From The Ethics Alarms “Res Ipsa Loquitur” Files: Now THAT’S An Unethical TSA Patdown

Fire that guy. Just fire him. Or suspend him without pay for a good long time.

No, on second thought, fire him.

There is no excuse for this, just reasons. The main reason is that the TSA agent is being an asshole, if not a pervert. I am patted down a lot—as an adult, wearing a suit. This is a kid in a T-shirt and shorts. What is he supposed to be hiding? No child should be subjected to this indignity, and no parent should have to stand by and endure it.

The mother who took the video  complained that her family was”treated like dogs” and forced to miss a flight during an extensive security check, according to her Facebook post:

We have been through hell this morning. They detained Aaron for well over an hour at DFW. (And deliberately kept us from our flight… we are now on an alternate) We were treated like dogs because I requested they attempt to screen him in other ways per TSA rules. He has SPD and I didn’t want my child given a pat down like this. Let me make something else crystal clear. He set off NO alarms. He physically did not alarm at all during screening, he passed through the detector just fine. He is still several hours later saying “I don’t know what I did. What did I do?” I am livid. Please, share… make this viral like the other children’s videos with TSA… I wish I had taped the entire interchange because it was horrifying. We had two DFW police officers that were called and flanking him on each side. Somehow these power tripping TSA agents who are traumatizing children and doing whatever they feel like without any cause, need to be reined in.

The Transportation Security Administration apologized and said that it regretted the incident. Just kidding! As usual, the TSA claimed that everything went according to procedure, despite the smoking gun evidence of a child being bullied, intimidated and molested. (And kudos to the young man for keeping his cool.) The agency’s  prepared statement said that the agent followed approved procedures to “resolve an alarm of the passenger’s laptop.”  Did it look to you like the agent was patting down a laptop? The TSA disputed the mother’s account, claiming that the passengers were at the checkpoint for “only” 45 minutes, including the time it took to discuss screening procedures with the teen’s mother and the inspection of three carry-on items.  The pat-down took about two minutes, it said.

Ridiculous. Forty five minutes or an hour, that’s still too long, and would cause most passengers to miss their flights. It would certainly make me miss about 90% of them. As for the patdown above, it doesn’t matter how long it took: look at it. It’s res ipsa loquitur: invasive, abusive, unreasonable, cruel, and unforgivable.

Fire him.

____________

Pointer: HLN

Facts: Dallas  News

 

119 Comments

Filed under Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Dunces, Etiquette and manners, Family, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Workplace

119 responses to “From The Ethics Alarms “Res Ipsa Loquitur” Files: Now THAT’S An Unethical TSA Patdown

  1. Other Bill

    Anyone know what “SPD” stands for?

  2. E2 (nee Elizabeth I)

    Fire him. List him as a potential pedophile. That body check was grotesque. Either this guy has a thing for feeling up kids or a really perverse sense of his very limited power. This is the kind of grotesque (used as a noun) that TSA hires?

    Believe me, it it absolutely worth it to get an FBI/Interpol issued “Frequent Traveler Number,” which takes a couple of months but means you get “TSA Pre-Check” on every boarding pass and only have the most cursory “exam”.

    This is a horror. Assume it’s gone viral. (And is reminiscent of a well-endowed friend of mine who was patted down — everywhere! — every time she traveled, even with children in hand.) TSA needs its own security check — and psych evaluations — on its employees, if you want my opinion.

  3. Jack wrote, “As usual, the TSA claimed that everything went according to procedure”

    The TSA needs to own up that there are some real problems with TSA procedures, this instance is another piece of evidence that they are ignoring, and these procedural problems need to be addressed.

    Everything the TSA does from the moment they have any kind of question about a person or their belongings is “justified” by virtue of 13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause” and all common sense is set aside and completely replaced with well intentioned common senseless procedures. TSA agents become mindless subroutine programs with zero common sense.

    • Exactly. “It’s procedure/policy” is a rationalization. Hmmmm. Is it on the list?

      • Jack Marshall asked, Is it on the list?”

        Not yet, but it sure sounds like it might fit somewhere under #13.

      • Steve-O-in-NJ

        Sounds like a variation on the Nuremberg excuse, “I was just following orders,” although I’m not sure that’s on the list.

        • Steve-O-in-NJ

          …as is mentioned below. (didn’t finish the thread first)

        • Tom R

          Why is this even a thing? Patting down a kid like this isn’t a human rights violation or even come CLOSE to what the Nazis were making excuses for. If you want to argue patting down a kid is ethically wrong, like killing Jews is ethically wrong, then do that first. But patting down a kid isn’t inherently wrong. Is it wrong to pat down someone who actually is trying to sneak something of the plane? I’d say no. It can’t be ethically okay to do it only sometimes. You only think it’s wrong now because the kid didn’t have anything on him.

      • Yes I concur with Steve that it’s a new one. Though it may be a subset of “compliance dodge” or “if it’s legal it’s ethical”… with a flavor of “I had no choice” and “it’s just business”

        • As usual, I’m amazed that I missed such an infamous one…or is “I was just following orders” significantly different enough to have its own number? I’m thinking yes…

          • I think it’s distinct enough just that, like the compliance dodge, it relies on the following of rules (in this case direct orders) as an excuse. One is a kind of passive the other is a kind of active excuse.

          • Jack Marshall said, “…is “I was just following orders” significantly different enough to have its own number?”

            A procedure is an order that is delivered prior to an action; a direct order during an action is an enforcement of predefined procedures or a procedural shift during an action due to changing circumstances. It’s all following orders, so I think it could easily be combined.

          • Steve-O-in-NJ

            “The Nuremberg Defense” is common enough and iconic enough that it should have its own number.

