Give to TSA Watch

The fundraising drive at TSA Watch has been stuck at $6,921 for weeks. The TSA is sexually assaulting people at airports in this country every day. We and many other organizations have been documenting it for years. I don’t know what else people need to know in order to care.

Oh, wait a minute — for some people, getting robbed is more serious than getting sexually assaulted. Okay, fine. The TSA is robbing people at airports in this country every day.

Hold on — just remembered something else — for other people, being forced to miss their flight is the worst that can happen. Okay. The TSA is detaining people (don’t tell me they don’t have the right — we know that — doesn’t matter; they do it all the time) and forcing them to miss their flights.

The TSA also routinely censors comments on its blog, which is supposed to exist for the benefit of the public and for which we pay with our tax dollars.

The TSA is a criminal agency that bullies, harasses, robs, and assaults people every day. Do you care? Or are you content as long as it happens to Someone Else?

If you give a shit, then please support TSA Watch.

(Cross-posted at ABombazine)

Judicial Watch finally gets answers in TSA sexual assault lawsuit

Last August I wrote a post reporting that the non-profit civil liberties organization Judicial Watch was suing the TSA to gain access to documents outlining the sexual abuse of travelers at the hands of TSA workers. I said that Judicial Watch was joining a long line of of other organizations and individual people who had also tried to sue the TSA to get information, and that the TSA, predictably, had stonewalled.

Now comes news that Judicial Watch has been successful. It has finally obtained records detailing sexual assaults of passengers by TSA agents:

Judicial Watch announced today it obtained 58 pages of records from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that detail alleged sexually related assaults on passengers by TSA personnel at three major U.S. international airports. The documents describe incidents at Denver International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

The documents were released in response to a July 11, 2014, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:14-cv-01179)).

The press release by Judicial Watch goes on:

The TSA documents show that passengers strenuously objected to the alleged sexually related assaults, repeatedly saying they were “shocked,” “violated,” and “humiliated.” In one incident, a passenger reported that TSA officers, and “even the Supervisor … began to roar with laughter at the alleged sexual assault.” In other incidents, a breast cancer survivor reported she felt as if she had been raped. And an elderly passenger with a colostomy bag said she felt violated after being informed by a TSA agent that she had to “touch her bag so I could then touch her hands.”

I will remind readers that we here at TSA News have been documenting such assaults since 2011, and I personally have been documenting them since 2009. My Master List of TSA Crimes and Abuses, both pages of it, contains thousands of accounts. And again I repeat, these are only the crimes we happen to find out about. Logic dictates that there are more, many more. It is impossible to know how many.

Yet no matter how much evidence we present — solid, fact-based evidence, eyewitness testimony, risk assessment, statistical analysis, GAO and DHS reports — millions of people in this country persist in denying that the TSA is doing what it’s doing.

I urge you to read the Judicial Watch press release in its entirety, for yet more sickening details on the sexual assaults; my first post about Judicial Watchthis post by Sommer Gentry; and, of course, the Master List of TSA Crimes and Abuses.

Finally, I will re-post here what I originally posted in August 2014 — the verbatim comment of one typical American traveler, who goes by the internet moniker “PsyGuy”:

“I have long advocated and practiced that I do not care what the TSA does. At some point it will not surprise me if we have to give blood samples at a check point to be cross checked against a DNA profile to insure I am who I am, and I will care no more then than I do now, which is zero. I am happy and content to be a sheeple, my goal is to get from the counter to the gate of the plane with as little hassle and problems, and my experience has been that exercising right is an ineffective and draining use of time, resources and energy. I do not care if the TSA has never stopped a terrorist or even if they have in some way aided terrorism, I don’t care. I care about getting on the plane, that is the only thing that matters to me, and anyone in a position to effect that goal needs to be dealt with in the most efficient manner, in this and all cases that means compliance. I do not care about courtesy, humility, or any other such nonsense, i care about getting on the plane. I do not care if I get safety or security or neither, I do not care about my rights, your rights or if the constitution clutches its chest and dies a little more each day, or even if the founding fathers are turning in their grave, I care about getting on the plane.”

You’ve heard of schadenfreude? It’s because of PsyGuy and people like him that I have plenty of it stored up, just waiting for release.

(Cross-posted at ABombazine)

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.

