The TSA Needs to Be Put in Check

Illustration via ThinkStock

What do you get when you mix racial profiling and sexual assault? The Transportation Security Administration, apparently.

After more than 30 TSA agents claimed that coworkers were targeting Hispanics, blacks, and those of Middle Eastern descent during security checks at Logan International Airport, the administration launched an investigation, and on Monday, Congressman William Keating called for a hearing on the allegations. The behavior detection program that the agents were operating under is supposed to be based on suspicious appearance, body language, and responses to questions—not employees’ blatant racism and disregard for the program’s true purpose.

A New York Times article reported the racial profiling outbreak at Logan, and included a couple of anonymous quotes from agents:

“They just pull aside anyone who they don’t like the way they look—if they are black and have expensive clothes or jewelry, or if they are Hispanic.”

“The behavior detection program is no longer a behavior-based program, but it is a racial profiling program.”

We live in the 21st century. We have fought for civil rights for years. We have a black president. It is baffling and infuriating that in what should be a modern and tolerant society, innocent people are still being picked out of crowds because of their origin or the way they are dressed. In a post-9/11 America, stricter security is certainly understandable and, to an extent, necessary. But the TSA has shown that it is too difficult for many of their workers to differentiate terrorism from having skin that isn’t white. They let their authority override their duty to promote safety.

And it doesn’t stop there. Ever since the TSA’s pat-down policy came into effect, disturbing stories of women who began sobbing during the process, or explaining that they had been violated, were released.

Children are not exempt from the mayhem either. CBS reported that four-year-old Isabella Brademeyer was forced to receive a pat-down at a Kansas airport, during which she became afraid and cried, “No, I don’t want to.” When she ran, they yelled to her grandmother, “We are going to shut the airport down if you don’t grab her.” To treat a young girl in such a callous manner, and as if she is a terror suspect, is extremely troubling.

My own cousin shared a story with me about her trying experience at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport last week. After a male TSA agent described the pat-down to her as “touching your breasts and vagina and putting her hands inside your shirt and pants,” she calmly objected and asked to speak to a manager. The TSA’s response? According to my cousin, they handcuffed her for being uncooperative and detained her in a room for nearly an hour. She missed her flight and was told that if she “made a scene at security” again, she would be banned from the airport.

The TSA’s heightened security measures, which evidently sometimes involve molestation, can quickly morph into abuses of power.

When the men and women who are supposed to be protecting us from danger are the ones inflicting it, it’s a sign that serious changes need to be made.

  • Vernon Brown

    Now that the TSA article has hit the Globe, the lines at Logan Terminal C security are several times longer than usual. I fly through there every week at the same time and can tell the difference. Allow extra time until this work slowdown passes.

  • Sean D. McGuire

    The TSA needs to go away.

  • BDN

    Get a grip! Would you rather feel safe and secure on a flight, which you could use all the safety and security you can feel nowadays, and have people be overly cautious or accuse people of profiling. You need to seriously weigh your opinons here. Did you live through 9/11 or just watch it on Tv??

    • panhead20

      the terrorist threat is the same now as it was before 9/11 now that the cockpit doors are reinforced and passengers will subdue the would be terrorist. No need to molest and radiate the flying public, metal detectors have worked for 40+ years. Tax payers cannot afford the $6 BILLION a year the TSA wastes on such a small threat.

    • dogmatix

      TSA does not make me feel safe or secure. They don’t screen themselves or their bags, in or out. They take bribes to look the other way for drug smugglers. They have “sticky fingers” around cash, jewelry, and electronics; even women’s bikinis. They fail their own tests 70% of the time, and they are an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate on the basis of religion.
      These guys grant criminals waivers, and why not? They are backlogged on their background checks anyway.

      TSA does not make me feel safer. The only security they provide is Job Security.

    • http://tsanewsblog.com/ Lisa Simeone

      BDN: another of the United Sheeple of America who will bend over and spread ‘em for Uncle Sam. (Sorry for the mixed metaphor and apologies to sheep.)

      You’re the one who needs to get a grip.

      FACT: No bombs were brought on board on 9/11.

      FACT: The last time a bomb smuggled aboard an airplane in the USA detonated was December 11, 1967. The plane landed safely; no fatalities, no injuries.

      FACT: The last time a bomb was smuggled aboard an aircraft in the US from which there were fatalities was May 22, 1962.

      FACT: You’re more likely to drown in your bathtub than be killed in a terrorist attack. To be struck by lightning. To choke on a sandwich. And certainly to be killed in a car accident — almost 40,000 traffic fatalities EVERY YEAR in this country. Have you stopped driving? Oops, there goes the argument that you’re concerned about safety.

      If you’re so afraid The Terrorists Are Everywhere, do us all a favor and stay home cowering under the bed (although that, too, is more dangerous — more people are killed by household appliances in this country than by terrorists). The rest of us have lives to lead.

    • EllenT

      I would rather BE safe and secure than FEEL safe and secure. The TSA has done nothing to actually enhance security. Any changes to the variety of illegal searches that they do (and I hardly think that buying an airline ticket should be cause to think I’m a terrorist) are done in a knee-jerk reaction after an incompetent idiot attempted to do something like light their shoes on fire (which was stopped by other passengers, not “security”).