          • “It’s policy” is more passive, and so more insidious. The person enforcing the policy could… y’know… not… with relatively little reprecussion, especially when compared to the Nuremberg example. “It’s policy” is the excuse of mouth breathing middle managers to do things that they would never be ordered to do, either as part of some semi-impotent power trip, because they want to duck responsibility, or because they don’t want to (or aren’t able to) think for themselves. “It’s policy” is how Chernobyl happens.

            • Tom R

              This anology only works if what this man is doing is wrong to begin with. If you truly believe patting down a boy who sets off a metal detector multiple times is unethical, then I would respond by saying I have no idea how to make flight travel safe.

              • Right. Patting down boys in shorts and t-shirts makes travel safe. Because of all those planes brought down by kids in T-shirts. This is politically correct anti-profiling, and the poor kid is being molested because we won’t properly rule out certain travelers who should be the object of scrutiny. That’s all it is. Safety has nothing to do with it.

  4. Neil Dorr

    I appreciate the justification that the pat-down “only” took two minutes (gee thanks, I couldn’t read the timestamp), as though it couldn’t have been reasonably done in 1/4 of the time.

    No doubt this highly trained individual was made to watch hours of important training videos, so as not to let childhood innocence blind him to true evil:

  5. deery

    Isn’t that the problem with trying to deal with terrorism? Once it becomes widely known that kids are more or less exempt from a thorough security screening, then guess who the terrorists start using to smuggle explosives? You have to treat everyone as if they are all equally likely to be risks, otherwise, you get terrorists forcing young kids to be mules (knowingly or unknowingly).

    • deery,

      This was not ‘equal,’ this was unnecessary harassment. The searcher covered areas two and three times when a simple ‘lift your shirt’ would have proven beyond a doubt he was not carrying anything.

      My guess is that the mother told them the kid had SPD, an autism related condition (full disclosure: my son has this specific condition as well), and TSA decided to see if they could drive the kid into an episode. My son, not so long ago, would have been in tears.

      The TSA is an example of what you get when the bill of rights is suspended for any reason, without responsible oversight. You have no recourse, no say, and can be imprisoned on a whim. Soviet Russia would be so proud!

      • valkygrrl

        Soviet Russia would be so proud!

        They even do the ‘show us your papaers’ routine.

      • crella

        ” My guess is that the mother told them the kid had SPD, an autism related condition”

        I wouldn’t be surprised. Any reasonable request for leeway or a mention of discomfort to the TSA usually results in payback. They keep you longer, subject you to longer searches, tell you “I can make you miss your plane” or call up others to surround you. My poor mother told them time and again she had a dialysis port and that she’d show them instead of them squeezing her arm at that spot, or whipping her sleeve up and jarring it. Every time they gave her crap over it, and hurt her. Because the port and her total knee showed on the scan, they always had her go into the box on the other side. She couldn’t walk very far or stand for very long without her cane. Once when she was kept there for roughly 10 minutes before anyone got around to checking her she started to get fatigued (the stage of kidney disease she was at didn’t help matters). When they went into the box to check her she said “I’ve been standing so long now, I need my cane’. The agent walked out, and left her there another 15 minutes. When they went back in ( and she was starting to look a bit wan) the agent said ” Now, let’s have some cooperation here”. How does teaching my 75-year-old mother a lesson to never ask a TSA agent for anything help national security?

    • Who says they have to be exempt? How about “it its a kid and he obviously couldn’t possibly hide explosives in a t-shirt and shorts, we will eschew the crotch feel-up and the full 2 minute patdown, lust like we will anyone who pays us 85 bucks? How about that?

  6. John Billingsley

    From other reports, it seems the agent actually hesitated about completing the final pat down and only did so after being ordered to by his supervisor. Also, observing the video it looks and sounds like he is trying to be as nonthreatening to the child as possible while following the TSA procedures.

    The problem is that pretty much the entire TSA procedure, not just the procedure on pat downs, is security theater. I could go into a long discourse over why I say that but it has been covered extensively by security experts such as Bruce Schneier.

    I don’t know if the agent is a pedophile but that is a horrible thing to accuse someone of based on just this video. He is a low level employee who wants to keep his job and who has been trained to follow the book and the orders of his supervisors. It is not his fault if the book is insane. The one time I was patted down it was fairly perfunctory and I think the agent that did me and probably the majority of them do not actually follow the procedure. If they correctly followed it for everyone they patted down, there would be many more howls of outrage.

    Are there some agents who get their kicks from touching well-endowed women, kids, or well hung men, for that matter? I am sure there are. Just as there are pediatricians, chiropractors, and gynecologists to name a few, who do but all of those people should not be tarred with that brush for the sins of a minority of them. The fact is that if you have decided you need to do a pat down on someone for contraband, you cannot do it for real without touching and getting very invasive. As one of my patients told me when I confronted her about smuggling in drugs in her personal belongings, “Get real. If I was smuggling it in I would have put it in my cooch.” I expect one could put enough C-4 in there to bring down an airliner.

    The question is whether or not there should be pat downs at all and if so the criteria for selecting who will be patted down. There is absolutely no point in doing it at all if it is not going to be done in such as way as to actually find what you are looking for. So in this case I don’t feel it is Res Ipsa Loquitur for this specific agent but for the entire TSA.

    • Which is what “agent” means. But you can’t tell me that the agent felt that he had to feel up that boy’s crotch. “I was just following orders” isn’t good enough, as the US insisted at the Nuremberg Trials.

