TSA: “I thought maybe you might be representing a terrorist organization”


. . . .said the TSA agent to me yesterday at Tulsa International Airport.

Kaye Beach

Nov. 14, 2010

That’s funny.  Travelers being subjected to the new security procedures at Tulsa International Airport are probably thinking the same thing about her.

This weekend I decided to take my ire and do something productive with it.

So, what am I irked about?

I am very unhappy that my best friend, her 8 year old daughter and my 16 year old girl were caught off guard a few months ago at the Tulsa International Airport where they were ushered through the naked body scanner without the benefit of knowing what was really happening until it was too late to object.

When my daughter told me what had happened it made me feel terrible and maybe not for the reasons you might think.  Honestly, I doubt that the screener was a slobbering pervert who relished the idea of seeing hundreds of ghostly, bald, naked images of strangers all day.  There are likely some like that but I imagine most are not.  No.  Slobbering perverts were not my chief concern.

(Although after reading this I am beginning to wonder)

It seems that rather than dealing squarely with their customers, the airlines prefers that you get your behind through the machine fast and with a minimum of fuss more than anything.   To this end they make sure that travelers have very little information about the body scans and even less time for you to fairly  consider your options.  What made me really sad was that while I raised my daughter to expect others to treat her with respect and to respect others in return, the TSA put her in a situation where gaining her informed consent before subjecting her to a controversial screening procedure was treated as if it were optional.   It is not optional and I think that it is up to us to change this mindset.

The two girls and my friend were unnecessarily disrespected by government policy makers and their drones who are implementing this personally invasive procedure in such an insulting manner.

Is this a fair price to pay for a flight?

These machines are now placed at every security gate in the Tulsa Int. Airport yet there is no indication as to what the innocuous looking machines are or what they do until you are upon them which puts the traveler in the position of having to make a near instantaneous decision about whether or not they want to submit to the virtual strip search.

I have talked to many people about these devices and their experiences with them and a common theme emerges;

Most of them did not know what was really happening at the time and they either figured it out too late or had no idea what other options might be available to them or what their rights were.  Some people have indicated that they didn’t necessarily have an objection to the scan but all expressed that they were angered by the way that the TSA effectively removed their ability to make an informed, rational decision about the procedure.

(After doing some research, my personal opinion is that the scanners are unjustified as a primary screening method.  You can see the notes I have gathered on the subject here if you want to know more about the safety and effectiveness as well as the deceit involved in our government’s choice of technology for airport security.)

I just happened to be near Tulsa over the weekend and decided to take some information to the passengers set to fly out of Tulsa’s airport so that they would know ahead of time what they would be subjected to and have some leisure to consider their options beforehand.

I did expect that airport management would take an interest in my activities and they did but most of them were polite and professional.

I was first approached by a police officer who wanted to know if I worked for the TSA or if I was presenting myself as if I were.  No.  I was not and no I did not.

The officer then tried to explain that I needed permission from the airport to distribute any literature that I needed to go through the marketing department.  He delivered this information halfheartedly and when I politely explained what I was doing and why asking if it wasn’t a first amendment protected activity, he readily conceded that it was.  He also confided “Hey, I’m on your side, I think this is bullcrap” At first he was suggesting that I go outside to pass out the information but then said I could stay advising me to be polite and ask people if they wanted the information before handing it to them.  I had no trouble agreeing to that since that is what I was doing anyways.

I was also approached by an older lady in a TSA uniform which now looks like a police uniform complete with a shiny gold badge.

As an aside; The TSA are not law enforcement.  The badges and new uniforms are part of an effort to elevate the standing of TSA agents in the mind of the public.  Why they didn’t just use the money to provide better training to the agents is a mystery but suffice it to say the police style uniforms and badges are nothing more than the trapping of authority.  ‘Authority theater’ might be a good descriptor to use and this theater probably does impress a portion of the public.   Naturally some of the agents also fall prey to the authority illusion.

Ms. Shiny Gold Badge marched smartly up to me and asked if she could have a couple of my flyers for herself and her co-shiny badgers and muttered something about a “terrorist organization” I didn’t quite catch the rest of it.

“Excuse me”, I said.  “Did you say something about a terrorist organization?” She started to walk away breaking eye contact and then said rudely “I thought maybe you might be representing a terrorist organization.”

I could only laugh a little and shrug that one off because if seemed pretty overblown to suggest that a law abiding person politely offering information in a public area bears any resemblance to any sort of terrorist organization.

In retrospect, it is less funny.  Over the last few years I have personally witnessed more and more instances of entirely peaceful dissent being conflated with terrorism.  As a single instance, her words are laughably ridiculous but taken as part of a noticeable trend, they are ominous.

Soon others showed up to help pass out information and we had a great day.  People were by and large appreciative of the information and our efforts.   A few that I spoke with knew nothing about the body scanners and actually stopped to read the whole back and front flyer and then confer with each other about how they wanted to handle it.  That was the grand prize for me.

Because we were there, some people got to avoid feeling powerless and violated by the “surprise” that the TSA had waiting for them up ahead.

One young lady, a TSA agent too, spoke at length with me giving counterpoints to all of the common objections to the body scanners.   I listened and offered just a couple of facts that I hoped would pique her interest enough to look a little deeper.  On the issue of why passengers were not provided with more information about the devices and their options a little earlier in the process of preparing for the security line, she offered that the trouble was that they had not had enough time or resources to get the proper materials together.  I don’t think she even bought her own excuse.  I mean, here we are looking at three machines that cost over a hundred and fifty thousand dollars each and I am to believe that a few posters or fact sheets for passengers  could not have been taken care of?  The airlines and TSA deserve a full scale revolt based on their arrogance alone!

