What Happens When You Set Off the TSA “Groin Alarm”


The tale below comes to us from Alisha, a former paramedic who says she is “very safety conscious but sick of trying to raise a child in a 100% risk-free environment! Its not even possible.” I was actually talking about the TSA just this morning with a journalist who was asking when and how do we decide to expose our kids to “risk.”

“Risk,” however, is a strange word. Everything contains a modicum of risk, including walking downstairs to breakfast. But once we focus on any risk, however slight, it starts to loom larger. And when we decide that we must re-organize our lives around avoiding even incredibly remote risks, we get to the point where, for instance, we are driving kids one block to school.

And we get stories like this:

Dear yszhfradss
Free-Range kids: Hi! I wanted to share my experience at the Omaha airport on the 4th of July.

As you may remember, I have to use a wheelchair sometimes, especially places like the airport. I also have metal pins and rods in my femurs and left ankle. I have a special card from my doctor showing I have medal implants in my body. It was me, my mom and my 8-year-old daughter.

Of course they chose me to do extra screening. After going thru the full body scanner, which I don’t feel comfortable doing anyways, I was told I had set off a “groin alarm.” Never knew my groin could set off an alarm but it makes sense, since I have nails in my hips. I had already told the screener that. She insisted on patting me down anyways.

Now, I’m not sure why they think touching someone with the back of their hand is any less invasive, but they make a point of telling you they are only using the back of their hands. She proceeded to touch every part of my body paying special attention to my crotch. For that she didn’t use the back of her hand but instead really groped me. It was in no way a quick brush of the hand but more like something that might have been appropriate if we had been dating for quite a while!

She pulled my shirt up out of my pants until it was at bra level and then ran her hand under the waistband of my pants, under my underwear even! All of this took place right in the screening line so everyone could see everything….

If you don’t agree to be groped, I mean “patted down,” then your other option is to go into a screening room and strip naked for a visual inspection.

Anyways, after she did her pat-down she changed her gloves, groped my crotch very thoroughly and then tested her hands for explosive residue! It was crazy! They also searched my purse and carry-on. I had a small yogurt and an ice pack that concerned them. I asked if I could eat the yogurt and was told only if I left the secure area to do it, and then I would have to go through the full screening again. Needless to say, the yogurt got tossed.

They decided I could keep the ice pack since it was mostly still frozen, but I was told that if it had melted any more, I would have it taken. So frozen ice pack gel= safe, thawed ice pack gel = dangerous!

They also went through my medications and were loudly reading off what each med was and what it is for.  My TENS unit, which is a little black box with multiple wires and blinking lights, wasn’t even looked at. If anything looked dangerous it was that! I also had a large pair of scissors in my bag that was completely ignored. Not for the first time either. Last year I flew to Reno and had a large steak knife I had meant to return to my brother’s house and that wasn’t questioned at all. And its about a 6″ serrated blade!

The other thing I saw in Omaha was after I went thru the scanner they pulled out at least 10 kids under age 3 for advanced screening. I even saw them make the mom of a 2-3 month old take off her diaper so they could test her and the diaper for explosive residue. They also checked her breast milk bottle. Of course all this woke up the sleeping baby. That same intense screening was repeated over and over on little kids and infants.

One couple had twins and they had to take the babies out of the stroller but when dad went thru with both kids in his arms so mom could manage the stroller he was stopped and aggressively told it was one child per adult, so he had to give one to his wife to juggle because she wasn’t allowed to put them back in their stroller. The whole thing was just crazy and I don’t see how any of that actually made us safer! It also drastically slowed the lines down.

So because of one stupid attempt [the underwear bomber], that is grounds to seriously invade thousands of people’s privacy and personal space? It makes no sense. I’m just glad they picked me instead of my daughter because I would not have allowed them to touch her like that. – Alisha

Alisha nailed the problem: Our modern-day conviction that if one thing happened one time, one place, we must be on red alert for it every second, every place, forever more.

Until we accept that “risk” is not the same as “risk-y,” we will continue metaphorically groping our country. (Which, I admit, is not my best analogy ever. Sorry!)  – L


You will need to be groped, Miss.

You will need to be groped, Miss. Otherwise there is just too great a chance that you, in your wheelchair, with the pins in your legs, traveling with your mom and 8-year-old daughter, are a terrorist.


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69 Responses to What Happens When You Set Off the TSA “Groin Alarm”

  1. elizabeth July 11, 2016 at 11:57 am #

    Articles like this are why i will never fly unless i have no choice.

