The Woman Who Groped a TSA Screener and The Rising Tide of TSA Resistance
People have hated it from the beginning. The Transportation Security Administration's "advanced imaging technology," rolled out in November 2010, has caused all kinds of drama -- there was the breast cancer survivor who had to take off her prosthesis, the bladder cancer survivor who was left soaked in urine, the Miami International Airport worker who was a guinea pig for a new full-body scanner and beat up a co-worker when his colleagues made fun of his downstairs mix-up.
Americans are not happy, and they are fighting back -- most recently last Thursday, when a 61-year-old Colorado woman, rather than simply submitting to a full-body scan or invasive pat-down, groped a TSA agent.
The woman, Yukari Miyamae, won't be charged with sexual abuse because a judge said her actions weren't "sexually motivated," according to KPNX in Phoenix, but it's certainly not the first time people have acted out against the system, which requires a pat-down by agents for travelers who decline the full-body scan if selected for one.
One of the first and most prominent protests was in San Diego last November, when California Libertarian John Tyner told a screener before a pat-down, "If you touch my junk I'm going to have you arrested." When confronted by a supervisor, Tyner said he didn't understand "how a sexual assault could be made a condition of my flying."
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When the supervisor told him it wasn't "considered a sexual assault," Tyner countered with "it would be if you weren't the government." Tyner ended up leaving rather than fly that day.
In addition, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has brought back a bill that would outlaw the invasive pat-downs in his state, despite the federal government saying they would shut down Texas's airports if it passes.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said of the primary screening method, the full-body scans, that "they in no way resemble electronic strip-searches," but the images generated by the machines make people look pretty damn naked.
It's the same argument that's made every time the government takes a step into privacy in the name of safety -- security costs freedom. Where is the line? Like old Sidney Hook said -- "fear of death has been the greatest ally of tyranny past and present." At what point does the war on terror get too close to home?
The TSA website is lovely -- it has information about "strict privacy safeguards." It has links to a poem about Sept. 11. But it barely sugarcoats the simple facts: If you want to fly in America today, security could be unpleasant. While only about 3 percent of travelers receive pat-downs, according to March figures from the TSA, you can be subjected to a pat-down if you set off a metal detector, or decline to submit to advanced screening technology, or just if they decide it's necessary.
What do you think? Are the screenings and pat-downs a necessary evil in the age of airborne terrorism, or a government intrusion not worth the added safety? Should anyone considering a retaliatory grope of their own just take the train?
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