As TSA News readers know, the Transportation Security Administration has a nifty new “training academy” in Glynco, Georgia. Supposedly all new TSA hires from across the country, including Hawaii and Alaska, will attend this academy for two weeks of training (replacing the current four weeks of in-house local airport training), and all current TSA employees will be sent for additional training. Chris Bray wrote about it here.
My first thought was, how much is this going to cost taxpayers? My second thought: There’s no way the TSA is going to be able to train its employees to be efficient.
So I went to the TSA’s Twitter page, @AskTSA (where, by the way, I have been banned and had my First Amendment rights violated for speaking the truth), and began to compile a list of complaints about screeners’ actions in an attempt to show how much work the TSA needs to do to clean up its act.
(Then again, my colleague Lisa Simeone has been compiling a Master List of TSA Crimes and Abuses for years, and it hasn’t made a bit of difference.)
The complaints come in so fast on @AskTSA, I can hardly keep up with them. Comments come from both men and women:
THE PAT DOWN WAS THE MOST HORRIFIC THING I’VE EVER BEEN THOUGH IN MY LIFE!!!! Thx
Apparently if your crotch area lights up in airport security, you get a VERY AGGRESSIVE frisking. Many might say “sexual harassment”
wow, just had a most UNpleasant experience w 2 of your peops at #CLT airport. Utter lack of professionalism.
but FYI @TSA employee Carew at JFK = rude, unprofessional, dismissed request for help b/c 1 minute past her break
The scan plus opt-out pat downs seem egregious. Note I’m flying as my legal name, with a court order, my new temp license and old photo ID. I was asked twice whether I wanted a private screening but was scared to go to a non-public area.
My wife is TSA Pre✓ but got stopped for 45 min w/ our 9 month old for a stroller inspection & missed her
Wow. Invasive pat down by @tsa while trying to get my 7 wk old through security. Agent needs training before working w/ public.
Opting out of the @TSA body-scanner is getting harder with every flight. It took 15 minutes to find someone to do the pat-down.
glad your workers find it more productive to congregate and talk about weekend party plans than depreciating the lines @ EWR
Why do you constantly employ terribly rude employees at EWR? Specifically terminal C
thanks for taking my wife’s ice pack that was keeping her 3 days worth of #breastmilk from spoiling!
Somehow got through TSA at the airport with the wrong plane tickets, apparently my name is “Tanesha Brown” now… Doing your job well TSA
@TSA staff is out of control in FLL and PHL. #rude #unintelligent #unapologetic #vengeful goons is the best way to describe them
Can’t wait to get home and shower after being raped through my clothes at @iah by @TSA #TotallyViolated #Veteran #Raped by #TSA
How can I trust that your machines protect me if they report that my maxi pad is in my pocket? (TSA’s reply: We suggest you remove items from your pockets prior to the screening process. Completely missed the subtlety of the comment.)
why are your staff so mean and rude? There’s no need for it.
Disgusted by @TSA ineptitude in Terminal C at EWR: long security line, one lane open, five agents doing nothing!
After passing thought agent Wayne @ ATL international checkpoint, patted down roughly w/o warning. I felt humiliated & violated.
Had a lovely time at @IFlyOAKland yesterday, having my $140 @oakley sunglasses stolen off the conveyor while @TSA groped me!
Some really cheerful and pleasant agents in Portland, ME today /sarcasm
suggestion: provide more personnel for Pre at EWR! I paid money to use Pre there but it never seems to be open.
Why are my 9″ knitting needles allowed in my carry on but a 7″ specialty screwdriver I need for work is not?
Can we take another look at precheck process at EWR? It is a fiasco – long lines, still have to take everything out, not efficient.
why does Newark EWR NEVER have a pre check line open for the A gates????? What did I pay for?
The following from O’Hare:
“the security in terminal 3 this morning is unacceptable. 90+ min wait has hundreds missing flights
TSA’s response: We suggest arriving two hours prior to your flight during holiday weekends and peak travel times
Thanks. Did that. Security total wait was 1hr 55 minutes. One imaging machines for thousands of people will do that But I hope you have a good day, that way at least one of us will. Thousands here are miserable.”
Arrived an hour & 20 mins early for my flight at the truly dire @fly2ohare and STILL missed my flight thanks to @TSA! Looked like a war zone
Another insightful conversation with TSA on :
“destroyed my TSA lock. Do you all give out new ones or are these considered disposable?”
TSA response: We’re sorry to hear this, Philip. We can’t guarantee locks will never be lost or damaged during the screening process.
but you have keys for the locks right?”
youve got ALL priority access & TSA pre-check lines closed on a Saturday of a holiday wknd? What gives?
