TSA, Groping, and the Consent of the Governed

I am sure most everyone has heard about the issues around the changes for TSA. However, let me summarize them here just so that we are all clear.

The TSA has implemented a couple of very important initiatives – in their minds:

  1. The new millimeter wave and backscatter body scanners
  2. The new “enhanced” pat-down

Millimeter Wave and Backscatter Body Scanners

Let’s start with issue number 1. There are several points to raise regarding the new scanners, so I will summarize some of them.

  • Health: We don’t know what the long-term health impacts will be from repeated exposures to the radiation emitted by these devices. The FDA and other agencies only tested the amount of radiation emitted by a properly functioning scanner, but even then they did not test the same type of radiation used by the scanners. They did not test malfunctioning scanners and did not test the impact on actual health. They sure didn’t measure the impact over a long period of time. Some searches on the Internet will display lots of results about the potential health impacts.
  • Image Storage: We don’t know, despite claims made by the TSA, what will be done with the images. It has been proven that the images can be stored. The devices were built to store the images, but they have supposedly been reconfigured to not store the images. Of course, they must store the images in preparation of legal action. After all, if they catch a terrorist, they need to have the evidence for the courts.
  • Detailed Images Invade Privacy: We do know that the images are very intrusive. We have seen some examples online, but they are not the same resolution that the TSA agents see. the TSA agents see much more detail and it is at a much higher resolution. The images on the TSA Website are at a reduced resolution from what the TSA agents actually see. TSA refuses to release examples at the resolution and size as seen by TSA agents. You can probably imagine why. We do know that many people are not willing to have others, even if they are in another room, viewing them in these compromising ways. Many people would be aghast if a close relative saw a similar image of them much less somebody that they don’t even know. I guess they are a great deal more detailed than TSA is willing to admit.
  • Immunity from Prosecution: We do know that if such images were captured and viewed by the general public, those individuals could be charged with several different sex crimes, especially as related to children.
  • Training: TSA agents are not trained in the use of these backscatter devices. This means, they have no idea how to use them to limit health issues. They do not know if the machines are properly calibrated. They do not know if the machines are running out of control.
  • Maintenance: The devices themselves are not being calibrated and tested on a regular basis to make sure that they are not exceeding the energy levels that they are supposed to emit.
  • Safety Monitoring: TSA agents do not even carry monitoring cards to make sure that they are not being exposed to excessive levels of radiation.

Enchanced Pat-Downs

FirstCavitySearchAs we can see from above, there are many reasons that we don’t want to go through the scanners. So, what is our option? Only one. Just one option. Nope, nothing else just the one option.

We must submit to an enhanced pat-down. It is “enhanced” because it isn’t simply patting you down looking for devices. There are also multiple points that need to be made about these enhanced pat-downs.

  • Sexual Touching: The “enhanced” pat-down involves touching of the traveler by the TSA agent in ways that most of us will only allow from our sexual partners.
  • Intrusive: The “enhanced” pat-down is meant to be extremely intrusive and is meant to strongly encourage people to use the backscatter scanners.
  • Immunity from Prosecution: If I were to touch a person like TSA touches people in the “enhanced” pat-down, I could be charged with sexual assault and convicted of a sex crime.
  • Child Molestation: If I were to touch a child like TSA touches people in theGropingCoupons “enhanced” pat-down, I would absolutely be charged with sexual exploitation and assault of a minor and convicted of a sex crime. I would probably be sexually abused in prison once the other prisoners found out what I did. Granted, the TSA will not grope children if they are under twelve. So, everyone, get ready for your pre-teen and young teenage daughters to be groped. They are still minors, it is still child molestation. Worse yet, it is molestation by a person in a position of trust. We are talking extremely long jail terms for others that are prosecuted for doing the same thing our TSA agents do all day long. There is a YouTube video here of such an incident.
    Do we really believe he is a terrorist?
  • Immense Sexual Embarrassment: You will go through the enhanced pat-down in full view of the public. So, any of the travelers you see around you that are perverts are going to get a huge thrill. Granted, you can ask to be screened in private. So what? Even then, you are still being touched in a very inappropriate way. Not only that, but when being screened in private, you will likely be asked to remove your clothing, too.
  • Immense Embarrassment for the Ill/Injured: http://www.wbtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=13534628 is a story about a flight attendant being required to show that her prosthetic breast is not an explosive device. Next, I can just see the story being broadcast on the news of a male with a prosthetic testicle having to drop his pants to show that it is not an explosive because the TSA agent doesn’t think it “feels” right. There has also been a case where a bladder cancer survivor sustained extreme embarrassment because of TSA agents and lack of care when working with a person with an expressed (he told them multiple times) medical condition that requires extreme care. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40291856/ns/travel-news.
  • Potential Injury: There have been many reports where TSA agents are venting their frustration on the passengers. They are being extremely rough during enhanced pat-downs. We are already dealing with sexual assault, now we are talking about physical assault on top of it.

