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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Report: TSA Agents out of control

The last time that I flew anywhere was this past December, when I went to the Butt-Numb-A-Thon film festival in Texas. I took Southwest Airlines - a carrier with superb service, I might add - out of Raleigh-Durham International Airport. And one of the few unpleasant memories that I have from the trip was watching the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) goons at RDU doing things like throwing bottles of baby formula and shampoo out, telling travelers that it was "regulation". And not one traveler protested, because everyone knew that the TSA goons could have them arrested or worse for "talking back" or some other bullcrap. I also saw things like how the TSA scans for "shoe bombs": they actually made one girl take her flip-flips off to have them x-rayed, and made another remove her ballet flats.

It's stuff like this that makes me chalk up TSA as one of George W. Bush's more spectacular failures. It's an agency that epitomizes government out of control and drunk on its own power. TSA's real mission is not to deter "the terrorists" so much as it is to bully and cower innocent Americans into accepting the authority of the state without question. I won't ever fly again if I can help it. And hey, as the trip I just came back from proves, you see much more interesting country and meet all kinds of neat people when you come across it all up close instead of flying above it.

Anyway, CBS 2 in Chicago has published a report about how TSA agents are using their power in some pretty horrific ways. Among the incidents that are described as "abusive and even x-rated" are: humiliating a 71-year old man in a wheelchair, forcing one girl to remove her nipple rings with pliers, and throwing a woman onto the floor for arguing with a TSA agent.

If we can ever get over the collective idea that we are a supposed to be a nation of wimps, and finally recover the backbone that our forefathers had, I hope and pray that the whole sorry lot of the Transportation Security Administration - from its highest officers down to its lowliest thugs who would otherwise not be employable anywhere else - are the first to be thrown against the wall. And no blanks, either.


qemuel said...

Preach on, brother.

Anonymous said...

Do you really think people in the government sit around in some meeting and conspire to "bully and cower innocent Americans into accepting the authority of the state without question"? Real life is not a sci-fi movie or a video game with omnipotent villains . There are just ordinary people who sometimes do a good job and sometimes do a very bad job. Sure, TSA screws up a lot, but it's mainly because of bureaucracy and unskilled labor. Lots of room for improvement and maybe even some bad laws to be changed, but it's not a plot. I don't think I would base my opinion on one flight a year and an internet news search ... check with people who travel a lot and see if they attach constitutional significance to TSA. Your "world view" continues to be somewhat immature. Maybe you should stick to reviewing movies and stirring up the local bull****.

qemuel said...

The people in power are neither bullies, villains, nor plotting. They are merely opportunistic, just as people all throughout history have always been. The only power they wield is what we allow them, and if we do not call out abuses of this power, we are effectively giving them more.

Anonymous said...

I didn't say everything TSA does is right or even a good idea. I just said it isn't a sinister plot. It's mostly incompetence ... much like your post.

Anonymous said...

qumuel ... sorry, I wasn't adressing you, just bad post timing. I agree with your assessment.

Chris Knight said...

Anonymous, TSA is something that would happen in *any* democracy, given enough time and not nearly enough vigilance on the part of the people. It's corruption of power, from the highest level on down. It doesn't *need* to be a "conspiracy". It's just something endemic to human nature with too much power and too little conscience holding it back.

And it's only going to get worse, no matter who is going to be elected this fall.

Something I've been wondering about for the past few days: I just came back from several days in Canada, and I got to talk with a lot of people there and even interviewed many with my video camera. Theirs is a country that has EVERYTHING that the United States has, so far as prosperity and whatever else goes. In fact, I think that right now there may be even MORE promise so far as economy and culture goes in Canada than we have ourselves at the moment. It's not a perfect country - I saw plenty enough things wrong with their socialized medicine, and I've a problem with no personal handgun ownership there - but otherwise, it's a great place with lots of wonderful people.

How come we've never heard of Canada being hit by "the terrorists" like on 9/11?

Why is it only the United States that seems to attract this kind of hatred?

Could it be that maybe it's only because we are still too stupid than to know NOT to put our noses in business that doesn't concern us?

Anonymous said...

Chris, You seem like a guy with good intentions .... you just get overly dramatic sometimes. Check your history. There have been many times in our country's short existence when government has been much more intrusive than it is now. However, I agree, that doesn't mean vigilance should be waived. I understand your concern. Frequent travelers just take TSA screening in stride ... the cost of travel these days. There's more important government foibles to be concerned with.

