Thursday, May 24, 2012

A new low: TSA steals from Army officer on leave

Photo by Flickr user  Foxtongue, licensed under Creative Commons

As someone who has been observing and writing about the TSA for a few years now, I often hear from members of the traveling public about their experiences with the agency. Their inevitably negative experiences, I should say, since I have not yet received a single e-mail, Facebook message, or Tweet in support of the TSA's violative naked-scans, intrusive body-gropings, unconscionable humiliation of disabled and elderly passengers and cancer-survivors, and terrifying behavior toward children. Not one. The stories always contain varying combinations of sadness, disgust, and fury.

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a member of the military, an officer and mother, who'd responded to one of my numerous Tweets publicizing our blog posts at TSA News. For obvious reasons, I'll keep her identity and exact words private, but I'd like to share with you the substance of her message to me, because it illustrates how truly reprehensible the TSA's behavior is.

My correspondent was in the States on leave from Afghanistan, and while here, she'd flown from her hometown to a larger US city in order to visit family and go shopping with her mother. When she returned home and began to unpack, she discovered her checked bag had been searched by the TSA. The standard slip of paper informing her of this was there. What wasn't there, however, were the outfits she'd just bought for her little daughter.  Also missing: the pretty new bras she'd treated herself to on her shopping trip.

We know for a fact that the TSA is an agency beset with criminals. And yes, there have indeed been countless, documented incidents of theft--from passengers' checked bags and carryons alike--of items with considerably greater monetary value than little girls' clothing and women's lingerie.  People have had camera equipment, computers and iPads, wallets full of cash and travelers' cheques, and more stolen from them by the faux-law-enforcement officers in blue to whom Americans are expected to entrust their belongings, no questions asked, don't bother filing a complaint when said belongings "disappear".

But to my mind, there is something uniquely appalling and unforgivable about stealing the very personal belongings of a military mother and her daughter.  "They ruined the only bit of cheer I'd had in months," she said.

For shame, TSA.  For shame.

Also at TSA News.


  1. it also goes to show how bogus the 'man on the street interviews' are, where fox news or CNN will interview the ONE person in the world who actually likes the TSA.
    "Oh I'm fine with all these security measures, they make me feel safe."

    Then they parade that quote around like it's the majority opinion in the country. I dont know who the heck actually likes the TSA but I sure haven't met anybody like that, and neither have you apparently. I strongly suspect those 'random interviews' are just paid actors.

  2. Hire inner city gangbangers - don't carp about them stealing your stuff. They have been raised to believe that you OWE it to them. In their view, they are just taking what should be theirs...

  3. In the past month TSA molested three children, a ten year old with a diabetes pump, a four year old who hugged her grandma and a seven year old with cerebral palsy, twice! They also sexually assaulted a Congressman, molested an elderly couple and robbed them of $300, closed two terminals for security errors and four TSA screeners were arrested for smuggling drugs through LAX. To top things off they lied to Congress and tried to destroy $200 million in new equipment to conceal their wasteful spending.

    Meanwhile, a report from Atlanta indicates that they are allowing airport workers to operate in secure areas of airports without completing background checks and Congress took them to task for not reporting half of the security breaches at Newark.. Yet the TSA apologists continue to say that this crime and abuse by TSA is somehow improving airline security.

    There were a total of 91 TSA workers arrested in the last 16 months including 12 arrested for child sex crimes, over 25 for theft, ten for smuggling and even one for murder. Crime, abuse and incompetence is so widespread in TSA that even Kip Hawley, the last TSA Director, has called for its overhaul.

    This just demonstrates how stupid and perverse the TSA approach is and why it needs to be overhauled. TSA has done more damage to our liberty, way of life and decency than Al Qaeda could have ever hoped to do and Pistole has been their willing accomplice.

  4. Unfortunately, it's not a new low. It's par for the course, as you know. And it's nothing compared to what tens of thousands of people have gone through.

