John Tyner may be an unlikely hero of the outraged and put-upon airline passenger. Certainly his admonition to the TSA security official, “Don’t touch my junk,” does not ring in the same way as “I regret I have but one life to give for my country.”
Still, Tyner seems to represent millions of airline passengers who have finally reached the breaking point as security procedures at airports have grown in their intrusiveness and their Orwellian dimensions as each thwarted terrorist attack brings on something new to aggravate passengers.
A terrorist once tried to sneak a bomb on board a plane inside his shoes. So now airline passengers have to take off their shoes to be examined.
A terrorist once tried to sneak aboard a plane the ingredients of a bomb inside containers of shampoo and conditioner. So now airline passengers may not take liquids on board planes in carryon luggage.
A terrorist once tried to sneak a bomb on board a plane in his underwear. So now airline passengers must either submit to being irradiated by body scanners that show them in the altogether, or else be felt up by some TSA official in a way that, in any other circumstance, would send the same official to prison.
When informed of his choices, John Tyner had clearly had enough. According to Sign On San Diego:
“Tyner turned on his cell phone’s video camera and placed it atop the luggage he sent through the x-ray machine.
“He may not be the first traveler tossed from an airport for security reasons but he could well be the first to have the whole experience captured on his cell phone.
“During the next half-hour, his cell phone recorded Tyner refusing to submit to a full body scan, opting for the traditional metal scanner and a basic ‘pat down’ — and then refusing to submit to a ‘groin check’ by a TSA security guard.
“He even told the guard, ‘You touch my junk and I’m going to have you arrested.'”
After a discussion about how being subjected to what Tyner considered to be a sexual assault, even while other passengers, including one who had set off the metal detector, had sailed through, Tyner was escorted out of the security area, his flight plans canceled.
At this point, things got just a little Kafkaesque.
“Tyner went over to the American Airlines counter where an agent, to his amazement, refunded the price of his non-refundable ticket.
“Before he could leave, however, he was again surrounded by TSA employees who told him he couldn’t leave the security area. One, who kept insisting he was trying to help Tyner, told him that if he left he would be subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine.
“Tyner asked if the agents who had escorted him from the security area would also be sued and fined.
“The same man who told Tyner he would be sued and fined if he left, also insisted that he did not tell him he couldn’t leave.
“So Tyner left.”
The TSA is now investigating John Tyner with a view of prosecuting him, suing him, and fining him. One cannot help but think that it is the embarrassment that Tyner has inflicted the TSA with by posting an account and a recording of his experience on his blog more than anything else that is exciting its bureaucratic fury.
Unfortunately, a civil trial, if it comes to that, is not likely to alleviate the embarrassment the TSA is now feeling. This will especially be true if the jury has some frequent fliers among its number.
The question arises, is there a better way to ensure airline security than setting up a system that seems to be an odd mélange of the old Soviet Union and the Keystone Cops? One suspects that there is, but Homeland Security, run currently by Janet Napolitano, known throughout the Internet as “Big Sis,” will have to be dragged kicking and screaming to that realization.
One is tempted to coin the phrase often used by Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds to the effect that, “They told me that if I voted for John McCain, airline passengers would be sexually assault by government officials at airports–and they were right!” However, no one would have ever uttered those words in 2008, because no one would have believed it.
Sources: TSA Body Scanners, Pat Downs Sparking Airliner Passenger Revolt, Mark R. Whittington, Associated Content, November 12th, 2010
TSA to investigate Oceanside man ejected from airport, may prosecute, Robert J. Hawkins, Sign on San Diego, November 15th, 2010