Category Archives: TSA

An Introduction to TSA Complaints and Abuses

In two days, me and the boys are flying the friendly skies to visit my Mom and Dad.  This flight is our first since the Invasion of the Body Scanners.  The hour is already late, so I’ll not rehash concerns over TSA policies.  I previously posted on TSA issues here, here, and here if you are interested.

I want to make a comprehensive list of known TSA abuses, but that will have to wait.  Too many links need compiling.  This post will serve as an introduction.

Problems at the security checkpoints are unlikely, but one must prepare for eventualities.  Fortunately, this guy has done the work already, creating a TSA regulation cheat sheet.  Important facts include:  1) TSA agents cannot detain you; they must call local authorities for detention.  2) TSA must inform you how you’ll be touched before they touch you.  3) Touching is restricted to the minimum necessary to detect weapons or explosives.

Did you know that TSA has its own blog on Blogger?  Yep.  It’s so homey and nice; it almost feels like everyday people run the site.  Their latest post is about a new program that uses “Automated Target Recognition” to turn naughty nakey images into crude outlines.  Very private . . . unless the automated program ends up creating false positives that necessitate more of those invasive pat downs.

Me and the boys will go through the body scanners rather than “opt out.”  So, the only way we’ll run into trouble:  if we need patting down in addition to the body scanner, and that pat down includes areas within my sons’ underwear.

I won’t consent to that.  I’ll have to forgo my flight and drive instead.  A very unlikely scenario, that.

Still, I prefer to mentally draw a line before being confronted with the situation.

Anyway, I hope to post a comprehensive list of complaints against TSA soon.  Of course, this list will be limited by what I find on the internet.  According to this article, when the ACLU solicited complaints last November, they received over 900 in the course of one month.   Snippets from these complaints can be read hereMore recent TSA problems include the unreasonable pat down of a six-year-old, as well as the arrest of a mother for having a stern tone and bad attitude.

Hmm.  I have a six-year-old.  My “stern tone” could rival a Gunny’s.  And bad attitude?

Maybe I should be nervous after all.

While scanning TSA search results, I got to thinking:  has anyone made a FOIA request for official complaints against TSA?

Ding ding ding, the answer is yes.  Judicial Watch has indeed made a FOIA request for all records of complaints about TSA’s new pat down process.

The TSA response was rather cheeky:  define complaint.

Because you know, it all depends on what the definition of “is” is.

Maddening To Watch

Perhaps it is pointless to add my voice to the echo chamber, but this video really got under my skin.  Because of my own air travel and motherhood experiences, I identify very closely with this harassed woman. 

She’s just like me:  armed with print-outs from the TSA website, because surely the agents won’t ignore their own regs if they can read ’em in black and white.  Surely.

I did the same thing in the past, because (at that time, anyway) the allowed size of a liquid container was not limited to 3 oz if it was for “babies or small children” travelling with you.

Unfortunately, the definition of “small children” varied from agent to agent.

As fate would have it, once I printed out the regulation I was never again forced to hand over my contraband juice pouches and UHT milk boxes.  So I didn’t get to try making an agent read the TSA’s own regulations.

Good thing, because it probably would not have gone over well.

It didn’t for Stacey Armato.

There’s one important difference between me and her, though.  I am not so patient.  Just watching the video made me want to jump out of my skin.  Her level of self-restraint was remarkable, as she was forced to wait and wait and . . . wait . . . for the TSA agents to stop ignoring her.

If that had been me, crocodile tears would’ve been involved at a minimum.  Next, some very jerky, agitated arm gesturing.  Maybe then banging on the glass, and finally yelling at them in a tearful rant.  Ending, of course, with the handcuffs and the arresting and the dragging.

So, good job Stacey.  Way to keep your wits about you.

The DailyMail has the scoop, and here is the video.  (The fast-forwarding in it gives it a real “Paranormal Activity” feel.)

Privacy-Extremists Want To Cause Delays Because They Are Big Fat Meanie Heads Who Don’t Like TSA’s Manhandling Of Disabled And Children

The TSA chief says he “understands public concerns about the tough new security checks.”  Yet, he wants us to know that participating in National Opt-Out Day would be a mistake. 

After all, this ploy would “only serve to tie up people who want to go home and see their loved ones.” 

See?  He’s concerned about your loved ones.  The fact that opting-out en masse would make it more difficult for TSA to continue this new “scan or grope” policy . . . I’m sure that has nothing to do with his concerns.

So if you opt-out and cause the delays, you’re the meanie.  Not TSA.

Handy that.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but . . . if Mr. Pistole understood our concerns with naked images of our children, children getting traumatized, urine spilling from urostomy bagsscars painfully manhandled, prosthetic breasts exposed, prosthetic limbs removed and mothers separated from their preschoolers, and unreasonable delays . . .

Wouldn’t he, you know, do something about this madness?

I felt resigned before, but this . . . well this enrages me anew.  It’s bad enough that you force this on us, but then you have the nerve to blame us when we protest?


If I were flying on 24 November, I would opt-out.  You should too.  Yeah, we just want to arrive at our destination.  Yeah, we just wanna see our friends and family.

TSA is forcing us into quite the tight little corner.  They are forcing us to choose between air travel and our rights to privacy and defense against assault. 

Some folks will choose to comply in order to travel by air, and some will choose to defend their rights by whatever peaceful means they are allowed.

Neither group is the bad guy.

If you are travelling by air on the 24th, please remember:  TSA has caused the problem.  Not the folks that opt-out.

