All, after being sexually assaulted at the Denver Airport, I am joining the campaign to try to get the TSA to change its policies. At this point, if you travel by airline, you have two choices: 1)Be put in a cancer box or 2)Be sexually assaulted.
If you would like to contact me on this post, please e-mail me at email@example.com. I would prefer not to have comments. Thanks.
Below is the letter I wrote to the TSA. It will be sent to many public officials and news outlets.
To whom it may concern:
On April 5, I was passing through the Denver Airport at about 3 p.m. The A gate security area had four open lines. Three of those lines involved passing through the backscatter x-ray machines. One of the lines passes through the traditional metal detector.
I got in line for the traditional metal detector. I travel about 20 times a year and do not think the radiation levels on the backscatter machines are safe. Researchers at Colombia University and UCSF have found that radiation is about 20 times the reported levels and do not feel the scanners are safe. The general public refers to these scanners as “cancer boxes.” Radiation levels from these scanners is as high or higher than the radiation reported from Three Mile Island and the Japanese nuclear reactors.
Even though I was in line for the traditional metal detector, I was picked out of line by an extremely rude TSA agent. I asked, “why are you harassing me? I was in this other line.” The rude agent called for his supervisor, who was later identified as Michael Depace. This supervisor immediately began threatening to throw me out of the airport. Keep in mind that at this time all I had done was ask a question. He said again that I needed to be searched and if I was rude to any of his employees who would throw me out of the airport.
I was taken to another area of the security area. A TSA agent with a beard (who later refused to give his name) began to sexually assault me. There is no other way to describe it. He repeatedly rubbed his hands over my buttocks and penis area. He thrust his hand down the front of my pants. All of the while Michael Depace watched with a satisfied smile on his face.
After the sexual assault ended, I asked Mr. Depace for his name and the name of his supervisor. He refused to give it to me. I then found a woman who wrote down her name on a card. Her name is Connie Levine (sp). I cannot read her writing exactly but her last name appears to start with “LE.” Connie also refused to give me any names, and called over a police officer to threaten me with arrest. I asked the officer is I was being detained, and the officer said I was not. The officer appeared to be embarrassed by the behavior of the TSA employees involved. Finally, Connie gave me her name and the name of Mr. Depace.
I would like to submit the following complaints:
–At all times the TSA employees involved were rude and abusive. They acted like Nazi prison guards. They appear to see the general public as their enemies, despite the fact that the public pays their salaries.
–I am asking that the employees involved, especially Mr. Depace, be terminated from employment at the TSA. They are incapable of dealing with the general public without resorting to abuse.
–The TSA should not be forcing people who want to peacefully ride an airplane into these cancer boxes. I ask that the TSA review this policy, which is a violation against the 4th amendment of the Constitution.
–The TSA has no right to physically search my body and touch my sexual organs. We teach our children that any attempt to touch their private parts is sexual abuse, but these children see blue-gloved tyrants sexually abuse travelers every time we travel through the airport. In addition to violating all moral standards, this policy debases our entire society.
–If any videos of my sexual assault and harassment are on file, I would like a copy forwarded to me immediately.
The TSA policy is a violation of everything that is good about America. Travelers are assumed to be guilty right from the beginning when all they want to do is get on an airplane. The policy creates an army of petty tyrants who begin to see the general public as their enemy. The policy forces the public to either A)damage their health by being exposed to excessive radiation or B)be subjected to sexual assault by uniformed guards.
I am copying my attorney and will be sending a copy of this complaint to news outlets and public officials both in Colorado and on a federal level. I expect a full investigation.
Geoff, I’m so sorry.
Geoff – I left this comment on FB but wanted to comment here too.
It really is a humiliating experience going to the airport these days – one I have to endure weekly. And the people who are on the front lines of our national security there doing it are (1) unprofessional and (2) generally dumb as posts. Most of them could not work in law enforcement (not smart, fit or “background-worthy” enough (my assumption)), and yet they are in charge of the safety of our nation’s flights. Because they are incompetent to spot real dangers, they have to resort to blanket searching in “cancer boxes” and/or by groping – and even then they are by and large too dumb to even catch anything except a harmless bottle of shampoo that might be 4.5 instead of 3.5 ounces…
Bottom line – sorry you have had to deal with this, and thanks for standing up and saying something, then blogging about it.
Outrageous. Wil Wheaton recently wrote of a similar experience.
Me and my wife (we have flown only a few times in the past) are not going to fly at all. We will drive thank you very much no matter how long it might take or don’t go. If enough people refuse to take a plane to boycott then the pocketbook should make a statement. Boycott planes, drive a car.
That would be nice, Jettboy, but I am not sure weekly car trips from Houston, Texas to San Francisco, CA (and back) would be feasible in my current situation… 🙂
I wasn’t there but I do find it especially troubling that you appear to have been subjected to the search as a retaliatory measure.
While there may be cases where it is necessary to search a person’s genital area, those searches cannot be tools of personal vendettas.
Geoff, I hope the no-fly list, which now has tens of thousands of names on it, will also be part of your campaign. This needs to be eliminated immediately as well.
