On Saturday November 13, 2010, John Tyner, a software engineer and blogger from Oceanside, California, was attempting to board a flight leaving the San Diego International Airport. This is according to Wendy Burch, for KTLA.com. Tyner reportedly refused both the full body scanning machine and a hand pat down from a TSA agent, claiming that both were an invasion to his privacy. He was not allowed to fly after his threat to have the TSA agent arrested. He was escorted to a ticket agent and issued a full refund for his nonrefundable ticket. He captured the audio of the confrontation with the TSA agent on his smart phone and became an overnight internet sensation. Since then, Tyner has made several television appearances, pleading his case to the American people.
There are a lot of horror stories about airport pat downs. Jen Phillips of motherjones.com writes about several females who claim they were inappropriately touched, including a woman who alleges that a male TSA agent touched her labia during a thorough pat down. I don’t doubt her story, or that of the other women in the article. (You can find this article at http://motherjones.com.) I do wonder what kind of woman allows a pat down from a male agent. One of the women in the article allowed a male agent to pat her down, and then insisted on a female agent when the male agent attempted to pat down her eight year old daughter. It’s odd that she didn’t insist from the beginning that the female agent perform both of the searches.
Recently, I flew internationally from the United States to Jamaica. The airport that we flew out of did not have the full body scanners, just metal detectors. After walking through the metal detector without setting it off, I was pulled from the line for a random pat down. The TSA agent was female. At this point I would like to add that I would never allow a pat down from a male agent. The female agent explained that I was randomly selected because my T-shirt was baggy. The search was very thorough, and the agent did touch my breasts. She also felt my inner upper thighs. Maybe it was the professional attitude of the agent. Maybe it was the fact that I am a registered nurse and the search was no big deal to me. Either way, at no time did I feel like I was being groped or touched inappropriately in any way.
Imagine what the agents themselves must be feeling. Like I said, I’m a nurse, and have seen my fair share of bodies belonging to the general population. I have taken care of all kinds of people, and I’ve got to say that the vast majority of the bodies that I’ve seen fall into the category of “would not choose to grope.” The TSA agents have been charged with doing a job that helps to keep us safe. I have a hard time believing that they get up in the morning and think, “Great, I get to feel strangers’ bodies all day.” They are probably just as uncomfortable with the process as we are.
The bottom line is that we need policies and procedures in place in our airports to keep us safe when we fly. Those who would harm us are becoming more clever every day. The new scanning machines and the thorough hand searches seem invasive to many people, but they are comforting to me. I feel safer flying, knowing that people who refuse the search procedures are not allowed to fly. And while I certainly can’t speak from personal experience, I’ve got to believe that Mr. Tyner’s junk simply cannot be all that.