The TSA has been pretty clear that they do not conduct “strip searches” at the checkpoint. In fact, they even re-iterated it to the media last year when I filed suit on behalf of Rhonda Mengert, a grandmother from Las Vegas, NV, who was ordered to take down her pants and underwear and show them a feminine hygiene pad.
So why does once a year or so a new news story gets published with new allegations of checkpoint strip searches?
Perhaps one reason is that the TSA doesn’t think forcing you to expose your genitals counts as a strip search. From their latest filing in the Mengert case:
Here, the TSA attempts to borrow from a case in which police officers, sued for conducting an illegal strip search, argued that they really only conducted a “clothing search” that, incidentally, resulted in the person being searched ending up naked in front of a police officer. Their attempt to try the same justification — essentially that the TSA screeners who violated Mrs. Mengert were not interested in looking at her body; rather, she was just incidentally exposed as they searched her clothes — is a bit curious since the case they cited told the police to pound sand:
“Whether or not the officers set out deliberately to inspect a prisoner’s naked body is not the question; it is, rather, whether the officers did, in fact, perform such a search.”
Wood v. Hancock County Sheriff’s Dept., 354 F.3d 57, 64 (1st Cir. 2003), remanding the case back to the lower court for a jury trial.
I don’t imagine this will go well for them.
If you’re interested in qualified immunity, Bivens liability, and the lengths your government will go to defend blatant misconduct of their employees, the entire motion…