TSA Backlash: TSA screener edition

In my most recent post on the TSA backlash, I suggested that part of the benefit of National Opt-Out Day was that it would put pressure on TSA staff to push for internal changes. Commenters objected that this probably overestimated the power of individual screeners.

Today at Reddit, a TSA screener describes what happens when he opted out of grabbing passengers crotches:

Upon arriving at my duty station this afternoon, I will refuse to perform male assists. (now popularly and accurately known as ‘touching their junk’) They are illegal under the 4th amendment of the US Constitution, and any policy to carry them out constitutes an illegal order.

I’m not sure where this is going to end up for me. At some point enough is enough though, and good people need to stand up for what is right. I’m not on my probationary period, so they will not be able to simply fire me and forget I ever existed. …

update: I got in about 15 min early, informed my line supervisor that I wasn’t going to be doing male assists anymore. Boss asked me to wait, and came back, and announced a different rotation (not uncommon if someone calls in sick, etc). He didn’t specifically say that I was the cause of it, but it had me on xray. Before I went on duty, he told me that he needed to talk to me at the end of the shift.

Work itself was pretty uneventful.. that’s how working nights are.

At the end of the day, we talked, and I told him that I had a problem with the assists. Honestly, he was largely sympathetic.. like I told you guys, TSA isn’t full of cockgrabbers, or at least willing cockgrabbers. He then fed me the classic above my pay grade line as far as policy.

He said he cant indefinitely opt me out of the rotation and suggested that I begin applying for transfers, because at a certain point, he will have to report me for refusal. He said that he understands that I have to do what I have to do, and thanked me for being a reliable employee for the 1.5 years we’ve worked together. Not sure how I feel about this, I honestly feel that I am getting swept under the rug here. I don’t think any of my co-workers even knew why we changed up the rotation.

I think this validates my point. This guy’s opt-out didn’t stop the gate groping. But the supervisor was understanding, and if enough of this screener’s colleagues make the same objections, the supervisor will have to kick that complaint to his supervisor. With pressure coming from within TSA and from outsiders in the traveling public, it’s more likely that TSA will revise its policies in a sensible way.

That said, this is absolutely not an argument in favor of hassling the screeners. Screeners are professionals, they are (mostly) not perverts who want to ogle your naked outline or feel you up. They signed up to serve their country. So treat them with respect when you opt out of the pornoscanners, and when they start touching you in places only your lover or your doctor ought to. But don’t be afraid to ask them whether they wouldn’t prefer to see this policy changed, and if they would, ask them to mention that to their supervisor. If enough screeners do that, it’ll send a strong message, and could well bring real change. And given how intimate they’re getting with you, it’s hardly unfair to ask them some probing questions.


  1. #1 Art
    December 1, 2010

    It won’t work. Yes, opting out of scanners and having TSA people refuse to do pat-downs will slow things. Look for lines to get longer. But there will be no end tot eh program. The people who implemented it and run it are sure it is necessary. So no matter how slow those lines get it will sill remain policy.

    Think of it this way. Thirty years ago the trip through the airport, curb to plane, was about thirty minutes. Lines moved, luggage check, and off you went. Maybe twice that in the busy season.

    Then, over time, they kept telling you to arrive earlier. Now two hours earlier. Slow the line and figure four or five. People won’t go for a scan they get groped. TSA agent does want to do the groping they giver him the boot and hire another. Plenty of people looking for work.

    But people will stop flying; no they won’t. People wait 24 hours, or more, for flight and weather delays. Waiting six or eight hours for people to get groped won’t cause them to turn around and leave. They will bitch and moan. Then they will get groped and fly.

    It would be different if there was full employment and high-speed rail as alternatives to being a TSA groper and going by air. But there aren’t. Deal.

  2. #2 TOM
    December 1, 2010

    When preparing to enter the TSA check point or any check point for that matter, all you need to remember is some basic information and these words:
    “I am a Sovereign man/woman, I do not consent, I give you no
    for the complete free document which details the whys and the hows, go to
    TSA TRUTHS.doc


  3. #3 Dave X
    December 1, 2010

    “They signed up to serve their country.” rubs me the wrong way, conflating the screeners with the armed services. Sure, it’s professional in that they get paid for what they are doing, but they aren’t risking getting a dishonorable discharge for stealing, smuggling, or unnecessarily groping teenagers. It isn’t an adventure, it’s just a job: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2010/07/tsa_using_pizza_boxes_to_recru.html And it’s a job that isn’t worth doing. Pre-TSA we armored the cockpit doors and decided to not cooperate with the highjackers, and the unmeasurable marginal improvements in safety since then are outweighed by the costs of jamming 2,000,000 passengers per day through an extra hour of TSA hokey-pokey. We’d save more actual lives if we transferred the whole bloated TSA budget and workforce into repainting highway lines and signs, or training schoolchildren in first aid.

    On a lighter note, asking “Do you like your job?” during the grope sounds fun.

  4. #4 Rob Knop
    December 1, 2010

    Sadly, the only way to really change the policy is if enough people stop flying that it hurts the bottom line of the airlines enough that their lobbyists start to make noise to their congress representatives. (And, if it’s clear that it’s the TSA stuff that’s causing people to stop flying.) As long as we all say that we refuse to give up seeing our families and that we want to keep traveling, and somehow put up with it, things aren’t going to change.

    Telling the TSA to apply pressure from within is great, and may help. But, I suspect, they can keep a revolving door of employees to keep themselves in business, especially as long as this “economic recovery” is one in which unemployment stays high. It’s like all those stories from a decade back about the horrible conditions for programmers working in the video games industry. Companies could afford to burn out their employees and have them run screaming, because there was an ample supply of fresh new kids who wanted to work for the video game industry.

    (Or, one could say, it’s like the horrible assault on self that pre-tenure people put up with, because there’s an oversupply of people who want tenure track jobs to replace them….)

    So, yeah, try to get the TSA to put pressure. But given the way the US Congress works right now, we either have to fix congress (cf http://www.fixcongressfirst.org) or we have to get some large financial interest that dontates to campaigns feel financial pain.

  5. #5 Art
    December 1, 2010

    The other big reason groping and scanning will continue is that leaders, legislators, commentators, and talking heads don’t use that system. They fly private jets:


    The rest of us will put up with it because there are no alternatives. TSA agents do it because they need the job.

    TOM @2 – “I am a Sovereign man/woman, I do not consent, I give you no

    I hear that as a noise receding into the distance as you get manhandled out the door and are told to take a bus.

  6. #6 Deepak Shetty
    December 3, 2010
  7. #7 Electronic cigarette
    December 6, 2010

    LOVE the Dilbert reference! I can totally see a few of my friends playing this out perfectly!

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