  2. Denise July 11, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

    I too used to have pins and rods in my leg. When going through the airport in Detroit I was pulled out of line and told I needed to be ‘patted down’. I was in a wheelchair and accompanied by a friend. I told the woman I suffered from severe fibromyalgia and any kind of patdown was a no-no. I was an elected official and was traveling with a local judge. Obviously, you can’t be too sure when it comes to elected officials. Long live the tyranny of the TSA.

  3. MichaelF July 11, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

    It’s ridiculous rules like this:

    “So frozen ice pack gel= safe, thawed ice pack gel = dangerous!”

    That show exactly how much theatre this still is.

  4. Jason Harrison July 11, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    Lately the TSA agents have been messing with staffing levels between screening areas to create longer lines in some areas of airports. Supposedly all to get more funding. So safety may not be their top priority when taking all of these steps.

  5. Coasterfreak July 11, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    When I read stuff like this, I feel grateful that my worst run-in with the TSA was an extra special pat down after I had to change my flight at the last minute. I had received an automated call at 9:00pm the night before I left for my trip stating that my flight had been canceled. I had to go through all kinds of rigamarole to get another flight (out of an airport in another city 4 hours from home) on the same day, which I needed to do because the event I was traveling for was the day after I was to arrive. After my son and I were selected for extra special pat downs, we were told it was because we had changed our flights at the last minute. I actually laughed out loud and told them it wasn’t MY decision to change my flight. They didn’t like my “flippant” attitude, but finished the pat down and sent us on our way.

  6. MaeMae July 11, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    I *always* set off the, um, chest alarm and have to have my breasts patted down. I really can’t help it that I was blessed in that particular area and it sucks that it makes me a target every time I fly. It’s so much fun to be groped in front of a whole bunch of strangers and my teenagers.

  7. Workshop July 11, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    Safety isn’t their top priority, Jason. It never has been. If safety was the top priority, we would have screening that actually made sense.

    I don’t fly often, but my sense of modesty will forever be shattered when I demand that they strip-search me right in front of everyone.

    They will not get a chance to do it to one of my children.

  8. Rick July 11, 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    Well, at least this didn’t happen to her: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/disabled-teen-sues-tsa-memphis-airport-after-bloody-scuffle/

  9. Jess July 11, 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    Speaking of theater, I learned while I was in the Navy to always use my driver’s license while flying, because if I used my military ID, I was always selected for extra screening. Also, I generally fly with knitting needles, ever since the time they took my scissors but let me keep my needles, which were the foot-long metal kind. I’ve never had them confiscated, even when I bring my entire kit.

  10. Rae Pica July 11, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

    Can you say “power trip?”

  11. Anna July 11, 2016 at 1:13 pm #

    “Safety isn’t their top priority, Jason. It never has been. If safety was the top priority, we would have screening that actually made sense.”

    The trouble is, if safety were the top priority, we’d use profiling to do airport security, and that’s still political poison for whatever reason. So I guess we’ll keep on patting down white-haired grannies and new mothers until something so serious happens we’re shaken out of our state of denial. Or until we have zero civil liberties left to lose. Whichever comes first.

  12. A Reader July 11, 2016 at 1:17 pm #

    Funny you mention your tens machine. I once got searched while entering a federal building because of my breast pump. Now, admittedly, the breast pump is a frightening contraption, particularly for those of us who have to hook ourselves up to one, but in addition to thinking it ridiculous theater, I just don’t get why they’ve seemingly never come across a pump before. I can’t imagine I’m the only lactating working mother in all of NYC.

  13. NY Mom July 11, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

    There ought to be a law against such extreme invasion of privacy.
    Babies! Good grief.
    I’d contact a lawyer.
    American Civil Liberties Union?
    At a minimum I would contact my elected representative.
    Groping like that is surely a crime.

  14. Mike July 11, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    One time a TSA idiot asked me to remove my belt, then panicked and screamed for a supervisor because – wait for it – I’d removed my belt.

    No I am not kidding.

    The TSA is completely useless and should be disbanded immediately. That won’t happen though, as it provides a lot of jobs for the zero-skill illiterates Democratic politicians love.

  15. Havva July 11, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    TSA officers make a big deal about only using the back of the hand, because they are strictly forbidden from using the fingers and palm due to the ease of groping with the front of the hand. I highly recommend filing an official complaint, TSA does fire people for violating protocol, so you might be able to stop this person. (FYI, my info comes from a friend who is a frequent flier, a policy nerd, and who requests the pat down due to a condition that sets off the groin alarm.)