Being the strongest capitalist country makes you the whipping boy for every poverty stricken culture. We're a natural enemy. Canada gets a pass in that department. However, our recent cowboy administration certainly exacerbates the situation.

Anonymous said...

I fly a great deal more then once a year and I feel the TSA in many places are out of control. My worst experience this year was DFW check point near C25. That team was a bunch of want to be cowboys with a Barney Fife mentality. They were unprofessional and rude. They were condicending and acted like they were God. If you haven't noticed they were recently issued uniforms and badges that make them look more like cops. Bad move. Please don't ever issue them tasers or guns. There will be more people killed in the security lines then the south side of CHICAGO.

NADINE said...

I also left this comment on the TSA blog on April 18, 2009:

Everybody is missing the point on this one. Whenever a governmental entity searches or seizes a person’s personal property or person they better have probable cause or else it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Do we give up our constitutional right when we fly?

I can see where TSA might opt to interrogate an individual carrying a large sum of money if they have a criminal history (there is probable cause that the money could be related to unlawful activity), but a good US citizen? Would TSA have done that if President Obama boarded with $10,000 cash in his pocket? I don’t think so.

TSA needs to know what their boundaries are and their employees need to be smart enough to remember them.

Take a look at my other post today which tells about a horrific experience I had on April 16th at the Burbank airport.

NADINE said...

Here is my second post for today. Everyone seems to want to hear the details, so here it is:

I am a 57-year old grandmother of 5, a member and temple recommend holder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the CFO for The Media Cafe, and the primary care-giver for my 93-year old mother, Eleanor, who was traveling with me and a friend (Mele) to Nashville for the wedding of my nephew and my mom’s grandson.

We reached the first security check point where they looked at our ID and boarding passes.
We then began going through the final security check, which was located at the gate doors leading out to the plane.

One of my pieces of carry-on baggage was a small ice chest with special food and drink for my mother. This item was declared and was selected for additional screening. All what the agent did was say “You can’t take this, you can’t take this…”. The contents of the ice chest included milk to make her specially formulated protein drink, grapes, sliced cheese, salami, cottage cheese and applesauce). I asked for her supervisor, who also refused to allow me to take the food on board the plane.

The two TSA officials then tossed everything back into the ice chest and started to walk away with it. I walked up to them and stated that if they were not going to allow me to take the ice chest on board that they needed to at least put it in with the cargo so that I would have access to it when we arrived in Dallas. The supervisor looked at me with scorn and said that would not be possible and that they were going to confiscate the entire ice chest.

Since we were going to be on this trip for 5 days I needed to have the ice chest so that I could keep it stocked with food for my mom. I reached for the handle of the ice chest, which was now in the hands of the younger agent. A “tug of war” over the ice chest proceeded to happen; at one point I noticed the agent look up to her supervisor and give her a smirk like this was really funny! I finally gave a very hard pull to the ice chest, got it away from the agent, walked over to the trash can, dumped all of the contents into the trash and made a very loud and public statement, “I want all of the people here to know that if anything happens to my mother because you did not allow me to take this on board I will hold you 100% responsible.”

Before I know it I am being cuffed and escorted to the airport police car. Mind you I still have not even been told why they are doing this. After about 15 minutes I am finally told that one of the agents was placing a citizen’s arrest on me for battery, which was an absolute lie (and it was not the agent I was having the tug of war with). I have video footage that shows that the person making the arrest is standing to the side and simply watching the entire tug of war episode. In fact the footage also shows the arresting agent laughing at the situation numerous times. In fact, the TSA officer that had me arrested actually assaulted me! I have video footage of the incident and it will be posted on U-Tube in a few days. Take a look at it and then tell me what you think.

I also have an e-mail from the TSA Contact Center that states: “Passengers are also allowed to bring special food items necessary for medical conditions. However, if these items exceed 3 ounces or are not contained in a one-quart,zip-top plastic bag, again, the passenger must declare the items to one of our TSO’s at the checkpoint for further inspection. Guidelines have been provided to all airports that should allow the TSO to clear these items.” If the TSA agents had followed TSA protocol none of this would have even happened.