I can’t say I expected much of a response when I sent my complaint e-mail to TSA after the disturbing experience of having my genitals groped the other night on my way home from a holiday weekend. Less than 12 hours after sending my email detailing my experience and asking whether this was in line with policy, I received a phone call from the TSA Supervisor of the airport at which the incident occurred. I didn’t record the conversation but I’ll recap it here to the best of my ability. Needless to say, my jaw hit the floor several times.
WARNING: Unlike TSA I do use graphic detail to describe the pat down, so if you’re uncomfortable reading about the male anatomy, I suggest you skip this blog and just take my word that TSA policy advocates sexual assault.
The Supervisor himself was polite and courteous and did somewhat genuinely seem to want to hear my concerns. Needless to say it
only took a sentence or two to get the response that I generally expected I would receive: “After reviewing the incident with the Supervisor on duty, as far as I can tell this pat down was conducted properly and is in line with TSA policy” I expected to hear this, but I pressed him further to explain exactly what the policy stated an agent should do. The Supervisor then described how agents were to run their hands up the thigh until they met “resistance” .
Wanting to be clear on what is meant by “resistance”, I pressed for more specifics. “To be clear, when you are saying the word ‘resistance’, you are referring to my testicles, is that correct?”
“Yes, that is correct”, the Supervisor confirmed.
“And is it also policy for the agent performing the pat down to go inside my pants and touch my penis?”
“Yes, that is the policy”, the Supervisor confirmed. “We have to make sure that’s really what you’re packing down there”.
“So just to confirm, you are telling me that it is TSA policy to grope male genitalia during a TSA pat down?”, I explicitly asked in order to be sure he was clear about what he was claiming to be TSA policy.
“Yes, that is the policy”.
At this point I am in shock. While I expected to hear repeated answers about “policy”, I did not expect the Supervisor to openly confirm that said policy is to grope male genitals. This man did appear to be sympathetic to an extent, but also seemed to buy completely into the idea that this is “all for my safety”. He began to tell me about the “Underwear Bomber” (after mistakenly calling him the “Unabomber” before he corrected himself) and how who knows what we could be “packing down there”. I proceeded to
inform him that the government had allowed the “Underwear Bomber” onto the plane after providing a defective “bomb” and that this has come out in court. He countered saying “well not our government…” to which I replied “yes ,our government. I suggest you do some research on this incident, because if this is the entire justification for having my genitals groped by your agents, we have a serious problem”.
I then asked the Supervisor if underwear bombs were the entire reason for this process, and they could only be stopped by either a full body scan or groping of the genitals, then why exactly were some people allowed to simply walk through metal detectors? I pointed out to him that the metal detector line was opened for several people, including a mother accompanying her child. He replied that they didn’t send children into body scan machines alone (I wonder why if they are so safe?) and to ask a mother holding a child to go through a body scan would be “unreasonable”. A-HA! I’ve finally found something that Mr. Supervisor finds “unreasonable”! So…we need body scanners and gropings so people don’t wear underwear bombs, but we aren’t worried about them if they have kids. Now in the world the TSA has painted for me where terrorists are supposedly hiding around every corner waiting to kill us all, why wouldn’t a terrorist that intends to blow himself up on a plane simply take a child to the airport, go through a metal detector with his underwear bomb, and carry on with his masterful terrorist plan? Or easier yet, simply go to a smaller airport that doesn’t use body scanners and go through the metal detector? Once in the secure area, he could then get access to any airport as long as he had a ticket and proceed with said evil plan. Mr. Supervisor could only reply that they need to keep their methods “unpredictable” and that screenings vary from airport to airport, and terminal to terminal. Ok.
Lastly, I presented the Supervisor with the this scenario. If I was walking along the street far away from the airport and a man
came up to me, reached up my pants and firmly pressed on each one of my testicles individually, and then proceeded to stick his hand down my pants and touch my “junk”, would that not be considered sexual assault? The Supervisor agreed that it would be. I then asked him if TSA agents are beholden to the same laws as everyone else. His response? “Of course they are!” Seeing that I clearly had to put this all together for him, I then asked “since this would be considered sexual assault anywhere else and you agree that TSA agents are beholden to the same laws as everyone, why should I not consider the actions of the TSA agent in touching my genitals to be a sexual assault?”
He couldn’t really answer that one, and instead reverted back to the classic line about how “that is our policy”.
Well, he said it not me. As far as I can tell, this TSA Supervisor has confirmed to me that sexual assault during pat downs is the policy of the TSA.
I thanked the man for his time and for clarifying TSA policies for me. Part of me felt bad for Mr. TSA Supervisor. He seemed to genuinely want to ease my concerns and seemed to believe that the TSA policies in place are for my own protection. Despite all of this, his own contradictions of logic throughout the conversation confirmed that the issues with the way TSA handles “security” are systemic, and not simply the case of a few bad seeds here and there going too far.
I do have plans to fly again in a month for a two week vacation, and I’ll be damned if I let TSA take away my much-needed holiday. In the meantime, I’ve forwarded my story including the response of the TSA to the ACLU, the office of my Congresswoman, and the office of Senator Rand Paul, a vocal opponent of the TSA.
I’m not sure how I’ll handle my next trip through TSA yet, but I’m open to suggestions.
Also, I will make an appearance on The New American Media’s “Agree to Disagree” radio program this Friday, streaming live at 7:30 EST/4:30 PST to discuss the incident with TSA and the follow-up conversation with the Supervisor. Give it a listen!