewoman

    I can guarantee you there would not be one muslimah in a burqa that has ever had to undergo the groping of the TSA.

    • aussiewoman,

      No. 1, this is not true.
      No. 2, let’s not play Divide-and-Conquer. Our overlords would love for us to do that. We’re all in this together. Civil liberties are for all of us. When the rights of one person are violated, the rights of all of us are violated.

    • Enaylius

      Your baseless contempt is the funniest stuff I have heard in days. Please provide proof to your claim. Again, these type of un-educated comments only reveal your own ignorance and fear. However, by all means please continue.

    • Annapolis2

      No one, not one single innocent passenger, regardless of religion or fashion choices, deserves to be sexually assaulted by a government thug. Patdowns are a crime and TSA screeners deserve jail time for forcing sexual contact on unwilling victims. It doesn’t matter what the victim of a sexual assault was wearing at the time of the assault – forcing yourself on someone is always wrong.

  • Fisher1949

    The fact that TSA has the gall to defend this is stunning. Instead of coming out and admitting it was as they have in the past they attempt to deflect and defend what is a clear violation of their procedures.

    Remember Cathy Bossi? This is from November, 2010:
    “A flight attendant and cancer survivor said she was forced to remove and show her prosthetic breast to a TSA agent during a security pat-down.

    “She put her full hand on my breast and said, ‘What is this?’ Bossi
    recalled. “And I said, ‘It’s my prosthesis because I’ve had breast
    cancer.’ And she said, ‘Well, you’ll need to show me that.'”

    Bossi was asked to remove her prosthetic breast from her bra and show it to the agent.

    A TSA representative told WBTV that agents are allowed to ask
    to see and touch any passenger’s prosthetic, but aren’t supposed to
    remove them. Later, the TSA contacted the station and said they would review the Bossi matter.”

    Even nearly three years ago the admitted that doing this was wrong and yet it still happens on an all too regular basis.

  • RonBonner

    People are going to have to press charges against TSA employees as individuals for assault. This will have to happen many, many times and will require involving local police. It will disrupt travel plans and will have to be done all travelers with a concern for personal privacy. At some point a case will stick, go to trial, and find a TSA screener assaulted a person.

    I have said before but I believe a network of lawyers should join together to help citizens with cases such as these. I would like to see billable hours done in such a manner that anyone can afford to make a case against TSA.

    The typical traveler doesn’t stand a chance on their own against the TSA machine.

  • Deb

    As with all rapists and violators, the standard comment – “if you’d just calm down and cooperate your abuse will go a lot more smoothly” is the most sickening part of this story. That Americans continue to accept this — think it’s in their best interests – and even vigorously support it under the misguided notion that otherwise-unemployable WalMart drop-outs are actually “securing” anything – makes me have absolutely no hope for the future of this country. Just today a lady reported from San Antonio that a TSA thug ripped her prosthetic breast right out of her bra – “so she could see what it it was.” No, she did not ask permission. And since when do we allow strangers to manhandle our medical devices, attachments and such?Not only is this a massive violation – a trespass upon us — but these custom-made appliances are expensive – and in this case I’m guessing breakable? What has happened to us? is this the society we really want?
    As for this lady in tears in Asheville – I am praying she never again sets foot in an American airport – and lets every airline and car rental company know exactly why. N.C. to NY can be done in a long day’s drive. Assuming she or a close friend/partner has a DL, this would seem like a no contest decision from now on. Good luck to her.

    • Deb, my thoughts exactly. The exhortation to “calm down” is, always, an attempt to control someone. To put yourself on a higher plane and to put the other person down. It’s condescending, obnoxious, and in this case, harmful.

      Because built into the faux-rational “calm down” is the claim that the woman has brought this on herself. If only she weren’t so “upset” or “emotional,” everything would be okay. It’s all her fault. It’s a well-worn technique used by bullies and authoritarians everywhere.