      I live just outside of NYC and used to work in Tower 2 of the WTC. Yes, I lived through 911 and remember it well. I also don’t drink the kool-aid that the government wants to shove down my throat “for my own good”.

  • Test

    The TSA have not stopped a single terrorism act since their introduction but they have cost $8billion

  • panhead20

    “Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart.”
    Justice Robert Jackson, chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials

    I will not subject myself nor my family to needless radiation exposure nor TSA molestation. My family and I will not be flying until the TSA changes these procedures.

    T – Terrorists
    S – Searching
    A – Americans

  • Fisher1949

    What part of profiling being illegal doesn’t Pistole understand? He and TSA think they can search passenger computers, phones and checkbooks when every other agency is required to have a search warrant in advance? This demonstrates that Pistole is unfit to head a dog pound, much less TSA.

    There have been three TSA profiling scandals in this program in a year. The first was at Newark airport in June 2011 (AOL Travel – 6/15/11) and another that TSA covered up in Honolulu after employees there complained that BDO’s were deliberately harassing Latinos (Huffington Post – Jennifer Sinco Kelleher – 12/1/11). TSA excused itself finding no profiling (Fox News – 4/13/12) and even promoted one of those accused (KITV – Keoki Kerr – 12/2/11).

    Representative Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) called for TSA to suspend the program in November 2011 (Washington Post – Joe Davidson – 11/28/11) and now another incident identical to the one in Hawaii occurs in Boston.

    How many incidents of flagrant illegal conduct does TSA have to commit before it is replaced? The agency has defied Congress and a court order to test the scanners (NY Daily News 8/12/12), they lied to Congress about owning $184 million of unused equipment stored in Dallas and caught trying to destroy it before GAO arrived (Bloomberg 5/9/12) and failed to report security breaches at Newark to conceal the failures from headquarters (CNN Aaron Cooper 5/15/12).

    In the past two months 35 TSA workers fired or arrested and 66 more disciplined for misconduct. Two more were arrested in the past week for theft from passengers and assault with a handgun. A known pedophile, Thomas Harkins, was exposed two months ago but remains employed as a TSA Supervisor in Philadelphia (CBS 3 Philadelphia 5/24/12).

    There were a total of 97 TSA workers arrested in the past 20 months including 12 arrested for child sex crimes, over 26 for theft, 12 for smuggling contraband through security and one for murder. In July a drunken lead TSO, Milagros Casanas, was arrested for beating a woman and trying to steal her cell phone in Key West and Robert Don Jensen was charged with felony terrorizing, assault, and ingestion of a controlled substance. This month two more screeners were indicted for drug smuggling through security.

    TSA needs to be dismantled and replaced by an agency that understands airport security and the law. Pistole needs to be indicted for criminal malfeasance for this violation of basic human and civil rights.

    The failure of elected officials to reform this agency permits these abuses to occur and ultimately puts the lives of passengers and crew at risk.

  • Bea

    ABOLISH THE TSA

  • Fisher1949

    In 2007, just five years ago, who would have believed that people would allow a stranger to view a nude image of their child or permit that child’s privates to be touched by the equivalent of a mall cop in the middle of an airport just to board a plane?

    Bureaucracies like TSA always push the regulatory limits of their authorizations to the limits that the public will tolerate as has TSA in this case. These people operate with complete immunity and there no consequences for abusing their authority.

    The fact that people will allow these invasions of privacy and assaults on their rights makes them acceptable in the public mindset and is reinforced by taxpayer funded propaganda campaigns by these agencies to reinforce the notion that the unacceptable is somehow necessary or acceptable behavior.

    TSA and other facets of DHS have been demonstrated to be overtly corrupt and yet nothing has changed because people are too willing to fritter away their rights and sense of decency to take a trip to some distant locale.

    In the past two months 35 TSA workers fired or arrested and 66 more disciplined for misconduct. Two more were arrested in July for theft from passengers and assault with a handgun.

    A known pedophile, Thomas Harkins, was exposed two months ago but remains employed as a TSA Supervisor in Philadelphia and allowed to grope children at the checkpoint.

    There were a total of 97 TSA workers arrested in the last 20 months including 12 arrested for child sex crimes, over 26 for theft, 12 for smuggling contraband through security and one for murder.

    We allow criminals to search us and our children and many blindly rationalize that this is somehow keeping them safe. Sadly they forfeit rights that others have died to defend and their own sense of decency in exchange for a false promise of security from a corrupt and abusive agency.

    TSA has done more damage to our liberty, way of life and morality than Al Qaeda could have ever hoped to do and Pistole has been their accomplice. TSA needs to be dismantled and replaced by an agency that understands airport security and the law. Pistole needs to be indicted for criminal malfeasance for this violation of basic human and civil rights.

    The failure of elected officials to reform this agency permits these abuses to occur and ultimately puts the lives of passengers and crew at risk.

  • Rowan Wood

    The problem is that the public has cheerfully given up its most fundamental civil rights and civil liberties with regards to the TSA and so very many aspects of the Patriot Act. If we give up those foundational rights, other rights that derive from them, such as the right not to be harrassed and abused due to your non-whiteness, will quickly fall by the wayside. A recent Gallup pole showed that 54% of Americans of all backgrounds, even minorities, approve of the TSA. This is what they get for their support. Shame on us all.