  16. Craig July 11, 2016 at 1:47 pm #


    This is exactly the purpose of the TSA to prevent people from traveling. To make it as traumatic an experience as possible to condition people to stay in their local area. This is a big picture agenda however.

    But the big problem is that you ALL agree with this. You allow it to happen. Why didn’t the woman who was repeatedly groped call the police and have the screener arrested and charged with sexual assault. Sure, they will make your life miserable and you will miss your flight but if everybody stood up instead of meekly complying with every policy you are confronted with, things might change. The commenters here know that the TSA has nothing to do with security but is only part of the bigger security “theater” and continued indoctrination that there is danger everywhere that you must be protected from. what about the fact that the TSA hires a large amount of convicted criminals. That they routinely steal cash, valuables and various objects from luggage, or use the so called naked body scanners as a source of amusement for their tiny little minds. While, as was pointed out, guns, knives and other weapons routinely get through. If you want go get through security without screening, all you have to do really is be an illegal immigrant. A person who has maybe just walked over the Mexican border with no identification of any kind who are referred to as “Non-Mexicans” who are trucked to the nearest city, given food and medical treatment and who are put on put on planes after bypassing all security (!!) to a destination of their choice. Things will continue to get worse until people stop cooperating with what is so obviously wrong.. Tired of ranting now..

  17. elizabeth July 11, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

    Tbh, i AM the type to report if i feel my rights have been violated. Im the type to get really, really mad about it if i feel my trust has been compromised (its happened before). But it would probably get me put on the no-fly list, and there goes my chance of the dream honeymoon with my future hubby. He and i really wanna tour europe, and until i absolutely need to fly because thats the only way to get to and from my destination, i will be driving everywhere (or taking a boat).

  18. Theresa July 11, 2016 at 2:37 pm #

    Last time they were tested it was at least a 70% fail. And they have trouble with transgenders. The machines need know boy or girl and you can’t be both in any way. Plus it’s no excuse to beat up someone with a disability when you been told of it!

  19. ChicagoDad July 11, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

    Recently, our family took a short trip to visit family. On the flight back, TSA insisted that they x-ray the 2 year old’s special security blanket, one of those little soft nursery blankets he has had since he was an infant. I told them “He’s going to scream.”
    “That’s alright”, they replied.
    As expected, our son screams as his treasured blanket dissappears down the conveyor into a dark hole. We get through the metal detector, and stand past the x-ray, and here comes the blanket! Our son sees it and starts screaming louder that he wants it. I reach out to get it and 3 agents yell “Don’t touch the blanket!”
    I gasp. I have no idea what is going on. I tell them, “He’s going to scream like this until he gets his blanket”
    The agent in our line replies, “That’s OK, we don’t mind the screaming.”
    I say, “I do. Another minute of this and he’s going to throw up all over the place” You see, my wife and I were blessed with toddlers who hurl when they cry too long…what joy.
    The screener looks at me incredulously, ready to ignore the screaming, confused and terrified baby.
    But fortunately, a TSA agent from another line who looked like she had a few kids of her own, overheard the exchange, booked it over to my line and quickly swabbed the blanket for explosive residue. She probably saved the TSA from having to close the entire line for a bio-hazard clean-up!

  20. Jana July 11, 2016 at 3:10 pm #

    We have a nice proverb in Czech: “Give a blockhead a function, and they will invent a regulation.”

  21. Theresa July 11, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

    Jana your saying sounds just like our government. Full of blockheads especially this year’s candidates. I don’t think we ever had two bigger blockheads.

  22. MaeMae July 11, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

    But Anna the problem with profiling is that someone will get missed. Terrorist groups are now converting white, middle-class teenagers. Presumably, the profiling you’re speaking of would probably let most of these kids through and they could be missed. Right? Or am I missing something?

  23. Ron Skurat July 11, 2016 at 4:42 pm #

    All just theatre for the rubes. Anyone who really wants to disrupt a flight can do so, but billions are spent so polticians can say they did something.

    In a way I feel bad for the TSA employees, they must know better than anyone how completely pointless their job is.

    The joke used to be that if you were at a party & you were cornered by a bore, just mention you worked for the IRS & they’d flee. Now you can get the same result from saying you’re with the TSA, unless they hit you first.

  24. Yocheved July 11, 2016 at 5:41 pm #

    Why can’t everyone be like El-Al, and just profile all the passengers? I’d rather have 5 to 10 minutes of questioning, than all of that useless groping and prodding.

