Wednesday, February 9, 2011
"The TSA has yet to find a single terrorist, though they have no difficulty detecting menstruating women, or cancer patients with colostomy bags, or prosthetic breasts."
Things have come to a pretty pass if our best hope is a former pro wrestler's lawsuit against the TSA's violations of privacy
Desperation is when once-proud and free Americans like me are reduced to pleading, "Save us, Jesse Ventura, you're our only hope."
It's over three months now since the unelected political appointees heading the TSA made their sexually abusive Hobson's choice mandatory for American airline customers: either step through a scanner whose potentially cancerous radiation lets TSA agents view your nude body, or adopt guilty-criminal, hands-in-the-air poses, while agents grope you head to toe, genitalia included.
Two months since Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano suggested expanding this to all forms of mass transit. Eight weeks since the House of Representatives voted 417 to 3 in favour of House Resolution 28, supporting exactly that TSA expansion. And mere days since Barack Obama joked about the patdowns in his state of the union address. (Easy for him to laugh, as one of the privileged few exempt from the humiliations TSA imposes on his countrymen.)
What about the rest of us Americans? I'm one who insists, along with others, "We won't fly", so long as TSA abuse remains part of the experience. Yet much of the media insists that makes us stubbornly selfish at best, prudishly insane at worst.
Then, there's Jesse Ventura, the former pro wrestler and Reform party governor of Minnesota. He doesn't belong to the "boycott flying" contingent; indeed, he flies several times each week in order to host his TV show, Conspiracy Theory. But Ventura, like millions of Americans, has health problems that force him to rely on medical implants or prosthetics – in his case, a titanium hip replacement that's set off metal detectors ever since he got it in 2008.
Ventura had no objections when the TSA used a handheld wand to clear him through security, but that changed with the "nude-scan or grope-down" policy last autumn. So, on 25 January 2011, he filed a lawsuit against Homeland Security and TSA for violating his fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, claiming the patdowns "exposed him to humiliation and degradation through unwanted touching, gripping and rubbing of the intimate areas of his body."
No comment from the TSA, though, a few days later, Administrator John Pistole made the unrelated announcement he won't allow any more airports to opt out of TSA staffing.
Though they did blink last Thanksgiving eve, when the National Opt-Out Day protest was scheduled; the plan called for fliers to refuse the scanners en masse, so the TSA turned them off at major airports. Then, spokeswoman Ann Davis gloated over her "overall sense that passengers seem to be opting out of Opt Out." The agency has since refused all freedom of information requests demanding to know why those allegedly essential security procedures were ignored on Opt-Out Day.
Meanwhile, we learned that the scanners can't discern between "plastic explosives" and "human flesh". The TSA has yet to find a single terrorist, though they have no difficulty detecting menstruating women, or cancer patients with colostomy bags, or prosthetic breasts.
When gropings make small children scream in terror, TSA director James Marchand advised agents, "If you can come up with some kind of a game to play with a child, it makes it a lot easier" – advice, akin to paedophile "grooming", which has caused alarm among sex abuse experts.
The lawsuits keep coming; the TSA keeps losing, yet the agency presses ever forward rather than backing down. It's too early to predict how Ventura's lawsuit will be decided, although the TSA hasn't been faring well in court lately: last week, Phil Mocek was acquitted of the four charges the TSA brought against him after he (legally) videotaped agents at work and refused to show his ID. TSA's case was so weak, Mocek's defence didn't even need to call witnesses. Two weeks before that, the TSA settled another lawsuit brought by Lynsie Murley, after agents in Texas allegedly pulled down her blouse, exposing her breasts to all, then teased her about it.
American taxpayers – who actually paid for that settlement – weren't told how much it was for. TSA spokesman Luis Casanova also refused to name the agents responsible, but did say they hadn't been fired or disciplined. "When a settlement is reached, there is no disciplinary action," Casanova said. "It's a no-fault kind of settlement."
It always is where the TSA's concerned.