I received a detailed email yesterday from a woman who had a bad experience with the TSA at La Guardia Airport (LGA) in New York on her way back home to Texas (photo above obviously not her). She’s a lawyer. She titled her account, “TSA Nightmare.” Unfortunately, as I told her, what she experienced is pretty run-of-the-mill. As with so many people I hear from, though she gave me permission to publish her story, she doesn’t want her name revealed.
I tried to persuade her, as I always do, that using your real name makes your and our case stronger, but I understand why people are reluctant. They’ve already been abused, berated, and humiliated, and they don’t want to be put through the wringer again. Though, in truth, I guess it doesn’t even matter whether they use their real names or not: the TSA ignores everyone equally. So here’s her story, verbatim, in its entirety (I have bolded certain passages):
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the face of a terrifying police state, which serves no other purpose than harassing passengers and turning air travel into some sort of a Kafkaesque nightmare, making a mockery of our constitutional right to probable cause, in the process (as you so rightfully note in your blog).
Here is my tale of woe. I have experienced the most inappropriate, unprofessional, and rude behavior by TSA agents performing screening at LGA airport on April 29, 2015, at around 3:00 pm ET, while en route to Dallas (from a business meeting in NY) on AA flight 1134, departing from gate D7.
First, at a document checkpoint an agent noted that my first name on the boarding pass had an extra letter, as compared to my driver’s license (this happens sometimes, as I have an unusual first (and last) names). She ordered me to stand aside, while she called for a “supervisor.” Another TSA agent then ordered me to go “back and stand behind a yellow line.” They were barking orders at me, and it felt like a Gestapo. There was nothing professional or courteous about the way they spoke to me.
Then, a “supervisor” arrived and asked that I produce more documents with my name on them, which I did, including my Texas bar card, and she said that I was fine to proceed, but that I will have to be “fully searched.” I asked if I may to go to the airline representative and clear the misunderstanding, to which she responded that it will be of no use and that only a mandatory search would resolve this situation. I did ask what does the search entail to which she responded: “well – I certainly do not want to see you naked”?? This is completely outrageous and I was just dumbfounded.
I passed through security and my scan was clear, so there was clearly NO reason to search me further. However, the agents proceeded with an embarrassing and unnecessary body search. I asked the “supervisor” for an explanation of why this was necessary and/or appropriate, but did not get an answer, other than that it was required by “procedure.” (She also referred to me as “my dear” in the process!) No further explanation of this mysterious “procedure” was given.
It was embarrassing (to say the least) to be touched inappropriately and more privately than my physician would typically do in a routine exam. At some point an agent performing the search actually forcefully yanked my hair up to look under my shirt collar. I tried to look at the name on her badge, but she flipped her plastic badge in front of my face (almost hitting me with it) and said that I could complain “even to Washington” if I wanted… All I got was “Aria…” I think. I was too traumatized to argue any further.
I feel like I should have, though. This experience with the TSA was incredibly upsetting. I got sick in the bathroom immediately thereafter and could not stop shaking during my flight.
I reported this to the TSA, and all I got back, was that “in response to my inquiry” they “regret any unprofessional treatment” I experienced. There is absolutely no recourse, is there?!?! And there is no way a passenger can protect her dignity and civil rights, as one complains about the TSA to the TSA!
Thank you for reading.
After she gave me permission to publish, she wrote this:
I really feel embarrassed about the incident. I complained to every agency I could think of, but do not hope for a meaningful response, so might as well spread the word.
She has no reason to feel embarrassed. She did nothing wrong. But this, too, is common with victims of assault. Feelings of embarrassment, shame, regret, “what if”s.
All you have to do is plug the words “another person” into the Search Box here and you’ll get hundreds of similar accounts, or “another woman” likewise, or check the two pages of the Master List of TSA Crimes and Abuses, both Page 1 and Page 2, or one of mathematician Sommer Gentry’s many posts about TSA assaults, reported by victims to the TSA, all for naught, or one of Wendy Thomson’s. It’s the same old story.
The TSA continues to bully, harass, rob, abuse, and sexually assault people all over the country, every day, and most of America just shrugs its shoulders.
(Photo of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson getting felt up by the TSA)