Comment of the Day: “From The Ethics Alarms “Res Ipsa Loquitur” Files: Now THAT’S An Unethical TSA Patdown”
John, you are sort of right on this, but there are always alternatives. Having once been a private, I can tell you that CYA is favored by privates…ask for a written, signed and thumb-printed copy of the order you believe to be either illegal or contra-indicated. Nine times out of ten, the person in charge, TSA supervisor or Second Lieutenant will rethink having to put his/her actual name on such an order, and that request is absolutely legal.
Thumb print, I would add, is an absolute identifier. Always ask for that.
Having been an enlisted man myself, I am familiar with CYA and did a lot of it. I agree that someone who is giving you an order they know to be illegal or inappropriate is not going to write it down. Let’s suppose they are willing to write it down and thumb print assuring you they believe it is legal and are willing to put it on the record. At that point you have to decide to follow it or not follow it. If you follow it and it turns out to actually be an illegal order, as the actor you must take responsibility and accept the consequences. You can’t get off because you were just following orders. The fact that it is written will just be more evidence against you. You hopefully will be comforted by the fact that your superior and the rest of the chain of command will be in the same boat.
The point I am troubled over is that we are asking enlisted men or bottom level employees, who may be in very emotionally or physically threatening conditions, to make a decision on the spot and then holding them fully responsible when there are often points that lawyers could argue over for hours before a judge makes a decision. Of course if the above hypothetical order is legal and you don’t follow it, then you are going to get to listen to your attorney arguing about it at your court martial held for failing to obey a lawful order of you superiors. In that case, your superior won’t be in the same boat he will be on the witness stand reading the written order he gave you into the record. Lucky you. You get a chance to be screwed either way. Or as we used to say when I was an enlisted man, BOHICA!
The supervisor’s name is Peter Neffenger? You have to be pulling my leg. Anyway, I’ve never heard of Sensory Processing Disorder. I know that people with autism can be very sensitive about eye contact and I suppose touch by others. It seems to me if the kid had this strange syndrome, the parent should have had some documentation with them verifying this.
My mistake. I lost track of the players. Neffenger stepped down as director of the TSA and the acting director is now Dr. Huban A. Gowadia.
SPD is very common — and is not necessarily associated with autism. My youngest child was diagnosed with SPD but is not autistic. She is overstimulated by touch, sound, etc. — but she also is the belle of the ball. No one would think she is autistic.
The post about the TSA agent’s excessive “patdown” of a young boy, caught on video, prompted spirited debate with many high quality comments.
Before presenting John Billingsly’s COTD, let me note up-front two of John’s points that I disagree with. First,while refusing to follow an illegal order is mandatory, the fact that one is given an order to do something unethical—and this patdown was unethical—does not reduce the responsibility to refuse if the harm to another is clear, obvious, and objectively unjust, as in this case. Second, everyone involved in a wrongful act is accountable, from the top of the chain of command to the bottom. I also have a third and fourth, but I’ll let others cover those.
Here is John Billingsley’s Comment of the Day on the post, From The Ethics Alarms “Res Ipsa Loquitur” Files: Now THAT’S An Unethical TSA Patdown: