De profundis clamavi, or why we can talk till we’re blue in the face but until we put our money where our mouth is we won’t get rid of the TSA

One question comes up again and again: in the face of TSA abuse, what can we do? How can we resist? Especially given that our elected representatives ignore us, even though they’ve received plenty of complaints.

The question was posed most recently here at TSA News by a commenter called “Kitten.” In answering her, I said that there are many ways to resist, not just one, many ways to protest, not just one. And that I would write a post detailing those ways in the near future.

This is that post.

I’m going to list the various ways I can come up with to fight the TSA. This list isn’t exhaustive; how could it be? This struggle requires a multi-pronged approach. I’m sure other people can come up with other ways, which I invite them to leave in the comments. You could choose one method or a combination of methods. The important thing is that you resist, no matter how you choose to do it.

1. Economic boycott: stop flying. I believe this is the most important weapon in our arsenal. And I believe the country is nowhere near ready to do it en masse. But you have to start somewhere.

First of all, I repeat what I’ve said a hundred times: I know that not everyone can stop flying. Some people are forced to fly for work. Some people are forced to fly for family emergencies or medical procedures. Those people are between a rock and a hard place, and I sympathize with them. But they aren’t the majority. They are a significant population, but they aren’t the majority of people who fly. There are many millions of people who don’t have to fly but who choose to. If those people who can choose not to fly would do so, we’d bring the airlines to their knees. A few weeks max. Then things would change. After 9/11, the airlines were hurting in just 10 days.

As I’ve written before, the airlines aren’t blameless. The airlines are complicit in the TSA’s abuse. If the airlines lost money, you can bet they’d scream bloody murder. That’s what they did with the liquids ban in 2006. The reason you bring on those little 3 oz. bottles today in a Magic See-Through Explosive-Proof Plastic Baggie has nothing to do with security; it has to do with economics.

When the liquids ban was introduced, all liquids were banned from all carry-ons (and for a while, in fact, all carry-ons were banned). Rather than risk losing their property, people started checking their bags. All of them. The airlines couldn’t handle it. They were drowning in luggage. Flights were being delayed. They were losing money. They went to Uncle Sam (and the UK) and said, we can’t take it; you gotta do something.

And so it was done. The 3-1-1 rule was implemented. It wasn’t a security decision; it was an economic decision. The airlines squawked, and got what they wanted.

Economic boycotts work. The civil rights movement wouldn’t have succeeded without them. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that. So did Gandhi. MLK wrote that economic boycotts, or, as he called them, “campaigns of economic withdrawal,” were “nonviolence at its peak of power.”

The Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott lasted over a year — 381 days. It was planned long before Rosa Parks made her famous refusal to sit at the back of the bus — and Parks wasn’t the first person to do this; such refusals had been going on for years. She was just the “perfect” person to do it, the catalyst the civil rights movement needed to kickstart the boycott, a woman sympathetic to both blacks and whites.

When people claim, “But by not flying, you’re just punishing yourself; you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face; you’re letting them win,” I always bring up the bus boycott. Were those people, who were poor, who were dependent on buses to get to work, who didn’t have other means of transportation, also “cutting off their nose to spite their face”? Were they punishing themselves? Were they letting “them” win?

What about the protesters who integrated whites-only lunch counters and got spat on and refused service? What about the thousands of people who marched and got beaten up and fire-hosed and jailed? Were they punishing themselves? Many of their fellows thought they were. Not all black people were willing to protest; many thought the front-of-the-bus sitters and the lunch-counter integrators and the bus boycotters should shut up and accept that “this is just the way things are” and “you ought to know better.”

Sound familiar?

Social change requires sacrifice. It requires action. It’s not a matter of mouthing the correct political pieties at cocktail parties and then going off and doing nothing.

I took the last flight of my life in September 2010, as I wrote about here. Though I love travel more than I can say, though I’ve always considered it an integral part of my life, I’ve given it up. Because this sacrifice on my part — which is nothing compared to the sacrifices other people have made for social justice — is not as big as the principle for which I’m doing it. The principle is more important than my personal desires.

And that principle is that we have a right against unreasonable search and seizure, that we are not criminals by virtue of setting foot in an airport, that the TSA is a criminal, out-of-control agency, that neither I nor anyone else should have to risk being bullied, harassed, abused, or assaulted to get on a plane, that I am not a pawn in my government’s fear-mongering, permanent War on Terror.