      • Tom R

        Yea I was waiting for you to pull out the Nazi comparasion. That’s ridiculous. He’s following pretty benign orders here. Again, I’ve patted down many people while working for TSA, and I didn’t feel up anyone’s crouch. You have to clear that area, if not, that would be the first place people would try to hide things. You touch that area with your back hand.

        • I mentioned the fact that “I was following orders” is not an excuse when what one was doing was obviously wrong, as this was. There’s nothing “benign about treating a kid like that. What’s the matter with you?

          • Tom R

            Haha treating him like what? I know there are tons of kids patted down like this every year by the TSA, and this is only an issue because the mom took a video and the guy doing it looks like an old creepy man molesting a cute innocent white kid. When in reality, he’s just doing his job and the kid will be fine.

            • Wow.
              1. The treatment is the same, whether it was videoed or not.
              2. Treating him like he’s a threat, when he obviously isn’t.
              3. Invading his person excessively without due cause or reasonable prudence and restraint.

              It’s amazing to me that your attitude is that this is nothing. A teacher doing this would be arrested. Two minutes of this manhandling—boy-handling—is unreasonable and excessive. I have NEVER had a two-minute patdown, and I’ve been through some I complained about. It’s a kid. Would you make the same shrug of an argument it he was a 6 year old girl? Why not? There is literally no difference: it’s excessive and unreasonable.

              • Steve-O-in-NJ

                Dangerous to complain. If you give the officer attitude he might send you in back for the “finger wave.”

              • Tom R

                A teacher would be arrested? So what? A teacher’s job isn’t to pat you down. You go through secrurity, you know you may potentially be patted down. This happens EVERY DAY. You only care today because of this video. Females pat down females, men don’t touch females. Tell me, what would you do if this kid kept setting of the metal detector?

                • Physical abuse is abuse, regardless of who engages in it. TSA agents aren’t empowered to harass and molest children, no matter how some sick supervisor interprets “policy.” If someone orders you to molest a boy, do you do it? I don’t. Whether I can claim some justification doesn’t enter into my calculations, either.

            • THE KID HAS A DISORDER WHICH MAKES THIS A PROBLEM.

              Tom R, you are desensitized to the point you do not get the issue. I pray you never have a child or relative on the Autism spectrum.

              • Tom R

                Okay. Why is this a problem?

                • Becky

                  It’s a PROBLEM because this IS NOT A REGULAR PAT-DOWN. He is a CHILD and the man is groping his crotch. Over and over. A regular pat-down does not involve 3-4 repeats of the same grabs of his rear end and groin. It’s a once down the front and back, both sides, and up and then back down on the inner thigh. Which this agent keeps doing over and over and over! That’s already too much in my opinion, but they literally don’t care about that. I get the regular pat-down every time I fly. I hear the same words and it’s the same actions. The only variant is the firmness and how long it takes. I’ve had seasoned people and literal trainees who were coached on the script and the actions. THAT CHILD IS NOT GETTING A REGULAR PAT-DOWN!
                  I’m really surprised the guy who champions childrens’ safety isn’t typing in all caps, too, but I’m tired and angry and can’t recall his name at the moment…

                • The disorder means the child does not process the senses like others do. For some, loud noises can be painful and upsetting. Bright light and seemingly innocent smells and tastes can also cause issues. (Sometimes smells most consider bad are sought out: my son used to LIKE skunk, for instance)

                  Touch is the greatest of all of these. Textures, fabrics, tags on clothing, and so on can be rejected as irritants. A stranger handling a child (who may not have learned to deal with his issues yet) is almost always objected to, and a child (into her late teens, in many cases) does not have control of emotions to the point of stopping a melt down. I am surprised that this kid did so well (if indeed he has the affliction.) This is as ignorant as asking a cancer patient to remove falsies and wigs in public.

                  Once the TSA knew of the issue, it would have been better to arrange other methods to check (raise your shirt, have mom help, the vaunted scanners, etc.) Instead, the method they chose seemed designed to make the kid go ballistic. If they do not have the training to deal with common issues within the population, they should not be allowed to interact with that public. Cops have training to deal with Autism and spectrum reactions: why not TSA? Just callous, or lazy, or incompetent.

    • ALL CAPS ARE ON PURPOSE.

      THERE IS NO REASON ON THIS EARTH THOSE LOOSE-FITTING SHORTS ON A CHILD SHOULD BE FELT UP 3-4 TIMES. NONE. THERE IS NOTHING IN THOSE SHORTS BUT BODY PARTS. IF THAT WERE MY KID I WOULD NOT HAVE CALMLY STOOD THERE FILMING. YOU DO NOT REPEATEDLY TOUCH A KID’S PRIVATE PARTS LIKE THAT EXCEPT FOR NEFARIOUS PURPOSES. He did NOT do the full pat-down repeatedly (which I get every time I fly, even with my children, too), he GROPED that kid’s nether regions. REPEATEDLY. If this video were of a normal pat-down, which, I repeat, I get EVERY time I fly, there would not be anything to freak out about or call for dismissal. Jack gets a pat-down. Plenty of people do. BUT THAT IS A FEEL-UP or GROPE. PERIOD.

      Grrrr. This one has my hackles up as a human being AND makes my growl tiger mom want to rip out a throat. I have had some assertive pat-downs where hands went so far into my crotch, EIGHT times, that I swear the woman was looking, FIRMLY, for whether I was wearing a tampon. But THAT GUY IS A PERV.

      • Tom R

        I mean, are you really qualified to decide what an effective pat down is?

        • I don’t think you have to be an expert on pats-down to know when a particular action is a colossal invasion of privacy as well as essential child molestation.

          It’s like when Left wingers trump out “experts” on any given topic to advance more regulations and control of society, but the rest of us “non-experts” can still tell when something violates freedom of speech or right to bear arms, or right to privacy, or right to due process, etc.

