“We can pat you down here or we can go down to the Broward Sherriff’s Office and do it.”
These were the words of the Transportation Security Manager on duty early this morning in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. I was illegally detained and then threatened with arrest. For refusing to allow the TSA to touch my genitals and buttocks.
My morning started at about 4 AM, where in FLL T3, approximately 80% of the passengers were being directed through the backscatter x-ray variety of nude body scanner. Try as I did to be one of the “lucky” 20%, I was directed to the scanner.
“I’ll be opting out of this,” I politely told the clerk. “No problem, that is your right!” There was no yelling of “WE GOT AN OPT-OUT!” anymore, and after showing me a card that explained that opting out means that they would be touching my “sensitive areas” and giving me a chance to change my mind, I went to “the box” — which in FLL is a roped-off area.
He explained the procedure to me, which involved the usual mention of “resistance.” I asked for him to define resistance, and he said something along the lines of, “Where the leg meets, you know, here,” gesturing to his crotch. I told him that he can perform whatever pat-down he wanted so long as he did not touch my genitals or buttocks (my usual lexicon does not include such fancy words for “balls” and “ass,” but I digress…).
A 3-striper (STSO) is called over, who insists that the pat-down will not touch my genitals, but notes that it will involve going over my buttocks. I ask him to clarify how he intends to “meet resistance” without touching my balls, and he suggests that maybe if I stand in some kind of lunge position, it will help. I again clarify that I consent to search so long as it does not touch my genitals or buttocks.
I get a polite version of the classic, “Do you want to fly today?” and then a note that “Leo” would be called over if I didn’t want to proceed. For those of you unfamiliar with TSA shenanigans, a LEO is a Law Enforcement Officer — a county sheriff, in this case. I tell him if that’s what he needs to do, then that’s what he needs to do.
My LEO comes within a few minutes, asks what’s going on, the TSOs explain that I won’t consent to a search, and I clarify that I consent, just not to touching my junk. The sheriff just sits by passively, not ready to do too much since there’s nothing for him to do, and makes a polite attempt at getting me to comply.
Honestly, everyone up to this point was quite polite. Everyone in a blue uniform, plus everyone from the sheriff’s department was calm and relaxed, as was I, the entire time. However, then comes over the TSM — the lowest level of TSA “suit,” who explains the same thing as everyone else, and then informs me that I cannot leave the checkpoint until I am screened. He then goes on to tell me that if I do not permit his screeners to touch my genitals, I will have to go down to the “BSO” — Broward Sheriff’s Office. At this point, I am now being illegally detained and illegally coerced into complying with a search.
I told him we’ll do what we have to do, but I do not consent.
One of the other screeners is now going through my belongings with detail that I have never seen. Bags that took me half an hour to pack are now completely empty, every last pocket, and everything swabbed for explosive residue. The screener starts looking through all the cards I removed from my pocket before the screening started, and actually begins to read them all. I object, stating that it’s beyond the TSA’s mission to read my personal belongings, but he tells me he has the right to do this. Finally he finds something suspicious in my card stack — a concealed weapons license. He hands it to the sheriff like it was evidence that I must have a gun on me. The sheriff shrugs and says, “I don’t have a problem with anyone with a concealed weapons license. You know why?” Of course I do — it means I’ve had a background check and have no criminal record.
The collection of 2 sheriffs, at least 6 blue shirts, one TSM, and one woman whose role I’m unsure of kept themselves busy. The sheriff ran a warrant check on my license. The TSA people made copies of my ID and boarding passes. The bag searcher held up a corset he found in my bag, confused, and I told him he’d look great in it (and no, the corset is not mine; belongs to one of my girl friends). Another screener asks me if he knows I can be fined and asks me if I know that. I tell him of course, $11,000. A relatively cute STSO (who happened to be my TDC — the person who checked my ID) made small talk and told me she liked my hair. But, try as they might, I have nothing illegal with me, and have no intent on giving in to their threats (or flirtations :)).
The TSM finally comes up to me and tells me I’ll be escorted out of the airport. “What, no arrest? I thought we were going down to the BSO?” Apparently he couldn’t back that statement up.
I took my belongings, thanked the sheriffs, exited the checkpoint, and after a total of 57 minutes at the checkpoint, turned off my audio recorder.
Oh, did I mention I have this all on tape? ;)
Coming soon. :) Along with a new federal civil action for fourth amendment violations relating to the unlawful coersion, as well as false arrest.