2. If you do still fly, opt out of the scanner. Refuse to comply. The scanners are, as we’ve written about dozens of times, untested. The backscatter scanners dose you with radiation, and they have never been independently tested, which is why the EU has banned them. Even the millimeter wave scanners, which don’t use radiation, haven’t been independently tested. Regardless, the scanners are an invasion of privacy. They are a billion-dollar boondoggle for the “security” industry. By acquiescing to the scanner and adopting a pose of surrender, you are saying, “It’s okay; I’ll do whatever is asked of me, whether that’s a virtual strip-search or just playing along with this little charade, which has been proven not even to work.”

If everyone opted out, every time, you’d bring security to a standstill. Okay, I know that will never happen. I get it. Not everyone is going to opt out. Fine. If only 50% of people opted out, hell, if only 20% opted out, you’d still bring everything to a standstill. You’d bollux up the works. This is the very definition of passive resistance, another proven tactic from the civil rights movement. And contrary to credulous media reports, National Opt-Out Day two years ago was not a bust.

3. Do not go gentle into that good grope (apologies to Dylan Thomas). Also as we’ve written umpteen times, just because you acquiesce to the scanner doesn’t mean you won’t also be singled out for a grope. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. If you are selected for a “pat-down,” make some noise. Describe what’s being done to you in correct anatomical detail, ask questions, recite the 4th Amendment, cry out in pain, whatever. And make sure you have witnesses — have it done in public, never allow them to take you alone to a private room, where obviously you risk being further abused. Don’t go quietly; she didn’t.

4. Be willing to walk away. She did. More than once. You can walk out of the airport. Again, I know most people aren’t going to do this. I’m pointing out that you can do this.

5. At other venues, meaning not the airport, refuse to be searched. You still have the right to do this. Use those 8 magic words: “No, I do not consent to be searched.” As you should know by now, the TSA isn’t only at the airport; it’s everywhere.

6. Continue to write to your Senators, Congressional reps, airlines, and local airports. Write letters-to-the-editor. Don’t let assumptions and false statements go unchallenged; comment at as many places in the blogosphere as you can. Education is a huge component of this struggle. Unless and until more people start to understand what’s going on and acknowledge it, nothing will change. We don’t need 100% of the population with us, just a significant portion. You’re never going to convince everyone anyway. There will always be those people who believe “Anything For Safety,” even if “anything” doesn’t make sense, has no evidence behind it, and even goes as far as cavity searches. Leave those people behind. They’re not worth your effort.

7. Whatever other methods you can come up with, the more creative the better, which I hope you’ll leave in the comments.

Yes, I know all of these things are potentially “inconvenient.” That’s the nature of the beast. Protest isn’t convenient. That’s the point.

Bottom line, you have to be willing to put your money where your mouth is. And if you’re not, if you’re one of those people who blindly goes along to get along, then don’t be surprised if someday you wake up to find all your rights taken away. You’ll have no one to blame but yourself.

(This post on permanent display at ABombazine)

  • Disqus Hates Its Users

    I refused to fly and emailed AirTran in 2010 to tell them I was using them exclusively but that until they stood up to the TSA, I would not be flying at all, and I haven’t. Their response was as pointless as you would expect: “Unfortunately, this new TSA policy is beyond the control of AirTran Airways, therefore, please contact the TSA hotline with your concerns…” Didn’t even know they were bought up by another company in the time since.

    Now I am moving across the country in a month and cannot afford to take 3-5 days by train or car, so I have to fly on a one-way ticket. I’m going to Opt out, and it’s going to be fun. I look forward to informing them that when I was in the audience for President Obama’s last interview on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart back in July, sitting maybe 30 feet away, the Secret Service didn’t give a shit about me, even though I had an unmarked bottle of lotion. I could have caused more havoc that day than anything possible with one fucking flight.

    I looked into doing the beforehand screening, and of course they demand a ridiculous amount of money to do this. I don’t know why I’m surprised.

  • WorldTraveler

    One of the Veteran’s I cook for lines his suitcase with his dirty laundry – so his dirty socks, boxers, undershirts, ect are packed around everything else in his bags. So if they want to search his bags, they have to dig through his soiled underclothes to get to anything else. It’s a silly thing, but he says it makes him feel somewhat better about a stranger touching his personal items!