          Who cares what an expert says if they are advocating conduct antithetical to privacy and liberty.

          • Tom R

            If that were the case, then people are just being molested daily all over the country. Not everyone agrees this is molesting.

            • 2 rationalizations in as many sentences.

            • bexhrob

              IF it’s a CHILD getting that treatment? YES, people are being molested at airports. I have literally never gotten that kind of groping, and as mentioned above, there have been some FIRM and uncomfortable shots to my pubic bones by TSA agents. I’m a grown woman and have said OUCH aloud before. But I am a WOMAN, not a child. It’s security theatre that I consent to because even though I roll my eyes, I submit to it because I want to travel. I always hated this definition of anything, but it’s RIGHT for this one: I KNOW IT WHEN I SEE IT.

            • And this doesn’t even respond to my comment to you anyway.

              • Becky

                Tex, WordPress is mad at me and not notching my comments in correcty. Just in case you think I’m typing all caps at you. It’s at Tom, because he’s wrong wrong wrong.

                • You’re golden. I had two responses to Tom… the first where I called out his rationalizations. The 2nd after I realized his rationalizations didnt even respond to my comment.

    • Alex

      The TSA is security theater. Current procedures are no better than the ones we had in the 90s from a security standpoint, and those were much more civilized (don’t take off your shoes, carry a bottle of cologne on board with no problem). The TSA is the result of “do something” – as you discussed the the AHCA post – taken to its logical extreme. No one thought if it would actually make flying safer – even marginally – but not “doing something” was likely to have political consequences. I used to think that rolling back the most stupid TSA policies and keeping it around to set a national standard for airport security was a good strategy; today I just want to see it burnt to the ground and replaced with state-level or even airport provided private security under (minimal) oversight of the FAA.

    • A whole screed, in all caps, was eaten by WordPress… BUT THIS TSA AGENT IS A PERV. There is NO REASON ON THIS EARTH THAT BOY’S LOOSE-FITTING SHORTS SHOULD HAVE BEEN GROPED 3-4 TIMES. NONE. PERIOD. Jack and I both get a pat-down every time we fly. Differing reasons. Even when I fly with my kids. But even the most aggressive pat-down I ever got, which was HARD and had jabs into my crotch EIGHT times, was not what that guy did to that CHILD. The TSA agent did NOT repeat the full pat-down, he GROPED A CHILD’S NETHER REGIONS. MORE THAN ONCE. The only thing in those shorts were body parts that should not have been handled AT ALL.
      This sets off both my human being alarms AND sets my inner momma bear growling fit to rip out a throat. If that had been MY CHILD? No way would I have calmly filmed. I can’t imagine my husband would have tolerated it, either. And he’s stood aside and laughed at the pat-downs I’ve received before, because sometimes the incompetence is funny. THIS IS NOT AMUSING AND IT BORDERS ON THE CRIMINAL. Grrr. Fire that guy, indeed. And then file charges for groping a minor.

      • I’m also leaving Becky’s two comments up, for the same reason as I stated with Victoria. She re-submitted after WordPress spammed her first comment. Again, my apologies.

  7. Mike James

    But unfortunately they won’t fire him….

  8. Tony

    I have Pre-Check. It gets you out of some of the nonsense, but it’s still subject to chance and whim. If you set the metal detector off or are selected for random search, you get to go through the pat down anyway. And roughly 99% of the TSA people I’ve interacted with are complete morons. (I think one was nice once.) They don’t like to be questioned, as mentioned above, even when they’re not just doing something morally wrong, which is TSA’s existence, but something procedurally wrong. The worst was when a TSA goon mauled my genitals, then told me “When you buy an airline ticket, you give up your rights” when I protested his violation.

  9. Tom R

    I agree TSA is an annoyance and their procedures are probably not that effective, but this man was doing the right thing. He shouldn’t be fired. I worked for TSA, and, yes, sometimes I was like “Why am I doing this? This is stupid? This elderly women isn’t a terrorist.” But questioning those things wasn’t my job. I was there to follow the procedures people more qualified than both you and I created. You don’t want people to start making exceptions for certain individuals, you want the TSA to apply the same scrutinty for everybody who triggers a metal detector alarm. And before you say “following bad rules or unethical peocesures isn’t an excuse,” I think you should consider the possibilities here: A kid is embarrassed and “groped”, or, we let people slide and someone sneaks onto a plane with something dangerous. (Side note: The TSA offers you the option of being patted down privately. He had to have gone through the metal detector at least twice, setting it off both times)

    Also, the people patting you down in suit…if they aren’t doing it like this man did, then they’re not doing it correctly.

    • What would that kid have been able or likely to hide that would be “dangerous”?

      • Tom R

        I mean who knows it could have been anything. Who makes that decision though of “oh he’s just a kid, let him go?” Even I can admit my fellow TSA employees weren’t the brightest, so I wouldn’t want them to be making those decisions all across the country on a massive scale. You say, “If an alarm goes off, you check the person thoroughly.” Doesn’t matter if it’s an attractive woman, little kid, a cancer patient…The kid could have had a bullet in his pocket he stole from his dad, or a little pen knife or a lighter.

        Of course we know with like 99% certainty just by looking at this kid he’s just an innocent kid trying to go somewhere fun. You’re not really looking for kids like him though, you’re looking for that one kid or unsuspecting person who looks innocent but really isn’t.
        “Hey terrorist buddy, look, the US isn’t really checking cute white kids. Let’s tape some C4 under that kid’s sack over there and put him on a plane.”