TSA Nightmare (in other words, same old story)

I received a detailed email yesterday from a woman who had a bad experience with the TSA at La Guardia Airport (LGA) in New York on her way back home to Texas (photo above obviously not her). She’s a lawyer. She titled her account, “TSA Nightmare.” Unfortunately, as I told her, what she experienced is pretty run-of-the-mill. As with so many people I hear from, though she gave me permission to publish her story, she doesn’t want her name revealed.

I tried to persuade her, as I always do, that using your real name makes your and our case stronger, but I understand why people are reluctant. They’ve already been abused, berated, and humiliated, and they don’t want to be put through the wringer again. Though, in truth, I guess it doesn’t even matter whether they use their real names or not: the TSA ignores everyone equally. So here’s her story, verbatim, in its entirety (I have bolded certain passages):

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the face of a terrifying police state, which serves no other purpose than harassing passengers and turning air travel into some sort of a  Kafkaesque nightmare, making a mockery of our constitutional right to probable cause, in the process (as you so rightfully note in your blog).

Here is my tale of woe. I have experienced the most inappropriate, unprofessional, and rude behavior by TSA agents performing screening at LGA airport on April 29, 2015, at around 3:00 pm ET, while en route to Dallas (from a business meeting in NY) on AA flight 1134, departing from gate D7.

First, at a document checkpoint an agent noted that my first name on the boarding pass had an extra letter, as compared to my driver’s license (this happens sometimes, as I have an unusual first (and last) names). She ordered me to stand aside, while she called for a “supervisor.” Another TSA agent then ordered me to go “back and stand behind a yellow line.” They were barking orders at me, and it felt like a Gestapo. There was nothing professional or courteous about the way they spoke to me.

Then, a “supervisor” arrived and asked that I produce more documents with my name on them, which I did, including my Texas bar card, and she said that I was fine to proceed, but that I will have to be “fully searched.” I asked if I may to go to the airline representative and clear the misunderstanding, to which she responded that it will be of no use and that only a mandatory search would resolve this situation. I did ask what does the search entail to which she responded: “well – I certainly do not want to see you naked”?? This is  completely outrageous and I was just dumbfounded.

I passed through security and my scan was clear, so there was clearly NO reason to search me further. However, the agents proceeded with an embarrassing and unnecessary body search. I asked the “supervisor” for an explanation of why this was necessary and/or appropriate, but did not get an answer, other than that it was required by “procedure.” (She also referred to me as “my dear” in the process!) No further explanation of this mysterious “procedure” was given.

It was embarrassing (to say the least) to be touched inappropriately and more privately than my physician would typically do in a routine exam. At some point an agent performing the search actually forcefully yanked my hair up to look under my shirt collar. I tried to look at the name on her badge, but she flipped her plastic badge in front of my face (almost hitting me with it) and said that I could complain “even to Washington” if I wanted… All I got was “Aria…” I think. I was too traumatized to argue  any further.

I feel like I should have, though. This experience with the TSA was incredibly upsetting. I got sick in the bathroom immediately thereafter and could not stop shaking during my flight.

I reported this to the TSA, and all I got back, was that “in response to my inquiry” they “regret any unprofessional treatment” I experienced.  There is absolutely no recourse, is there?!?! And there is no way a passenger can protect her dignity and civil rights, as one complains about the TSA to the TSA!

Thank you for reading.

After she gave me permission to publish, she wrote this:

I really feel embarrassed about the incident. I complained to every agency I could think of, but do not hope for a meaningful response, so might as well spread the word.

She has no reason to feel embarrassed. She did nothing wrong. But this, too, is common with victims of assault. Feelings of embarrassment, shame, regret, “what if”s.

All you have to do is plug the words “another person” into the Search Box here and you’ll get hundreds of similar accounts, or “another woman” likewise, or check the two pages of the Master List of TSA Crimes and Abuses, both Page 1 and Page 2, or one of mathematician Sommer Gentry’s many posts about TSA assaults, reported by victims to the TSA, all for naught, or one of Wendy Thomson’s. It’s the same old story.

The TSA continues to bully, harass, rob, abuse, and sexually assault people all over the country, every day, and most of America just shrugs its shoulders.

(Photo of actress and singer Jennifer Hudson getting felt up by the TSA)