    1. Political correctness? (that argument doesn’t stand up, because I’m a boring, middle aged, middle class white woman, and I still get profiled. I’m cool with that.)

    2. Most likely the real reason, is that profilers have to be professionally trained. TSA monkeys will work for minimum wage, and whatever they can steal out of your carry on luggage.

    Flying El-Al is not cheap, but you get the service (and dignity) that you pay for.

  25. James Pollock July 11, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

    “The trouble is, if safety were the top priority, we’d use profiling to do airport security”

    If profiling worked, we’d be using it. It doesn’t.

  26. Yocheved July 11, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

    I want to clarify what I meant by El-Al profiling. They profile EVERYBODY. You get pulled aside, and they assign you a screener who will look you in the eye, and ask you questions about your trip. If you act all nervous, evasive, or shady in any way, they will ask you more questions, and if they are still unsure, they will call a supervisor.

    What I do NOT mean, is that they will only pull aside a certain looking type of person. They profiled my 2yo on one trip, to make sure that I was actually her mother, she was not being kidnapped in a custody case, or G-d forbid, being put into sex trafficking.

    Intelligent questions, from intelligent people, for a good reason. Much more efficient than shoving your hands down someone’s pants, don’t you think?

  27. James Pollock July 11, 2016 at 6:39 pm #

    The real problem is that what TSA is attempting to do, essentially, is to prevent smuggling. The bad guys want to smuggle weapons or something that can be turned into a weapon onto the airplane, and the TSA is supposed to prevent this from happening. Detecting and preventing smuggling is difficult even when you have people cooperating, but travellers are already stressed out, doubly-so if anything interrupts their travel plans, and many “attempt” to “smuggle” contraband though the security checkpoint because A) they forgot they had it, B) they didn’t realize it was contraband, or C) they don’t care. So you wind up with people who are NOT terrorists attempting to bring apparently-innocuous items which are not permitted, knives, and even guns through security checkpoints. Meanwhile, actual terrorists have moved on to other ways of attacking and disrupting our society.

  28. Jenny Islander July 11, 2016 at 6:58 pm #

    @Craig: People in the TSA line are by definition trying to go someplace, usually on a tight schedule.

    Also, you can get tossed into jail in this country and just plain forgotten.

    Or come out dead, and they’ll call it suicide, even if you were healthy and looking forward to life when you were last seen.

    Or you can “just” be beaten and kicked on airport grounds, and nothing will happen to the people who did it.

  29. Jenny Islander July 11, 2016 at 7:00 pm #

    In addition: People who can afford to fly up front in the comfy seats (and hire lawyers and contact networks of people who can equally easily afford comfy seats) get processed quickly or skip the TSA lines altogether. What does that tell you?

  30. Beth July 11, 2016 at 8:46 pm #

    I have some friends who always fly first class (retired at a far different income level from me!); they travel regularly and have never skipped or been told they can skip the TSA line. I don’t even know how that would work – never seen at sign at an airport pointing toward a special security entrance for first class. Sometimes one of our friends has gotten a TSA pre-check, but so have I, a few times, flying coach. And all that means if that you don’t have to take off your shoes or coat, and your laptop can remain in your bag.

  31. Muriel Strand, P.E. July 11, 2016 at 8:49 pm #

    why i don’t fly

  32. CrazyCatLady July 11, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

    Ah yes, juggle the toddler whom you had to take out of the stroller/baby carrier, take off your shoes, get your stuff up on the conveyer, answer questions, and hurry the hell up because even though you got there 3 hours early, you had to wait 2.75 of those hours in line for the TSA. Oh, and get the other two young kids through as well…without shoes. And get everything back on and run on the other end. I remember those days.

    We flew in June of this year. At the local small airport, they didn’t like the bag with the pop tarts, and they didn’t like the travel iron. They did say the travel iron was really cute.

    On the way back, we no longer had the pop tarts in their foil, long since eaten, but we did have a bag full of sea shells, sea glass, rocks and 3 ball peen hammer heads. Oh, and block of Scrapple (kind of like a cube of polenta, only with liver and pork meat, very yummy) in a clear container with an ice pack. Oh, and a bag of Herr’s Old Bay Chips. Everything went in ONE bag, then they only had to search that one. It was all moved around after we got through security as it was very heavy and most of those things belonged to the kids. Only I had to do the full body scan…no reason given, I wore pretty much the same clothing I had on the way out. The kids under 16 did NOT have to take off their shoes any more….which was long overdue.

