Sexually assaulted by a TSA groper

Erin, a prominent "Mommyblogger," had her vagina and breasts fondled without notice or warning by a TSA screener in Tampa Dayton. In her view -- and her lawyer's (and mine) -- this is a sexual assault, and she is proceeding accordingly: "I will not be a silent victim of sexual assault by a TSA agent. Total Sexual Assault."


    1. I never did find what the resolution of the same thing happening to Penn Jillette, and his refusal to be cowed

      I think Penn’s final answer, despite all his initial bluster, ended up being “Mooooooooooooo”


  1. this is going to have to get to the Supreme Court before anything is done, I fear.

    I already HATED airplane travel post-2001 and I don’t know what I will do this holiday season.

  2. “(And I would have opted for the body scanner, if I were going to be subject to a sexual assault.)”

    Mission accomplished. Good job TSA.

  3. Not to belittle this lady, but doesn’t registering the email addy tsasexualassualt at gmail seem just a teeny bit more attention seeking than crime victim?

    1. because you need to be given a victims social security number and access to her underwear drawer in order to suspend your disbelief?


  4. I just read the original article. It says, “Here is why I was sexually assaulted. She never told me the new body search policy. She never told me that she was going to touch my private parts.” and then continues with a list of other things the author wasn’t informed about.

    For me, this sounds like ‘only groping’ is a sexual assault, but ‘informing you that you’ll be groped; groping’ would be legally OK.

    Can somebody explain why a warning makes groping an acceptable action? Or did I misunderstand something?

  5. Erin, a prominent “Mommyblogger,”

    I’m going to need some citation here. I looked through her profile. The blog you’ve linked to? 1 post. The one you linked to, and it’s WAAY off-topic for the name of the blog.

    Her other blogs on her profile? 16 posts over 3 years on “Verbal Apraxia Play Group” and 11 posts on “THE LANDSCAPE OF MY LIFE” all from 2008.

    Her full name is given nowhere on the site in order to back up her own claims of being an author. No links to any of her books are presented.

    Maybe these things did happen to her. Or maybe someone wants to play a sympathy card for a fictitious harassed mom. It would be good to dig a bit deeper before accepting this one at face value, I think.

    1. Maybe she is, maybe she isn’t popular in mommy blog circles or whatever… Ad Hominem aside, what she alleges is not in dispute by anyone, including the perpetrators, so dismissing this as “attention seeker” is completely disingenuous. Here’s my Ad Hominem: Collecting checks from a 3-letter agency, by any chance?

      The excellent news is that the first round of people pressing charges for sexual assault has begun. Good.


      Her name on the blog Cory linked is “Erin, the $5 Dinner Mom”. She says she writes cookbooks. I googled “$5 Dinner Cookbook”. Tada. Thanks, internet!

      Are you more apt to believe her now? Or do you still think that this sexual assault victim made the whole thing up for funsies?

      1. Yikes, everyone jumping on, you’ve made your point, she’s famous.

        ScottTFrazer’s point was a good one, he had me going for a minute there too. I think he was saying that if BoingBoing and Cory Doctorow doesn’t carefully select the stories they run (and I’m not saying they don’t) they could find themselves at the wrong end of a law suit or a smear campaign – and we’d all hate for that to happen – no?

        I don’t think ScottTFrazer intended that his caution should be interpreted or taken up as a misogynistic rallying point – that the plaintiff was ‘just another hysterical woman yelling rape’. Perhaps he will reply. I see now he replied and in such a precise way that he should get an apology from several people.

        As for all the folks who are confusing the issue with touching in this situation and that situation, you’re forgetting this is a security official with power over you; to detain, question and give evidence that could get you arrested on suspicion of TREASON, a capital offense. This is not about playing with the meanings of words or interpreting the meanings of casual interactions in public spaces – this is about the State invading our privacy in THE most invasive way save one – and that’s coming if this stands.

    3. I’m with @ScottTFrazer on this one — I’m calling shenanigans. “Prominent Mommybloggers” should have blogs with more than one post, as far as I can tell. What other blog posts has she written in 2010?