      • LeeAnneClark

        This whole “calm down” bullshit reminds me of the quip that ended the career of weatherman Tex Antoine. After a news report about a rape of a 5-yr-old, as he was beginning his weather report he quipped: “With rape so predominant in the news lately, it is well to remember the words of Confucius: ‘If rape is inevitable, lie back and enjoy it.” This caused such a ruckus that he was immediately replaced, and his career never recovered.

        This was in 1976.

        What has happened to our country in the ensuing years, to make us all so utterly unsympathetic to assault victims, such that the public now seems to blame them for their own assaults?

        • Daisiemae

          Yes, as in Serena Williams’ statement that the young girl who was gang raped in Steubenville “shouldn’t have put herself in that position.”

          Reading the numerous blogger comments who agreed with Serena sickened me. I don’t know what has happened to the country I grew up in. We’re nothing but a bunch of vicious, wild animals now.

    • enaylius

      Which is why I feel the death penalty should be allowed as an option in rape cases. You don’t have to end someones life physically to end their life. But I digress. This fellow citizen and individual like so many others should not have to deal with this evil. And that’s exactly what it is. May she go on with her life positivly and not let this evil she dealt with bring her down.

    • Peter35

      And friends in America wonder why I tell them they must come to Canada–as long as this nonsense continues my wife and I will NOT cross the border.

      • Daisiemae

        Funny, I just met a family from Quebec last week while on vacation in Myrtle Beach. I asked the woman if Canadian airport security hassles travelers and she said yes. She told me that air travelers in Canada have to go through the scanners.

        I then asked her does security grope your privates and she said yes.

        So it sounds like you have plenty of problems on your side of the border too.

        • Daisiemae, true. I was going to take the train from home and fly out of Canada, until I found out that Canadians have adopted the worst practices of the U.S. They do use the scanners and they do grope.

  • Marie Shively

    As I read this woman’s account I was filled with sadness and rage. It is bad enough that we have to be physically assaulted by these thugs, but then we also have to go through the psychological distress that accompanies it. The futility of reporting these abuses to the TSA, our elected representatives and even some family and friends is yet a third assault.

  • CelticWhisper

    If I were on a jury, that husband could have strangled both smurf-clerks to death and still walked.

    • Chris Bray

      I am in love with the term “smurf-clerks,” and look forward to putting it to use at the airport.

      • Daisiemae

        You are a man after my own heart!

        (Hmmm….must be those lightening rods.)

      • enaylius

        They are an insult to Duke. Only Blue Devils I know are on the basketball team dammit.

  • Susan Richart

    Lisa, this act was an assault by the screener: “took my arm in her hand and pulled me.” You might consider getting in touch again with this woman and perhaps suggest that she needs to file assault charges against the screener.

    • I’ve already been in touch with her. That’s how I got the story. I know her identity.

      But you know as well as I do that no assault charge against the clerk will stick. This kind of shit has happened thousands of times.

      • Susan Richart

        This is different, Lisa. This was a TSA screener physically forcing the woman to move. This was not part of the pat down procedure. It was an outright assault against the passenger.

        • Of course. But again, good luck with trying to charge assault. They do things all the time that even Pistole himself says is “not part of the pat down procedure.” And they get away with it.

  • Chris Bray

    “Once effectively dehumanized, and hence cancelled as potential subjects of moral demands, human objects of bureaucratic task-performance are viewed with ethical indifference, which soon turns into disapprobation and censure when their resistance, or lack of co-operation, slows down the smooth flow of bureaucratic routine.”

    — Zygmunt Bauman

    • Yes. The Social Dynamics of Fascism.

      (And yes, for the millions of still clueless out there, that also means the social dynamics of Nazism. You can take your Godwin and stuff it.)

      • LeeAnneClark

        I think we need an official addendum to Godwin’s Law: “Any discussion about the TSA is exempt from Godwin’s Law”.

        I mean, does Godwin’s Law apply in a discussion about Treblinka? Of course not. Neither should it apply to the TSA, which utilizes many of the same practices.