I went to EWR today to I thought were NoS-safe gates, but a new MMW ATD had been installed and was being used as primary for all passengers. I had specifically paid more and taken a less comfortable aircraft because I thought these gates were NoS-free.
When I arrived at the checkpoint, I noticed an abundance of 2- and 3-stripe TSA screeners, which to me signaled likely BDO usage. I wasn’t asked any questions other than how I was doing. The line was extra long, and multiple passengers were complaining that they were going to miss their flights. The reason, of course, was that NoS was being used as primary. One line, and nearly all passengers directed to it.
So, I braced myself for having to deal with Port Authority police, who aren’t generally known for being friendly. I was directed to the NoS and opted out. I walked through the metal detector without alarm (which I think was just because the WTMD was in the way, not because they wanted to screen me with it), and was brought over to the “yellow feet” mat by a friendly older guy. He proceeded to explain that he’d be rubbing his hands on my ass and also would be running his hands “pretty high up on [my] inner thigh.” I told him that I consent to being searched, but do not consent to having my genitals or buttocks touched. He tells me that won’t work, and then tells me it’s not “really” the genitals he’ll be touching. I explain that if he moves my hand up my inner thighs that he’ll reach my balls, and he goes to find a supervisor.
A supervisor (STSO) comes over and starts off with the classic, DYWTFT (“Do you want to fly today?”), to which I tell him, “No, not if it means my rights will be violated.” I could tell by the blank stare on his face that apparently “no” wasn’t a response he often received. After a few moments, he tells me he’ll have to call a cop, and I tell him that he should definitely “call a LEO, and the TSM as well.”
STSO: “A TSM?”
Jon: “Yes, a TSM.”
STSO: “What’s a TSM?”
Jon: “A TSM, a Transportation Security Manager.”
STSO: “I am the manager here.”
Jon: “No, you’re an STSO. The TSM is your boss. I want the TSM.”
STSO: *more blank stare* *goes to get the TSM*
While he’s fetching the TSM, a couple of other assorted-rank screeners ask me why I’m doing this, why I went to the checkpoint knowing the policy if I would just refuse, and why I should just go through the NoS. I give them basics about rights, safety, and efficacy. Nothing special, until STSO Melissa Laughery vomited up the following gem:
“After 9/11, you give up all your rights at the checkpoint!”
Surrounded by about 7 screeners at this point and shocked at the absurdity, I repeated her loudly:
“After 9/11, we have no rights at the checkpoint?! Did everyone else hear this? It’s nice to hear how the TSA thinks of our rights.”
I see a man in a suit approch behind Mel, and brush her aside to say hi to TSM Thomas Willoghby. We briefly clarify the situation, and he tells me if I don’t want to be screened, I can leave. I re-state that I’m willing to be screened, just not molested, but if that’s not possible, I’ll go. So, I go. No cop, no retaliatory search, nothing.
But, as I’m leaving, the other TSOs ask him why he’s just letting me go. He explains to me that the new policy is that if someone declines a pat down, they’re just sent on their way. Could it be that after a certain incident in FLL, the TSA has changed the way they deal with double opt-outs?
One more note: American Airlines would *NOT* re-accommodate my flight, despite having free space on another flight from a nearby airport. After the previous incident at FLL, USAir was happy to re-accommodate. I tried to explain to the AA supervisor the “flat tire rule,” but he claimed AA does not follow this long-standing air travel doctrine, and demanded over $500 to catch the other flight. I will be talking to AA customer relations tomorrow about this, and in the meantime re-booked on USAir.