Touched by the TSA

Touched by the TSA

Summary: Time was when having "the talk" with your kids meant the birds and the bees. Nowadays parents also have to be ready to explain shoe- and underwear-bombers, molotov toothpaste, and the touchy-feely TSA.

TOPICS: Security

Touched by the TSAStop the security line, I want to get off. And I'm taking my kid with me.

It was bad enough while he was a baby. I wouldn't take my glands, and thus my child, through an airport scanner while I was lactating. Pretty basic stuff: you do your best to keep tequila, tobacco, and tachyons away from your child and this elixir he's drinking that's supposed to be nothing short of the Water of Life. (Hold your talkbacks, I don't actually think body scanners involve tachyons, but accuracy must sometimes be sacrificed on the altar of alliteration - not to mention loading a single sentence with both Star Trek and Dune allusions.) So we're no strangers to "we'll take the pat-down" interludes at airports, at least in the good old days that involved a wand and a sticker for the little guy if he managed not to bolt from the area.

As he got older, he began to notice the inconvenience and ridiculousness of padding through the scanner area in stocking feet. And you can bet when something is both inconvenient and ridiculous, my kid wants answers. Did I thoroughly explain why we must bid adieu to our footwear? Um, no. My son still flees the room in terror when Snoopy rises as the Great Pumpkin. He is simply not equipped (yet?) to handle the notion of being surrounded by potentially lethal Skechers.

Then there was The Sunscreen Incident. It coincided with that stage, around three years of age, when kids start to get really possessive and particular about Their Stuff. Of course it was all my fault. It was a return flight, and I was either trying to streamline things by not checking bags this one time, or I'd simply forgotten there was a nearly-empty spray can of sunblock in his carry-on. Out it came, away it went, and I'll wager that day's entire TSA shift is wistful for when they used to have eardrums. "Why mom, why did they take my sunscreen?" I have a hard enough time getting him to use the stuff, not to mention shampoo and toothpaste - so no, I did not go into great detail about the foiling of the UK Liquids Plot. (Though as I write this, I realize that if he thought he could whip up something explosive with his various hygienic, protective, and cleansing liquids, my child might actually take a shine to them. Hmm, some rethinking could be in order.)

Though my days of toting bodies and bottles full of breast milk through airports are well and thankfully over, given the new AIT scanners, to the extent I choose to fly at all any more, I will be opting out of them and for the new, more invasive pat-down - but that means so will my kid.

Terrible timing, TSA. One of the first things the little guys have to learn in Cub Scouts these days is a whole mess of process and procedure about "dangerous situations" and "inappropriate touching." Per the Cub Scout Tiger Cub Handbook,

It's your body and you have the right to say no to anyone who tries to touch you in places covered by your swimming suit or to do things that you think are wrong.

Given that my child tends to take these things pretty literally, and to append "AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS" to any assurance he has the right to say no, I feel terrible for the poor TSA agents who draw us on our next trip. I may bring along cotton batting for their ears - assuming that's not a banned substance by then. Just today TSA announced a "modified pat-down" for travelers 12 and under, but I haven't found any description or account of how that will work. Let's hope it leaves swimming suits completely out of the conversation.

Another thing no one warned me about when I became a parent: that you either have to explain to your kids about people who want to blow them up, and others who want to (or are paid to) feel them up, or else be reckless and irresponsible with their safety, and unresponsive and unhelpful to their curiosity. There should be a "none of the above" option there, but sadly, there's not.

At least while we're waiting to see how much patting goes down, I can take solace in the fact I chose that option. Apparently, for families with kids who simply can't stand still long enough for the AIT scanners to work, the choice is made for them.

If you're a car dealer or auto mechanic, you've seldom heard such good news. For the rest of us? Not so much.

More:  Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Body scanner saved 35,000 'naked' images

Update:  We delved further into this topic today (11/19/10) on This WEEK in LAW, with panelists Lisa Borodkin, Evan Brown, and Venkat Balasubramani.

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(Image by anja_johnson, CC Attribution-2.0)

Topic: Security

Denise Howell

About Denise Howell

Denise Howell is an appellate, intellectual property and technology lawyer who enjoys broad industry recognition for her expertise on the intersection of emerging technologies and law.

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  • US airports are unbearable

    Usually US security regulations are transferred to everywhere else in the world. However, it is still a *lot* more pleasant to fly in Europe and Asia than in the US. It starts by having a voice screaming in a loudspeaker "for your safety...." every 10 seconds. Then the scanners, the waiting lines, etc. I hope the paranoia doesn't spread further from the US.
    • RE: Touched by the TSA

      @patibulo That's because this nation is full of conditioned cowards too afraid to standup to the system. If everyone drove instead of fly for two weeks (I know some of you actually do have to fly) it would send a clear message to the industry and the TSA. But instead you line up to be inspected by a device that can be fooled with pancake thick materials and inspectors that let loaded weapons get through scanners.

      Were paying these morons to protect our freedoms when a simple trained Golden Retriever would do ten times a better job than these societal rejects.
  • I'm all for bankrupting the airlines and putting TSA out of a job.

    I've already written all of my congressional representatives, it will be interesting to see their statements. In the meantime, I've told my boss and associates I'm no longer interested in flying for business trips. Vacation will be by car from now on, as I don't think I could stand by and watch my wife and daughter being groped without ending up in jail.

