More Airport Ethics: The TSA, the Bedonkadonk and the Slobs


I’m not sure what to make of this scene, which I witnessed at Washington’s Reagan National airport as I waited to be scanned prior to my flight to Miami. I have some thoughts, though.

The young, zaftig, fascinatingly-shaped African American woman in front of me was wearing one of tightest, most revealing, shape-hugging, leaving-nothing-to-the-imagination knit dresses I or anyone has ever seen, especially in an airport. The garb was obviously chosen to highlight, as in broadcast world-wide, her most prominent and unusual asset: an awe-inspiring derriere, which appeared to be fit, toned, and suitable for showing a drive-in movie. She was attracting side-glances and open-mouths from all around her, male, female, and probably the machinery too, and obviously reveled in the attention.

When she stepped into the imager and was told to raise her hands over her head, she giggled and did a spontaneous bump and grind move, threatening the integrity of the structure. That did it. The young African-American male TSA agent was launched into smiles, winks, and a stream of comments on the women’s super-structure, along the lines of, “Damn, girl! Don’t go distracting me like that! How am I supposed to do my job? And man, I am distracted! Why, some big old terrorist could walk right by me while I’m taking you in, and then where would we be?” Laughs all around from the other agents, giggles and more gyrations from the woman, more banter from her admirer. Continue reading

The TSA Flunks Integrity, Equity, Common Sense, Fairness…But I Guess This Isn’t News. Is It?

"You have the US Air credit card? Proceed to your flight, sir!"

“You have the US Air credit card? Proceed to your flight, sir!”

Apparently I am less likely to be a terrorist because I have a credit card.

Ever since I laid out $400 for the new American Airlines-US Air merger credit card and special flyer’s program (it included two round trip tickets to any domestic destination), I have been able to use the “pre-screened” line for my US Air flights. That means my shoes don’t have to be x-rayed, my computer can stay in my brief case, I don’t have to take off my belt (a key benefit, as my pants have fallen down during screenings on three occasions) and I don’t have to take off my jacket.

I also can now skip long lines, as the poor peasants in the adjoining lines glare at me as one of the hated Privileged of the Air. Oh—and since I have an artificial hip that sets off the old-fashioned gates (that’s all you get at the Pre-Screened area), a TSA agent will escort me to that spinny thing that takes nude magnetic imaging photos so I don’t have to get a sexual molesting, of which I have complained about bitterly in the past.  He pushes through all the other passengers waiting in line, –the fools! Bwahahahahah!— and takes me right through. “Pre-screened!” he says, and that’s all there is  to it.*

But I wasn’t “pre-screened,” was I? I just paid a fee to get a credit card. Boy, wait until terrorists catch on to the credit card loophole. KaBOOM!

How can the TSA claim that all of their annoying, humiliating, obtrusive procedures are necessary to protect our safety, when so many of those procedures will be waived for flyers who have the resources to plunk down the money for a premium credit card? It can’t.

Please tell me that the only reason these procedures are still required isn’t so the airlines have something to barter in exchange for money.


* Once, I didn’t even have to do that. I used the gate, and the alarm went off. I said: “This is a metal hip–you’ll have to wand me and pat me down.” “Nah, never mind,” the TSA agent said. “You can go.”


Comment of the Day: “’Miracle Flights’: More Air Travel Cheating”

Frequent commenter Barry Deutsch provides some useful counterweight (as usual) to an Ethics Alarms post, this one regarding fake handicapped flyers in airports. Here is his Comment of the Day, on the recent post, “Miracle Flights”: More Air Travel Cheating”:

“Eh. I’m sure some people do cheat – but I’m also sure that some people who the article implies are cheaters, aren’t doing anything of the sort.

“I’m not usually bothered by the five-minute walk from when I get out of security to my gate in the Portland airport. But standing on the security line is much harder. First of all, it can easily take up to 20 minutes if the airport is crowded, so I’m standing for much longer. And even if it’s only five minutes, standing still (with occasional shuffling) is just much, much harder on me than walking is. My bad knee and heel, normally slight nuisances that I ignore while walking, sometimes scream with pain waiting on line. Continue reading

“Miracle Flights”: More Air Travel Cheating

I wondered about this.

“If you don’t tell anyone that I won a Silver in the Olympic hurdles this summer, there’s 50 bucks in it for you… Deal?”

When I was recovering from a hip replacement, and even before, when it was getting painful to walk, I requested wheel chairs from the airlines when I had to fly. It was wonderful. A nice attendant whisked me in front of the lines and through security, and I was also the first person on the plane. Nobody ever asked me what was the nature of my disability; they just trusted that I wouldn’t engage in such a dastardly act as to fake being hobbled—you know, just like nobody would pretend to be someone else to steal a vote. Never happens—why do anything to  check? The system—I mean the wheelchair system, now, not the voting honor system—seemed ripe for abuse to me, but before today, I had never heard of anyone exploiting it.

According to a recent report, a lot of people do. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Sen. Rand Paul

Sen, Rand Paul, protester.

