MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

The TSA’s Secret Watchlist for Travelers Who Don’t Kowtow – The Future of Freedom Foundation

Posted by M. C. on February 15, 2019

Any woman who ever pushed a screener’s hands away from squeezing her breasts could also be guilty

Or perhaps the agency simply presumes that “it’s not an assault when federal agents do it.”

https://www.fff.org/explore-freedom/article/the-tsas-secret-watchlist-for-travelers-who-dont-kowtow/

by 

“I need a witness!” exclaimed the worried Transportation Security Administration screener at Reagan Washington National Airport a few months ago. Because I had forgotten to remove my belt before going through a TSA scanner, he explained that I must undergo an “enhanced patdown.” I told him that if he jammed my groin, I’d file a formal complaint against him. So he summoned his supervisor to keep an eye on the proceedings. After his white-suited boss arrived on the scene, I announced that I too, needed a witness. The boss bureaucrat assured me there was a video camera recording the scene. “But does it have audio?” I demanded to know. “That’s confidential security information,” he replied. “Ha! More like security theater,” I retorted.

I thought of this exchange when the New York Times revealed that the TSA has created a new secret watchlist for troublesome passengers. The TSA justifies the new list because TSA screeners were said to have been assaulted 34 times last year. “We were seeing an alarming increase in the number of assaults against our officers,” fretted Darby LaJoye, one of the TSA’s top security officials. TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein declared, “TSA is committed to its people and wants to ensure there are safeguards in place to protect TSA officers and others from any individual who has previously exhibited disruptive or assaultive behavior at a screening checkpoint and is scheduled to fly.”

However, the TSA’s press office refused to release a list or any details of those assaults, including how many times accused assailants were arrested. The TSA also refused to answer my question: “How does TSA define an ‘assault’ on a TSA screener?” I was told I would need to file a Freedom of Information Act request for that information, but the TSA scorns federal law and often delays responses for months or years. Such tactics help explain why some people believe that “TSA” stands for “tactics to suppress accountability.”

Naturally, the TSA’s new official definition of “troublemaker” for this list goes far beyond people who slug screeners. Have you ever “loitered” near a checkpoint? Bingo. Any woman who ever pushed a screener’s hands away from squeezing her breasts could also be guilty — even though the TSA never formally promulgated its territorial claim to that part of the female anatomy…

What happens to travelers put on the watchlist? It’s a secret — so far. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) declared, “What I don’t want … is an excuse for unfair, secret profiling that doesn’t even offer a chance for people to contest their name appearing on such a list.” The TSA denies that this is a “No Fly” list. However, the TSA has been caught in so many falsehoods over the years that people are naturally wary…

Despite its debacles, the TSA recently became even more intrusive and punitive in its patdowns:

  • Jenna McFarlane, a 56-year old teacher and graphic designer, was traveling out of Charlotte, N.C., when a TSA agent repeatedly told her “to spread my legs wider” and proceeded to “touch my vagina four times with the side of her hand,” as she complained to the TSA afterwards. She was selected for a vigorous patdown after an unreliable TSA test gave a false explosive alert for her carry-on baggage.
  • Hollywood reporter and author Sharon Waxman complained about an aggressive female TSA agent who “placed both hands around my legs and slowly — very slowly — rubbed up and down. The touching went all the way up to my groin. My private parts were touched by the edge of her hand, twice.” The TSA agent rested her hands on Waxman’s chest much longer than necessary to check for weapons. Waxman groused, “The TSA screening felt like nothing less than physical assault. If anyone other than a government officer had done anything of the kind, I would have reported it as a crime.”
  • David Stavropolous complained that a TSA agent doing a search at Chicago O’Hare airport jammed his hand into Stavropolous’s groin so hard that it caused bleeding and will require surgery to correct, according to Chicago’s NBC station and his lawsuit against the TSA.

Such abuses spurred Flyersrights .org, the nation’s largest airline-passenger organization, to complain to the TSA last year about “highly invasive patdowns, especially on children, disabled, elderly, transgender, and sexual assault victims, thereby undermining public confidence and instilling fear and loathing by many passengers for the TSA, and used by no other country.”

Americans have filed thousands of complaints that TSA screeners had used excessive force or touched them inappropriately. How many TSA screeners have been fired as a result? Maybe none. What is the ratio of alleged assaults on TSA agents to the actual number of assaults on passengers (based on prevailing local definitions) by TSA agents? Alas, such trivia could never hold a federal bureaucracy’s attention. Or perhaps the agency simply presumes that “it’s not an assault when federal agents do it.”…

Be seeing you

TSA

 

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