California Woman Sues TSA For Detaining Her, Forcing Her to Submit to “Groin Search”

Jessica Lundquist's TSA LawsuitThe blue-shirted TSA employees of which all travelers are familiar hold the job title, “Transportation Security Officer.”  But despite the “officer” title emblazoned upon the plastic badge on their chest, TSA screeners are not law enforcement officers, do not have the authority to make arrests or hold travelers for any length of time, and if you break the law at a checkpoint, their only option is to call the real police to deal with the situation.

Unfortunately, that plastic badge appears to occasionally cause TSA screeners to “forget” the boundaries of their authority.

Last September, Jessica Lundquist was traveling through Burbank Hollywood Airport (a smaller commuter airport in northern Los Angeles) when a body scanner alarmed.  In my experience from watching checkpoints, body scanners seem to alert on somewhere around 25% – 50% of passengers who pass through them, the overwhelming majority of which are patted down and found to have nothing.  The alerts are false positives, on machines that cost us billions of dollars, by an agency that spends billions of dollars a year annually.

But, Ms. Lundquist did something that TSA screeners don’t like: when told she would have to submit to a “groin search” to “resolve” the alarm, and the screener clarified that they would “need” to touch her genitals, she refused consent; she said no.  Notwithstanding that TSA screeners are not law enforcement and it is not a crime to refuse to continue the screening process, being told no hurts their ego, and so a screener, backed up by two supervisors, did what they may not: they told her she may not leave, and that they would force her to comply if she did not:

I feel for Ms. Lundquist because TSA screeners made the same exact threat to me in 2011.  I knew that TSA screeners were unable to force a traveler to comply, and that their only lawful option is to allow the traveler to leave the checkpoint into the non-secure area, so I continued my refusal until they let me go.  But, believing these “federal officers,” and under threat of forcible compulsion, and after making and being refused another lawful request — to have her screening video recorded — Ms. Lundquist submitted to the search, wherein the TSA touched her vulva and buttocks without her consent.  They, of course, found nothing.

Ms. Lundquist retained me as counsel, and yesterday I filed suit on her behalf in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.  These screeners violated TSA policy, they broke the law, and they disregarded my client’s constitutional rights under both the First and Fourth Amendments.  I look forward to continuing to advocate for Jessica and to remind the TSA, once again, that if they exceed the scope of their authority, there will be consequences.

Lundquist v. U.S. Transp. Sec. Adm. et al., 19-CV-10302 (C.D. Cal.) – Complaint (.pdf)

31 thoughts on “California Woman Sues TSA For Detaining Her, Forcing Her to Submit to “Groin Search”

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  1. You’re an absolute dumbass. It doesn’t hurt their ego. You think they want to touch people as much as a passenger doesn’t want to be touched? It is their job. And once you subject yourself to the screening process, you must follow through until it is completed. Yes, their machine picks up false positives all the time, but if they don’t act on those false positives, the officers get in trouble. No one necessarily agrees with all the rules of security for air travel, but they are just doing the job they’ve been told to do.

    1. You’re the dumbass, JMR. Your “must follow through” is not only not based on any actual legal authority, they are EXPLICITLY required to stop if the travelers says they’d prefer to just not travel. They are PERFECTLY within their rights—and obligations—to stop the search, if the traveler says they just won’t fly, and if their supervisors give them trouble for it, well, they’re also breaking the law. You have no idea at all what you’re talking about, you’re just telling us we “have to” blindly submit to authority because you have some weird sense of moral duty to obey anyone who calls themselves an “officer.” You are, in short, a fine example of why America can’t have nice things.

    2. It’s sad that typically the most incorrect and divisive comment made is the FIRST comment.

      That said, your statement “once you subject yourself to the screening process, you must follow through until it is completed” is categorically false. I’ll quote Cory Doctorow on this:

      “The TSA is not allowed to detain travelers who wish to abandon their trips. The TSA is required to allow passengers to record their searches. The TSA is absolutely not allowed to use physical force to effect searches when passengers object to them.”

      Sorry if this sounds ill-mannered, but I’m kinda-sorta hoping the TSA gets a false-positive on your butt, then we’ll see if you’re in favor of “following through until it’s completed”.


    3. You call Jon a dumbass, JMR? My, my, another case of projection (so beloved by the orange buffoon in the White House — are you talking your cues from him?).

      No, JMR, people who defend the indefensible TSA are the dumbasses. They deserve everything they get. Here’s hoping they get it good and hard.

  2. Lol seriously i do this shit for a living. A passenger may refuse the screening process but upon refusal can lose their right to fly at that point. We’re not law enforcement but if the passengers would actually read the fucking signs before deciding to act like dumbasses they would realize there are procedures they do subject themselves too and even fines that passengers could envoke upon themselves if they cause screening to be halted if they want to make a seen. Most the time I’m on the passengers side because they just want to fly and i get it i travel myself. Plus there are people who work for tsa that have zero people skills and want to play Billy bad ass i totally understand. Yet please don’t be that passenger looking to cause problems and be a drama queen. Plus if you don’t like being scanned pay the 85$ to be pre check you cheap ass. By the way the dumb fuck that wrote the article please do your journalistic diligence and write an honest article we have real badges not plastic ones.