  33. CrazyCatLady July 11, 2016 at 9:20 pm #

    You can get through the lines quicker if you do PreCheck. https://www.tsa.gov/precheck Basically, you pay $85, do a background check and get fingerprinted.

    Because, you know, those terrorist ALL have other crimes on their backgrounds and this will ensure that everyone that you fly with is on the up and up.

  34. Reta Smith July 11, 2016 at 9:22 pm #

    Oh my God, that is horrible! I hope we don’t have to go through anything like that when we fly to Ireland!

  35. K2 July 11, 2016 at 11:09 pm #

    Anna – Curious. What civil liberties do we have left that can’t be easily taken away by CPS or other government officials without any charges/convictions being involved? CPS literally told someone I know where to put a chair that was in the living room. Not a safety issue, a personal preference aesthetic issue, but the person’s right to arrange furniture in their own home was taken away.

  36. HotInLa July 11, 2016 at 11:34 pm #

    Hearing all these TSA stories is making me think we were extremely lucky on our recent flights. I travelled with my 4 children, aged 2-19. We walked through one at a time, they tested my 2 yr olds milk, & on the flight home they patted the back of my 16 yr old daughter’s hair. The lines weren’t excessively long either.
    Makes me wonder what kind of experience we’ll have next time.

  37. HotInLa July 11, 2016 at 11:36 pm #

    The children under 6 didn’t have to remove shoes either. One was wearing sandals, the other tennis shoes & socks.

  38. Jess July 11, 2016 at 11:42 pm #

    First class doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get extra screening, but security at the airports I’ve been to have separate lines for first class/ gold/platinum members. Kind of nice being able to jump ahead when there’s a long line.

  39. John S July 12, 2016 at 12:18 am #

    Off the main topic, I know, but the illustration of the hand made me think of G. Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” comic strip. A few years ago, when actor-turned-California-governor-then-back-to-actor Arnold Schwartzenegger was in office, there were stories raised about his alleged groping of several assistants. In the strip, the Gov. was pictured as a giant hand. He was, using a pun on an SS rank, referred to as “Herr Gropenfuehrer”!

    Recently I too was “patted down” at an airport security stop, after I had emptied all my pockets of all contents. I had even removed my belt, because it has a metal buckle. Still, the readings indicated something on me was potentially dangerous. After the pat down, which produced no results, I casually mentioned the fact my shirt buttons were metallic–could that have been the problem? It was–no one in the TSA ranks had been taught, it seemed, to check out this possibility. At least one TSA agent was a little flustered.

    By the by, what about the other “dangerous” groin-area indicators of potential trouble? I’m writing about the metallic zippers that can still be found on some trousers and pants. More trouble, which means potentially more “pat-downs” for more people?

  40. Reziac July 12, 2016 at 12:54 am #

    Hmm. If they’re looking for explosive *residue*, wouldn’t that mean the explosive had already, like, exploded?

  41. Reziac July 12, 2016 at 12:59 am #

    Yocheved — the difference is that El-Al has to deal with REAL threats. So they’ve grown a clue.

    The TSA doesn’t have REAL threats to cope with, but has to perform for security theatre, which is evidently much harder to get right. (Various tests have found that ~95% of non-innocuous items are missed by the screeners.)

  42. James Pollock July 12, 2016 at 1:17 am #

    “Hmm. If they’re looking for explosive *residue*, wouldn’t that mean the explosive had already, like, exploded?”
    No, it doesn’t.

    Say you’re pouring something into a container. If some dribbles down the side, that’s “residue”. Or suppose you pour something out of one container and into another container…. whatever sticks to the first container is “residue”. In either case, “residue” means that it’s “left over”..
    I’m guessing you’re thinking of “gun shot residue”, which is in fact formed by the combustion product of the gunpowder in the gun. But it’s “residue” not because it’s made of burned gunpowder, but because it’s left over.

  43. C. S. P. Schofield July 12, 2016 at 4:11 am #

    The TSA is a collection of clowns and nitwits, and this was inevitable from the start. My guess is that everyone in the Bush administration with the intelligence of a turnip knew that the next time a terrorist tried to take over a planeload of Americans, he was going to get dog-piled and stuffed into the overhead luggage compartment. This meant that the TSA came into being solely because of the public demand that the government “do something” about airport security. There was little point in fighting the demand, but also no point in actually expending much effort on making the TSA anything other than political theatre. Nobody sensible paid any attention to the thing, so the new agency filled up with empire-builders, cowboys, and morons.

  44. BL July 12, 2016 at 5:58 am #

    So what’s the solution? How does one smuggle a groin onto an airplane without being detected?

