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“Touch my junk, and I’ll have you arrested”: The TSA's way or the highway

TSA body scans are invasive if not harmful
TSA body scans are invasive if not harmful
Getty Images

Halloween has come and gone, but here is a horror story that will rival even the most hair-raising tales of demons and goblins. This one involves the federal government and its efforts to keep us “safe” from those who would do us harm in the name of radical Islam.

The account that follows is that of a passenger who had planned to fly out of San Diego early on the morning of November 13. The details were committed to paper approximately two and one half hours after the sequence of events described and capture the events to the best of the writer’s recollection.

The account is lengthy, but it is well worth reading in its entirety.

This morning, I tried to fly out of San Diego International Airport but was refused by the TSA. I had been somewhat prepared for this eventuality. I have been reading about the millimeter wave and backscatter x-ray machines and the possible harm to health as well as the vivid pictures they create of people's naked bodies. Not wanting to go through them, I had done my research on the TSA's website prior to traveling to see if SAN had them. From all indications, they did not. When I arrived at the security line, I found that the TSA's website was out of date. SAN does in fact utilize backscatter x-ray machines.

I made my way through the line toward the first line of "defense": the TSA ID checker. This agent looked over my boarding pass, looked over my ID, looked at me and then back at my ID. After that, he waved me through. SAN is still operating metal detectors, so I walked over to one of the lines for them. After removing my shoes and making my way toward the metal detector, the person in front of me in line was pulled out to go through the backscatter machine. After asking what it was and being told, he opted out. This left the machine free, and before I could go through the metal detector, I was pulled out of line to go through the backscatter machine. When asked, I half-chuckled and said, "I don't think so." At this point, I was informed that I would be subject to a pat down, and I waited for another agent.

A male agent (it was a female who had directed me to the backscatter machine in the first place), came and waited for me to get my bags and then directed me over to the far corner of the area for screening. After setting my things on a table, he turned to me and began to explain that he was going to do a "standard" pat down. (I thought to myself, "great, not one of those gropings like I've been reading about".) After he described, the pat down, I realized that he intended to touch my groin. After he finished his description but before he started the pat down, I looked him straight in the eye and said, "if you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested." He, a bit taken aback, informed me that he would have to involve his supervisor because of my comment.

We both stood there for no more than probably two minutes before a female TSA agent (apparently, the supervisor) arrived. She described to me that because I had opted out of the backscatter screening, I would now be patted down, and that involved running hands up the inside of my legs until they felt my groin. I stated that I would not allow myself to be subject to a molestation as a condition of getting on my flight. The supervisor informed me that it was a standard administrative security check and that they were authorized to do it. I repeated that I felt what they were doing was a sexual assault, and that if they were anyone but the government, the act would be illegal. I believe that I was then informed that if I did not submit to the inspection, I would not be getting on my flight. I again stated that I thought the search was illegal. I told her that I would be willing to submit to a walk through the metal detector as over 80% of the rest of the people were doing, but I would not be groped. The supervisor, then offered to go get her supervisor.

I took a seat in a tiny metal chair next to the table with my belongings and waited. While waiting, I asked the original agent (who was supposed to do the pat down) if he had many people opt out to which he replied, none (or almost none, I don't remember exactly). He said that I gave up a lot of rights when I bought my ticket. I replied that the government took them away after September 11th. There was silence until the next supervisor arrived. A few minutes later, the female agent/supervisor arrived with a man in a suit (not a uniform). He gave me a business card identifying him as David Silva, Transportation Security Manager, San Diego International Airport. At this point, more TSA agents as well as what I assume was a local police officer arrived on the scene and surrounded the area where I was being detained. The female supervisor explained the situation to Mr. Silva. After some quick back and forth (that I didn't understand/hear), I could overhear Mr. Silva say something to the effect of, "then escort him from the airport." I again offered to submit to the metal detector, and my father-in-law, who was near by also tried to plead for some reasonableness on the TSA's part.