When can I expect someone to come open our suitcase for us? We didn’t lock it. Just saw a male @TSA agent interrogate a scared 5-year-old girl at the MSP airport. I feel so much safer already…
your workers at HSV were many. Check on the manager’s efficacy. There wasn’t enough personnel to support a TSA precheck line. I mentioned that a manager should be asked. They searched both my luggage and my husbands in retaliation. Childish TSA!!
AGAIN @AskTSA ??! #chs #tsaprecheck #closed EVERY TIME I repeat: Point of service is to skip line, stay dressed and not unpack the bag. None of those happen when closed, expedited or not
why do you keep not securing my protein powder lids and ruining all my clothes?
If your agent is going to grope me post scan I would like a warning and ask if I have sensitive areas before manhandling me at LAS
When the @TSA guy says, “Well, aren’t you a cute thing.” Ewwwww. #iamnotathing #creep
My mom loved getting told by your @tsa agent,Aloha,that she didnt want to touch her.Costumer service leaves something2 b desired
Just submitted an online complaint to @TSA. They dumped sand into my suitcase when they inspected it – a lot of sand. Professional?
you might have the most incompetent group of people to ever be under one roof working for you in #STL; so you train your employees to stand around with their arms folded telling jokes in the name the name of security? Sounds smart.
people are bypassing security by going through an unmanned checkpoint. No boarding pass scans, just going straight through.
EWR with 1 person working the security checkpoint, 9 standing around doing nothing.
Just want to say thank you for randomly pillaging my luggage today, dumping out various medications, and leaving my computer….bag open for my shower gel to leak into. It was very thoughtful for u to leave a note stating u can do that w/ no liability.
No “training academy” will be able to correct the behaviors and attitudes of TSA screeners exposed by the comments above.
Editor’s Note: By the way, if you ever want to file an official complaint about your treatment at the hands of the TSA, which we urge you to do, here’s the link to the official form at the DHS Office of Inspector General:
(Graphic courtesy of your tax dollars)
Do go over to Jim Bovard’s column at the Washington Times not only to read about his recent TSA experience (he and I have been in touch by email for a few years), but also to read the comment thread, where we have this wondrous gem of Aristotelian logic and Platonic beauty. It’s brought to you by “Harry Huntington”:
It is unfortunate that just as we face a heightened risk for terrorism this paper displays poor judgment to print an unsupported attack on TSA. TSA is one of the most effective agencies in the US government. How do we know this: since TSA was started there have been zero terrorist attacks on US airlines. That result is amazing. If planes were being bombed and hijacked there would be some reason to complain. That is not happening. We should be grateful that TSA is as good as it is and ask TSA to be even more vigilant. We also should consider using TSA to check all other forms of mass transit in the US: trains and busses. We likely also should use TSA to screen all cars traveling across state lines.
Ah, Harry. How lovely you are!
My response, by the way:
UPDATE BELOW. A TSA agent at LaGuardia Airport in New York has been arrested for sexually assaulting a 22-year-old woman. The only reason he was arrested was because he molested her in a bathroom. If he had followed standard operating procedure, he would’ve molested her at the checkpoint, where it’s usually done. Continue reading LaGuardia TSA agent arrested for sexual assault
Twitter is alive with testimony from people witnessing TSA idiocy and abuse. But then such tweets have been going on for years — there used to be a whole Twitter feed devoted to them, tens of thousands of them —
— yet nothing has changed. The TSA still abuses people, and people still fly. So I guess things haven’t gotten bad enough yet. As Frederick Douglass said, and as I’ve quoted so many times:
“Find out just what the people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
(Cross-posted at ABombazine)
I received this email the other day from a woman named Bonnie Rain. It’s a letter she sent to the White House. She gave me permission to post it at TSA News:
Dear President Obama,
I just went on a trip with my boyfriend and had to go through the humiliating experience of passing through the TSA checkpoints.
Are you aware of the drill?
– We had to stand in a line that made us feel like we were cattle.
– Then we were told to take our shoes off, empty our pockets, take off our belts and jackets, put our valuables in bins, and walk up to an X-ray machine.
– We were told to lift up our arms, making us feel like criminals in a line-up.
– I was thenmolested. The TSA agent manipulated and touched my breasts in public as a result of spots showing up on the screen.
I wore no underwire. I wore cotton shirts. I had no breast pockets. And coming back from our trip — wearing nearly the same kind of outfit — there was nothing on the screen.
If your wife, FLOTUS/Michelle, were to have her breasts touched/fondled/manipulated by a “TSA” agent, how would it make you feel?
My boyfriend could only stand by and watch what was happening to me.
Isn’t it true that if we complain we could be branded for life as troublemakers in this cockamamie system? What does that tell you?
Do you remember what we’re supposed to be teaching our children? We teach them not to let anyone touch them. We teach them that unwanted or improper touching is wrong. But as adults — as tax-paying, law-abiding adults — we’re supposed to put up with being touched/handled/fondled against our will? We’re supposed to lose our voice as adults? Have we really now lost the ability to say “I do not want strangers touching me”?