    For those who would say that this makes us safer somehow, find time to watch the HBO movie "Strip Search". You have no idea where this could ultimately go. If you are willing to accept this just to get on a plane, then the same is true for any other situation where safety is involved. We should start doing this in schools to "protect" our children, right? Even if it means subjecting them to abuse by government-sanctioned pedophiles, it still keeps them "safe", right?

    What a Faustian bargain we have struck with the Devil, OBL and his minions are sitting in some cave laughing themselves silly at us right now.
    terry flores
    • The deal wasn't struck with the devil....

      @terry flores - it was struck by retarded sheep with psychopaths, and we wonder why we are screwed.

      Time to hang the psychos and get on with mankinds development.
      Reality Bites
      • RE: Touched by the TSA

        @Reality Bites ... Careful, you could get caught in the rush.
  • You could try this approach...
    • RE: Touched by the TSA

      @A.Sinic Thanks, wonderful story!
      Denise Howell
    • The guy lucked out

      For all he knew, someone could have had explosives or a plastic resin butcher knife in that line. That's my life he's risking because he feels he shouldn't be patted down for weapons?!!
      Terrorist love this country because no matter what people do to make it safer to travel, the terrorist just complain its wrong and then the citizens apease them by force the government to stop it.
      Ron Bergundy
      • RE: Touched by the TSA

        @cyberspammer "Those who give up essential liberties to gain temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security" - Ben Franklin.

        Tell me how your nude body enhances security? Cargo is carried on planes, yea bombs can get put in there (and have very little screening). What about a rogue airport employee? Yep. Doesn't take care of that threat. There are other ways to gain real security, not perceived and at the expense of our rights guaranteed under the US Constitution.
      • RE: Touched by the TSA

        @cyberspammer LUCKY? You are still safer flying than traveling any other way. I loved this country more before it became so paranoid. To me, the terrorists have one by scarring the heck out of people like you to give up and let us become a police state.
        x military
      • Booh!


        The best way to have security is to profile. Those who answer questions honestly and those who don't and get caught by experts. There are people that know you are lying better than any lie detector because they are human experts. Nervousness or certain body language or facial and eye movements are dead giveaways to suspicious people. You don't have to feel them up or nuke them, but you have to pay higher salaries to these talented folks that are good at this. The machinery or Orwellian atmosphere is to give the illusion to those insecure folks such as yourself to feel better and get through the night. I and a lot of others do not want to pay the price so your lizard brain can get a good nights sleep. Neither would Ben Franklin if he were alive today.
      • RE: Touched by the TSA

        @osreinstall - But haven't you been paying attention to the ACLU? Profiling is also illegal and unconstitional.
      • Re: Profiling


        Profiling is not illegal unless it violates civil liberties. If the profiling is limited on behavior then it is OK. You can throw a minority out of your store if he is acting like an a**hole. That is why Walmart has cameras. To catch thieves and has the proof. So profile between liars and folks telling the truth. Behavior. If they are nervous, sweaty, break eye contact or evade or a plain wise ass, then they go for more questioning or rejected with money refund. By the way, the ACLU isn't always correct in their assessment of things.
      • RE: Touched by the TSA

        @cyberspammer - I always find it interesting how people view things that don't affect them. Profiling is illegal for a reason - when someone escorts you out of a store for as you put it acting line an a**hol@- please let me know.

        Or decides to run you in just in case you just might have a record - or some other non-sense. It is the room for abuse of power and the implications of such that weaken the governments ability to protect its citizens.

        I personally do not have a problem with the scanners - but I do have a problem with these units having the ability to store an image. There needs to be policies in place to prevent people from abusing this.

        TSA officials are human - and humans are ignorant and self-serving by nature (consideration for others is a learned behavior). Stealing your image and posting it without your approval is a violation of your privacy - it should be made clear that if an image is used for any reason other than official TSA business that the offender will be swiftly prosecuted.
      • I think you meant me.


        Profiling behaviors is not illegal. Go into any bar and act like an a**hole and they will throw you out the door physically, and it is legal. I have seen it done in Walmart and a few bars.

        Never mentioned running someone in if they have a record.

        I have a problem with the scanners because they emit XRays. Go nuke youself for all I care. You can opt out.

        Actually we don't have security. Profiling behaviors and a few dogs to sniff will be much better. Also XRay baggage behind bomb proof blast walls will eliminate the need to evacuate the airport.

        Long live security theater. - NOT!
  • none of the above?

    "Hi. I don't want to be scanned, patted, or wanded, I just want to get on the plane".
    "No problem Mr. Terrorist - Have a nice flight sir!!"


    "Oh look. were being sued. seems someone blew up a plane mid-flight"
    Ron Bergundy
    • RE: Touched by the TSA

      @cyberspammer You do know the government can't be sued on those grounds alone right? Oh wait - you are just a looney liberal parroting the ideal that Government brings security - which has never worked, read history.
      • They can't read... you don't keep up the dribble like a parrot if

        you have a brain. He won't know what hit him when they turn up at his door and take him away for "Security" reasons.....
        Reality Bites
    • RE: Touched by the TSA

      @cyberspammer hmm, Mr. Terrorist will just put the explosives up his ***hole and blow up the plane and you'll still be getting cancer or groped.
      x military
      • RE: Touched by the TSA

        @x military
        Oh wait, I am the pilot and I don't need explosives up my A$$hole to crash the plane!
        So what now?