        • philk57

          So how do you explain this aggressive “pat down” if he did not set off an alarm. Note that the story includes her statement that he did not set off an alarm.

    • Alex

      I disagree that the procedures were created by people more qualified than you or me. They were designed by morons with the single goal of covering their asses.

  10. Steve-O-in-NJ

    BTW, what do you think of agents strip-searching someone to make the point that even a bomb mention that’s obviously a joke is no laughing matter? (Paul Frees voice) I will now light the fuse of the secret bombing shoe…oh no, is moose and squirrel!

    • Tom R

      I’ve never been trained to or seen anyone strip search someone at the airport. What you would do is pat them down and if you feel something you can’t clear, you ask to see it. If they don’t show you or it looks suspicious you call a supervisor over and they may bring a cop over depending on what happens.

      But obviously no one should be stripped searched just for fun. I would have gotten into a lot of trouble doing that and I have no idea where I would have been able to do that in secret. Do we even do strip searches?

  11. John Billingsley

    According to a report at Dallasnews.com, “Afterward, the TSA officer was instructed by his supervisor, who was observing, to complete the final step of the screening process.” My emphasis added. This suggests to me that the agent himself was going to break procedure and omit “the final step” of the screening process, which I believe to be the genital grope, until he was directly ordered by his supervisor who was there in person to do it.

    I understand the “just following orders” issue per the Nuremberg Trials. It looks like he was going to disobey the order (procedure) until he received the direct order from his supervisor. I don’t think there are many low level employees who would immediately disobey a direct order of a supervisor in that situation. When you are a grunt at the bottom and your boss tells you to do things the way you have been taught to do them, it is going to be very difficult to make the decision to disobey.

    I doubt that man, or any other TSA employee, has had any ethics training and he wouldn’t know Nuremberg from a Nebelwerfer. In the military, I received a great deal of training on the laws of armed conflict and the importance of disobeying illegal orders. However, other than a few clear cut examples like don’t shoot POWs, don’t harm noncombatants, and don’t harm medical personnel and facilities, the question of legal and illegal become murky. Expecting a private in a tight spot to analyze a murky situation, come to the right decision, and disobey the orders of his captain is expecting too much. The issues that Nuremberg dealt with were things like should you follow orders to take trainloads of people and put them in a gas chamber or murder noncombatants in an area you occupy. Nothing murky about these questions.

    To say that he should have disobeyed this order because it was illegal, rather than just saying he shouldn’t do it because it was repugnant, which there is some indication he felt himself, it has to be established that the order was in fact illegal. If it is legal to order a pat down, then touching the genitals has to be legal because there is no way to thoroughly pat down someone without touching their genitals. The only way to tell if someone has a weapon concealed over their genitals is to press against their clothing hard enough to determine if there is anything between their clothing and skin that could be used as a weapon. That doesn’t mean fondling but it means that there has to be direct pressure sufficient to be sure there is nothing there.

    So, yes, if he was really doing a good pat down he had to feel his crotch. If your doctor is going to give you a prostate exam, then she is going to stick her finger way up your ass. There ain’t no other way. To do a perfunctory exam or pat down is worse than no exam at all because it gives a false sense of security. Bottom line, if you truly feel there is a reason to pat someone down, then do it right and realize it isn’t going to be fun. I work in a facility where dangerous contraband has gotten in because the examiner was too embarrassed to do a good search. There are facilities where people have died as a result.

    My main point was actually the second paragraph, I believe essentially all of the TSA procedures are security theater. The question shouldn’t be did this particular agent pat this child down inappropriately it should be why in the hell is any agent patting anyone down? When the Nuremberg Court tried people for following, and giving, illegal orders it didn’t try privates it tried Reichsfeldmarschalls and others at the top. Instead of unloading on every TSA agent individually, unload on Peter Neffenger. He is the one giving the orders. He is the one who must take responsibility. He is the one who should be in front of the court not these hapless low-level agents.

    • Tom R

      Great points. If you want to argue this is like the Nuremberg excuse, then you’d have to argue that pat downs are illegal or unethical. I don’t know everyone who was charged at Nuremberg but I’m pretty sure the whole Nazi military wasn’t. It was a lot of top guys. And you’re right, there’s no way of clearing a kid without doing this.

    • Great post. Comment of the Day.

      • Tom R

        Yeah Jack! I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now, I think you to be a rational guy. The anger should be directed at the TSA in general, not at this old guy. I just think he’s an easy target which is sad. I hated working for the TSA. Our procedures made no sense to me, I didn’t think we were doing a great job or really protecting our country. One thing that was effective though was these one-on-one pat downs. On your note, I think Israel does something similar to what you are arguing for, in that they don’t check each bag, they check the individual, meaning that they look at your face and how you carry yourself. It’s supposed to be really effective and I think it’s how we should handle our security. In that situation, the kid would probably not be patted down. Also, I think I read that years ago, who ever was in charge of the TSA met with security officials from Israel who then tried to guide our security screening procedures. Whoever this TSA person was, they ignoring Israel’s advice and went for the system we have today.

        • The individual is always accountable. Always. It’s his hands on the boy. “I’m just doing my job” doesn’t go as far as you seem to want to think. The supervisor is responsible; the TSA is responsible, and the agent is responsible. Who’s most responsible? Debatable. But to argue that the one actually engaged in the conduct is the one who isn’t responsible at all is nuts. If he is unable or unwilling to refuse to do what he knows is wrong, I can sympathize with his dilemma. But that doesn’t allow him to escape criticism and responsibility. Does the video shame him? Good. Will he make a different call the next time? Who knows. But nothing will change if our rule is that the people who aren’t around are to blame, and those who actually do the deed are innocents.

