Anniversary: Andrea Abbott and the TSA

Just over a year ago, a woman did something that, in any normal society, would be considered good: she tried to protect her child.

But we aren’t living in a normal society. What was once good is now bad, and what was once unthinkable is now accepted. Not only accepted, but lauded, exalted, bragged about.

One year ago, Andrea Fornella Abbott tried to protect her 14-year-old daughter from being molested by the TSA. And for that, she was arrested, handcuffed, and jailed. While dozens of people stood by and watched.

In this case, the police behaved worse (if that’s possible) than the TSA.

Abbott was not flying that day, but accompanying her daughter through security at Nashville International Airport. Her daughter was “randomly” selected to go through the strip-search scanner. Abbott, more informed than many of her fellow citizens, said she didn’t trust that the scanners were safe (they’ve never been tested) and opted for a pat-down. But she also said she didn’t want her daughter to be “touched inappropriately” or “crotch-grabbed.”

As you can see in this video, her daughter was crotch-grabbed anyway. Because that’s what the TSA does. That’s what millions of Americans now think is normal, that they and their children have their hair pawed and their genitals touched in order to get on a plane.

How sad that so many people think they’re so dangerous that they can’t be trusted to board a plane without being sexually molested.

Several TSA agents and police officers surrounded Abbott and bullied her. You can see this clearly in the video. At no point does Abbott touch or threaten any of them. Yet you can also see that the cops wanted to teach her a lesson. Instead of doing their duty and upholding the Constitution, which they are sworn to do, they sided with the TSA.

After Abbott finally agreed to allow her daughter to be “searched,” the beefy cop in the video even goes so far as to block her view, standing right in front of her, so that she can’t see her daughter getting groped in the glassed-in cage.

This was a deliberate provocation. He seems to be taunting her. If this isn’t an example of a bully, I don’t know what is.

After Abbott’s daughter is groped, the uniformed cadre continues to hound them. Nowhere in the video does it look like Abbott is being “disorderly.” It looks like her sin is talking. Apparently we now can’t talk in the Land of the Free. Because the cop, after sticking his finger in Abbott’s face repeatedly, suddenly hauls off and handcuffs her.

Any decent cop, watching this video, should be ashamed of a colleague behaving in this manner.

But, as I said, we aren’t living in a normal society, nor a decent one.

“What kind of children are we raising?” Charlie Leocha asked. Many of us have been asking the same thing. Over and over again. And all we get, in reply, is the new catechism of the USA: “Just get me to my flight on time!”

This country has lost its collective mind.

Andrea Abbott’s trial date has been set for October 22nd.

  • Ruth Fornella

    Thank you Ms. Simeone for see what the world should be seeing in what happened that day. Andrea’s mother.

  • And the names and addresses of these thugs in blue are? how can these thugs be shamed into changing their conduct if they are anonymous? We need this information so we can look them up and tell the, their families, neighbors, and friends what we think of these fascist.

  • Marstans

    Wait a minute…why is there a ‘trial’?

    I watched the entire video and wondered why the 2 cops were chewing gum like they were tough guys? Were they trying to bully the mother because she was concerned about her daughter? What was that about?

    And then..moving in front of the mother when she tried to photograph the pat down of her daughter?

    This made me sick watching the way they treated this mom and her 14 yr old daughter. It could be any of us.
    Is this what Americans really want in their country? Does this make people feel safe?

    My sister just returned from Germany and Poland and never had to take her shoes off…! She walked thru a metal detector and that was it.

    We have an out of control bureaucracy in this country.
    I have been thru a pat down behind closed doors. Maybe if everyone experienced that it would become a reality how the TSA is out of control in our country.

    I ask again, is this what youREALLY want to happen to feel safe?

  • YourLittleBrother


    I am a software developer, and a parent, and damn, I wish there was more I could do because I too wonder about the kids we raise and even about us adults too.

    What would it take in terms dollars (to raise, I wish I could donate them, but I don’t have them to donate) to start an organization like the ACLU or FIRE or EFF or the various rape legal aid societies whose intent was to put an end to 1) the harassments and arrests and 2) the groping itself?

    I would think such an organization would need a core of lawyers, (ex)-journalists, web developers and could begin by selecting one or more cities and telling people that if they go to an airport and follow steps a, b, c, and d, and get arrested, then this organization will defend them for free.