TSA agents are not doctors. These people may be nothing more than security guards with some sort of certification. It is not okay that the government has deemed them worthy of touching other adults (manipulating their breasts) in order to travel.
I am not okay with strangers touching me in public. In addition to the fact that this system has sucked the fun out of travel, it has, more importantly, made it so that citizens are treated like cattle with no way to resist the threat of being touched or harassed.
Of course we all want to enjoy safe travel. But I want you to put yourself in the shoes of a person who would like to travel without harassment or embarrassment. Then, I’d like you to step into the path of the current TSA process and practices.
The randomness of the rules and system, accompanied by unwanted physical contact (which I believe is the definition ‘battery’ and worse) is not okay!
I told Bonnie that, contrary to popular belief, which the TSA encourages, she will not be “branded for life as a troublemaker.” She should resist. There are many ways to do so.
As for Obama and his cabinet, they don’t give a shit. Bonnie Rain’s missive, after they respond to it with some half-assed form letter, will go into the circular file.
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 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)
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)
Shoshana Hebshi, the Ohio woman who was handcuffed, hauled off a plane at gunpoint, and strip-searched in a jail cell — all without probable cause — has settled her lawsuit against the TSA, Frontier Airlines, and other government agencies.
We’ve written about Shoshana Hebshi several times, in 2012, 2013, and 2014. It’s taken all these years for her to get a settlement. Her suit also named the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, and other officials who were involved in her violation.
The American Civil Liberties Union helped Hebshi file the lawsuit. The announcement of the settlement is at the ACLU’s website. Excerpt:
DETROIT — The American Civil Liberties Union announced a settlement in its lawsuit filed on behalf of Shoshana Hebshi, a mother of two who was pulled off an airplane at gunpoint, arrested, strip-searched, and detained. The case was brought against Frontier Airlines and several government defendants.
The ACLU charged that Hebshi, who is of Saudi Arabian and Jewish descent, was singled out at Detroit Metropolitan Airport because of her Middle Eastern name and appearance. Hebshi was never accused of any wrongdoing, and a federal judge twice denied defendants’ attempts to have her claims thrown out.
“People do not forfeit their constitutional rights when they step onto an airplane,” said Rachel Goodman, an attorney with the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program. “This settlement sends that critical message, and will help protect future passengers from having to endure what Shoshana went through.”
There is, still, no word on the fate of the other two, so far unnamed, men who were abused along with Hebshi. I’m guessing they were sufficiently humiliated and afraid to come forward, especially because of their ethnicity; and who can blame them?
Hebshi was traveling home to Ohio on September 11, 2011, after visiting her sister in California. She was seated next to two men of South Asian descent whom she did not know. When the flight landed, armed agents boarded the plane and arrested all three of them. Hebshi was held in a jail cell, forced to submit to a humiliating strip-search, and detained for hours. She later discovered that she had been pulled off of the plane after fellow passengers became suspicious of the amount of time each man spent in the restroom. All three were later released without charge.
As I’ve written before about this case, the other passengers on the plane are almost as guilty as the government goons who violated Hebshi and those two men. “If you see something, say something,” DHS tells us (that sentence is even trademarked, if you can believe it). God forbid you should spend “too much time” in the bathroom. You could be a terrorist!
The head of the Wayne County Airport Authority continues to defend the actions of everyone involved in abusing Hebshi:
Airport police “acted quickly and responsibly, and followed appropriate protocols in responding to a request for help from one of our airline partners,” Authority Chief Executive Thomas Naughton said in a release. “I strongly support their actions. We remain committed to vigilantly protecting the safety of the travelling public.”
Someone needs to take him down a peg or two.
Congratulations to Hebshi, even though $40,000 is a paltry amount for what she went through. And, of course, this settlement does nothing to stop the abuse going on at the nation’s airports every day. If you want to help put a stop to it, please donate to TSA Watch.
(Photo courtesy of Shoshana Hebshi)
(Cross-posted at ABombazine)
The TSA has actively protected employees who were allegedly conspiring to commit frequent and serious acts of sexual assault. And the news reports about the event have left out more questions than they’ve answered, in part because no one appears to have bothered to get the police report — which took me all of five minutes by email from my living room, a thousand miles from Denver.
But before I describe the evidence, let me say this again: The TSA received a tip that some of its employees were sexually assaulting airline passengers in an airport checkpoint, and that the crime was routine and ongoing. And the TSA’s response was to protect those employees.
This week, CBS4 News in Denver reported that two TSA officers were fired from their jobs at Denver International Airport. The two officers, the report said, “were discovered manipulating passenger screening systems to allow a male TSA employee to fondle the genital areas of attractive male passengers” — an event that happened “roughly a dozen times.”