TSA Justifications

I have heard several different justifications. So, let’s review some of them.

  • You don’t have a right to fly: Yeah, this is true. However, it is known as PUBLIC transportation. Our economy would be extremely stifled if people were not able to fly for pleasure as well as business. We have seen what happens to our economy when nobody could travel back shortly after 9/11. While air travel is not a right, it is a necessity. We should not have to give up any of our rights just so we can go to work or visit Aunt Mabel.
  • It is their Job: Wow, this is a loaded one. I suggest a review of the Nuremberg principles: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_Principles. While they apply to war crimes, they absolutely apply in the situation where people (Government officials or not) are still guilty of crimes even if they are told to commit them. In the military, we refer to them as being unlawful orders and are allowed to disregard unlawful orders despite the source of the orders.
  • We don’t want to do it: I actually understand this one to a degree. http://boardingarea.com/blogs/flyingwithfish/2010/11/18/tsa-enhanced-pat-downs-the-screeners-point-of-view/. TSA agents don’t like this anymore than we do, but they still have a personal choice to make. In my opinion, it is a moral choice. I don’t care if they are against it. They need to step up and refuse to take such offensive actions against the citizens, legal residents, and foreign visitors in the US. I certainly hope that they don’t like feeling like perverts. If it were me, I would find other work as I find this type of work totally unacceptable. I could not look somebody in the eye that gropes others sexual organs as part of their daily job. Well, except physicians and nurses, but they don’t grope. They use complete respect and have years of training in the behavioral issues and ethics.

Effectiveness

We need to understand that there are many airports that do not have the scanners and will not have the scanners. Once a passenger has been through any airport security screening, then they don’t have to go through another. Unless every single person at every single airport is screened the same way, then the screening is worthless.

Options?

We have puffer machines and wonderfully trained dogs that can detect all sorts of chemicals. Why aren’t we using them?

There are absolutely options. Even Israel doesn’t allow its citizens to be groped as part of a security solution, and I would say that they are exposed to significantly more risk than we face.

Summary

So, what it comes down to, today, is that we have a choice to expose ourselves to some TSA pervert/flunkie so they can see through our clothing OR we can be physically groped by a different TSA pervert/flunkie. We also get to make the choice for our children. Of course, each of these agents has had maybe about an hour of training if they have had any training at all.

This leads me to my last point: Why are we allowing this to happen?

The Government receives its power for us. If we do not let them govern us, they don’t have the power to govern us. So, why are we letting them abuse us?

Thomas Jefferson, one of our founding fathers, clearly stated that “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; [and] that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it.”

Again, why are we allowing our Government to treat us so poorly?

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2 Responses to TSA, Groping, and the Consent of the Governed

  1. roberta bragg says:

    hi russ.
    I agree.
    Its why I walk, run, drive or take the train.
    but lets take the next step.

    what would it take to change the rules? who can do that? public awareness is a very good thing, but its not solving the problem. lets give the frustrated, humiliated, angry traveler a focus, not for venting, but for changing….

  2. Brian Blum says:

    Great article, Russ! Very thorough study of the situation, circumstances, and implications!

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