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I Have a Date With TSA Next Month


This week's Daily Record column is entitled "I Have a Date With TSA Next Month."

A pdf of the article can be found  here and my past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


I Have a Date With TSA Next Month

In early December I’m speaking to the IP section of the Colorado Bar Association about the legal and ethical issues of social media for lawyers. My trip to Denver will be the first time that I’ll have flown since the TSA’s new screening procedures were implemented.

My hope is that I won’t be “randomly” selected to walk through one of the new full-body scanners that were rolled out to airports, including the Rochester International Airport, across the country earlier this month. These scanners dose the subject with radiation and create a detailed, graphic image of the person’s nude body. According to TSA representatives, the radiation levels are safe, but others dispute this claim.

If I am one of the 20 percent of travelers selected to receive a full-body scan, I intend to opt out, both for health-related reasons and as a matter of principle.

Unfortunately, now that the screening procedures have changed, that means I’ll be subjected to the new, more invasive pat-downs that were implemented at the same time as the new full-body scanners.

A TSA agent will use the fronts of their hands to pat down all areas of my body, including my breasts and groin. Previously, TSA agents used the backs of their hands and avoided engaging in non-consensual fore- play with air travelers.

Not anymore.

In the name of national security, forced intimacy strangers is now par for the course

Hopefully, my experience will be less traumatic than that of other recent air travelers.

First, there’s Tom Sawyer, a 61-year-old bladder cancer survivor who had urine from his urostomy bag spilled onto his clothes following a rough TSA search that left him humiliated and in tears. Then there are the breast cancer survivors, a number of whom have complained that TSA agents forced them to remove their prosthetic breasts.

Sexual assault victims have also been traumatized by the experience, describing heart-wrenching accounts of encounters with TSA agents. Many have said that the pat downs caused them to experience flash backs from the original sexual assault.

Then there are the children appearing in widely circulated YouTube videos. One is of a 3-year-old girl receiving an invasive pat down from a TSA agent and screaming “Don’t touch me!” as her mother holds the hysterical child during the search. In another video, a young boy is seen removing his shirt during a TSA pat down as bystanders express their disbelief.

Many security experts have likened the new procedures to an ineffective “security theater” performed only for show. In other words, the newly revised security dance looks good, but does very little to actually protect us from a terrorist attack.

This, to me, is simply unacceptable. I’m outraged by the invasiveness and ineffectiveness of the new security procedures and it pains me to hear of my fellow citizen's humiliating experiences at the hands of government agents.

They deserved better. We all do.

Needless to say, I don’t relish my upcoming “date” with TSA. I’m not looking forward to the possibility of being groped by a stranger after refusing the full-body scan. However, I plan to make the best of it and will pass the time by humming Meat Loaf’s song “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” as the TSA agent pats me down. After all, it only seems fitting.

Nicole Black is of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester. She co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise, and is currently writing a book about cloud computing for lawyers that will be published by the ABA in early 2011. She is the founder of and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at [email protected]

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Thanks for taking a stand on this! I completely agree with you.


What kills me in all of this is that the disabled and elderly are being disproportionately targeted for the body scans and enhanced pat downs. Why?? Because they're the ones with the pacemakers, hip replacements, prosthetic devices, etc.

Where are all the ADA attorneys and AARP on this one?? (I can't believe I just said that).

Oh, and good luck with Denver. I've never made it through that airport without a "random" pat down.

Susan Cartier Liebel

I find this whole thing theater of the absurd. We've become our own terrorists. What could be more effective, terrorists turning us against ourselves? And for those who say thousands pass through without incident doesn't make it any less traumatizing for those who experience what they've experienced. Nikki, I'm surprised you missed this gem: Women detained because she would not let them x-ray her bottled breast milk even though federal regulations listed it as a medical substance immune from x-ray and to be screened with an alternative method.

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