John Pistole’s victims are legion – and all are “one-offs”

by Sommer Gentry on September 17, 2012


TSA Administrator John Pistole is frequently heard to minimize the importance of devastating passenger experiences at the checkpoint by referring to them as “one-offs,” as in the quote below:

Pistole said that negative incidents involving TSA, like an 8-month-old baby being patted down, were “one-offs.”

“When you have 1.8 million people . . . (who go through airport security) every day, we do have these, call them one-off situations,” he said. “The vast majority of people go through effectively and efficiently. The goal is to reduce those one-offs so we can provide security in the most effective way.”

I want to turn this over now, again, to the voices of the many letter writers who shared their anguish and grief over being abused by the TSA. Every one of these people is just another one-off to John Pistole. He doesn’t care how badly he hurts people as long as most of them don’t complain. It’s shocking that Pistole sleeps soundly at night, carelessly dismissing the humiliation and in many cases physical pain he has intentionally inflicted on all of these travelers.

After all, the vast majority of people did not write one of these heart-wrenching letters:

“His touch was firm enough that he felt the shape of my legs. This includes feeling around my crotch enough that he could clearly feel my testicles through my jeans. I couldn’t believe it. But the worst was yet to come. He then walked behind me, pulled my shirt tail out of my pants and then stuck his hands down my pants. He walked all the way around my body with his hands in my underwear. I’ve never been so humiliated in my whole life.”

“… he was so rough he injured my testicles and I was nauseated for hours. Please instruct your employees to be gentle with the old vet.”

“The security agent aggressively ran the side of his hand upward into my testicles 4 times during the patdown. This action caused me physical pain each time. This was the first time I had been assaulted in this manner. The result of this action also caused mental anguish. When I complained to the policeman at the screening facility I was briskly informed that this was a federal government matter and that I ‘have no rights here.’”

“I am required to turn down the waistband so the agent can pat my penis. Pretty degrading, you might agree, but nothing compared to my wife’s experience.”

“She felt all the way up and down inside my legs through an ankle-length dress. I felt violated and moved away, to which she responded, ‘I’m not done yet!’ This so shook me, an 82-year-old woman, that I sat in the area ½ hour to calm down. ”

“We were made to stand spread-eagled … and the officers did not slide their hands. Rather they squeezed in a way that felt assaultive and demeaning.”

“She used the word ‘brutal’ to describe her patdown.”

“Rather than perform a traditional patdown, my breasts, buttocks, and genitals were stroked and the agent placed her hands inside my pants and stroked my stomach and torso. I felt that this was sexually violating.”

“During a new patdown I received I had to ask the screener to remove his finger from my anus. I am humiliated for the fact that I had to make this request of the screener and for the fact that this happened in public.”

“I can honestly say that day was one of the worst days of my life. I was chosen for the new patdown procedure, which is now referred to in my house as ‘assault and battery’.”

“This is a protest against the trauma I suffered from a sexually perverted woman employed by our federal government in the Spokane, Washington airport.”

“During the patdown the TSA employee gave such a severe chop to my groin that it not only hurt, but knocked me off balance.”

“He poked my penis and my testicles very hard, I was very much in pain from this type of inspection which has never been performed on me at any airport that I have ever been to. After he poked my private parts very hard, he proceeded to use the metal detector wand on my buttocks, he poked and stuck his wand into my rectum very hard and again I was very much in pain. I worked in a federal prison for 20 years and not even inmates were treated like I was treated by this security officer at the Phoenix, Arizona airport.“

“To say the least, the experience was both intimidating and humiliating. The TSA agent only said – you are not going to avoid the body scan or a patdown. I began to freak out and started to cry. Immediately I was surrounded by three TSA agents, all who began yelling at me. They continued to harass me and say, ‘you are going through the scanner.’ Suddenly another TSA agent was on her knees giving me a full patdown (including legs, private areas, etc.) That should have been the end, however, I was pushed into the scanner.”

“The experience is beyond demeaning. Picture the nastiest, surliest, grossest, most belligerent DMV employee you’ve ever encountered and now picture that this person has the right to put their nasty, vile, gross hands all over you. And be verbally abusive as well. The thug who groped me whispered something in her compatriot’s ear and they both apparently had a good laugh at my distress.”

I said that I had a torn right shoulder rotator cuff. He then asked me to hold my arms up. I said I couldn’t. He said that I had to anyway. The patdown took 3 to 5 minutes and I finally lowered my shoulder as the perspiration rolled off my forehead from the pain. Now I am overweight, say 250 pounds. I had no belt on and the officer after first doing my front, sides top and back, went back to the front of my waist and grabbed my fat. He said, ‘what do you have in here?’ I said, it’s me, it’s my skin. Then the three of them chuckled, laughed, and let me go to my gate. I am still shaking when I think about how I was treated! I am barely sleeping . . . every time I fall asleep I wake up sweating and shaking. I don’t know if I will ever fly again.”

“I then had a patdown so abusively rough that it left bruising on my left arm. This treatment had nothing to do with safety – it had to do with power and unquestionable authority of these TSA individuals.“

“Is a TSA agent allowed to spread my labia in her inspection? Why is a TSA agent allowed to put so much pressure on my breasts that she leaves bruises? Is this standard procedure? When I ask the TSA agent to touch her own body where she intends to touch mine, so I can get a true and honest understanding of her techniques – why is she allowed to refuse providing such explicit information?”

“The way I was treated made me never want to fly again. In the future I will just make the 8 hours to Denver by car. It will certainly be easier and less demeaning. I was treated like a criminal, separated from my 13yo son, taken to a separate room so that I could have the demeaning patdown that for some reason takes three men to perform. I don’t care all that much about a patdown for me, because I’m used to taking abuse from uneducated people in my line of work. I will say, however, that if they tried to treat my son that way I would have punched the guy.
I expect you not to repond to, or even to see, this letter. Please know that I would much rather have no response than a patronizing response about how everybody is doing their best. If this is your best, woe is us.”

“It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I never want to be subjected to this kind of physical, mental, and emotional abuse again, especially anywhere in the United States of America.”

(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons/Gulin Kopec)

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