    As for the Anonymous commenter up there who says that he/she finds it hard to believe that anyone in the country likes the TSA, I only wish that were true. But if you read hundreds of articles and blogs and sites all over the blabbosphere, as I do, you'll see that there's no limit to the TSA defenders and apologists out there. Including, as Deborah and I found out, at supposedly "liberal" sites with supposedly civil-liberties-loving readers. And including dozens of so-called journalists.

    This isn't, of course, a left/right, Repub/Dem issue. It's a civil liberties issue, and it affects all of us.

    But millions of people in this country are happy with the TSA. This is a sad fact. They like their fear and they like to lick the authoritarian boot. And they don't care how many people are abused, every day, as long as it isn't them.

    1. Don't be so sure that all those commenters are on the up&up. Private enterprises do pay people to talk up their activities on the InterTubes.

  5. Lisa, I just had a frustrating Twitter exchange with a follower who said this was the only thing he'd ever disagreed with me on, that he traveled a lot (have no idea what "a lot" means) and that he didn't mind the TSA because he felt they had kept him from being blown up.

    Arrrgh, where to begin, I thought. So I borrowed your excellent Giraffe Repellant analogy.

    There are indeed a number of people who want that security theater bullshit. But there is a growing crowd who are realizing--one grope at a time, one stolen camera or wallet or iPad at a time, one nasty encounter leading to a missed flight at a time--that this is wrong.

  6. Three years ago my wife and I went on a cruise that departed from Fort Lauderdale. We flew into Miami and rented a car. When we reached our motel in Fort Lauderdale I opened my suitcase and took out my brand-new camcorder, bought for the cruise and still in its original box. Except that it wasn't. The box was there, and it still contained the carrying-case, but nothing else. I had used the camcorder a bit before we left home, so there was no doubt that it had been in its box when we flew.
    Fortunately, we had allowed for a free day before joining the ship, so we were able to get a replacement.
    We have not travelled by plane since. When we are going somewhere further away than we want to drive, we take Amtrak.

  7. I used to fly at least two weeks a month both before 09/11 and after - right up until about a year ago when mercifully my travel life came to a halt. I was unimpressed with security before 09/11, and I am less impressed now. Sadly, Lisa's right. I have a bad tendency towards sarcasm and it took me awhile to keep my mouth shut while in line. There are people who really think the TSA is doing a good job. For six months, I was carrying on a portable printer/sample bag that had a huge pair of scissors in it (that I had forgotten about) and finally, finally, a scan picked it up. Rather than re-check the bag, I let them have it. I could tell some tales too about about those "Hi, we're the TSA and we've been fondling the things you packed for your trip" tickets too, but I'd rather forget.

  8. From The Hill 06/24/2011:

    The liberal magazine The Nation hailed the election that resulted in the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) becoming the union for the Transportation Security Administration.

    AFGE won a runoff election this week with the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) for the right to represent TSA workers.

    The magazine said Friday that the win was significant.

    "These are tough times for labor unions," the paper said in an op-ed titled "TSA Gets Some Security of Its Own." "They are under attack in the private sector and at all levels of government. But workers are waking up to the reason for the attacks: Unions are essential sources of protection for essential workers.

    "So it is that the labor movement has now secured one of the most important victories of recent years in a high-profile area of the public sector," the article continues.

    Don't you progressives support labor and public sector unions?

  9. Anon: I can't speak for other liberals, but yes, I do of course support labor and public sector unions. I also support disbanding the TSA, and whether or not its workers are unionized has nothing to do with my position on that agency.

    It's a shame that certain factions of liberals have taken that bait, however. Just as it's shameful that a number of conservatives only oppose the TSA because it is unionized, not because it violates the rule of law.

  10. Mr. or Ms. Anonymous,

    I second Deborah's reply. And point out that, as a union member myself (AFTRA), I long ago wrote about and lamented the fact that once the TSA got unionized, we'd never get rid of them. This earned me the undying scorn of former supposed colleagues.

    I'm a lefty, but I'm not an ideologue and I'm not an idiot. And I can see what's right in front of my face, even if my erstwhile colleagues can't.