On-the-job training, TSA style

I received a troubling email from a Freedom to Travel member today. I have her permission to publish it. So, without further ado, please be informed of on-the-job TSA training.


Last week I flew for work, SMF [Sacramento] to LAX [Los Angeles] and then SNA [John Wayne Airport, Orange County] to SMF. Both times I had new thugs being trained to “pat” down those of us who choose to opt out. On both occasions the trainees were not “patting” me down; it was a full-blown push-down.

After being patted down three times by the trainee in SMF I objected to the supervisor that enough was enough. After two more passes on the front of my body, I reached for my shoes. That almost got me in big trouble. I immediately dropped them as I felt the left hand of the supervising agent near my arm yelling at me to drop the shoes. The agent went to the chemical detection machine and didn’t return. (I’ve been the victim of that tactic previously, as well.) I was left standing until the supervisor saw the trainee walking away from her station and told her to release me.

On the way home, an agent about 6 feet tall and much larger than me began the pat-down. I had all I could do to stay standing. After the agent finished the back and two sides, I told her she was very harsh. She stopped and looked at her supervisor in disgust. That supervisor, Tom Barry, rudely stated that I “asked for it” and that “she is doing her job.” I said, “I did not ask for a push-down.” Barry cited that she wasn’t doing anything harsh. I said that was his opinion, and “yes it was harsh; I am a little person.”

He looked at the agent and ordered her to continue. That led to my hair getting pulled by the trainee. The latex gloves do catch hair.

The information above is not so much about the treatment, although I will be asking how hard they will be pushing in the future; it is about the new training method of teaching new agents to forcefully push on people’s bodies. I equate this to the same tactics the TSA used in past to get people not to opt out. My biggest fear is that they do this to my elderly parents and/or disabled people who will be pushed off balance. God, I hope they can catch themselves. I will be bracing myself in the future by putting one foot slightly in front of the other to maintain my balance.

Ah, the joys (not) of flying.

Freedom to Travel USA to SCOTUS re TSA

On behalf of Freedom to Travel USA, I am pleased to announce that the amicus brief we submitted to the Supreme Court on behalf of Jon Corbett has been docketed. You can see the notice here and FTTUSA’s actual brief here. Since I am not an attorney, I’ll try to explain our position in layman’s terms; but there may be some technical errors in translation.

We’ve written about Jon Corbett at TSA News many times. In brief, he’s been trying to sue the TSA for years on various grounds, including violation of the 4th Amendment protection against unwarranted search and seizure. Here’s a brief summary at his blog.

His case with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit on the constitionality of TSA searches was dismissed on a technicality. However, the justices then ruled that TSA searches are constitutional (read some of the disturbing details at the link). In other words, the court simultaneously dismissed the case and ruled on it. So Corbett has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.

FTTUSA’s amicus brief on behalf of Corbett’s appeal includes two questions (these are direct quotes from the brief):

1. Whether a facial challenge under the Fourth Amendment to an agency order allowing warrantless searches of the public is a justiciable Article III “case or controversy” despite the absence of any factual record of how intrusive the searches actually are;

2. Whether a court may simultaneously dismiss a constitutional claim under a non-jurisdictional, procedural rule and then decide the claim, as the 11th Circuit has held, or whether the rule of constitutional avoidance precludes such an outcome, as this Court and every other circuit has held.

A “facial challenge,” defined by Wikipedia: “In U.S. constitutional law, a facial challenge is a challenge to a statute in which the plaintiff alleges that the legislation is always unconstitutional, and therefore void.” So the first point above asks whether the 11th Circuit court had the authority to rule on Jon’s constitutional question without a full factual record.

“Justiciable” means “capable of being decided by legal principles or by a court of justice.” That point seems to have the best chance of carrying the day. There is a lot of precedent that states that a court can’t both dismiss a case on a technicality and then rule on the matter anyway.

Our lawyer maintains that the case was non-justiciable, in that is was “un-ripe.” What that means is that there was insufficient fact-gathering: the justices heard and/or read only the TSA’s submitted record. There was no factual record of how intrusive the TSA’s searches really are, from the standpoint of a traveler. There was no testimony at all. This point is reminiscent of the New York City stop-and-frisk lawsuit, where significant fact-gathering was ordered.

We have asked SCOTUS to vacate or reverse the Eleventh Circuit ruling. Stay tuned.

Freedom to Travel USA is an un-incorporated, non-partisan grassroots civic organization concerned with the dignity and privacy of travelers. It was founded by Renee Beeker, Jeff Pierce, and Wendy Thomson.

Death by a thousand cuts – reprise

Last week I posted a letter I’d written to the Oakland County sheriff under the title “Death by a thousand cuts.” Yesterday I received a call from a Lt. Perry, who supervises the errant officer who inappropriately touched me. He started out the conversation with quite the attitude, as in “she did nothing wrong, that’s her job.” When I asked for her to come over and personally apologize, he stated: “That’s not going to happen.” Continue reading “Death by a thousand cuts – reprise”

Death by a thousand cuts

I am being tortured. Tortured not by coordinated design — tortured by an uncoordinated and independent set of procedures that, taken together and individually, can be described as nothing less than the deliberate infliction of repeated and significant emotional distress. I have come to that distressing reality by pondering exactly why I get so upset when I need to go somewhere with “security.” Continue reading “Death by a thousand cuts”