TSA and Zero Tolerance

Almost everybody has weighed in about the TSA’s new “strip and grope” policy.  Opinions cover the spectrum from support to outrage, humor to disgust.

My own opinion has moved from outrage to . . . resignation.  Yes, that is the best word.  I am resigned.  Why, you ask?

Well I’ll tell ya.  It started with remembering the fact that President Bush started us down this path, with the creation of the Department of Bureaucratic Homeland Security.

(For this and other reasons, I don’t “miss him yet.”  George Bush needs to admit that the Tea Party Movement is a reaction to his and other Republican failings as much as anything else.)

Next, I mentally processed the whole “nakedness” issue.  I thought about the day my first son was born, and how I cast all remnants of shame and modesty aside as I pushed . . . and strained . . . that friggin’ cranium out, to the cheers of nurses and birth coaches encircling the stirrups.  (Hubs was on the boat and missed out, lucky!)

So, no.  I have no shame.  I don’t give a rat’s furry behind about who sees my muffin top or my breasts, when it comes down to it.

This is the point where the kids become the issue.  How can you feel comfortable with body scanners, when you know that images have already been saved and disseminated on the internet?  What will stop pedophiles from either getting a TSA job or paying a handsome price for a TSA employee’s photos?

We can just opt for the pat-down, right?  The older son, yeah, okay.  The younger one?  Uh, no.  I don’t think I can convince him it’s okay to have his “junk touched.”  I know my kid, and that is not gonna end well.

Look.  I’ve been though this already, long before touching was involved.  I have flown with small children countless times, usually as a single parent.  Each flight is different, because of the boys’ different developmental stages, and also because of the varying TSA encounters.

The only time a real problem occurred was when my first son was two years old.  As we approached the gate checkpoint, he decided that the metal-detecting doorway looked spooky.  He did not want to walk through it.  Come hell or high water.  Normally, I would just carry him through.  This time, however, the TSA agent insisted that each individual walk through separately.

Okey-dokey then.  I had already got him out of the stroller, folded the stroller, put it on the conveyor belt, as well as our backpack, our jackets, and our shoes.   The agent tried to coax him through.  Nope.  I tried to put him down and get through the doorway first, knowing he would follow.  Alas, I could not extricate the now wailing child from my leg.  A painful minute or two ensued, during which I tried to reason with this TSA agent.  My son screamed and fought with all his might.  I couldn’t even hear myself think, let alone talk above the screaming.  I felt heat rising in my cheeks as I started to worry about whether we would board our flight.  I could feel the weight of the queue growing behind me.

Mercifully, a supervisor came over and spoke with this agent.  He beckoned me through the metal detector, allowing me to carry my still-screaming (and now red and sweaty) son with me.  Disaster averted.

What a horror show, and for what? 

Well, I’ll tell ya.  For it is the root of our problem, far more than any pedo-fears or privacy concerns.

The real problem is this:  “zero tolerance” policies.

Libertarian and conservative types are particularly repulsed by zero tolerance policies, methinks.  We want to be treated as individuals.  We want to use our own God-given common sense, and we want others to do the same.

Zero-tolerance policies do not allow this.  In fact, such policies are created to stop case-by-case judgments.  The individual TSA agent is technically not allowed to make any tough calls.  He must simply implement policy, regardless of the result

This strikes freedom-loving individualists as stupid and cowardly.  It makes us mad.  Ironically, these policies do not stop agents from using their discretion.  All it does is cover their butts whenever they choose to more strictly enforce the policy than they usually do.

Whether it’s a preschooler getting patted-down, or a student getting suspended for Tylenol, the results of this policy are ludicrous.  Some folks are willing to put up with the ridiculousness, either because they believe the nuisance is worth the extra security, or because they believe political correctness is more important than actual security. 

Me?  I’ve always had a real low tolerance for this sort of bull crap.

But I’m resigned to it.  I have no choice.  It’s one of those, “get over it or die angry” things.  I may have to fly with my kids, whether I want to or not.  I am a Navy wife.  I live far from the family members I love and miss and like to visit.  We move every couple of years, and sometimes continents are involved.


I will say this:  exception-making is a deal-breaker.  I understand that CAIR has requested an exception for Islamic women who wear long, tent-like coverings.  Nevermind the zero tolerance policy.  Nevermind the fact that, regardless of the religious persuasion, large swathes of draping fabric can hide just about anything:

The whole reason we are supposed to be willing to suffer this crap is because everyone is supposed to suffer it, no exceptions.  Isn’t that the point to frisking nuns and preschoolers?  To say, “see, we aren’t discriminating against anyone.  We don’t make exceptions!”

If they make exceptions,  then I will have a problem with resigning to TSA’s zero tolerance policy.  Even if I have to PCS across an ocean.  I’ll let you know if I expect to be the star in my very own “don’t touch our junk” video exclusive . . .

UPDATE:  Thank you, Glenn Reynolds, a.k.a. Bringer of Many Page Views!

UPDATE #2:  Okay I just saw this video over at Right Klik, and it is so not okay with me.  Until things change, I sure hope circumstances do not force me to fly with the kids.  This is just sad, sad, sad.

UPDATE #3:  Things just seem to get worse and worse.  A bladder cancer survivor’s story:

“One agent watched as the other used his flat hand to go slowly down my chest.  I tried to warn him that he would hit the bag and break the seal on my bag, but he ignored me.  Sure enough, the seal was broken and urine started dribbling down my shirt and my leg and into my pants.”

Surely the Powers-That-Be have heard these horror stories and will change the policy.  Surely.

Don’t call me Shirley.