With the US Thanksgiving air travel festival getting ready to start, we thought it would be important to recognize the fun you can actually have going through the security check.
Since mid-September more or less, the TSA in the US has been conducting very intrusive pat-down inspections of passengers who opt-out of the full-body scanner searches. The back-scatter X-Ray scanners are the ones that give some poor TSA mook a look through your clothing to see if you prune or trim your Secret Garden, ostensibly to see if you’re packing another Underwear Bomb.
There are serious concerns that the level of X-Rays you are exposed to is higher than one would consider safe. Radiation poisoning aside, the second issue is what happens with the nude image of your body that the back-scatter machines provide. The TSA says the machine can’t save the images and the image is discarded after you leave the machine. Of course, we believe the TSA, in every way.
Where the fun starts is if you opt-out. The TSA will perform an intrusive, full-body, hand search. So far, it seems that when you opt-out, the TSA officers announce it loudly in the security area and the supervisors run over to make sure you are clearly opting out. They give you a warning that you are going to be hand-searched thoroughly, including your genitals, by a TSA officer.
You are offered a private room to be searched in and you will be searched by an officer of the same gender as you are. Those who have opted-out have described the hand search as being sexually assaulted, felt-up and generally being molested by a government official.
Leaving aside the Air Safety Bullshit Theatre of the TSA (and CATSA here in Canada) as well as various violations of a few parts of the US Constitution with those pesky items regarding safety and security of the person and possessions, there is nothing in the rules that says you have to fly: You can always refuse to travel on the aircraft by refusing to submit to the x-ray and the hand inspection.
Assuming you have to fly to get home and want to fly, your options are limited, at least at first glance. Then we thought about it for a moment.
1: You have the right to not expose yourself to unnecessary radiation. Tell the inspector you have not seen independent third-party, verifiable inspection of the dosage of the X-Ray machine operation for today. Not last week, or when the machine was built, but today’s calibration. A simple: “Do you have today’s calibration test data available and may I see it please?” will suffice. If they say no and you can’t, then insist, loudly and clearly, that you are opting out. This sets off the pandemonium.
2: You will be cautioned, probably by some supervisor that you must take the X-ray inspection or you will be denied boarding. This is a lie. You are perfectly within your rights to opt out of the X-Ray and insist on a hand-inspection, but the supervisor will try to browbeat you into the machine. Stand firm, as you have not been provided with the calibration data and do not wish to risk your future health by being irradiated by an unchecked and potentially miscalibrated machine that could roast your innards like the Thanksgiving turkey.
3: Insist that you want the hand inspection and are formally opting-out of the full-body scan. And that you want it done, right here, right now, in full view of the rest of the passengers trying to push their way through. The TSA knows that a hand inspection takes close to a minute and a half. The full-body scan takes less than 30 seconds. You are slowing down the ‘processing’, causing the TSA embarrassment which they so richly deserve. Decline the private room. Your objective is to make the rules work for you, to shame the TSA and make them squirm with as much public humiliation and discomfort as you can provide, while working fully within the few laws and rights you are allowed.
4: You will be asked to empty your pockets on a table. Comply, absolutely, empty your pockets of change, bills, receipts, wallet, everything. You don’t have a choice here and only full compliance will do.
5: There is no law that we’re aware of that says you cannot fly with a soft plastic squeaky toy in your underwear. That’s right dear traveller: You are not prohibited from having a squeaky toy in your underwear, be it briefs, panties, brassiere or all of the above, depending on your personal lifestyle choices. Pet stores provide myriad choices in colourful, safe, soft plastic or fabric coated pet-friendly toys in various sizes, many with annoying squeakers. If you own a dog or a cat, we’re fairly certain you know the kind we mean.
Odds are the airport has infant or pet toys for sale in the various stores on the public side, before security screening. Plunk down the five dollars for a five-inch soft plastic dog bone that says “Pittsburgh”. If is has a squeaker inside, so much the better. You are contributing to the economic recovery of your country! Knowing that the hand inspection will include a groping of your groin or breasts until “we determine there is resistance” to quote the TSA manual, we recommend adjourning to the washroom to install the squeaky toy somewhere appropriate. Yes, your clothing will look a little odd for a few minutes; so what? There is a caveat however: Do not choose anything that could be described as a toy weapon. Make sure your choice is completely benign, like a toy frog, panda bear, rubber duckie, or mouse.
6: As best as we can determine, there is no law that says you cannot enjoy the hand inspection and vociferously express your enjoyment. Think bad porno soundtrack, or the classic moment from “When Harry Met Sally”. This is your government and tax dollars at work. If you’re going to be molested by a federal law, you might as well enjoy it. Moan, with a low, sexy, Barry White growl of pleasure when the inspector gets near your privates. Perhaps a soft “Ooh baby…” will do. There is no law that says you can’t get your groove on from a stranger, even one with a polyester uniform and blue nitrile gloves. Remember, actors fake sexual response all the time, so channel your inner thespian.
The supervisor will probably caution you to shut up, but you can’t control it, as you have a medical condition. You have a hair-trigger sexual response to touching and there’s nothing you can do about it. It isn’t illegal, doesn’t pose a risk to the flight and your comments are not directed at the TSA inspector personally.
7: When, not if, the inspector finds the squeaky toy they will demand to know exactly what it is. Your response: “It is a toy for my pet. I am entitled to give the toy a scent and this is the most appropriate place to scent the object. Would you like me to take it out?” At this point, the TSA inspector will likely lose it, which is your objective all long. You want them to overreact, while molesting you in a public place, in front of several hundred other passengers and witnesses. Ask for permission to reach into your crotch to remove the object, you don’t want that TSA meat puppet to pull their weapon either.
Slowly reach down and pull out that Pittsburgh squeaky toy, ensuring you squeak it a few times on the way out, then hand it over to the inspector. Say nothing. Let the inspector examine it. Let the inspector think about exactly what you are doing. You are presenting them with a pet toy that has been in your crotch for God knows how long. You have also moaned or squirmed in the most inappropriate way, while being hand inspected.
You have done absolutely nothing illegal, threatening, disruptive or endangering to flight security or safety. You know it and the TSA knows it. And you know there’s not one damn thing they can do about it.
Now there is an argument that you are embarrassing the TSA inspector and the supervisor. Yes, you are. Why would you do that?
The simple answer is TSA doesn’t give damn about you, from the highest level to the front line inspector. There are so many reports of line inspectors, supervisors and site managers working over obvious innocent passengers for the sheer shits and giggles of being powerful guardians of the Security of the Air. The rot starts at the top and goes all the way to the front line.
Sure, there probably are TSA folks who want to do a good job, properly and well, with due respect to the cross purposes of security and passenger safety, but they are thwarted by the system that does not reward common sense.