The female supervisor took my ID at this point and began taking some kind of report with which I cooperated. Once she had finished, I asked if I could put my shoes back on. I was allowed to put my shoes back on and gather my belongs. I asked, "are we done here" (it was clear at this point that I was going to be escorted out), and the local police officer said, "follow me". I followed him around the side of the screening area and back out to the ticketing area. I said apologized to him for the hassle, to which he replied that it was not a problem.

I made my way over to the American Airlines counter, explained the situation, and asked if my ticket could be refunded. The woman behind the counter furiously typed away for about 30 seconds before letting me know that she would need a supervisor. She went to the other end of the counter. When she returned, she informed me that the ticket was non-refundable, but that she was still trying to find a supervisor. After a few more minutes, she was able to refund my ticket. I told her that I had previously had a bad experience with American Airlines and had sworn never to fly with them again (I rationalized this trip since my father-in-law had paid for the ticket), but that after her helpfulness, I would once again be willing to use their carrier again.

At this point, I thought it was all over. I began to make my way to the stairs to exit the airport, when I was approached by another man in slacks and a sport coat. He was accompanied by the officer that had escorted me to the ticketing area and Mr. Silva. He informed me that I could not leave the airport. He said that once I start the screening in the secure area, I could not leave until it was completed. Having left the area, he stated, I would be subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine. I asked him if he was also going to fine the 6 TSA agents and the local police officer who escorted me from the secure area. After all, I did exactly what I was told. He said that they didn't know the rules, and that he would deal with them later. They would not be subject to civil penalties. I then pointed to Mr. Silva and asked if he would be subject to any penalties. He is the agents' supervisor, and he directed them to escort me out. The man informed me that Mr. Silva was new and he would not be subject to penalties, either. He again asserted the necessity that I return to the screening area. When I asked why, he explained that I may have an incendiary device and whether or not that was true needed to be determined. I told him that I would submit to a walk through the metal detector, but that was it; I would not be groped. He told me that their procedures are on their website, and therefore, I was fully informed before I entered the airport; I had implicitly agreed to whatever screening they deemed appropriate. I told him that San Diego was not listed on the TSA's website as an airport using Advanced Imaging Technology, and I believed that I would only be subject to the metal detector. He replied that he was not a webmaster, and I asked then why he was referring me to the TSA's website if he didn't know anything about it. I again refused to re-enter the screening area.

The man asked me to stay put while he walked off to confer with the officer and Mr. Silva. They went about 20 feet away and began talking amongst themselves while I waited. I couldn't over hear anything, but I got the impression that the police officer was recounting his version of the events that had transpired in the screening area (my initial refusal to be patted down). After a few minutes, I asked loudly across the distance if I was free to leave. The man dismissively held up a finger and said, "hold on". I waited. After another minute or so, he returned and asked for my name. I asked why he needed it, and reminded him that the female supervisor/agent had already taken a report. He said that he was trying to be friendly and help me out. I asked to what end. He reminded me that I could be sued civilly and face a $10,000 fine and that my cooperation could help mitigate the penalties I was facing. I replied that he already had my information in the report that was taken and I asked if I was free to leave. I reminded him that he was now illegally detaining me and that I would not be subject to screening as a condition of leaving the airport. He told me that he was only trying to help (I should note that his demeanor never suggested that he was trying to help. I was clearly being interrogated.), and that no one was forcing me to stay. I asked if tried to leave if he would have the officer arrest me. He again said that no one was forcing me to stay. I looked him in the eye, and said, "then I'm leaving". He replied, "then we'll bring a civil suit against you", to which I said, "you bring that suit" and walked out of the airport.

Putting aside entirely the invasive nature of body scans, there are reports of health risks associated with certain classes of scanners, as the writer of the account notes. Justified or not, these fears and other consumer concerns about air travel are costing the U.S. travel industry $9 billion a day.

Those who have murdered and would murder again out of allegiance to an antiquated and misunderstood religious doctrine are becoming more inventive in their efforts to wreak havoc on contemporary civilization. Is it too much to ask that our government at least keep pace with their ingenuity?

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  • Anonymous0 4 years ago

    I've had my own horror stories with airport security. Like why they have singled me out for special "extra" inspections for 8 of the last 9 times I've flown. It must be my caucasian skin and blue eyes that are a tip off that I intend to do harm.

