Corbett Files Amicus Brief in “Naked Man at TSA Checkpoint” Case

John Brennan's Nude Protest at PDX TSA Checkpoint

Although it is discouraging how many people go through TSA checkpoints and submissively comply with (or even show appreciation for) security theater, there are several Americans who have made loud statements.  Interestingly, the name “John” seems to increase one’s likelihood of making a stand: John “Don’t Touch My Junk” Tyner, John “You Don’t Need My ID” Gilmore, yours truly Jon Corbett (if I do say so myself!), or in this case, a man named John Brennan.

In April 2012, Brennan found himself at Portland’s airport, opting-out of the scanner and allowing the TSA to pat him down.  But, upon the completion of the pat-down, the molester screener tested his gloves for explosive residue, resulting in a false-positive.

False positives are not exceedingly rare (in fact, every positive has been a false positive, given that the TSA has found 0 terrorists since its inception in 2002), and the TSA has a procedure for when this happens: take you to a back room, and use the front of their hands to rub your genitals.  No hyperbole here, folks: this is exactly the procedure, and the one thing I make sure all my friends and family know about TSA screening is that it is better to miss your flight than to go to the back room with a TSA screener.  Regardless of what they threaten, do not go.

But Brennan had a better idea: he simply took off all his clothes, right there in the checkpoint, and asked the TSA if it looked like he had a bomb.  Predictably, the TSA overreacted, refused to screen him, closed the checkpoint, called the police, and had him arrested.

Only problem is, nude protests in Oregon are completely legal, and a judge entered a verdict of acquittal without even letting the case get to a jury.

Dissatisfied with this, the TSA imposed a civil penalty against Brennan under a federal rule that punishes those who “interfere with, assault, threaten, or intimidate screening personnel in the performance of their screening duties.” 49 C.F.R. § 1540.109.  Brennan took the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals, where the TSA argues, with a straight face, that any “failure to obey” or causing of a “distraction” constitutes “interference” under the rule and subjects you to a fine.

Fuck that.

The U.S. Supreme Court has squarely rejected “contempt of cop” laws, whereby those who do not “obey” random orders of police officers can be fined.   Chicago v. Morales, 527 U.S. 41 (1999).  The idea that we should give TSA screeners more authority to force us to submit to their every wish than a police officer is absurd, offensive, and dangerous.  As such, I’ve filed a motion to consider an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief, where I’ve outlined for the Court how the TSA has abused the power they already have, and how an expansion of that power will allow TSA screeners to arbitrarily curtail the First Amendment rights (among other rights) of anyone at the checkpoint under threat of fine. (I can only imagine how many times I’d have been fined were the TSA confident they could do so merely for being annoying!).  It also discusses the Morales case, above, which Brennan’s attorney didn’t bring to the court’s attention…

To the extent the public was injured on April 17th, 2012, it was not injured by John Brennan removing his clothes, but rather was injured by the TSA and airport police attempting to quash a constitutional right that Americans hold close to our hearts: our right to petition our government for redress. For the foregoing reasons, the Court should decline to allow the TSA to become a discount legislator, police officer, prosecutor, judge, and jury, and accordingly set aside the order levying a fine against John Brennan.

This was my first amicus brief ever, and they’re kind of fun to write because you have to be concise, but get to discuss only the issues that you personally care about.  Would definitely do again!

Brennan v. D.H.S. – Proposed Amicus Brief of Jonathan Corbett (.pdf)

“Jon Corbett is a civil rights advocate known for filing the first lawsuit against the deployment of TSA nude body scanners, as well as defeating the body scanners live in ‘How to Get ANYTHING Through TSA Nude Body Scanners.’  Presently a law student, he continues to advocate for travel and privacy rights.  Twitter: @_JonCorbett, Web:

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16 thoughts on “Corbett Files Amicus Brief in “Naked Man at TSA Checkpoint” Case

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  1. I have psoriasis, severe at that. I’m not sure I could do that but if I did, anyone close enough to see me and not aware of how severe psoriasis can get or what it was, would likely puke, even food they ate last week and thought was long gone.

    I wonder, if more people did this, would that affect how the TSA does this? Would it make them a little less likely to want to take someone to the back for a private search? Personally, I’d give the guy a pat on the back and a atta boy, good job, well done etc etc.