  45. Buffy July 12, 2016 at 6:20 am #

    My son just applied for a job with TSA, because he’s an unemployed young adult struggling to find a job in his field, and needs to work. There are openings at our local airport, it’s a federal job with federal benefits, and opens opportunities to live in places other than his hometown.

    Wait til I tell him he’ll be a clown and a nitwit too!!

  46. Dee July 12, 2016 at 7:35 am #

    Well I’ve been with TSA for 14 years and the only reason why a passenger will be subjected to a full body pat down is if their hands alarmed, and there is no such thing as being stripped searched naked in the private screening area! We are required to have another officer as the same gender to witness on our behalf AND the passenger is allowed to have a family member with them also. As far as minors under the age of 12…THEY ATE NOT ALLOWED TO BE SCREENED THROUGH THE ATR, IT IS AGAINST STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURES.And….my all means we, TSA, does not or have ever had the right to make a mother remove her child’s diaper for and EXPLOSIVE TRACE DETECTION., but we are required to swipe the hnads of a parent carrying their child through the metal detector. I am sorry for your experience if it happened such way ma’am, but that is not the way that we work.

  47. BL July 12, 2016 at 9:18 am #

    “First class doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get extra screening, but security at the airports I’ve been to have separate lines for first class/ gold/platinum members. Kind of nice being able to jump ahead when there’s a long line.”

    Politicians can bypass the whole procedure, or so I’ve heard. I’d trust them the least.

  48. ChicagoDad July 12, 2016 at 9:49 am #

    @Dee, in school, I took a class about the history of Medieval monestaries. Some monestaries would establish redundant rules and procedures for the monks and novices every few years. One of them that I remember were various prohibitions on excessive drinking. One year, the rule is no drinking at certain times or place, the next year it was a limit on the amount of ale monks could drink each day, a few years later another beer rule. I remember my history professor saying, “I love finding stuff like this. Obviously, the leaders at the monestary kept making these rules because they were broken as often as followed and they had a hard time controlling it.” Sometimes rules and procedures are evidence that they are broken, and the more a behavior is regulated, the more likely it is that the behavior is a problem that the leaders can’t stop. A quirk of history and human behavior! It is really hard to get hundreds and thosands of people to follow the same rules the same way across a huge country, especially if some of them are compelled to do otherwise.

    @Buffy, I hope your son finds success and opportunity with his new job.

  49. James Pollock July 12, 2016 at 9:57 am #

    “My guess is that everyone in the Bush administration with the intelligence of a turnip knew that the next time a terrorist tried to take over a planeload of Americans, he was going to get dog-piled and stuffed into the overhead luggage compartment.”

    This is true if he (or she) hopes to use a box-cutter to take over the airplane and fly it somewhere other than where it is scheduled to go. If he (or she) just wants to set off a bomb and crash the airplane, how will dog-piling him help, exactly?

  50. SKL July 12, 2016 at 12:04 pm #


    I was traveling internationally over the past 2 weeks, and I did notice heightened security, which I assumed was due to the terrorist events that were happening around that time.

    I think in this case, the TSA person should have been more clear about what she was going to do and give the traveler another chance to choose the private screening room instead. I also think they need to find a better way to detect explosives without feeling people up. :/

    I’ve been physically screened various times, as has at least one of my 9yo daughters. So far nothing that invasive, though.

    For domestic travel, the TSA pre-check should be helpful for folks subject to a lot of screening. At least I hope so.

  51. Papilio July 12, 2016 at 6:27 pm #

    Sassier people than us would just give them instructions to do it faster and go all When-Harry-met-Sally in the airport, I imagine… 😛

  52. snow July 12, 2016 at 7:15 pm #

    In August of 2001 a friend and I bought two plane tickets to spend a fortnight in New York in October of that year. When 9/11 happened, we quickly decided that we’d travel regardless. First of all, a terrorist attack was unlikely to happen again so soon because everyone would be extra-vigilant, and secondly – and perhaps more importantly – we figured that the US would go crazy with all the added security &c and one really couldn’t tell when one would wish to travel there the next time so it was best to get the trip done with as long as nothing incredibly insane had been yet implemented. We had a great trip, and I’m glad we went. Still waiting for the sanity to return…

  53. Jessica July 12, 2016 at 8:53 pm #

    Thank you, Dee. It’s nice to hear from someone who has actual information.

