TSA: Anonymity Breeds Contempt

I don’t, as a general principle, allow anonymous comments here. Chief among the reasons is that the more anonymous people are, the worse they behave. People do things behind tinted glass on the freeway that they would never do on the sidewalk. They say things from the cover of darkness that they would never say in the light of day.

Why do TSA goons steal? They steal because they can. They steal from your checked luggage because when you get to Chicago and your cufflinks are missing, there is no way for you to track down the guy in the Atlanta airport who stole them. If TSA wanted to stop its employees stealing from checked luggage, there’d be a simple solution: any TSA employee who opens a bag puts his name in it.

But that would create accountability, and the security state cannot operate if its functionaries are accountable. If screeners knew that their mothers were likely to read on the internet about what they were doing on the job, they would be on much better behavior, which would not aid in the government’s avowed program of unquestioning compliance.

If We the People don’t create accountability, they will never change their ways.

One of the weapons the People can lawfully use to create accountability is publication of the truth: “naming and shaming.” While a complaint through official channels goes nowhere (we have investigated and found that ze agent vas chust follovink orders), publication of an offending TSA employee’s name gets her attention. Some day she might want to get a real job, or rent an apartment, or date a decent human being; the fact that she once abused authority in the name of safety might get in the way of any of those projects. (As, I would argue, it should: any TSA employee or former employee who has not publicly denounced the agency should feel more ostracism than that with which our society treats sex offenders who don’t work for TSA.)

A blogger who has been vigorous in promoting TSA accountability by naming and shaming its criminals (see Thedala Magee and Tiffany Applewhite) is “Advice Goddess” Amy Alkon. Thanks to Alkon, when you google Thedala Magee’s name Simple Justice pops up—an unenviable position for a government bully. We know that the naming and shaming is working because Thedala Magee lawyered up and made a hollow threat to sue Alkon.

Alkon seems to be a frequent target for TSA abuse, whether because of her figure (“It is odd that I, like many large-breasted women am always chosen—always by men at the metal detectors—to go for further screening. Every time I fly.”) or because she is an outspoken critic of the agency’s security theatre (buxom revolutionaries, beware!).

Most recently at JFK Terminal 2:

The light-skinned black woman who screened me, last name “Moore,” was wearing her photo ID upside down so her first name could not be read. After she ran her hands, most disgustingly, all over my body, grazing my labia and touching my breasts and inside my turtleneck on my bare skin, I told her I needed her first name. She refused to give it to me.

Moore’s supervisor, Roger Grant, also refused to give Alkon Moore’s first name; he also refused to give her a complaint form.

Eventually the world will learn who Ms. Moore is. It may happen because TSA’s flack answers Alkon’s questions; more likely it will happen because one of Alkon’s readers passing through JFK gets Moore’s first name, snaps a photo, and sends it to Alkon. In any case, Alkon will do a follow-up post. And when she does, woe betide Ms. Moore if her name is as googleable as Thedala Magee’s.

I would like to make this little contribution to the revolution: Good on Alkin for demanding names (and for having the will to publish them and the readership to make a difference) but she’s doing so at the wrong time.

I don’t fly out of US airports anymore, but if I did I would ask to see ID—including first and last name—before allowing the gropedown to begin. If Alkon started demanding names before being touched, she would be much more likely to get them (it’s not an unreasonable request that she know who is touching her before the festivities begin); the person giving her name would be more likely to be circumspect (I assume that a less-offensive encounter is one of Alkon’s objectives); and in the likely event that she did behave in a way that Alkon thought inappropriate or excessive, Alkon would immediately have a name to share with the world.

About Mark Bennett

Mark Bennett got his letter of marque from the Supreme Court of Texas in May 1995. He is famous for having no sense of humor when it comes to totalitarianism.
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14 Responses to TSA: Anonymity Breeds Contempt

  1. Thomas Stephenson says:

    A lot of the problem with TSA is that it’s largely privatized. It’s much harder to hold private-sector employees accountable than government employees.

    Plus, the extra problem with privatization is that even when it’s highly unpopular it’s much harder to get rid of. If this were an agency strictly run by the government, that’s one thing; but when people are actually profiting, getting rid of it is that much harder.

    • Thomas, can you provide a link for your assertion that TSA is largely privatized? (I think you’ve got the relative ease of holding accountable private-sector and government employees wrong.)

      • mark ash says:

        Public employees are much harder to hold accountable than government ones. Airport security should be made private. Airlines could be sued if either

        1. security officers abused their power and authority

        or

        2. security officers failed in their duties and damages resulted.

        True, private would not be perfect (humans are not perfect), but way much better than the airport security that TSA delivers now.

  2. dean cameron says:

    It’s much easier to change government policies. For the citizens of Backwards-Land. :)

    I admire Alkon for going public with her complaint yet a common charge stated has to do with “minimum wage workers” or comparing them to people who have entry level jobs.

    There’s no way anyone doing that job could do it well. It’s pointless. They are only there to play roles in Security Theater.

    The fun thing to do is carry a Bill of Rights – Security Edition.

    As I market them, I won’t post a link. That would be bad form.

