Professional Troublemaker

 Jonathan Corbett, Civil Rights Advocate



Eleventh Circuit: “Zero Fucks Given.”

Today the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, in considering my case against the constitutionality of the body scanners, denied my motion to transfer, motion to stay the use of body scanners during the petition, and even denied my motion to file electronically — a routine motion that allows a non-lawyer to use the court’s e-filing system, as 3 other federal courts have for me already.

Their reason? Why, they didn’t say.

The court denied all three motions together in a 1 page order that offers no insight at all into their decision.

Perhaps the court thought it would be obvious as to why they denied a motion implicating fundamental constitutional due process rights that required 74 pages of briefs, plus exhibits, from the government and myself. Or perhaps, as I more suspect, the just don’t give a fuck. Just as the U.S. Supreme Court also didn’t care about whether the nude body scanners ever went to trial.

At some point, it gets frustrating when you’ve followed all the rules and still, now 2.5 years and several hundred pages of legal writing later, your issues aren’t even close to being given a fair hearing. My next step is to ask the judges to explain themselves. Should they fail to work out a solution, they will essentially hear my case solely on the evidence as presented by the government — an utter miscarriage of justice.

Corbett v. DHS – Summary Denial of Motions (.pdf)

Delta CEO <3s TSA, Warns of Pocket Knife Terror

The TSA recently decided to relax its rules regarding small (6 cm or smaller) pocket knives, allowing them to be taken past security and into the airplane cabin. After this fleeting moment of common sense from the TSA (as post-9/11, no terrorist would even think of taking on a cabin full of Americans armed only with 2″ knives), Delta CEO Richard Anderson begged TSA Administrator John Pistole to reconsider, in a love letter addressing both parties by first name and gushing that Delta “will always be good partners with the TSA.”

It is truly unclear to me why those in the industry feel the need to ass-kiss with the TSA at all times. They can’t possibly think that the TSA is an effective, well-run organization. Do they fear retribution if they speak out? Or is it simply that they enjoy having a third party take the responsibility (and blame) for aviation security?

Delta, unfortunately, is not the only people who oppose the policy change. Useful idiots on both sides in Congress, such as Chuck Schumer on the left and John McCain on the right, flight attendants and pilots, and Jon “The Skies Are Falling” Adler of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, who cries, with trembling voice and while holding his mommy’s hand, that “if [the new policy] isn’t changed, say a prayer, rub a rabbit’s foot, and get ready to fly the deadly American skies.”

Most of the opposition talks about generic “safety” in the skies, avoiding the unjustifiable proposition that a pocket knife would make the difference between success and failure of a terrorist attack. But, what does this mean? Safety of flight attendants? That of other passengers? If so, then we might as well ban knives on buses, in McDonald’s, and everywhere else, since the people there are just as deserving of safety via governmnet-imposed weapons searches as FAs and airline passengers. The “anything to keep us safer” crowd strikes again, this time taking things even farther than the TSA (perhaps because knife detection doesn’t give the TSA an excuse to buy shiny new toys like nude body scanners).

You may have never expected to read this on this blog, but TSA Out of Our Pants fully supports this change in TSA policy.

One Year Later, State of the TSA

One year ago, I published my video exposing the TSA’s nude body scanners as vulnerable to an extraordinarily simple attack: any metal objects placed on the side of the body are invisible. The TSA mocked, then threatened, then downplayed, but never denied that the $1B of our tax dollars spent on the most invasive search ever directed at the general public in the history of our nation is great at finding TSA screeners with small genitalia but utterly useless against fighting serious threats to aviation security.

Before I published my video, I said to my friends, “This is it — this is the end of the body scanners!” I believed that if the vulnerability I published was publicly exposed, the TSA would be forced to remove the machines. Anyone can use the technique to bring even a firearm through security completely undetected so the TSA would have to get rid of them, I thought. Yet one year later, the scanners are still here (and yes, I tested the exploit on one of the new millimeter wave scanners with ATD, the kind that swirl around your body and “create a [fake] 3-D image”). The TSA is too proud to return to metal detectors and admit that it wasted your money and invaded your privacy for nothing… even if that pride means we are significantly less safe when we fly.

We’ve seen some changes over the last year. We’ve seen one of the two types of scanners removed — the Rapiscan backscatter x-ray devices — and the other upgraded to include “automated threat detection” so that live people (supposedly) never see your nude body. This is a huge win, not only for privacy advocates but for those concerned about being dosed with ionizing radiation by their government. We’ve seen the TSA shrink back from threats of fines and jail for those who don’t want to allow the TSA to “touch their junk” (new non-public policy is simply to ask you to leave). We’re also seeing that court battles, after being tossed over questionable technicalities that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to address, are finally moving towards being heard.