          It makes no difference to me that the guy is old and fat. It sure looks worse, though. And maybe it feels worse to the kid, too. Should that matter?

          • Tom R

            You really think it’s okay that this video shames him? When this goes on every single day in the US but one entitled mother gets to ridicule a guy because she thinks her kid getting a pat down is wrong?

            Additonally, you believe that patting down a kid is wrong? He didn’t know he was clear until after he patted him down so you can’t say “oh, well this kid was obviously okay.” You either have to pat down EVERY KID who sets off a metal detector or none at all.

            And for the record, I think it’s unethical you condone shaming this guy. Patting down a kid isn’t that bad, come on. Never being embarrassed isn’t a right in this country and you know it. After all the PC culture/SJW hate you write about…if you want secure airlines and someone sets off a metal detector, a pat down is necessary.

          • Shakespeare took a stab at this topic in Henry V just after the halfway point of Act 4 Scene 1.

            KING HENRY V
            I dare say you love him not so ill, to wish him here
            alone, howsoever you speak this to feel other men’s
            minds: methinks I could not die any where so
            contented as in the king’s company; his cause being
            just and his quarrel honourable.

            WILLIAMS
            That’s more than we know.

            BATES
            Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know
            enough, if we know we are the kings subjects: if
            his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes
            the crime of it out of us.

            WILLIAMS
            But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath
            a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and
            arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join
            together at the latter day and cry all ‘We died at
            such a place;’ some swearing, some crying for a
            surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind
            them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their
            children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die
            well that die in a battle; for how can they
            charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their
            argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it
            will be a black matter for the king that led them to
            it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of
            subjection.

            KING HENRY V
            So, if a son that is by his father sent about
            merchandise do sinfully miscarry upon the sea, the
            imputation of his wickedness by your rule, should be
            imposed upon his father that sent him: or if a
            servant, under his master’s command transporting a
            sum of money, be assailed by robbers and die in
            many irreconciled iniquities, you may call the
            business of the master the author of the servant’s
            damnation: but this is not so: the king is not
            bound to answer the particular endings of his
            soldiers, the father of his son, nor the master of
            his servant; for they purpose not their death, when
            they purpose their services. Besides, there is no
            king, be his cause never so spotless, if it come to
            the arbitrement of swords, can try it out with all
            unspotted soldiers: some peradventure have on them
            the guilt of premeditated and contrived murder;
            some, of beguiling virgins with the broken seals of
            perjury; some, making the wars their bulwark, that
            have before gored the gentle bosom of peace with
            pillage and robbery. Now, if these men have
            defeated the law and outrun native punishment,
            though they can outstrip men, they have no wings to
            fly from God: war is his beadle, war is vengeance;
            so that here men are punished for before-breach of
            the king’s laws in now the king’s quarrel: where
            they feared the death, they have borne life away;
            and where they would be safe, they perish: then if
            they die unprovided, no more is the king guilty of
            their damnation than he was before guilty of those
            impieties for the which they are now visited. Every
            subject’s duty is the king’s; but every subject’s
            soul is his own. Therefore should every soldier in
            the wars do as every sick man in his bed, wash every
            mote out of his conscience: and dying so, death
            is to him advantage; or not dying, the time was
            blessedly lost wherein such preparation was gained:
            and in him that escapes, it were not sin to think
            that, making God so free an offer, He let him
            outlive that day to see His greatness and to teach
            others how they should prepare.

            WILLIAMS
            ‘Tis certain, every man that dies ill, the ill upon
            his own head, the king is not to answer it.

    • John Billingsley wrote, “Instead of unloading on every TSA agent individually, unload on Peter Neffenger. He is the one giving the orders. He is the one who must take responsibility. He is the one who should be in front of the court not these hapless low-level agents.”

      This is right inline with what I said above about it being the procedures that are the real problem.

      “The TSA needs to own up that there are some real problems with TSA procedures, this instance is another piece of evidence that they are ignoring, and these procedural problems need to be addressed.”

      Iron clad TSA procedures make TSA agents appear to be mindless subroutine programs with zero common sense; this is wrong, we need intelligent thinking individuals performing these kinds of “delicate” tasks with some strict procedures and some common sense guidelines.

      It seems to me that there is a point where iron clad procedures flush common sense; I think this instance shows us what flushing common sense and adhering to iron clad procedures looks like.

      • Tom R

        I agree. I actually had this discussion with a fellow TSA worker who wanted to leave to be a police officer. He said that as a police officer, you have discretion, but we as TSA agents did not. I’m not sure how security works though and if discretion is something you could have at the TSA. People forget how big our country is when compared to ones like Israel where you can hire elite security officers to secure your airlines. We would never ever be able to do that here in the US.

  12. Isaac

    The TSA procedures do not work. They have not reduced incidents of terrorism. They do not make people safer. They are one of the universe’s worst ideas.

    In undercover operations, the TSA failed to detect 95% of mock bombs and weapons. That’s how utterly worthless these jackboots are. Instead of doing the common sense thing and saying, “maybe we should just stop feeling up kids and old ladies since it doesn’t do anything to make us safer” they seem to think that they aren’t violating citizens ENOUGH, and need to redouble their efforts.

  13. Isaac

    I need to watch this again now.

  14. Other Bill

    Aren’t we stuck with TSA procedures rather than Israeli procedures because “profiling” is deemed un-American, even though you’d think that’s exactly what you’d want security people to be doing?

    • John Billingsley

      I think there are two reasons why profiling is not used. One is the “un-American” reason. This is really not a good reason because profiling is not what most people imagine it to be. The perception I get from most people when they talk about profiling is checking out the people that look like they might be terrorists, you know, those people speaking Arabic, carrying a Koran or wearing a hijab or abaya. That is not profiling it is racism.

