Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Now The TSA is Launching an Absurd Investigation

The TSA is investigating John Tyner (who I posted about yesterday, and whose videotaped experience opting out of the AIT can be found here):
Michael J. Aguilar, chief of the TSA office in San Diego, called a news conference at the airport Monday afternoon to announce the probe. He said the investigation could lead to prosecution and civil penalties of up to $11,000.
Here is what the investigation is about:
According to Aguilar, Tyner is under investigation for leaving the security area without permission. That’s prohibited, among other reasons, to prevent potential terrorists from entering security, gaining information, and leaving.
Funny, on the video (right at the end of his second video), Tyner says “Where to?” and someone who I assume is a TSA officer says “Follow me.” He then walks out of the security area with the TSA officer, and the TSA officer asks him what airline he was on and he told them American. The TSA officer then points him to the American counter and lets him go on his way, so that he can get his ticket refunded. Tyner says “Sorry for the hassle” and the TSA officer responds “No problem.”

Are you telling me that constitutes “leaving the security area without permission?”  Walking out with a TSA officer constitutes "leaving the security area without permission?"

Aside from that absurdity, the TSA’s position appears to be that they have the ability to force a person to go through security, including an enhanced patdown, even if the passenger decides that they would rather not go through that process, and would prefer not to fly.

Get that? Once you start going through the security process you can’t change your mind and walk out. Here is a guy who decided he would rather not fly than go through the enhanced pat down, who wasn’t freaking out or acting like a fool, and the TSA is going to investigate him and possibly fine him? The other problem with the TSA’s position is that when you get in the security line, these are the things you don’t know:

1. Whether you will be forced into the AIT line (you have no choice at all in the matter if they grab you out of the metal detector line and into that line); and

2. What pat down guidelines will be followed, if you opt out of the ATI. (I haven’t been able to find anything from the TSA that describes the enhanced pat down or what to expect, other than fairly vague statements.)

So how are you supposed to know when you get in line whether the procedure is one you want to deal with or not? How are you supposed to know whether the TSA officers are following procedure with respect to the pat down? How are you supposed to know whether you will be able to go through the metal detector or be forced to go through the AIT? This is what we like to call “notice.” People expect certain things when going through security. After all, we all go through pat downs at sporting events, concerts, and the airport. However, the new level of the pat down is far different than any of those. Many people have no problem with a regular metal detector, but don’t want to go through the AIT. You don’t know specifically what you are facing, yet apparently once you set foot in the security area in order to find out, you have no ability to reject these options and simply leave.  You have to go through unless you want to invite an investigation?  That is really unbelievable to me. 

And by the way, how many “acts of terror” have actually been thwarted by the TSA based on security screening? Any?   

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