We still have more work to do. The privacy violation, in the form of having every square inch of our bodies analyzed without cause (resulting in countless drug charges but zero terrorism charges), still exists. TSA assholery, from strip searching grannies, to stealing iPads, to traumatizing rape survivors, to making kids cry just for fun, to collaborating with airports to lie in Freedom of Information Act responses, still exists. But we’re getting somewhere, slow as it may be. If you’ve donated, shared links with your friends, or simply opted-out, thank you for your help.

TSA Accidentally Publishes Copy of My Drivers’ License in Brief About Privacy

I realized after I made my last post that the TSA, in its brief explaining why its employees deserve privacy in the form of having their names and faces redacted from any documents it releases, accidentally (I would assume) published a copy of my drivers’ license!

While not the cleareset image in the world, in the version you can download from the court, you can zoom in well enough to get most of my name, most of my drivers’ license number, and my date of birth (a violation of Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 5.2(a)(2)). I’m leaving it up on the blog because I’m always happy to trade a little of my privacy for the sake of exposing the hypocritical foolishness of the TSA. That and you know that if you steal my identity, I’ll track you down.😉

Jon to Judge: Release the Names of the TSA Screeners Who Harassed Me

A part of my lawsuit from when the TSA detained me in FLL airport in 2011 relates to a Freedom of Information Act request I submitted after the incident, which asks for all documents relating to their illegal detention: incident reports, video, e-mails, etc. After the airport initially lied to me (because they were worried about giving away the “secret” fact that they videotape TSA checkpoints), the airport and TSA have given me most of the documents — with the exception that they took out all the names of all the TSA employees who wrote the documents, and blurred the video so that you can’t see the faces of the screeners. That’s right — the TSA has the right to digitally strip search you, but a video of their faces might violate their privacy.

My brief explains why this is legally wrong, but also why it’s not in the public interest:

The public has an undeniable right to review the actions of its government, and this concept is the very reason for the existence of public records laws like FOIA. As any citizen who has contested a traffic violation has found out, in the context of where a member of the public offers a version of the facts that contradicts a version offered by an employee of the government, all other things equal, courts uniformly adopt the version proffered by the government employee, even in situations where the burden of proof is high. Often times, video evidence is the only means a criminal defendant has in order to dislodge an accusation by a police officer.

But, the public interest of the release of videos of government interaction goes far beyond that of the individual whose liberty or property is on the line. Release of video provides accountability of government officials to the public. When an official knows that his or her actions are being recorded and may be published on the evening news, it is axiomatic that he or she will be more likely to act lawfully and in the public interest.

If there were ever a government agency that could benefit from increased accountability to the public, the Transportation Security Administration is it. In 2012, the TSA has admitted that hundreds of its employees have been caught stealing from members of the public. It admitted to strip-searching grandmothers without lawful authority. It admitted that it hires former clergy accused of sex offenses against children to search children. And, regardless of whether or not such actions are technically legal, it is accused on a daily basis of bullying everyone from grown men to women and children. The TSA is more disdained by Americans than the Internal Revenue Service, a distinction which they have well earned.

Accountability is achieved not by releasing redacted video with blurred faces, but rather by the knowledge that the public – your friends, family, neighbors, letter carrier, Starbucks barista, and anyone else – will judge you if you make a 3-year-old on her way to Disney World cry because you were a power-hungry, arrogant, insensitive, and pathetic individual in the course of your service of the American people. When both the courts and Congress refuse to – or work at a snail’s pace to – leash an out-of-control agency such as the TSA, this is all that we, the people, have left. On the flip side, with the release of video, members of the public who make accusations of mistreatment when they were in fact to blame for an incident will lose their power to malign the agency and its employees.

Defendant TSA is absolutely correct that when the Court releases the full video to Plaintiff, he will publish this video for the world to see. However, if TSA and its employees have done nothing wrong, they should be proud to have that video published, demonstrating their faithful service and that Plaintiff is simply a “troublemaker.” The truth of the matter is that the TSA does not want disclosure of the videos in this case and many others because it knows that while it can argue the legality of its actions in court, it cannot justify its actions to the citizens.

The most awesome part of writing this brief was that the Department of Justice actually did all the research for me. As I was researching case law, I came across the Department of Justice Guide to the Freedom of Information Act, which was written (surprisingly) from an entirely neutral perspective and thoroughly analyzes, with case citations, privacy exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act. Lo and behold, the DoJ opines that “civilian federal employees who are not involved in law enforcement generally have no expectation of privacy regarding their names, titles, grades, salaries, and duty stations as employees…” I couldn’t have said it better myself!

If you want to see what the paperwork looks like when you say “no” to the TSA, check the end of the TSA’s motion (below).

Corbett v. TSA – Motion for Summary Judgment (Broward) (.pdf)
Corbett v. TSA – Motion for Summary Judgment (TSA) (.pdf) (3 MB)
Corbett v. TSA – Motion for Summary Judgment (Corbett) + Opposition to Defendants’ Motions (.pdf)

TSA Smashes Priceless Antique Cello Bow

Apparently they couldn’t get the thing to fit back in the box right when they opened to inspect, so they just tried to squeeze the lid shut. As a musician, this makes me wince. Original Story.

