In November, I was barred from my flight at Dulles Airport for a double opt-out. I refused to go through a blue-box backscatter (x-ray) body scanner, and I refused to endure an intimate feel-up from a woman I didn’t know. The body scanners at Dulles have no privacy filter. Backscatter machines dose passengers with carcinogenic ionizing radiation to create images of their naked bodies for inspection by a screener working in a hidden viewing booth.
What I sensed was happening at that airport – targeting young women for special security attention out of sexual motivation – now seems even more difficult for the TSA to deny. Not one, but two of the men working for TSA at Dulles Airport on that day have now been arrested for sex crimes.
Just three days after my refusal, police arrested a Dulles screener, Harold Rodman, and charged him with aggravated sexual battery, object sexual penetration, forcible sodomy, and abduction with intent to defile. His accuser says that he flashed his TSA badge to initiate the assault before he lured her away from her friend and attacked her.
I can have no proof, of course, that alleged rapist Harold Rodman was in the viewing booth that morning, but neither can I be assured that he was not. He was employed as a screener at that airport on the same day that another male screener directed me into the scanner while sending my husband through a simple metal detector.
But surely the TSA must have its house in order with regard to how it treats women? At the very least, if Harold Rodman or other screeners were indeed targeting women, then someone higher up in the organization, say, a Transportation Security Manager, would be there to correct the situation?
In fact, a Transportation Security Manager did present himself at the checkpoint that day to see to it that I was either electronically strip-searched or sexually fondled to his satisfaction. That man’s name was Bryant Livingston. I still have his card on my desk.
Bryant Livingston, TSA Security Manager, was arrested at Dulles Airport and charged with five counts involving prostitution. He was allegedly running a prostitution ring out of a Silver Spring hotel room. Law enforcement officers found four men and three naked women in a room. One man admitted to police he had arrived with the promise of sex for $100.
This is how the TSA respects women.
The TSA issued a statement after Livingston’s arrest: “The allegations against this individual are unacceptable and in no way reflect the integrity and professionalism of the more than 50,000 security officers who strive every day to ensure the security of the traveling public.”
After Rodman’s arrest, the TSA stated: “The disturbing allegations against this individual in no way reflect the work of the more than 50,000 security officers who every day ensure the security of the traveling public.”
Exactly how many sexual predators per airport does the TSA get to disclaim responsibility for hiring?
The TSA is well aware that its procedures involve sexually invasive touching and processing sensitive nude images. True, most screeners charged with serious sex crimes are fired and lose government immunity for shoving their hands down strangers’ pants. But if the TSA’s vaunted behavior detection program were anything more than a fistful of make-believe, it could use this program to get rid of the sexual abusers on TSA’s payroll.
Then again, that might actually make passengers more safe and secure. So I’m not holding my breath.
(Photo: Flickr/Breahan Foster)