      Sure, any of those people might be a terrorist but it is just as likely to be a blond, blue-eyed woman with a child. Profiling is observing subtle body language and other cues that say “something is just not right here” and then pulling that individual in no matter what they look like. That is indeed what you would want security people to do but unfortunately to be good at it you have to have a talent for it and receive extensive training. It’s much cheaper to take people with lower skills and teach them to go by the book without deviation so it looks like you are at least doing something. On a side note, I think good poker players, con men, and fortune tellers would be candidates to train as profilers.

      • But is isn’t just as likely to be a blond, blue-eyed woman with a child.

        • Tom R

          That’s true. What are you views on stop and frisk?

        • John Billingsley

          I agree that statistically right now she is not just as likely to be and a more accurate statement would have been just as capable of being a terrorist. A Caucasian woman is just as capable of carrying a bomb as an Arab man and non-Arabs have converted and become jihadist so they can’t be ruled out. Just suspecting the Arabic looking people because of their appearance and dismissing all others is a security mistake.

          If the woman waves good by to her friends at the checkpoint, is smiling and playing with her baby, interacts normally with others, then routine check and quickly send her through. If she is looking nervous, quiet, not interacting with the child and fumbles a question like address or social security number, I would be concerned and dig deeper. Does that mean she’s a terrorist. No, she much more likely is just nervous about making her first flight with her child or something like that. But it does warrant a little closer look because things don’t look exactly right. A pat down would be based on some real suspicion and not just because you were number 33 in line or whatever criteria they use.

          I think if we could afford well trained agents then only the few people who raised concern in some way would need more intensive screening and pretty much everyone else could just walk through the scanners and maybe need to stop to turn in the contraband they accidentally left in their pocket. We could end the fiasco of old people, cancer victims, children and such getting invasive exams like this poor kid got just because of it’s a rule.

          I’m afraid that even if we could afford such a system it would still not be accepted because we as a nation have this ideal that for it to be fair everybody has to be treated exactly alike. I think people would fight any subjective type of screening even if it resulted in far fewer people being hassled with more intensive screening overall. And if some groups got singled out more than others then the discrimination screaming would start.

          The problem with trying to detect terrorists in airports is the same as screening for very rare diseases. Any test that is sensitive enough to catch all of them is going to have an extremely high false positive rate and any test that is selective enough to only catch terrorist is going to have a high false negative rate. As I said above, I think most of what we do now is just doing something to be doing something and the only thing that really helps is locking the cockpit and good intelligence work to stop terrorist before they get to the point of being at the airport.

      • valkygrrl

        Sure, any of those people might be a terrorist but it is just as likely to be a blond, blue-eyed woman with a child. Profiling is observing subtle body language and other cues that say “something is just not right here” and then pulling that individual in no matter what they look like.

        That sounds like picking on people for being non-conforming. Giving extra shit to people with autism, or are nervous in crowds, or are showing distress because they’re flying off to to sit by someone’s deathbed for a last goodbye strikes me as cruel.

  15. John Billingsley

    Yes it is “picking on” the people who show odd behaviors and are non-conforming because people who are doing or planning to do something bad typically show odd behaviors and appear non-conforming. It’s more efficient to look where the money is. There is a biologic response to stress that is pretty much universal. There is some variation from person to person but someone who is stressed because they are afraid of crowds shows essentially the same signs as someone who is stressed because they are carrying contraband. People who look different because of autism, other mental illness, or grief can also show behaviors that overlap to some degree with people who are trying to conceal that they are going to do bad things.

    A trained interviewer can take one of the people who has fear of flying, autism, grief or other causes of aberrant behavior like that and after talking to them in a non-threatening manner for a few minutes can usually determine that it is something innocuous and send them on their way sans groping. Nothing is 100% perfect but I think picking the people who look like they may be up to something and interviewing them makes more sense than randomly groping people. The problem is that to be able to this well requires some people skills, extensive training and a lot of experience. That costs a lot of money but I bet if a system like that was in place this particular child would have simply been talked with for a few minutes and sent on his way to enjoy his vacation.

    The only choices are don’t check anybody, check everybody, randomly check everybody, or selectively check the people you have some reason to suspect. Here I am talking about the checks beyond just the routine metal detector and luggage check. As a country we’ve decided against the first and the second would be too burdensome. We are implementing the third now despite it leading to ludicrous actions and I feel the fourth, which is what I’ve discussed, would be preferable and just as effective if not more so.

    • valkygrrl

      You’re falling into the same trap as the people who pay for pre-clearance, you don’t want to solve the TSA problem, you just want them to bother someone who’s not you.

      • Well, I pay for pre-clearance, but I don’t fool myself that this solves the problem for anyone but me, or even makes sense, for that matter. Still, you have to start somewhere. Why is that a trap?

        • valkygrrl

          Becuase it doesn’t make anything better, it just causes the TSA to choose a different victim. Someone who didn’t pay the protection money. John Billingsley suggests they leave presumably normal people like him alone and go pick on someone else, with the scenario I gave, it’s someone else who’s already in a less than ideal situation.

          Instead of paying them to leave you alone or pointing them as someone vulnerable, turn the tables, give them a hard time, hold up the lines, take out your phone and record every retaliatory secondary screening, make a fuss about body scanners. complain to the airlines, they’ll pressure congress if the TSA is cutting into their bread and butter of business travelers.

          • You ain’t gonna convince anyone who’s spent $300-1000 on each plane ticket to use that moment for civil disobedience.

            Nope. This bad agency will only be stopped by voting for the right people to the legislature.