    • Daisiemae

      Smart man! I like his thinking.

  • mr6

    I like to strap a large rubber toy, the 10″ model works well, to my inner thigh. I always refuse to be scanned or Xrayed and they do the pat down. They always stop when they reach the rubber toy that reaches to about 5″ above my knee. Best $8 investment I have ever made. The TSA assault staff always stops and wipe their hands with the cleaning pad and scan for explosives. I just smile at the Assault agent and ask if he is done. They say yes and I go about my way

    • mr6, is this for real? I love the idea; I just realize that it’s easy for people to come on blogs and claim they do stuff that they might not do. I’m not trying to cast aspersions, just trying to suss out the truth.

      Can you give me any identifying information at all? Where you live, where you usually fly from, something?

      • mr6

        I did it once, flying from Fort Lauderdale to Cincinnati. I wore it in FTL and everything was going smooth as my line was sent through the metal detector. BUT as they got to me they switched from the metal detector to the porno scanner and I opted out. My TSA assault agent spent about ten seconds patting me down. not touching anything between 1/2 way up my thigh and below the waist. It was really hard not to bust out laughing, especially when I tried to give the old guy a seductive smile. I wore it again coming back but they did not do any scans or searches in Cincinnati. Just take off my shoes. I will only put up with giving up my rights as a last resort. I drive to vacations and have only had to fly once in the past 5 years. I used to fly several times a year but there are plenty of great destinations that the family and I can drive to.

        • mr6, bravo! Especially love the term “TSA assault agent.” I’m going to steal it.

          I, too, have stopped flying in/from this country (last U.S. flight was Sept 2010), and I used to travel a lot. It’s had a major effect on my life. But now my husband and I take the QM2 abroad and fly home. The countries we visit don’t abuse travelers like the TSA does, so I have no problem flying back.

          The QM2 is actually shockingly affordable; all you need is time. And the security at the dock is nothing like the TSA abuse gauntlet. There’s no comparison.

  • FishMan

    I kind-of enjoy the pat-downs as I generally feel that it makes the TSA agent more uncomfortable than me! I refuse the scanner. I refuse to be taken to a private room. I get comments like “sir, are you sure you wouldn’t be more comfortable going through the scanner?”

    • Annapolis2

      Thank you for objecting to the TSA’s pretend security scanners! You are doing something important for all of us.

  • cjr001

    The easiest way to get rid of TSA is to simply defund it outright. And by constantly pressuring our Congresscritters is probably the quickest way to make it happen.

    • cjr001, ain’t gonna happen. The worthless wankers in Congress are gutless. Not until more — many more — of them or their family members personally get abused is anything going to change. And that’s going to take a long, long time.

      • cjr001

        Well, there are only 535 Congresscritters, compared to the far more number of people out there that approve of every little thing TSA does and thus will never stop flying.

  • Natural Law

    Re: Point #4: Once you enter the screening area by putting your bags on the xray machine and cross through the magnetometer, you no longer have the right to leave. This change in the law occured in US v. Aukai; the court said that if a person could walk away (the older rule) a persion might try over and over untill he gets on the plane. It can cost you $1,100 in civil fines if you walk away. I wonder if there are any criminal penalties (e.g. jail) for leaving; I haven’t notice any in the transportation code. A well funded terrorist would just pay the fine, and keep trying to breach security.

    Another way to resist: You can refuse to allow your children to be TOUCHED. As minors, they have rights that you have an obligation to protect, and you do NOT have the power to waive their rights, especially when it will cause them harm, which it clearly does for some, as evidenced by screaming or crying. You do not have the power to give consent to something that harms the child. This removes the principle of “implied consent” as applied to the child once you cross the security line. I would like to see someone test that issue.

    See my article which explains the legal theory of TSA groping and both points above.

    • No, you can still walk away. Read Sommer Gentry’s account at the link I provided.

      • Marlee

        Gentry says:
        The police do have the power to detain you, but that requires
        individualized suspicion, something that you do not exhibit merely by
        purchasing an airline ticket.

        I would never be up for being detained by police…and I would bet on it that they would find some justification for finding individualized suspicion.

  • marlee

    I have been thinking about
    my TSA molestation after my friend had a major break through a lifetime of fear
    that she carried most of her life after an incident of sexual molestation as a
    I just dropped her I line:


    You got me thinking…

    you know all about your molestation and
    breaking thru your fear…and how much of an imprint it made on your

    Fear seemed to be the major part of
    that incident as I understand it.

