The TSA (or Transportation Security Administration) has become synonymous with waste, fraud, inefficiency and harassment, despite their core mission of protecting Americans and other travelers from terrorist threats and violence. But why? In addition to the bad personal experiences many frequent fliers have had at the hands of TSA personnel, much of the blame can be placed on news stories like the following, which reinforce the idea of the TSA as a useless organization that makes air travel less convenient and more invasive without genuinely making anyone safer (or even providing the illusion of safer travel.)
Anyone who lives in the United States is likely to encounter someone going through what is being popularly called "Gate Rape," the hands-on TSA search that involves touching of the hair, chest and genitals to make sure there are no bombs present. There are plenty of horror stories, but just to show the gravity of the situation, here are twelve particularly troubling stories of people being touched, held or controlled against their will while their body is touched from head to toe by government workers.
What are examples of TSA harassment? Take a look here and see for yourself.
Rape Survivor Assaulted by the TSA
Celeste (she chose not to reveal her full name) was a rape survivor and a seasoned air traveler who, like many other travelers, wasn't immediately aware of the pat-down changes that occurred in October of 2010. She flew from Minneapolis to Chicago before the changes were instituted, and faced a more old-fashioned approach to security - walking through a metal detector, having her luggage scanned and maybe getting a cursory "pat down" if there were any questions about what she was bringing on to the plane. On the return trip to Minnesota, after the more extensive TSA procedure was introduced, she felt like she got assaulted all over again.
Celeste had previously tried to avoid the full-on body scanners because "why should I have to let people see me naked to get on a plane?... This is my body, I’ve worked many years to re-establish the feeling that I’m allowed to have control over my body after being raped. Even the thought of that leaves me feeling dirty and vulnerable again." So it's very, very hard to imagine the crushing feeling when a completely random person strokes her fingers all over her vagina without warning.
Even worse, when Celeste refused to submit to a full-on body search using X-ray scanners, numerous TSA agents were called to the scene, loudly announcing "we have an opt-out here." She was then examined by a man, a breach in protocol, as TSA agents can only inspect members of their own sex. When he patted her crotch, she broke down and prayed.SOURCE: PNCMinnesota.com
TSA Exposes College Girl's Breasts to Public
Back in October of 2008, a young woman from Amarillo, Texas, was flying out of nearby Corpus Christie when she was singled out for what the TSA delightfully refers to as "extended search procedures." After being frisked all over her body, the TSA pulled her blouse all the way down, exposing her breasts. Publicly. So that they were visible to everyone in the area.
The woman was (obviously) horrified and left the security screening area (without finishing the TSA's check), where she was consoled by a friend. After a while, the woman reported back to the screening area, only to be mocked and laughed at by the TSA employees who had witnessed the entire thing go down. (One male employee allegedly told the woman he was sorry to have missed seeing her body, and would definitely be watching the video later. What a charmer.)
Eventually, she got through security and filed an administrative complaint. Naturally, TSA didn't respond, sparking a sexual harassment lawsuit. (The woman was able to keep her name out of the papers at least.)
This was, of course, 2008, when the idea of the TSA actually checking out passengers naked was still considered extreme and taboo. Now, of course, this sort of thing is just part of air travel, like reading John Grisham novels or eating vacuum-sealed packages containing 3 honey roasted peanuts.Source
Meg McLain is Ejected from the Airport
At the Ft Lauderdale airport in November of 2010, Meg McLain found herself hitting a snag while trying to go through TSA procedures. Out of the six or so people in line to get through security, she was "randomly" selected to go through the elaborate body scanner devices. McLain told TSA officials she was not comfortable using the scanner, as it takes a naked picture of her body, and she wasn't comfortable spreading such things around the world. She also declined to undergo an "enhanced pat-down."
What happened next is a matter of some debate. McLain gave a radio interview immediately after the incident (you can hear the audio above) in which she described having her ticket torn up in front of her, being restrained to a chair, handcuffed and eventually escorted out of the airport. The TSA has objected to numerous specifics in McLain's report, and released CCTV footage of McLain leaving the airport without an escort, and uncuffed, by way of rebuttal. (Indeed, McLain in interviews later backed off from some of the details in the story as she originally told it.) It also came to light in the following weeks that McLain was a "Liberty activist" who had purposefully not brought her ID with her to the airport, and had planned all along to object to the body scanners should she be chosen.But the footage also clearly leaves out a few minutes of footage that could be helpful in determining exactly what happened. And McLain is also shown being accosted by a group of TSA agents who seem visibly upset at having to deal with her.
Six Year Old Boy Groped
Local Charlotte TV station WBTV tracked down a story in late 2010 about, yes, a six year old boy suffering a traumatizing TSA patdown at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. (The boy's father had written up an anonymous blog post titled "We Won't Fly" describing the incident.)
Allegedly, a TSA female official took the six-year old boy and used the palm and finger technique on him without any warning. In the end, she groped the boy's testicles and admonished the father for trying to comfort the boy afterwards and for protesting the pat down. Meanwhile, the boy's mother, who was in a wheelchair, was also selected for a pat down.
(All this happened while other people went through the body scanners. This family wasn't given a choice.)
It was so bad that the boy walked to the plane in tears and cried so hard that the flight attendants admonished the family for not keeping him quiet. Not surprisingly, they didn't listen or take note of the situation, even when the father tried to explain it to them.Source