          • Tony

            I have Pre-Check. I don’t expect them to leave me alone because of this. I still do many of the actions you suggest. TSA doesn’t have more qualified people with which to staff the Pre-Check lanes. I give them a hard time when they’re incompetent. I make a fuss about every pat down from “random” searches. And I yell at them when they yell at me for ignoring their direction when I take my belt off because I know it will set the metal detector off. I get supervisors involved when the fools go too far. (Care to guess how far that gets me?) I make as much of a scene as possible, every time.

            What I witness is most people merrily plodding along, either in the Pre-Check lines or the regular lines, not questioning a bit of it. It’s absurd that I have to tell them “You can give up your rights, but you can’t give up mine.” But I’ll keep saying it at every checkpoint. And it’ll keep being met by the comforting unethical rationalizations.

            • valkygrrl

              You, I like. Do you remember to opt-out when they try to use the porno-scanner for primary screening? They do love to retaliate for that.

              • Tony

                I’ve never been through the porno-scanner. I opted out every time before I had Pre, and since when I’ve taken international flights on airlines that don’t participate in Pre.

                Back in 2008, before the porno-scanners, TSA bothered me in the security line at Dulles to ask if they could test a new device that scans for liquid explosives on my backpack. They didn’t like it when I said no, so they had three goons escort me aside after they looked at my ID.

                TSA 1: Sir, is there a reason you refused the scan of your bags when we asked?
                Me: Yes. I asked if I had a choice. He said yes. So I said no. I don’t see how that gives you a reason to pull me aside now.
                TSA 2: You do understand why we do this?
                Me: I have rights. I’m exercising them. Are we done?
                TSA 1: Yes.

                I knew some form of “you do understand why we do this?” was coming. I was loud enough and in close enough proximity to the line that everyone could hear. I’m sure most concluded I was the jerk for not going along. (Everyone else agreed to let their bags be tested with the device.)

          • John Billingsley

            valkygrrl, I appreciate that you give me the benefit of the doubt and presume I am normal. I’m not suggesting that the TSA pick on anyone, I am actually suggesting that they stop picking on people like this child where there is no indication that they are any threat at all and only look more in depth at people that profiling suggests may be a threat. That in depth look would end up being brief further conversation in almost all cases. To take your example of the person flying off to be at someone’s deathbed, do you think they would be more traumatized by a random full pat down or someone simply observing to them that they look upset and asking if they can help and just generally having a nonthreatening conversation about the situation they are in. This isn’t a back room and rubber hose kind of thing if done properly. It would be costly getting high quality properly trained and supervised screeners.

            Part of the bug-a-boo, I think, comes from people who hear profiling and immediately jump to racial profiling. Profiling is “the recording and analysis of a person’s psychological and behavioral characteristics, so as to assess or predict their capabilities in a certain sphere or to assist in identifying a particular subgroup of people.” Subgroup of people doesn’t mean racial subgroup it means the subgroup who are likely to do the thing you are trying to predict. I would be surprised if you don’t profile people. Do you become more alert when you are walking down a street alone in the dark and see a couple of big men approaching? Do you start thinking about various scenarios and how to handle them? You are predicting their capabilities to hurt you based on their behavioral characteristics and the situation. Should you not do that just because they might be a guy who just lost his wife and a buddy who is consoling him? It wold be great if we could read minds but lacking that we can only go by our observation of people and our experience in making predictions about what they might do.

            I believe that border agents engage in this. A friend who made a trip into Canada fishing told me that coming back the agent asked things like what were you fishing for, what did you catch, what bait did you use, and interjected comments about his own fishing in Canada. The agent wasn’t just shooting the shit, he was observing my friend’s demeanor and evaluating whether the answers added up. I’m sure if he said he had been fishing for red snapper rather than walleye, he would have gotten a lot more intensive screening. Was he being “picked on” by being asked those questions? I don’t think so and according to what he told me he didn’t think so. Could this be abused? Yes, anything can be abused that is why there must always be good oversight.

            Think about the last flight you made. Out of the probably hundreds of people you saw in the terminal and those you observed more closely in security and the gate area, how many raised the hair on the back of your neck. I’m thinking maybe none but probably a few that you just didn’t feel comfortable about in some way. The last time I flew, in the three different airports I went through going both ways, I saw maybe 50 and that is because I like to observe people and I have a lot of experience at it. Point being, that with good profiling a lot fewer people would end up doing anything more than going through the gate, the metal detector and having their luggage scanned and for those who were subject to a harder look it would almost always be talking and not a pat down or other invasive procedure.

            I have looked at this with the idea that the goal is to inconvenience as few people as possible to the smallest degree possible and still do something that might be effective in reducing the risk of terrorists getting on a plane. There is no way to do “something” and not inconvenience people to some degree. You and Tony seem to be saying “leave everyone alone” and call for civil disobedience with the goal of eliminating the TSA or as I called it above the “don’t check anybody” option. If that is the goal, then simply say so. In that case, there is really no point in discussing any of this and you need to work on getting the passenger flight experience back to pre-9/11. I don’t think you are going accomplish that by disrupting security screening because there just won’t be enough people joining in.

            Would flying be any less safe if you accomplish that? I really don’t think it would be and I would still fly. As I mentioned someplace earlier, I think what is being done in the airport is pretty much all security theater anyway. I don’t think there is a chance in hell it will end though because there is too large a proportion of the population wanting the State to at least look like it is protecting them from every possible danger conception to coffin.

            I leave to Jack the ethics of inconveniencing the other passengers who are simply trying to get where they are going, possibly to set at a death bed, by holding up the lines, fussing about the scanners, and making as much of a scene as possible every time you go through security.

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