Sen. Rand Paul, libertarian and Republican U.S. Senator from Kentucky, has a choice: he can be a high elected official of the United States government, or he can engage in civil disobedience. He cannot do both.

Sen. Paul was detained today by the Transportation Security Administration in Nashville, Tenn., after refusing a full body pat-down following an image scan that did not clear him through security. I feel his pain. But a United States Senator must obey the law and cooperate with all lawful activities of the U.S. government and its agencies. If he objects to pat-downs so much, he has the power and influence to wield to try to change procedures and policies. Apparently they were not so burdensome while thousand of other citizens endure them every day.  Now that Sen. Paul is facing a feel-up from a gloved stranger, he is suddenly over-come with principle. Easy for him, too, since unlike us mortals, Senators are exempted by the Constitution from being detained while on the way to work.

For a U. S. Senator to defy a TSA agent who is attempting to keep the skies safe in the manner determined to be appropriate by the U.S government encourages and implicitly endorses defiance by everyone else.  That is a breach of Paul’s duty as a high elected official of the United States.

What Would Happen If, While Submitting To a TSA Search, You Started Singing “The Piña Colada Song”?

"Would you cut the comedy please? I'm trying to feel you up!"

A retired Air Force Lt. Colonel apparently was arrested at a TSA airport checkpoint after she refused to stop reciting the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights (“Searches and Seizures”) while she was being screened. You can read her account here.

I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon of the various commentators from both sides of the political spectrum who are leading condemnation of the incident. My interest is in the ethics of the encounter and its subsequent reporting, as I do not see this as an example of official abuse and suppression of rights.

I object to much of how the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA has handled airport screening policy since 2001, as I discussed in this post and elsewhere. I agree that the public should not meekly accept what it regards as unjustified intrusions on their privacy, dignity and health, and that complaining, petitioning the government, putting pressure on elected and appointed officials and leveling criticism in various forums is a necessary and reasonable response. Nevertheless, the episode described in the accounts of this arrest has been mischaracterized. It was a situation in which TSA agents were placed in an impossible situation for the purpose of generating third-party indignation. The woman engaging in the protest also targeted individuals who can only be called innocent parties, the TSA screeners. They have a job, they have procedures to follow, and they have to follow them. They also have a lousy job, having to brush up against the privates of strangers while being glared at or verbally abused.

My question, as with many protests, is, “What was the objective here?” To be as annoying as possible? To cause a scene? To let everyone in the vicinity know that the woman objected to the procedures? To come as close to interfering with the screening process as possible without justifying an arrest? To get her name in the papers? To delay her fellow passengers, most of whom just want to get through the vile process and make their flights?

Or to get arrested? Continue reading

Wait…This Is MY Fault????

We should be ashamed of ourselves.

I have complained, more than once, about the naked greed and obvious incompetence displayed by the airlines charging $25 or more to passengers who check luggage. The results of this reverse incentive are that people carry on too many, and too large bags, boarding takes longer, and flights are delayed. Passengers talk about the idiocy of the policy all the time. So do the airline attendants. Anyone can see how dumb the policy is. The smart approach would be to charge for anything carried on other than a handbag or briefcase, and make checked luggage free. Boarding would be faster and there wouldn’t be passengers using the sneaky (but effective!) trick of carrying a piece of luggage through security only to check it at the gate at no charge when the airline personnel makes the routine plea for passengers to free up luggage bin space by doing so. Continue reading

Ethics Alarm Triggering, Child Molester Cheering Quote of the Week: TSA Director James Marchand

“You try to make it as best you can for that child to come through. If you can come up with some kind of a game to play with a child, it makes it a lot easier.”

Transportation Security Administration chief James Marchand, explaining the TSA’s new approach to calming children who are subjected to the full-hand, feel-up pat-downs during airport security screening.

Yes, the TSA is now training its agents to present their touching of children in private places as a game—-you know, because this method has proven so effective for child-molesters. Continue reading

Ethics Hero: Asra Nomani

Asra Q. Nomani is a Muslim. She is also is an American, an author, a women’s rights activist, and co-director of the Pearl Project. Today, in a column for the Daily Beast, she broke ranks with her religion and the absolutist foes of profiling as an anti-terrorist tool with a profoundly ethical act: she argued for new policies that may be against her own interests, but also may be in the best interest of her country and the public— because she believes it is the right thing to do.

The title of her essay: “Let’s Profile Muslims.”

Some excerpts… Continue reading

Ten Ethics Questions for the Pat-Down Defenders

I, like you, have been reading and listening to my various “My Obama, may he always be right, but my Obama, right or wrong” friends try to argue that having TSA agents sexually assault non-consenting adults is a perfectly reasonable and benign exercise of government power. I, like you, am tired of the posturing and excuse making. Their arguments, in essence, all boil down to: a) they have no choice b) they have our best interests at heart c) it’s no big deal, and 4) trust them, they know what they are doing.

I suggest that you, as I will, pose the following questions to your trusting friends, perhaps beginning with a preliminary query regarding whether they themselves have undergone the humiliating and invasive pat-down procedure that they so willingly approve of for others.

Then ask them these: Continue reading