  54. lollipoplover July 12, 2016 at 9:44 pm #

    I despise flying, especially with children. As for TSA screenings, I bring as little as possible (no scissors or serrated knives!) and follow the ridiculous rules because so many people slow the process down. I once watched an older woman down a bottle of good vodka because she didn’t want to part with it….not a pretty sight.

    We’ve used a fly or drive calculator for many of our vacations to determine time and expenses:

    Flying isn’t a time saver for many of our trips and the cost savings of driving (no rental car, can bring bikes and boards and liquor!) compared to the headaches of TSA nonsense makes driving a no-brainer for most of our family trips. Yet driving is statistically more dangerous than flying. You wouldn’t believe that trying to get past one of these screening points…

  55. baby-paramedic July 13, 2016 at 4:17 am #

    I get picked up for additional screening all the time. I can do things to lessen my risk of it, but I have still been selected for additional screening more than anyone else I know apart from people wearing hijabs.

    most of the time the additional screening is annoying, and mildly invasive, but nothing more. There was one time I set off the full body scanner though (because as an A-cup, I wasn’t wearing a bra, and it came up with “chest anomaly”). I was basically top half stripped search in the line, by someone yelling at me in a language I do actually understand and speak… but only if they go slowly, the accent and word choice is too different from my own if they are going fast. I was groped, I would absolutely call it a grope.
    I am a frequent flyer, who frequently gets additional screening, and this was the first time I had felt so totally and utterly violated like that.

    Yet, can you complain to anyone about it? Of course not. They don’t actually seem to look into complaints like that.

  56. Joe Walsh July 13, 2016 at 4:50 pm #

    Soon John Walsh will market the “Walsh-Peter-Meter.” Maybe the TSA will invest in this marvelous tool!

  57. hineata July 13, 2016 at 5:23 pm #

    @Lollipoplover – am so jealous ☺. Would love to drive to some more distant locations, but there’s little things like Cook Strait, the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean in the way, darn it! There is a chap who’s adapted his van to drive over water, but only a km or two ☺.

    That said, it sounds like your TSA is better than our restrictions in some ways. While our security people seem to be always polite, I can’t take even crochet hooks on board domestic flights, let alone knives and scissors – have lost knives and scissors twice recently when I forgot to check my teacher supplies before boarding. My own fault, but it’s slightly irritating to have to perform all this security nonsense in a country where nothing much ever happens, just because some Saudi decided to fly planes into buildings thousands of miles, an ocean and a continent away from us.

  58. dancing on thin ice July 14, 2016 at 4:08 pm #

    Some try to pin the blame of the TSA on liberal Democrats or law and order Republicans.

    We have more to fear from bureaucrats with too much power.

  59. JLM July 15, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

    Hineata, I too enjoy the restrictions in place on our side of the world!

    A few years ago, we were flying back from Fiji to Sydney (4 hour flight). They announced that the supplies of bottled water on the plane had run out and suggested we buy bottled water from the shops inside the security area at the airport. Most families did this as instructed (including us).

    Then on the walkway onto the plane, they had security checks. Lo and behold, they were checking for dangerous liquids. Every single unopened bottle that had been bought from inside the security area of the airport was confiscated as potentially dangerous!!!

    That’s the point at which I realised the whole thing was a farce.

    And when I was frequently travelling alone with a toddler and baby, I swore they just had the rules for their own amusement. After all, what could be more hilarious than trying to hold a young baby, prevent a toddler running away, and keep an eye on the nappy bag, all while trying to fold a stroller, because heaven forbid the baby was a terrorist hiding something in the unfolded stroller? Roll up, roll up, for the best show in town!

  60. Scott July 16, 2016 at 11:11 am #

    What is described above is sexual assault, and it would be reasonable to call it rape as well, and it is rape in some jurisdictions.

    Perhaps the screener may not enjoy it. They may say they are just doing their job. If your job is sexual assault and you keep that job though you certainly do enjoy something of it. Rapists tend to get off on the power trip if not the actual sex part anyway.

    This is not the first story I have heard like this. All of them make me sick, angry and horrified.

    Not just at what happened, but the reaction from the public that this is OK. It’s offensive and shocking to me that people hear these stories and aren’t openly revolting against what is clearly a totalitarian government.

  61. Beth July 17, 2016 at 2:44 pm #

    @baby-paramedic…..I’m surprised and shocked that not wearing a bra is considered a “chest anomoly”; someone actually thought to program a machine to recognize women’s undergarments and flag a person that is missing one? Sigh. I wonder if it also recognizes when men are going commando.

