Question the TSA

Since when is accusing everyone of terrorism acceptable, much less equal to accusing no one?

“It is acceptable and encouraged that a TSA government official can do something to an American citizen that US military personnel cannot do to a member of the Taliban.” - Woman who accuses TSA

I’m a 50-something, overweight Grandma who, last December, was subjected to a search at Chicago’s O'Hare airport after I went through the metal detector without setting it off. Apparently on the whim of a single Transportation Safety Agency agent who shouted, “Female, no alarm search!” I was pulled aside, wanded and patted down.

Hold on a minute! What are they accusing me of doing? Who is accusing me? And why on Earth would I want to do anything that could remotely be considered a security risk?

(I had flown to Chicago to meet my 9 year old granddaughter who was returning from a visit with her other grandmother, walked over to the Hilton for lunch, and was re-entering security with an hour before her flight was due. I couldn’t risk missing her arrival, so I didn’t feel that I had any choice other than to be compliant.)

Astoundingly, I now find myself in agreement with the ACLU,  the "Huffington Post", and Reason Magazine.

Assuming that the machines and pat-ers can reliably distinguish between the folds of my extra body weight or the wires, spandex and padding of my undergarments and the components of a bomb – do the Powers That Be really expect to discover those components wrapped around (the ample middle of) Mrs. Middle America? What are the odds of that?

The TSA recently began requiring travelers to pass through either millimeter radio wave or “back scatter x-ray”; scanners that produce images similar to naked photos or be subjected to very intimate physical searches, including being touched on and between our breasts and at our genitalia. The TSA says the images will not be stored although they require the machines to be able to do so and some images are already turning up on the Internet. We’re also told that the screeners are professionals, although even grandmas like me have experienced inappropriate TSA agents long before these open-hand searches. (My light shirt, worn over a black tank top, was deemed a “jacket” that had to be removed. The man then waved me to a stop at the metal detector, leered, and said, “Let’s just take a look at that.” I did object this time.)

And, are we really supposed to believe the claims that the x-ray radiation exposure is safe in spite of questions about the amount absorbed by the skin and superficial tissues? I’m from Tyler, Texas where two men were, killed by radiation therapy machine software glitches in 1986. As a physician, I think of some very embarrassing medical issues. From what I’ve read about the response to piercings, urostomy bags, mastectomy prostheses, and even false legs, I wonder what the TSA’s response be to the discovery of presence of a heavy duty feminine napkin or an adult diaper? The scanners will probably pick up breast implants and penile implants. They will not discover tampons or other intra-vaginal or intra-rectal foreign bodies -- yet.

I don’t support a revolt or a slow down at the airport. Neither do I believe we should boycott air travel, one of the more obvious markers of our modern liberty. However, you might memorize some questions to politely ask your legislators – or the next TSA agents you meet:

1. What do you expect to find under my clothes?

2. If you don’t expect to find anything, why are you searching me?

3. What motive would make me a security risk?

4. What evidence exists to suggest that searching the elderly, women and children is an efficient safety procedure?


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