Broward County Wastes Tax Dollars Delaying Inevitable Appeal

A couple months ago, U.S. District Judge Joan A. Lenard dismissed much of my lawsuit from when I was detained in FLL airport for refusing to let the TSA “touch my junk.” Two of the 21 claims my lawsuit were allowed proceed, and I’d like to appeal the 19 dismissed counts immediately. In order to do that in federal court, I need to have the judge essentialy sign off that those 19 counts are “done.” You might think that it would be obvious that they’re done since they’ve been dismissed, but since the entire lawsuit wasn’t dismissed, that “Rule 54(b) certification” is required.

The TSA, surprisingly, had no opposition to this, since as a party who is experienced in being sued, they understand that my appeal is as of right and will happen sooner or later. Broward County and its sheriff, however, wrote to the court to ask that she not certify that judgment is final on those counts, despite the fact that the appeal will happen eventually (after the 2 remaining counts are settled) even if the judge refuses to certify. I have no idea why they want to delay, since as a pro se litigant I have all the time in the world. The reply of the sheriff, however, was particularly hilarious: he spent more than a full page whining about how I travel around suing everyone and therefore the judge shouldn’t certify. Obviously, this is entirely irrelevant and untrue: I’ve gone after the TSA in one district ever.

So, I made this little infographic to help the court to parse the sheriff’s reply:


It sucks that tax dollars are being wasted on this futile motion, especially in light of the fact that I have offered to settle for changes to policy instead of money — an offer that was declined.

Press Release: TSA to Remove All Rapiscan Nude Body Scanners

January 18th, 2013 (Miami Beach, Fla.) – As a result of the public outcry regarding the invasiveness of the TSA’s nude body scanner program, Congress has required the TSA to remove all scanners that produce an image of a traveler’s unclothed body for inspection by a TSA screener. The TSA today has indicated that it will comply by June of this year, resulting in the removal of all Rapiscan x-ray devices from airports across the country.

The Rapiscan x-ray scanners represented perhaps the TSA’s most egregious violation of the public, as in addition to the creation of a detailed image of the intimate areas of the body, it doses the traveler with ionizing radiation, a known carcinogen. It was estimated that these devices may kill several travelers per year by damaging the DNA of body tissues and turning healthy cells into cancerous cells.

Our fight against TSA abuse is unfortunately not over. The remaining nude body scanners, built by L-3 Communications (the same company that tortured the prisoners of Abu Ghraib), still require Americans to submit to an inspection of every inch of their body, completed by a computer rather than a person. While the TSA’s Congressional mandate and constitutional boundaries require it to search solely for items that can be used to terrorize air travelers, it is clear that the L-3 nude body scanners far exceed the scope necessary to find weapons, and instead are used to further the government’s failed war on drugs at the expense of our liberties. It has also been made abundantly clear that anyone in possession of entry-level sewing skills could easily defeat this technology, leaving our skies at risk. Furthermore, the continual false-positives — estimated to be at a rate between 30% and 70%– result in “pat-downs” that have infamously left children in tears, parents in jail for daring to object, the elderly humiliated, and everyone in between wondering how we got to the point where the government quite literally has its hands in our pants.

Removal of the Rapiscan devices is a step in the right direction, and we look forward to the eventual removal of all body scanners and the elimination of the “pat-down” program that places government hands on the genitals of our families.

The TSA Likes It Both Ways

If you’ve been following for a while, you know that my first filing for court review of the TSA’s nude body scanner and genital molestation program was booted for being filed “in the wrong court” (if by “wrong” they mean “in the court that would give me the best opportunity to challenge the TSA’s unconstitutional behavior”). In order to convince the courts to dismiss my case and the several others like it, it had to assure the courts that the other court — the US Court of Appeals — actually would have jurisdiction. This was a problem, since filing in that court has a statutory time limit of 60 days absent “reasonable grounds” for delay.

So, when another plaintiff, who filed virtually the exact same complaint as I did (in large part word-for-word ;)) pointed this out to the judge in their case, the government argued that the “reasonable grounds” clause would clearly cover such a case, and the court need not worry about it:


Months later, here we are in that Court of Appeals that the TSA insisted on. And, of course, now the TSA argues that reasonable grounds don’t actually apply:


Just another fine example of the Department of Justice’s “Win At All Costs, Fuck Justice” attitude. Luckily, courts are not keen on hypocrites and arguing one thing in front of one court and the opposite in another is barred by the doctrine of judicial estoppel. …in theory, at least. Ruling in favor of the TSA here would mean that “scope & grope” would never be able to be reviewed by any court, ever, which is equivalent to placing the Constitution in the fireplace. Let’s see how the court handles this one!

Blog at

Up ↑