As Lisa Simeone has already written here, one officer signaled another when he saw a male passenger he found attractive, and the other officer pressed a button on the scanning machine to set it for a female passenger. Then, when the machine detected an “anomaly” in the supposedly female passenger’s crotch area, the first officer had a pretext to do a patdown on the attractive passenger’s crotch — “with the palm of his hands, which is contradictory to TSA searching policy” (though see yesterday’s post, which includes evidence that it’s not contradictory).
So: A conspiracy to grope the genitals of attractive strangers. If you and I did that at the airport, what would be the outcome?
The news reports about this event say two very strange things, side by side: First, the two officers were caught in the act by a “TSA supervisor” who witnessed the whole thing directly — the signal between officers, the deliberate use of the wrong setting on the passenger scanner, the false alarm about an “anomaly,” the genital patdown with the front of the hand. Confronted, the officer manipulating the scanner to trigger a false alarm admitted the whole thing to a TSA investigator. The TSA fired both officers, who have not been publicly named. But prosecutors who got a report of the gropings declined to file charges, because the TSA “has said it could not identify the male passenger who was groped.”
1.) A TSA supervisor stood in the airport and watched the officer groping the passenger.
2.) The TSA can’t identify the passenger.
So now let’s turn to the report from the Denver Police Department, which I’ve posted online. Take a moment to read the thing yourself — you don’t have to take my word for anything I’m about to say. Here’s what the report tells us:
On November 18, 2014, the TSA received an anonymous tip describing the scheme cooked up by its two employees that would allow one to grope the genitals of passengers he found attractive. The TSA began an investigation; and on February 9, 2015, a TSA investigator — not a checkpoint supervisor — watched the signal, the manipulation of the machine, and the front-of-the-hand patdown of the passenger’s genitals. On March 19, 2015, more than a month after the act of alleged sexual assault, Special Agent Charles Stone of the TSA Office of Inspection notified the sex crimes unit at the Denver Police Department of the event witnessed by the investigator.
A few things to notice. First, this sentence from the account of the TSA’s original contact with police:
“According to Mr. Stone, both [redacted] and [redacted] were terminated as a result of this incident.”
Second, this sentence about a later follow-up discussion with another Denver police detective, describing a discussion with a deputy district attorney:
“Mr. Stone also related that he had spoken with DDA Bonnie Benedetti, and that she had told him that if the victim could not be identified, the case would not be fileable.”
So in November of 2014, the TSA was warned that two of its officers were currently, actively conspiring to commit sexual assault. But the TSA did not notify the police about that anonymous tip. The Denver Police Department is the agency that regularly polices Denver International Airport; the DIA Bureau is listed on this directory.
If the TSA had notified the police about the tip in November, the police could have been watching the checkpoint to observe the groping incident that was instead witnessed by a TSA employee. But the police didn’t know about an allegation of active, current, ongoing sexual assault, because the TSA didn’t tell them.
And so an act of sexual assault occurred right in front of a TSA investigator — and the investigator let the victim walk away without approaching him and identifying him.
Then, in March 2015, the TSA informed the police of the allegation, and of the evidence of the event that a TSA investigator had personally witnessed more than a month before. But the TSA didn’t notify the police until both employees had been fired — in other words, until both participants in a scheme to commit sexual assault had been removed from the place in which they allegedly committed it.
It’s as if someone called the fire department to report a pile of cold ashes. The TSA waited to call the police until the passengers were long gone, the TSA officers alleged to have committed the crime were long gone, and the crime witnessed by a TSA investigator was more than a month old.
Then Special Agent Charles Stone called the District Attorney’s office, asked if charges would be filed in the absence of named victims, got the information that no named victims meant no charges . . . and then told the police detective assigned to the case that it wasn’t possible to identify any victims.
I sent a series of questions to the TSA press office by email — asking, among other things, why the TSA didn’t call the police when they got their tip in November, and why the TSA inspector who witnessed the incident as it happened didn’t approach the victim in order to identify him. Their complete response, which is plainly false on its face:
“These alleged acts are egregious and intolerable. TSA has removed two officers from the agency. All allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated by the agency. And when substantiated, employees are held accountable.”
All employees are most certainly not held accountable if they commit crimes at work but don’t get arrested because their employer worked to protect them from an effective police investigation; so no.
The TSA has had more than its share of embarrassments about employees being arrested for on- and off-duty crimes. In this instance, they received a serious allegation of ongoing sexual assault by TSA employees, and handled it in a way that kept the police from being able to investigate and which prevented prosecutors from filing charges. They protected a TSA agent who committed a dozen acts of planned and deliberate sexual assault, and they protected the agent(s) who helped him. They let a crime victim walk away unidentified, and they called the police only when it was too late to matter.