  3. I love TSA.
    They keep my family, friends, and all our asses safe from unnecessary brilliant science. As a former TSA member, I say, if you don’t comply, then you don’t fly… drive, take a train, ride the bus, or walk. Thanks and Keep up the great work TSA.

  4. Her vulva was probed? Probed as in the kind of cavity search done in prisons? With her clothes off or down? Correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t think so. I always have to go through the special scanner because of my knee replacement, and it has alarmed on my last three trips through. Three different TSA women patted me down, including between my legs. They also tested my hands for….? something. It was not pleasant, but it was clear they were only following a protocol. It might not be one that makes a lot of sense; I really don’t know. But they did not make the rules. They have a job they need to make a living. I would not want that job. So it is only considerate not to give them grief.

  5. >Plus if you don’t like being scanned pay the 85$ to be pre check you cheap ass.

    I realize you don’t actually get the money, but this sounds just like the mafia or some gang offering a protection racket.

    1. Uh yeah, most people feel “insulted” when others touch their genitals without consent.

      Did this post get shared to a TSA group or something? There are many more bootlickers here than usual.

      1. I find it irritating that dickheads call people with a different/unpopular opinion which supports the U.S. government “bootlickers”.

  6. I travel frequently and have been crotch checked on occasion and it was always handled in a very professional manner and I never felt violated in any way. TSA agents have a tough job dealing with the public and I commend and appreciate what you do! That woman is ridiculous and very self centered. Actually the comment that touched my vulva us freaking histerical!

  7. If a passenger refuses an alarm clearance he/she will be detained for the airport police to be escorted off the checkpoint to the police station. Once there whatever happens happens.
    Don’t submit yourself to a security checkpoint to began the screening process knowing there’s a strong possibility you’re going to be physically cleared.
    How else do you think officers are suppose to catch bad guys if they don’t their jobs?
    If they let a terrorist on the plane to sit next to you, you’ll definitely have an issue, so to complain about not wanting to be cleared in an area where you alarmed is ridiculous.
    There are always two officers in the room when a private screening is being conducted so there’s no lies being told while the clearance is being conducted.
    This case doesn’t sound like a winner.

    1. Really? Because I’ve personally refused screening at 3 airports, and only once were the police called. The other 2 times I was simply asked to leave.

      Let me say it louder for the people in the back: TSA does NOT have authority to detain travelers, even for a moment. Nor would the police have probable cause to take you back to the station.

      This post above me doesn’t sound like a winner.

    2. Flying high, you cant be more wrong. 1) as an airport police officer, there is no crime to stop the screening process – none, zilch, zero. 2) TSA has no authority to detain anyone 3) police will take no action, they wont detain the passenger, ID the passenger, take the passenger to the police station- nothing.

  8. It’s amazing that so many people still believe that the TSA protects them and makes them safe when the facts scream otherwise. Around 80% failure rate
    Any company in the private sector that would publish such results would go bankrupt and the CEO would step down. But the TSA? They get hugs from the public and increased budget.
    They do have one undisputed access though – to make travel much more extensive and complicated to the general population with 0 results for increased safety.

  9. It’s impossible to answer all the know-nothing TSA bootlickers commenting here. I can only take comfort in the knowledge that sooner or later, they — or better yet, their loved ones — will be abused by the TSA. Ah, the schadenfreude is so sweet!

  10. Yep.. MR TSA…😂🤣🙈🤷‍♀️, sorry, I have to digress and troll.. why? Because TSA decided my vagina needed to be searched after the body scanner lit up my groin January 2020… the TSA response to my complaint of being violated and getting a surprise TSA pap smear… TSA referred to this as “less than satisfactory experience” his words, not mine.
    Yes, exactly what Mr TSA said..
    Pay $85 extortion to get TSA pre, and we won’t fingerbang/molest/rape/sexually assault you next time🤔..

    I have to be sarcastic, I have to laugh, because this is fcking ludicrous! And it is 100% true… TSA is broken, this is not just 1 or 2 sick TSA $15/hr employees…this is happening nationwide. .. and seriously.. how many vaginal swabs or groin searches or penis swabs have yielded positive for WMDs?? Or bomb residue Any?? why does a US CITIZEN have to pay $85, why isnt the TSA addressing the issues laid out in the GOA report🤔. Why are feminine hygiene products flagged in the body scanner and treated like WMDs *weapons of mass destruction “

  11. I am not happy to say this but I believe that this case was dismissed and not in our favor. I hope that I am mistaken.

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