I’m sorry if I sound a bit picky in this article. But it seems that whenever our government comes up with new regulations for the TSA to keep air travel safe, the TSA seems to come up with new ways to go where no TSA
agent ought to go. For instance, I remember the months after 911, female passengers, including myself, found ourselves availing the Male TSA agents of a free feel-up disguised as a security pat-down.
Yes, we were supposed to be inspected by female agents. But when the male agent decided to do it instead, we submitted or lost our flight. Complaints to the TSA were disregarded.
The newest difficulties with the TSA started last year with the advent of the use of the new full-body scanners and new regulations for further enhanced security inspections. Those who refuse to go through the scanner are required to go through the metal detectors and submit to a pat down, the same with those who are given a random additional screening.
There is also the added caveat that if the body scanner pops up with something that’s vague or seems suspicious, such as jewelry or something indefinable in your pocket, there will be an additional search of your person. That doesn’t sound like anything to be concerned about, except where TSA has chosen to take it.
They’ve been allowed new leeway with the pat-down. They’re allowed to do a full body contact, with the palm, in all areas including the private parts. This is being implemented in Las Vegas and Boston before being taken
Also, in some airports the TSA has become more intrusive about what personal belongings they have the right or obligation to invade and what they can do with that information.
Last year, Ron Paul’s campaign treasurer, Steven Bierfeldt was going through the Saint Louis International Airport carrying around $4700 in campaign funds. He was detained and interrogated by both the TSA and the local police who threatened to turn him over to the FBI or the DEA. They never read him his rights and demanded to know where he had gotten the money, why he was carrying it and where he was going with it.
He succeeded in recording all of this on his camera phone which resulted in a new law which clearly states that the TSA only has the right to check for things that they have been trained for, which would be checking for anything that would endanger the passengers or the plane.
That would be the end of that particular problem, until this year, in August when a woman was going through the Philadelphia Airport with several checks totaling around $8,000 which she and her husband had acquired while on vacation. She was taking them to be deposited in the bank.
She was pulled aside for an extra inspection. She received the pat-down. Then as she went to retrieve her possessions she saw the TSA agents going through her purse, her receipts and her wallet. They claimed that they were looking for razor blades, this, after the purse had gone through a double camera xray. A local TSA agent told me that they now have double camera xray machines to see from the top and the bottom at the same time.
They found the checks and interrogated her, calling in the local police. They accused her of embezzlement and took the checks telling her that they weren’t hers.
They called her husband to inform him that she was planning to divorce him and had cleared out their bank account. This they presumed since they claimed that the checks were almost sequential. Which I understand they were not. Her husband cleared up their misunderstanding.
She was first called aside for the special inspection because the first officer who helped her was a behavior analyst who thought she was suspicious because she felt uncomfortable with his looking down the front of her top, his unfriendly interrogation and his volunteering to go through her things while she was consolidating her bags. It seems to me that this agent needs to either be retrained in sensitivity training or reassigned.
I have some suggestions for some preventative measures: 1. For the female passenger, test the top that you plan to wear on the plane. Bend over to see if it still covers your front or if it gaps. This will at least remove one source of discomfort. 2. For all passengers, completely empty your pockets of all non-metal items that aren’t going to go through the xray. If you need it for your trip then put it in your carry-on or briefcase to put in your pocket after you go through security. I do the same thing with some of my jewelry. 3. It might be wise, if you are carrying a large sum of money that’s under the amount required for declaration, to declare it anyway so that you are already on the record as having the cash.
Now, I understand the importance of having security at the airport and the inspections that are needed to help keep us safe. I also know that a lot of the TSA agents are truly trying to do a fair job. However, is it asking too much, for the rest of the agents, to remember that the passenger is an equal human being with a right to be dealt with courtesy even if later proven to be guilty instead of being treated like a duck in a shooting gallery?
It’s getting to the point that all of us are going to be deemed as having suspicious behavior because we’re looking over our shoulders more as those who are supposed to be our protectors are becoming our predators.
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