Adventures in Security Theater

So, this post really has nothing to do with atheism, or the military, except as it relates to the fact that I was traveling home from the Secular Student Alliance‘s 2013 eastern conference in Columbus, Ohio this past weekend and I did a talk there that at least was partly related to the military.  Quick word about the SSA conference:  I can’t say enough great stuff about the SSA and their conference. It was a truly amazing experience and being located in the same place as all those young, secular, future leaders filled me with hope for the future of our movement.  I say well done to everyone who had a hand in getting that thing together.

TSA…

But, I digress. This post is really about my adventures with the TSA at the airport in Columbus, Ohio.  When leaving home, I have the relative luxury of passing through security in a tiny, regional airport, with no body scanners and a fairly quick screening process, mainly because the planes are small so there’s never that many people to screen.  However, coming back is a different story. First of all, as I started winding my way through the Disney-style rope line to get to the Columbus airport screening area, I saw that this airport had one of those full body scanners; the kind where you have to brace your feet, raise your hands up in the air like you are under arrest or in some sort of hold up, then let this machine irradiate your body with-who-knows-what.  Then, after dumping my shoes, belt, shampoo, computer, and bag on the belt and going through the machine, a female TSA agent waives me over and says “I gotta check your sparklies”.  Well, at first, I have no idea what the fuck that means so I stand there looking at her and then I quickly find out what it means.  Apparently, there was an issue with the sequins sewed decoratively on the front of my shirt, so “checking my sparklies” meant a full-on, two-handed grab of both my breasts, out in public by the belt, followed by a thumb rub under each breast, under the edge of my bra.

 

Immediately prior to my second base encounter with this agent, my friend was undergoing a head squeeze-and-tap, apparently because there was something about her bobby pins that the machine didn’t like, and the whole time, my friend is asking the agent to be gentle because she’s punching the bobby pins into my friend’s scalp.  After my breast grab and my friend’s scalp rub, we were sent on our way, and the whole thing happened so fast, it took me a few minutes to process what had happened.

So, I grabbed my belongings and I sat down to get my shit together, and that’s when it hit me – that I was basically just indecently assaulted and my friend was physically assaulted out in public and there wasn’t a damn thing we could do about it.  My only crime was my choice of a cute, sparkly top and my friend’s only crime was wanting to hold her hair out of her face.

 

 

 What happened to the Constitution?

Why is this okay?  Why have we, as Americans, created a situation where traveling with sequins is justification to get your breasts grabbed by a stranger?  I’m not unfamiliar with the security concerns - I served on active duty in both the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts – but come on, at what point did we decide it was okay to assault law-abiding Americans who just want to travel?  Newsflash – when we allow our rights, the rights that make us uniquely American, to be given away in the interests of so-called security, then the terrorists have won…

 

About Kathleen Johnson

Vice President and past military director for American Atheists

  • http://www.facebook.com/tuibguy Mike Haubrich

    I really think it is disgusting that Congress, in its rush to fight “Terrrorism” granted an agency such broad powers. The TSA needs to be reined in.

    • Paul Loebe

      I concur wholeheartedly. The government’s broad security powers need to be reined in.

  • bit15

    I think is too late to have things back in a peaceful way. Government officials have all the incentives to keep claiming more and more power, and they have two powerful allies to support their intentions: the mainstream media, and the voters whose lives depend on the government largesse.

    • Paul Loebe

      the voters who’s lives depend on the government largesse are more involved in that security effort. We spend far more money on the military industrial complex than anything else in government. We could cut our military power in half and still be bigger than the next 10 militaries on the planet.

      • bit15

        True.

  • Leland Thibault

    Fear. Fear is a powerful policy maker. After 9/11 happened, the
    nation was gripped with it. Now that feeling has subsided, and we’re
    turning around to see what we ran away from. The people were scared and
    the government responded, and it takes two to tango. In their
    short-sighted passions, the people allowed these sweeping security
    measures to take place. The government ran with it, because they will
    take a mile out of an inch.

    What will replace the TSA? What
    should occur if we dismantled the TSA, and a bombing or highjacking
    occurred? Is the American public willing to fight for their own security
    and liberty? Maybe. I like to think that if someone tries to light
    their shoe, or pulls out a box cutter nowadays, they’ll receive a
    serious dose of multicultural, unified American street justice. I think
    the American public have learned what happens when you do not stand up
    against an aggressor on an airplane.

    It’ll take time to get rid of the TSA. How does it happen? Slowly removing people from office who endorse it.

    If
    Americans really want to fight for their Liberty, they will take
    responsibility for their own security. An individual cannot rely on
    someone else to provide their security without a form of compensation
    being granted back. We are a nation of individuals and it is our
    strength. We can take responsibility to secure ourselves and our
    neighbors, or we can leave that responsibility to the government. I have
    an idea which way we’ll go, and that’s the way of rugged American
    individualism.

    Even if you don’t believe it, Americans as a people still hold the power in this nation. We always have, and we always will. To not believe it, is to give that power up.


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