  • Frenchy 4 years ago

    The funniest part of this story is that Janet Napolitano has said Homeland Security is considering the demands by CAIR and other Muslim protectionist groups that the TSA not scan or pat down women dressed in hijabs. Yeah, that makes perfectly good sense.

  • WOW 4 years ago

    This is obviously an unfortunate experience, but bottomline is that this is the price of safety. I'd rather be "screened" if I know that it will prevent someone else from getting on the plane with a bomb or other weapon and harming my family. If you choose to fly, then be prepared to be subjected to these "screens". If you're flying domestically - think about driving or taking the train if you dont want to go through the hassle. Remember 9/11 - if there were agents like this at each of those airports - chances are the Twin Towers would still be standing and 6000 people would not be dead.

  • Frenchy 4 years ago

    I agree in principle with your point. The question that looms for me is how safe these new-generation scanners are. From what I've read, more than a mere invasion of privacy may be at stake.

  • Patriot 4 years ago

    I would rather be blown up by terrorists than give up my rights as an American. It is nothing less than obscene for my own government (using my money) to take away the same rights radical Islam would like to take away, in the name of keeping me safe from radical Islam. I would rather my family were blown up by a terrorist than sit by and watch their civil rights destroyed and have the audacity to be grateful for it.

  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    Stand up for yourself instead of bending over and taking it, be a *real* American. These security measures aren't helping anyone. The only terrorists you have to worry about at the airport IS the TSA. They have been violating people's rights and need to be stopped. The TSA would not have stopped 9/11 as you suggest. In fact, they are creating an environment where it can happen again. The reason 9/11 happened is because people were too scared to stand up for themselves. The terrorists were armed only with box cutters. 1 or 2 big guys could have easily taken them down, but no one did. By making the public submissive like the TSA is doing, they are only making it easier for terrorists to do it again.

  • D 3 years ago

    Actually, statistically they would have not seen or just ignored the box cutters. Hell a man brought a glock on a plane and no one caught it.

  • fred1369 4 years ago

    The terrorists have won. They have induced terror and fear in our gumint to the point where they will now intrude on every facet of our every day lives. You don't think that airport screening is the last of it , do you? Our gumint is too blockheaded to consider profiling. Searching nuns in wheel chairs does not give me a sense of confidence and security. Do you feel safer because the pilot of your plane was forced to go through the scanner? How stoopid are these rule makers?

  • dawit.A 4 years ago

    hi guises i think mimic has to end that way we are different to thou th animal that live in could per-swat one of illusion's it is disgusting

  • Ed 4 years ago

    Those who want their junk groped can go join their own special private airline club. Those of us who think that this TSA screening is out of line have no intention of submitting to this sort of travesty.

  • Anonymous 3 years ago

    Actually, if I'm gonna be groped, I insist on a person of the opposite sex. And they have to be hot. I object to another man touching me, but not a woman. Or, maybe I'm gay, so the opposite sex is the same as the same sex for me.

  • Craig 2 years ago

    In response to WOW.

    You are fool to give up your liberties for the the 'appearance' of safety. I am not comfortable with these ridiculous screenings, and outraged at the way these TSA morons treat passengers.

    I am a 16 year combat veteran who held top secret clearences and honorably gave this country YEARS of my life to defending it's Constitution... then I have a fat slob of a TSA agent talking down to me while telling his TSA co-workers about the 'mo-fo' that he ' flat knocked on his b!tch @ss' at the bar the night before. THAT is the class of people working in the TSA?

    How about some respect from the TSA to the U.S. citizens? I earned mine, maybe the TSA should begin doing the same.

  • Anonymous 2 years ago

    Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither

  • Freedom > safety 2 years ago

    Then you and your fellow sheep need to get the hell out of the Land of the Free, and take these self-appointed, pseudo-government fascists that believe they can do whatever they wish in the name of public safety. How about some self-responsibility? Stop asking the government to protect you from every little possible threat by taking away every possible little freedom.
    Freedom isn't free: It demands the blood of the brave. Fear means we have already lost.

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