I agree completely. What’s more, studies have shown that TSA’s practices don’t even target the real weaknesses in our system, they are just there to make people feel safe without actually making them safer.
I think promoting high speed rail (I know not a winner amongst conservatives) as an alternative to flight could help alleviate some of the problems.
Jacob S, the TSA is studying putting cancer boxes at train stations too.
Look at how the TSA deals with train travelers now. Even setting aside fiscal issues, I have no confidence train travel is the solution, especially if you live in Denver and regularly fly to Miami, LA, Chicago, etc.
There is precedent for a government agency putting checkpoints at exits off of the freeway — this was done in East Germany to make sure that West Germans or foreigners from the West who entered East Germany to attend the annual Leipzig trade fair could not exit the freeway anywhere except the Leipzig fair grounds.
To those who are saying that driving is the alternative and solution, beware. It is still safe now but I see worrying signs that on this issue the government thinks that there are no limits and I could imagine them appropriating to themselves the authority to monitor road travel as well, and they could convince themselves and a large portion of the public that it is necessary because of the threat of terrorism.
The government isn’t the problem; it’s the large portion of the citizenry that wants these things that is the problem. Security is a feeling, and some want the government to give them that feeling, as often as possible.
I know this is going to anger liberals, but there really would be a way to reduce this craziness; profiling. We don’t need more protection, we need more intelligent protection. That means that a no-fly list actually needs to be used and perhaps expanded. We the public needs to police ourselves more and not be afraid or shamed to point out possible terrorists. I fear personal vendettas far less than government supported vendettas. Otherwise, roadside checkpoints could expand into cameras pointing toward your house. However, if we don’t stand up to this at the airport then how are we going to do it when on the road. Communist Germany here we come.
That means that a no-fly list actually needs to be used and perhaps expanded.
No way. This isn’t a liberal or conservative thing. This is a sanity and freedom thing. The no-fly list endangers the rights and freedoms of American citizens to travel freely among the several states. The no-fly list has tens of thousands of names on it: perhaps even your name. The problem is that more than one person has your name. What if the other one is engaged in questionable activities and suspected of being a terrorist? Do you trust some bureaucrat in the federal government or a recent high-school graduate employed by a contractor hired by the federal government to distinguish between you and your eponymous terror suspect?
Let’s end this police state and deny the terrorists the victory they are obtaining by changing our freedoms and our society.
Things that I have done in America that are now illegal:
Start a job without showing proof of identity and eligibility to work.
Open a bank account without identification.
Get a driver’s license without providing a Social Security number.
Board a plane without showing identification.
Carry a 3-inch lock-back knife on a plane.
If you find that your name is on the no-fly list you have no effective redress. In requesting its removal you will likely receive a form letter back ambiguously claiming authority to maintain the list and to keep your name on the list and that the determination is final.
If you have thousands of dollars and an extremely aggressive lawyer in your circles, you might get your name off of the no-fly list but in interfacing with the agencies involved, neither you nor your lawyer will have any transparency as to the process by which decisions or determinations are made within the agencies involved.
Take a look at the following paper on the no-fly list:
Jeffrey Kahn, International Travel and the Constitution, 56 UCLA Law Review 271 (2008). I believe Kahn has recently fleshed this out into a book as well.
If you’re too lazy to read the whole article and process what it means for our rights and freedoms as American citizens, then at least look at page 284 for note about the ordeal faced by US citizens discovering suddenly that they are on the no-fly list while they happen to be abroad. Your white skin is not enough to guarantee that it could not be you in that predicament.
John F, thanks for bringing up the no+fly list. I will look into the issue.
Oops – just saw the “prefer not to have comments” language. You should just lock this thread! 🙂
PC, I know you’re just trying to be provocative. Wrong time and place.
Jordan — I have spent an hour today trying to figure out how to close down comments. I can’t figure it out. Now you know why I am not a programmer working for Facebook or Google.
I’m sorry to hear about this and all. But does your attorney know about this blog post? Did he or she read it before you submitted it?
I can’t imagine that I would be advising blogging activity about it if there were a possible lawsuit pending.
Seth R, my attorney gave me different advice than you are suggesting. Could you e-mail me? firstname.lastname@example.org.
Geoff, I am flying to Connecticut tomorrow and will be sure to have my tape recorder going just in case. So sorry that this happened to you.
I agree with John F., this is not a liberal or a conservative issue. This is an American issue. The behavior exhibited by these TSA agents is deplorable and should not be tolerated!
One cannot expect any more change from the TSA than from a dog. Congress must completely defund and disband them, and roll airport security to 1950.
And people that claim they “have to fly” are part of the problem. Get another job or take the bus. If you claim you “have to fly”, and complain about The Sexual Assault, well, “sympathy” is between “s—” and “syphilis” in the dictionary. Hitting the airlines in the pocketbook is one of our only effective actions.
Well, I already mentioned on the other thread that Homeland Security (TSA now falls under their auspices) would be the first place I would make budget cuts…
Would your solution be realistic for Jordan?