    I was thinking about my Government
    approved TSA molestation…what else would you call it?

    A stranger touching my private parts
    while an other stranger watched . Touching me against my will and no choice, no
    rights…well, possibly 2 choices…arrested or banned from the

    But, I am not experiencing fear because
    it happened as an adult…what I am experiencing is anger and that incident is
    keeping me from flying.

    I do have the choice to fly again,
    but, if I refuse to go through the scanner, I could be faced with molestation
    again or be arrested or banned from my flight.


    I am astounded that so many Americans go along with this abuse and
    treatment and are so willing to give up their rights.

    I fear that it will only get worse with the nod from the masses
    of complacent Americans.

    • WorldTraveler

      Marlee, you put into words exactly what I am thinking and feeling right now, after an incident where I was forcibly touched in a private region of my body at the Houston Airport yesterday. I was given 2 choices – be arrested or allow them to touch my inner thighs and groin. I was told I couldn’t simply refuse and not board the flight – nope, my only choice was to be fondled and molested or to be arrested (of course they didn’t use or like the word “molest”, the called it “searching”, “patting” and “touching”). I have found my way to this website after posting about the incident on Twitter.
      Rape isn’t about sex – it’s about power and control. What the TSA is doing is EXACTLY the same thing, forcing people to give up the sanctity of their bodies under threat of imprisonment. I am beyond disgusted that this is the new “norm”.

      • World Traveler, that’s why some of us have been agitating about this for the past 6-plus years. We’ve been ridiculed, mocked, derided, and ignored.

  • SpreadTheWord

    Its high time the anti-TSA crowd formed a political action committee, started fundraising, started lobbying to get the TSA DEFUNDED, started organizing teams to post the truth on every forum, every street corner, every bulletin board, and every newspaper that will print the truth. People need to spread the truth at work, at their church, at their poker club, and at the bar.

    People need to be warned about the scanners, be told that no, they are not harmless, and yes, you might get cancer from the back scatter models, or even the millimeter models because they are untested. People need to be told about he effects of radiation on their children. People need to be warned that there is no one at the switch ensuring these devices are safe. People need to be told that due to the risks, they should opt out, and tell everyone that they know to do the same

    There also needs to be a COORDINATED effort to contact senators, representatives, governors, mayors, union leaders, anyone in authority. There needs to be a CONSTANT stream of complaint. We need to make sure that our elected representatives (at every level) understand in no uncertain terms that we will do everything in our power to make sure they are voted out of office if they continue to support the TSA and its abuses.

  • I haven’t been able to entirely stop flying. But I’ve definitely cut my flying in half – switching to Amtrak and driving for almost every trip within 1000 miles of where I live.

    If you must fly: Use the TSA’s pointless rules and worthless procedures as a weapon against it. One surprising fact: TSA is obsessively focused on speed, trying to keep their average wait times and screening times low. Anything you do to create delay creates problems for TSA. If everyone “accidentally” forgot to take their laptops and kippie bags out of larger items, screening times would double and TSA would have to change its tune. Use non-standard acceptable forms of ID and force them to follow their own rules no matter how much time it takes. Demand a full explanation of which sexual parts will be touched in a patdown. Demand to have law enforcement present to supervise your molester. Videotape and photograph checkpoint experiences. Watch for opportunities to step in when you see another passenger being abused. Complain to the TSA’s statistics-generating channels (by website and phone) and to your senators, every single time you fly. Wear an anti-TSA shirt to the airport. Opt out by stating: “I can’t raise my arms above my head because of a shoulder injury.” (Many people report this should divert you to a walk-through metal detector, though as with all things TSA, they don’t always follow their own procedures correctly.)

    And vote! Vote against any politician who hasn’t taken a stand against the TSA. In case you’re keeping score, that means every current member of Congress is out. Democrats and Republicans alike think you deserve to be molested, humiliated, demeaned and stolen from by these TSA thugs. Vote against all Democrats and Republicans. I’m voting Libertarian in November.

  • Since so many buy into the “you’re choosing to fly so the 4th amendment doesn’t apply” line, I decided that, if I ever chose to fly again, I would instead recite the Universal Declaration for Human Rights, highlighting Articles 5 and 13. Now I just have to memorize it.