It Doesn’t Matter That The People Violating Me Are Nice

Dave Killion — December 18, 2012

Samizdata regularly posts a Quote of the Day, and Johnathan Pearce recently quoted a post made at Econlog by David Henderson. In said post, Henderson recounts a not-so-unpleasant interaction with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Pearce then shares his own less-than-traumatic interaction with the same agency

“When I recently flew into San Francisco airport, the queues were long but – and this might just be my being lucky – the guy who checked my passport and details was friendly, helpful and efficient. (He was ex-Air Force and did his military service near where I was brought up, a fact that he told me with great delight). Perhaps someone has told the TSA to improve.”

Group hug.

I hardly ever fly, but I do so enough to know I hate it. Still, despite the numerous horror stories I’ve encountered from reliable sources, my experiences with the TSA have been in keeping with both Henderson and Pearce. On my last trip, I was returning home via the Pittsburgh Airport. As I was passing through security, an agent waved me towards a scanner. Having time to spare, I indicated I would not pass through the device, and the agent called out “Opt out.” He instructed me (civilly) to wait a moment until another agent came to escort me to the pat-down area. The agent who came to escort me chatted with me amiably, and as he pulled on his gloves I advised him (matter-of-factly) that I didn’t want any stranger touching me any more than was absolutely necessary, and that I would be stripping down to my briefs before allowing the pat-down. He told me that I wouldn’t be, but I assured him that I most certainly would be, AND that he had no legal authority to prevent me from doing so, AND that I had no objections to undressing in front of everyone if they didn’t have a private area. The agent was a little taken aback, but not angry. He called for his supervisor, who spoke with his supervisor, who spoke with the airport manager, who said it was just the same thing as if I came through security wearing a Speedo. So we all went off into a private area where the first supervisor went to great pains to explain the procedure to me, both repeatedly and in detail. My clothes were taken away to be scanned (can they only pat them down when they’re on your body?), and my crotch and buttocks got a light pass with the back of gloved hands. No one asked me why I was doing this, or expressed any anger or resentment. They wished me a good trip when all was finished, and the whole process seemed more stressful to them than to me.

None of this is to excuse the TSA or its practices. In order to return to my family, I had to submit to being either fondled or irradiated. Even taking the steps I did, I still had to suffer the indignity of having my genitals touched by a stranger. This is entirely unsatisfactory, and I’m sorry to find from the reaction of the TSA agents that very few people are putting up even the minimum level of fuss that I did. Like Henderson and Pearce, I find the TSA agents to be, at least on a personal level, pleasant people. All the same, the next time I fly, I plan on wearing a T-shirt and sweatpants over some Speedos, and there’s not going to be so much discussion before I drop my drawers.


Antony says

Adam Kokesh did something similar, check it out:

— December 21, 2012

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