Aside from Ms. Terrorist Deterrent who stood in one spot and unblinkingly watched myself and my 3 friends the entire time we were there, we had a successful day putting our outrage to good use and giving our rusty First Amendment a little oil.

“It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error”
– United States Supreme Court decision in American Communications Association v. Douds

I hope that you will be encourage to take action on something you care about too!

Here is the Flyer I used

14 responses to “TSA: “I thought maybe you might be representing a terrorist organization”

  1. Would you post a link to the flyers that you passed out here in case others want to do something similar at airports trying to do this sort of thing? I am wanting to write a letter about why I am not traveling this holiday season to some key players in the travel industry. I thought that a list of those places should be published here too if available. I have not found them yet, but my letter is rumbling in my head and I will share it if it lands on paper.

    Thank you for warning a few flyers about radiation, invasion of privacy, data mining, and loss of freedom in our land. Thank you AxXiom and friends for standing up for liberty and informing people what is at the end of that security line these days — radiation or groping and embarrassment just like Nazi Germany — I thought we would not permit that to occur here, but apparently I was wrong sadly!

  2. this (among other things) is exactly why I don’t fly if I can avoid it..

  3. Good idea. I will link some resources here.
    Thanks for everything Sandie!

  4. Good job, post an update when ya have the links.

  5. Thank you for the excellent write up. My personal opinion is that having to submit to having my privacy invaded by a scanner that removes my clothes virtually or being sexually assaulted by anyone whether in the line of duty or not is an outrageous violation of our Constitutional rights.
    I will not fly.
    I know some say it is not a sexual assault, but, by my definition when you are threatened with a $10,000 fine for leaving the area before they have finished “screening” you, that is a threat of force and should be prosecuted as such.
    I cannot understand why anyone would allow this to be done to themselves, nuch less their children. It’s outrageous.

  6. I will never fly again. End of statement.

  7. Flyer linked at the bottom of post.
    Looking for a good letter now

  8. great post thank you!

    Are you going to be participating in the OPT OUT DAY?

    http://wewontfly.com/opt-out-day/

    Americans EVERYWHERE should be upset.

  9. Excellent, just excellent. Thanks for sharing this.

  10. AS I HAVE SEEN THIS INVASION OF PRIVACY INCREASE WITH THE WIRETAPS (WITHOUT PROPER COURT APPROVEL) AND REACTIVE (NOT PRO-ACTIVE) AIRPORT SECURITY, IT REMINDS OF THE SLOW TAKING OVER OF OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. CAN YOU SAY NAZI GERMANY. WITH THIS NEW INVASION OF OUR RIGHTS, I SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. I AM A SENIOR CITIZEN AND I KNEW WHAT WAS HAPPENING WHEN THEY ASKED ME TO RAISE MY ARMS IN THE SCANNER. I IMMEDIATELY ASKED “I CAN REFUSE, CAN’T I?” YES, THE VERY NICE MALE TSA AGENT NOTED. “THEN”, I SAID “I REFUSE.” AT THAT TIME (AUG 2010), I DID NOT REALIZE IT WAS VIRTUAL NUDITY. I WAS CONCERNED MORE ABOUT THE RADIATION AS I HAVE ENOUGH OF THAT IN IMPORTANT HEALTH ISSUES. I DID NOT MIND THE PAT DOWN BY A VERY NICE FEMALE AGENT–THE FEMALE PAT DOWN AGENT ALSO ASKED IF I WANTED PRIVACY BEHIND A SCREEN–“NO-DOES NOT BOTHER ME.” HERE’S MY QUESTION TO ALL PEOPLE WHO ARE ALLOWING THIS WITHOUT EVEN THINKING??? DO YOU REALIZE YOU HAVE MORE PRIVACY IN YOUR DOCTOR’S OFFICE, LEAVING WITH DIGNITY, CHECKED OUT BY PROFESSIONALS–HOW MANY PRIVACY FORMSE YOU READ AND SIGNED MAKING SURE YOUR PRIVACY IS SECURE–MANY, RIGHT??YES, WE NEED SECURITY BUT IS THIS NOT JUST A BIT OVER THE TOP. WHEN WILL IT BE COMMON PLACE TO HAVE ZERO PRIVACY OR RIGHTS?? THERE ARE MANY OTHER LESS INVASIVE WAYS TO MAKE US SECURE WHEN FLYING–I.E. TRAINED DOGS. THEY CAN SMELL OUT ANY EXPLOSIVES AND THEY DON’T OGLE OR FEEL YOU UP-MAYBE JUST SOME GOOD SNIFFING. I WILL CONTINUE FLY (IT IS A NECESSARY EVIL), BUT AS YOU MAKE A DECISION ON FLYING, USING THE SCANNER, OR A PAT DOWN, CHECK OUT WHO IS WATCHING YOU IN THE SURVEILENCE CUBICLE . (WOMEN–IT IS USUALLY MEN). HOW DO YOU FEEL?? LlNDA

  11. You are welcome! I will be participating in the OPT OUT DAY on Nov 24th

  12. Linda,
    Thank you for your very sensible words.
    I am like you and prefer the pat down to a nudie scan. At least that is a human interaction. When I did my show on this issue back in August, I was disturbed by the talk about to moving to “enhanced pat downs” as it seemed entirely calculated to force us to choose the scanner. That steams me.

  13. I filed today what I believe is the first lawsuit filed by an individual over the new TSA screening procedures: http://tsaoutofourpants.wordpress.com/

  14. Pingback: Naked Body Scanners-TSA Thinks We Should Be Seen But NOT heard! | AxXiom for Liberty

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