    Or by selecting, as I believe happened with Rosa Parks, one or more people ahead of time, preparing them, and letting them go through and get harassed, or even arrested, and again get free legal representation.

    I would like to think that if the right city or cities were picked, and volunteers selected and the cause promoted that there would be no shortage of volunteers in terms of lawyers, web developers, and travelers, and no shortage of funds either.

    I hate to compare this to the civil rights movement, but maybe the comparison is apt.

    I am about 15 years too young to have joined the Freedom Riders, and I have often wondered if I would have had the foresight, intelligence and courage to join the Freedom Riders.

    I don’t know if I am being ridiculous or not, but now I am at an age and place where I would be arrested in a TSA protest at at TSA checkpoint if I knew I was part of a group organized, funded, and defended.

    If you know of any such efforts, or wanted to lead such, or just discuss it, I’d love to read about it and participate.

    Thanks for creating this website and championing it publically, and I came here via Amy Alkon.

    • YourLittleBrother, your comparison to the civil rights movement is entirely apt. I’ve been using the analogy — including Rosa Parks — for two years, the same length of time I’ve been publicly urging a boycott of the airlines.

      Money talks in this country. It’s the only thing that talks. The airlines are complicit in this abuse (have written about this extensively, won’t repeat all here). If those of us who can refuse to fly would do so, we’d bring the airlines to their knees. Two months max. Then things would change. (I took the last flight of my life in September 2010.)

      Economic boycotts work. The civil rights movement wouldn’t have succeeded without them. MLK, et. al. knew that. They knew they wouldn’t win with protests and marches alone. Gandhi knew the same thing. That’s why he also organized economic boycotts.

      But we aren’t anywhere near that point in this country. There are still far, far too many deniers, naysayers, and TSA apologists. It will take years for a critical mass to develop. (It took 5 years between Rosa Parks’s arrest and the Freedom Rides.) And frankly, we may never reach that critical mass. The War on Terror(TM) is permanent. It’s meant to be. It’s an excuse. And excuse for the government to implement draconian, civil-liberties-crushing policies and for corporations to get rich off them. That’s why the scanners were shoved down our throats. There’s tons of money to be made by crying “Terrorism!” and plenty of corporations are making it (something else I’ve written about extensively).

      People are easily manipulated by fear. That isn’t an original statement; it’s been made by generals and politicians and philosophers and dictators going back millenia. But it still holds true, as we see every day. That’s why I say we many never reach the critical mass we need in this country to demand change. Because too many people like their fear and like to lick the authoritarian boot.

      The ACLU hasn’t tackled it because they’re afraid of losing and thus creating bad case law, which would be worse than doing nothing at all. EPIC, as it sounds like you know, has been forcing the issue, and has a lawsuit in the pipeline (maybe more than one, can’t remember now). But the courts are cold comfort. It takes years for a lawsuit to snake its way through the courts, and tons of money.

      I don’t know what to tell you other than to support EPIC, support the ACLU (and urge them to fight), support Freedom to Travel USA (, and support people who are making a stand, such as Andrea Abbott, Yukari Miyamae, Aaron Tobey, Carol Jean Price, anyone who stands up to the TSA. They all have or have had legal defense funds. I’ve contributed to them.

      And continue to try to educate people. That’s what I try to do with this blog, and with the hundreds of comments I leave at places all over the web. That’s all I can do.

      • YourLittleBrother

        Thank you for the the full reply. I had forgotten EPIC and I will look up the others. Your insight into the ACLU’s reluctance is surprising, and disappointing. Since I am not a lawyer, it’s easy for me to say that establishing bad case law especially for a sympathetic defendant is one possible important first step in a path to the Supreme Court and to a public outcry that would help encourage a boycott or public demands from our politicians.

        Do the candidates hold public, non-scripted, Q&As anymore? I’d love to hear the public demand answers about the TSA from both Obama and Romney.

  • Eleanordew

    Out of curiosity, what is the actual charge they have laid against her?

    • Eleanor, according to news reports, “disorderly conduct.”

      As countless peaceful, non-violent protesters can tell you, “disorderly conduct” is what cops pull out of their bag of tricks when they want to harass someone. They can classify any behavior, even standing around, as “disorderly conduct.”