  2. I disagree with your claim that all the explosive trace detections have been false positives. The thing is there is a category where they are real but not a terrorist: Explosives workers. They don’t have a bomb but they handled things that go boom before flying. (Or the bag was handled by a partner who handles things that go boom.)

    1. If a person gets a positive test result but does not have a explosive on them, then the result was false. The whole point is not detecting if a person has handled anything that will trigger the result but whether they have a bomb or not. I’ve seen this happen with drug dogs as well. The dog “alerts” to a drug being there but the search finds nothing, not even residue. In the meantime, the person has likely had their car searched, the person is searched, time is wasted plus the person feels violated because they did nothing, had nothing and likely never did. Thing is, there was nothing to be found. The end result, it was a false positive.

      What the TSA and others need to realize, there are other things that can give that false result. Some fertilizers can. Just because a person works in a field where they handle that type of material does not mean they surrender their Constitutional rights and protections.

      1. With drug dogs it most likely is a false positive but when the TSA machines say explosives and it turns out the person works with explosives I see no reason to think the machine was wrong. There really was residue.

        We also see this at customs–fruit-sniffing dogs going for the spot where a piece of fruit was sitting before the passenger ate it. The residue is real, the threat isn’t.

        1. This is not always the case, though. The same, and similar, compounds used in explosives are sometimes used in every day products. Go look through the products in your bathroom. If any of them say “ammonium” anything, they could potentially test positive. It’s not just construction workers who literally set off a bomb the day before who get false positives.

          1. I’m not saying there are no false positives. I’m sure most of them are. You just went too far in saying they **all** are–when some are due to people who handle explosives.

        2. The point is, they are looking for bombs not chemicals that the machine thinks might be a explosive but isn’t. When it comes to a persons Constitutional rights, it is required that the rights be respected. As Jon pointed out, TSA has yet to stop any attack. I’ve seen that testified to in hearings. What we do know, a lot of things has made it through the screening that shouldn’t. I think Jon found one of those and has video of it. I’ve read about numerous others as well.

          1. While they are looking for bombs the machines are looking for explosive chemicals. I do not call it a false positive when the machine detects actual explosive traces from a blaster or EOD person.

          2. Now just how often does that actually happen? Given the number of false positives, people getting searched only to find nothing and nothing ever existed and on top of that, having their rights abused, delays and wasted time and expense for everyone, I think we’d be better off to tell the TSA to bugger off. As was testified to in a hearing, the TSA has not stopped anything. I seem to recall the shoe bomber, the underwear bomber and others tho, that they didn’t catch. That should make people feel good about their rights being trampled on while the real problems slip right through. Odds are, they were busy searching Grandma and some little babies diaper when those got through. lol

            What’s ironic about this. This was started after 9/11. Those hi-jackers didn’t have bombs, they had box cutters and such, something the machines don’t smell either.

  3. Here’s a woman that the TSA is trying to fine $11,000 for “failure to comply” and slowing down the screening process.

    “On March 13, 2017, I received a “Letter of Investigation” from the TSA telling me that I was under investigation for Failure to comply causing the screening process to be slowed and was at risk of an $11,000 fine. We contacted our US Representative immediately and eventually my husband spoke to the investigator on my case who made it clear that Inwas under investigation because I had posted the video which had gotten only 2900 views.”

  4. ‘I have never felt this violated in my entire life’: WWE Diva Lana claims ‘inappropriate’ TSA agents groped her at Boston airport

    WWE Diva Lana took claimed she was ‘violated’ by the Transportation Security Administration during.

    The wrestling star, whose real name is CJ Perry, claimed during a Twitter rant that TSA agents at Boston’s Logan Airport were ‘inappropriate’ when she went through routine pre-flight checks.

    She now claims to have got the police involved in the incident, ans has prompted an apology from the airport.

    In the first tweet, she wrote: ‘The most inappropriate behavior @BostonLogan TSA is doing to me. I have never felt this violated in my entire life.’

  5. “The system is broken. I don’t know what the solution is to fix it, but I’m sure there are experts out there who do.” – John Brennan

    Has anyone let him know that’s Jon Corbett? 😉

  6. I have a new question now: Has anyone photoshopped a Pepsi into his hand yet? I think someone at TSA should photoshop a Pepsi bottle with a singed paper towel stuffed into the mouth ;p

    More seriously (NOT!), I do find myself wondering if Pepsi’s CEO phoned up United’s CEO recently and asked, “Hey, can you guys do me a really big favour and beat up one of your passengers?”

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