I’m not convinced the TSA gives a hoot about whether the airlines get travelers or not. As for choosing not to fly, we all make choices in life. In a perfect world, I would stay home and take care of my kids exactly half of the time and never leave their sight. I would never spend time away from my wife. But I like my job and I like traveling, and I will like it more when the kids are older and my wife can come along. Hopefully by then the TSA will have changed its ridiculous policies. Or perhaps we will have to strip search and have full cavity searches before getting on an airplane or entering any public building.
Pingback: » Peace like a river The Millennial Star
I’m sorry about your experience.
I, also, fly a lot, for both business and pleasure. I find the whole TSA process and a waste of my time. I also don’t think it is going to do anything to truly deter anyone who actually wants to do something on a plane.
That being said, people overreact about radiation. I am an orthopedic surgeon, and at work, we take x-rays all day long. Actual high strength x-rays, designed to penetrate your body so we can look at your bones. The x-rays used in airport scanners are a much different frequency and power level (my college degree is in Electrical Engineering, with a Bioengineering emphasis, so I have studied A LOT about radiation, etc).
It seems ironic that the people most complaining about the scanners are people who want to fly. For a train ride, it might be a bit more of an argument. We have radiation ALL around us. It is in our homes. It is in our cell phones. It is in our smoke detectors. It is not WHETHER we are exposed to radiation, but how much. On an airplane, we voluntarily fly above much of the protective atmosphere and are exposed to increased radiation from space. For airport scanners, the radiation exposure is approximately equivalent to 2-3 minutes of flight at altitude. So, we will actually get 5x MORE radiation exposure if our flight is delayed for 10 minutes by flying around a storm or getting in a holding pattern than in the scanner.
Another way to look at it. I flew yesterday across the country. We had a big headwind, so the flight took nearly 5 hours, or 300 minutes. I received 100 TIMES MORE radiation from the flight than the scanner at the airport.
So, if people don’t want to fly to avoid radiation, that’s actually a good idea. BUT, the benefit will actually be 100x MORE from avoiding the flight itself than from the scanner to let you on the flight.
Anyone who is on Facebook is welcome to join us: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-Flying/126801010710392
I agree 1000% with you and believe me, they are worst with non Americans. They always are RUDE and don’t like we make none question. I don’t know why but seems they feel they are like a kind of divinity.
I’m always being “picked (out of line) by an extremely rude TSA agent”.
That’s a pity.
This is so bad Geoff. I am sorry you had this happen to you.
I am so sorry to hear about this. The TSA is a shining example of all that is wrong about our nation’s reaction to 9-11.
There are several reasons to be concerned about the cancer machines. One is that the levels of radiation coming out of them are not well understood. The TSA recently admitted that they are 10x what they had previously stated. The agency has lost all credibility on this issue. Second is that due to the way in which it sweeps in an arc around your body most of your body receives a small quick dose, but the top of your head gets a continuous dose during the process. Simple geometry. That isn’t taken into account by the TSA either.
The security of the images isn’t proven. The statements that have been made about the naked pictures being taken of people are simply counterfactual. There is no way to ensure that naked pictures of you won’t be stored or even shared.
The effectiveness of the system is questionable at best. Within weeks of its release easily implemented ways of smuggling items past the system both in the body and on the surface of the body were demonstrated.
Finally, and most importantly the system is unconstitutional. The general public should not be subject to a strip search in order to board a plane. This is the definition of an unreasonable search. Teaching the public that the government has the right to examine their naked bodies in order to travel about the country is counter to what our country stands for. We have lost our way and this is emblematic of what happens when we are rule by fear instead of reason and principle.
Quibbling over radiation is only part of the problem. While the increased radiation is minor the risk of being killed by a terrorist is even smaller. These are useless, expensive systems which do nothing to increase our security while they infringe our rights and erode our sensitivity to a dangerous future.
Mike S, as you work in medicine, and you say you use “high strength x-rays, designed to penetrate your body”, can you address the issue that some people have raised about airport scanners: The scanners used in airports are more dangerous than reported because, although they use a lower dosage than X ray machines in hospitals, the airport scanners concentrate the dose of radiation on the skin and, therefore, a relatively much higher dose is received on that one organ than is being reported (whereas hospital X ray dosages are absorbed by the whole body). Also, some people say radiation (or the effects of it, I can’t remember) stays in the body, so any dose is accumulative throughout a person’s life.
Until the TSA properly answers people’s concerns in a trustworthy manner instead of avoiding them, people will continue to doubt their integrity and react rightly with suspicion.
Wise words ARJ.
That’s horrible. Sorry about that.
Geoff: You made DrudgeReport.com with this link to Fox 31 in Denver:
“Colo. Man Sues for Sexual Assault… ”
Just went through Denver TSA. One very rude, highly unprofessional TSA worker at the carry on scanner, wished I had her name. I travel very little, and did not realize I need to push my items through the scanner (yes, I know, my bad)–here is the quote I received–“Sir! (at first I did not hear her) she shouted again–SIR!, I’m not going to stand here all day and push your things through for you!”, pushing my items a long with several others as she was saying it. I do believe the TSA does have a job to do, BUT there is absolutely NO excuse to perform your duties rudely and unprofessionally! A simple-“please push your items through the scanner sir” would have gone a lot further with me and everyone within shouting distance of this employee.