    The TSA is a valuable asset in our eternal war on terror. In Backwards-Land.

  3. Mr. B., this posting has inspired me to create the “TSA Shuffle” – it’s got a good beat but you can’t dance to it due to being in your sckives & socks. Free Mole checks & discounted pimple pops while you wait is job creation with a dab of security on the side. Or, simply speak out in favor of documenting (filming) all searches of people & property & mandatory psych exams for touchers.

    No, not the one where faceless folks side step their way from point A to all points in between awaiting to be waived through or waived over to either a machine or a pair of
    Brickle Berry gloved hands. This one has the customer(s) anticipating two or three moves ahead of time inorder to faciliate the process in a timely manner. *(anyone that’s been to jail / prison can appriciate the mental picture {guilty or not} of standing in line ‘naked’ while holding out your clothes and boots to be shook out prior to bending over and lifting this and that – rain, sleet or snow.)

    Since it’s not against the law to single out and finger paying customers, they should have no problem with everyone pre-complying in mass. At some point they are going to order everyone to put their clothes back on and move along. And since you can get name tags at garage sales, or put your co-worker’s on by accident we’ll probably never really know who the cherry pickers’ are unless they are orderd to comply.
    Thanks Al Quada

  4. Peter Papps says:

    I alway carry the phone numbers for the TSA, Homeland Security and Dept. of Transportation and other relevant inspectors general,soI can make the call right there. I haven’t had to do it yet, but I’m always ready. And take it from me, a former federal prosecutor-those folks at the various IG offices are just sitting at the edges of their seats, just waiting to go into action.

  5. Amy Alkon says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. It is so important that we all do what we can. Another thing the TSA does that I believe is meant to punish us for opting out of the scanners is leave our stuff where it can be stolen.

    They told me this time — and have told me time and time again — that they just don’t have personnel to watch it. Wait — you can grope my body, entirely sans probable cause, but where there’s a real risk, a proven risk, especially vis a vis the thieves populating the TSA, I am left unprotected? My laptop, my iPad, all my stuff is left out for the stealing?

    I fully believe that the TSA’s mission (besides providing a jobs program with a government pension for those who’d otherwise be working as hamburger clerks) is obedience training for the American public to go quietly as our rights are yanked from us.

    • Michael Stuart says:

      @Amy:
      TSA’s mission …is obedience training…

      Absolutely. It’s inculcation to a prison planet; slave-training for future gulag occupants.

      I’m beginning to think my “principled” stand to refuse flying is foolish; because they can expand, and are expanding, to bus stations, cruise ships…hell, even high-school prom nights. Will I eventually cower in my house and whisper bravely “They better not come in HERE!”

      Last week’s opt-out and film event attracted more people than the Thanskgiving-day event two years ago. Perhaps the solution is active civil disobedience; book cheap tickets for five or ten people, and bring another five or ten to film. All opt out, all demand names…

      …and ALL sue personally for sexual assault.

      Does TSA have the despicable qualified immunity?

  6. Michelle Loret says:

    Oh, how I despise the Theater if Security, as witnessed by my last search (9x out of 10 I am searched, to no avail). New machines at Hobby, the ones where they have to blur my pica-chu and areola because it is the bible belt, after all, and I came prepared: dress, brazier and thong panties only. “Ma’am, can you step aside?” “Why?” “We have to investigate further.” “For what?” “You have areas that have come up.” “What kind of areas?” (I’ve become more surely since reading your blog, thx Mark, lol) She points to the dead man outline on the screen behind me. My head swivels around like Carrie. It has two circles, one on each thigh, and one on possibly an underwire on my bra (the girls need support, what can I say?) I reply, “No way, this is ridiculous.” I then proceed to embrace the ridiculousness (can’t beat em, join em) and lift up my dress to reveal my less than flattering thighs. “Ma’am, PUT DOWN YOUR DRESS!” “Why? TSA is obviously checking for cellulite and I have plenty. Just trying to share with 200 of my closest strangers and demystify for the authorities since I have ONE piece of clothing and TWO undergarments on!” I was quickly escorted through. Not my finest moment, but I am so tired of it and it was 6am and I hadn’t had my morning coffee so…game on.

  7. Amy Alkon says:

    I think your advice to demand names before being touched is wise. I would have to keep quiet about my rights before then, and remain calm – which is sometimes hard because they do this thing to intimidate you (I believe): leaving your stuff out on the belt for anyone to take.

    I travel with my work life — my computer, my iPad, an iPad keyboard (all of which were gifts from my boyfriend and thus have more meaning for me than they would as simple useful electronics). Yes, I have the material on them backed up, but I don’t want them stolen. It would be a huge deal for me, and an expensive one.

    They say they don’t have personnel to watch it. Meanwhile, they’ve put billions — wasted billions — into worthless “security” measures.

  8. Amy Alkon says:

    Actually, on second thought, these scumbags are wearing their name badges upside down – they don’t want to give their name and are purposefully hiding it. I guess if I asked sweetly – “What’s your name?” – I might get it. It’s hard to hide the contempt I feel for them (earning a living violating our rights) and the process.

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