  62. Julia July 18, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

    I’ve noticed that some airports–smaller ones in particular are WAY more power-trippy than others. I’ve flown through both Phoenix international and LAX multiple times with my kids and never seen it experienced anything like this. In Phoenix they sometimes don’t even make you take off your shoes or remove your laptops. They never make parents of young kids go through the body scanner, only the metal detector, and they’ve never si much as looked twice at my breast pump! But at Mesa regional, 20 miles away, OMG. EVERYONE goes through the body scanner. They intrusively pat down my 68-year-old mother every time she flies through there because her varicose veins set off their alarms. She tells them it’s going to happen, and the officials insist that’s not possible, and then it happens, and then thecTSA flips their s**t about it. Like, which airport is a terrorist more likely to come through, PHX or tiny little Mesa? Sheez Louize.

  63. Stacey Gordon July 18, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

    All you have to do to put something onto a plane is to work for the company that loads the drink carts.

  64. James Pollock July 18, 2016 at 3:15 pm #

    “What is described above is sexual assault, and it would be reasonable to call it rape as well, and it is rape in some jurisdictions.”

    Except consent obviates rape. If you don’t consent to a TSA search, you don’t get one. You are, and always have been, free to walk away uninspected.

  65. Dean July 18, 2016 at 6:36 pm #

    Have traveled all over the world and “security officers” in the US are the worst. One demanded that I take metal implants out of my chest and display them, and another objected to a 1-1/2 inch depiction of an axe in a log on my belt, saying, “Axes are dangerous weapons.”
    But nobody could explain why passengers coming off a plane were required to take of their shoes to get out of one US airport.

  66. The other Mandy July 18, 2016 at 10:27 pm #

    I’m a white, 40-yo woman, and I get the grope down almost every time I fly. Though this last trip, from San Diego, I was able to take my daughter through the metal detector without taking her out of the baby carrier which was a huge help. And the kids didn’t hav to take off shoes. The whole thing is such a farce.

  67. James Pollock July 19, 2016 at 12:06 am #

    “I’m a white, 40-yo woman, and I get the grope down almost every time I fly.”

    Being white, 40yo and/or female doesn’t take you out of the terrorist profile, since there are cases of people who match all of those characteristics who were nevertheless terrorists.

    I had a number of years in which I had to take my daughter to the airport so she could fly to see her mother in another state. The airline doesn’t want to take custody of your minor child flying unaccompanied until the last possible moment, and they want to surrender custody as soon as feasible. At the receiving end, this is done at the front counter, outside the security area. At the sending end, however, they want you, the parent, to go to the gate, wait with the child until the airplane boards, and then wait a little bit more, until the plane actually leaves the airport. This requires, obviously, entering the security area. I got special screening every time. I was nervous when my daughter started flying on a regular ticket instead of as an “unaccompanied minor”… not because I thought the plane was going to crash or anything, but because I have experience with missed and cancelled connecting flights, and re-booking, and my ex-wife never moved to somplace that had direct airline service. On the other hand, by the time my 14-year-old daughter was flying on adult tickets, she was a confident enough traveller that I could drop her off at the departure ramp and be sure that she could get into the airport, get her bags checked, and get onto the correct airplane by herself.

  68. Scott July 20, 2016 at 1:00 am #

    It’s sexual assault. There was no consent to what happened and the search exceeded what was reasonable. You can file complaints known as yellow cards.

    The groin anomaly alarm happens when the person is identified by the screener as a female to the machine and the machine detects a penis, or if the person is identified by the screener as a male to the machine and the machine doesn’t detect a penis. Intentional misidentification of the person by the screener is a scam known and used by TSA screeners who wish to assault certain passengers for whatever reason. Screeners were fired in Denver running this scam, but they should have been arrested, indicted and tried because what they are doing is criminal.

  69. James Pollock July 20, 2016 at 2:39 am #

    “It’s sexual assault.”
    It’s not.

    “There was no consent to what happened”
    Except there was. You can walk away from any TSA checkpoint, untouched, any time you like. Or are you also contending that that there was also a robbery, because the airline took money from the passenger?

    “the search exceeded what was reasonable.”
    Consent, however grudgingly given, obviates this, too.

    ” the search exceeded what was reasonable”
    Lots of searches are unreasonable. Doesn’t make them sexual assaults.

    “Screeners were fired in Denver running this scam, but they should have been arrested, indicted and tried because what they are doing is criminal.”
    What you describe isn’t sexual assault. It’s official misconduct. I’d say under 18 U.S. Code § 242. (You’d have to talk to an attorney who specializes in federal criminal law.