The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States stunned the American people. After years of watching terrorist attacks in other countries, our feeling of being safe and secure here in America was shattered like never before on that day.
One of the responses to the 9-11 attacks was the passage of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. The act was quickly passed by Congress and signed into law by then President George W. Bush. The act created the Transportation Security Administration, more commonly known as just TSA.
The new agency was tasked to make airline travel safer and thus we ended up with the scanners and screenings that can delay an airline passenger for over an hour as they anxiously wait to make it to their departure gate.
If you look at a number of reports, you will quickly ask yourself what good is TSA, other than causing massive delays and violating people’s privacy and body. Here are just a few examples of why so many people hate and distrust TSA:
In 2012, Brennan Dunn and his wife were flying home from Florida. TSA agents did more than just pat down his wife, they groped private parts of her body. Just five years earlier, she had been violently raped by three men and after being groped by TSA agents, she ended up in psychiatric care because it brought back her trauma from the rape.
In 2012, Michelle Dunaj was dying of leukemia. She was taking a regimen of drugs and anti-rejection medications. Doctors had recently inserted tubes directly into her body to better deliver the anti-rejection drugs. Living in the Detroit area, she carefully planned an ‘end of life’ trip to Hawaii. Her flight, aboard Alaska Air had a stopover in Seattle. She called Alaska Air to find out how to deal with her many prescription drugs and IV bags. She meticulously followed all of their instructions to the letter, along with requesting a wheelchair be made available to her.
When she arrived at the airport, TSA turned her ‘end of life’ trip into a humiliating nightmare. Due to the tubes leading into her body, TSA agents insisted on searching under her shirt. Michelle requested that this be done in a privacy room, but the agents denied her request. They insisted that she lift her shirt in front of other passengers. She still had bandages over the site of her recent surgery and the TSA agents insisted in lifting up the bandages and looking underneath at her wounds.
In 2012, the 17-year-old grandniece of US Rep. Ralph Hall was traveling with a group of students from Southwest Christian School in Texas to Australia. While undergoing a pat down by a TSA agent the straps of the girl’s dress are pulled from her shoulders exposing her breasts. Rep. Hall, a Democrat turned Republican, was outraged by the event and demanded a formal investigation and that the TSA agent be fired. TSA claimed they investigated the incident, watched video of what happened and determined that it was an accident caused not by their agent but by the girl’s dress.
In 2012, 12-year-old Shelbi Walser was flying from Dallas to Tampa with her mother. Walser has brittle bone disease and was confined to a wheelchair. TSA agents claimed that the wheelchair bound girl tested positive for explosive residue and took the girl aside. For an hour they examined the girl and even brought in a bomb expert. TSA agents refused to allow the girl’s mom to be with her daughter. At the time, many hand lotions and fertilizers caused positive tests for explosives and Walser had access to both.
In 2013, Corporal Nathan Kemnitz, a severely wounded war veteran went through TSA security at the airport in Sacramento. Kemnitz was the victim of an IED in Iraq and spent 2 ½ years in Bethesda Hospital where he underwent more than 20 surgeries. He was left blind in one eye and without the use of his left arm from the shoulder to his hand. He was awarded the Purple Heart and was named Veteran of the Year. He was on his way to the ceremony and was wearing his dress uniform with all his medals and ribbons. When he went through the full body scanner, TSA agents acted like he was a terrorist. To begin with, they were not pleased that he could not raise his left arm when going through the scanner. Then TSA agents made him take off his uniform and proceeded to pat his down, including under his waistband and then they swabbed him down, including his shoes, looking for explosives.
In 2013, Mark Hyman of Behind the Headlines used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain over 200 pages of complaints from passengers who felt violated, groped and molested at the hands of TSA agents. One complaint was from a woman who had a metal implant in hip and who has to fly frequently on her job. Part of her complaint read:
- Is a TSA agent allowed to spread my labia in her inspection IF AND ONLY IF the ONLY reason I am subjected to such a molestation in the first place is because I have had metal implants put into my hips?
- Why, when an x-ray screening machine is available, must I be subjected to the molestation? Why can’t the TSA agent be required to use the machine if it is present?
- Why is a TSA agent allowed to put so much pressure on my breasts that she leaves bruises? Is this standard procedure?
- When I ask the TSA agent to touch her own body where she intends to touch mine – so I can get a true and honest understanding of her techniques – why is she allowed to refuse providing such explicit information? It would go a long way toward relieving my anxiety and fear about being man-handled (no matter that she is the same gender, it feels as if a MAN were molesting me!)
These are just a few of the hundreds of similar complaints that have been filed against TSA. Many other reports include valuables being stolen by TSA agents going through luggage.
So, what happens when an honest TSA employee sees some of these wrong things happen and decide it’s their responsibility to report it? If you recall, there is a federal law that protects whistleblowers, but evidently, those in management at TSA are unfamiliar with that law.
Judicial Watch reported:
“Persistent misconduct by managers at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) often goes unpunished and whistleblowers who report it as well as airport safety risks are penalized by senior officials, a bipartisan congressional investigation has concluded. The multi-billion-dollar government agency created after 9/11 to secure the nation’s transportation system operates under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and has around 65,000 employees. For nearly a decade Judicial Watch has reported extensively—and uncovered records—about its serious transgressions and failure to adequately fulfill its mission. The TSA is charged with securing transportation by adequately screening luggage, passengers and properly vetting foreign flight students. Instead, the agency is best known for its shameful security lapses and efforts to cover them up. In this case, DHS obstructed the federal probe by withholding documents and information from Congress.”
“For the last three years a probe led by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has primarily focused on retaliation against TSA whistleblowers who report malfeasance within the ranks or security lapses. Among the preferred methods of punishment are cumbersome reassignments up to thousands of miles from home. Earlier this year three TSA supervisors punished with relocation after exposing airport safety risks received compensatory damages and two were allowed to return to their original location. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the agency charged with protecting federal employees from retribution for whistleblowing, represented the supervisors who worked as deputy federal security directors in Hawaii before getting shipped off to California and Washington State. The TSA supervisors had reported mismanagement and distressingly lax airport security protocols.”
If TSA can’t do their job right, then what good are they?
A couple of years ago, when I reported some of these incidents, I was asked what my solution to the problem would be. My response is that since TSA agents are dealing with people and their privacy, that strict guidelines need to be established and since they are part of the federal government, a law needs to be passed that makes violation of those guidelines a criminal offense with mandatory jail time. It would not be based on just hearsay, but if evidence such as cell phone photos and video or airport security video supports allegations of violations, like those listed above, the TSA agent should be arrested, charged with committing a crime of violation of person and privacy and sentenced accordingly. If caught stealing, they are also arrested and charged with theft and sentenced accordingly.
If Congress and the Department of Homeland Security are unwilling to take measures to protect the American people, then the corrupt TSA should be disbanded.
The American people are sick and tired of government corruption and the American people need to start making demands that the TSA is cleaned up or eliminated.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.