      While her story is horrific, I am not convinced that this is real, due to the lack of additional postings. What is actually going on?

      1. Yeah, I’m annoyed at the unwillingness to do 2 minutes worth of research online, coupled with the willingness to spend 2 minutes writing the equivalent of “I’m too lazy or information illiterate to look things up online, please do it for me.”

        I found the same results that others have. I went a step further to check the traffic stats for her main site, which has 2k to 5k visitors a day from what I could find. I’d say that qualifies as prominent for a blogger.

  6. Not that the whole security theater is annoying, but a pat-down, as intrusive as it is, doesn’t really strike me as sexual. Might be unpleasant, but that ladies description of the events sound pretty standard in terms of security to me.

    Does she expect security personnel to announce every move? I’m kinda prepared that a pat-down is reaching into the safety zone, so I just let it happen and don’t think much of it.


    1. Here’s the issue: everyone has a different level of comfort when it comes to other people touching them, or even entering a zone of space around them. Prior to the TSA’s latest encroachment, there were two contexts in which someone might touch you that way, uninvited:

      • Being arrested by a law officer who witnessed you in a criminal act, or held a warrant for your arrest
      • Being sexually assaulted

      As we’re not being arrested for a crime when we travel, so it isn’t much of a leap to consider Scope or Grope to be a form of sexual assault.

      1. I think sexual assault needs to be sexual in nature. I doubt that simply touching whilst performing a pat-down or coming close to your genitals in that matter counts as that IMHO.

        1. Oh neat… so I can touch random people that way if my intent is “for security” and not be prosecuted for sexual assault? IANAL, but something doesn’t sound right there. Perhaps it’s the action itself that should be the better determinant.

        2. So, touching someone’s penis, vagina, buttocks or breasts isn’t considered sexual now? Give me a break.

          Personally I wouldn’t care if they had to give me an enhanced pat down, I just expect the TSA agent performing the pat down to inform me what they plan on doing prior to actually doing anything.

    2. nexusheli, burmali, and scotttfrazer – your permissive attitude towards authority does not make this legal, and your calling out as a fool someone who feels victimizes makes you abusers.

      1. I’m not saying that the agent was right. If Erin’s side of the story is true, then the agent was indeed in the wrong; I’ve been patted down 3 times since all the security changes at the airports and I’ve never once felt uncomfortable about it because the agent did what they were supposed to and announced each move they were making.

        But Erin’s in the wrong here to publicize anything like this before there’s any action by the law. If I bump into someone in a crowd at a concert and their hand brushes the front of my pants, I’m not going to claim “they touched my penis” as she claims the agent “touched her labia”. Claiming sexual harassment is akin to me calling that person I bumped in the crowd a molester. There’s a HUGE grey-area here that she’s conveniently skipping and claiming someone guilty until proven innocent.

        I’m not a fan of the procedures at airports at all. But you know what? If you choose to fly, you deal with it.

        1. Someone accidentally touching you in a crowd cannot be compared to someone intentionally touching you in the manner that TSA employees and various sex offenders do. No one suggested filing suit against random people in crowds… the suits being filed are for very intentional acts.

    3. “She then moved in front of my and touched the top and underneath portions of both of my breasts. She did not tell me that she was going to touch my breasts.”

      I’ve been given a lot of pat-downs, and have come to expect them at the half-dozen concerts (ranging from small venues to arenas) that my girlfriend and I have attended every year for years. She also gets patted-down, too, but what the TSA is doing here is way beyond what should be considered (and what I come to consider through experience) a standard pat-down. The line above is the most easiest way to illustrate this difference- never have my girlfriend or I been touched on the chest at all. What the TSA is doing here is closer to giving the breast a squeeze to make sure there’s nothing in your bra, and I think that’s a line where we have to say that this this shouldn’t be done without an explicit description of what is going to happen.

  7. @Burzmali, ScottTFrazer: I was coming here to say “What a great way to bring attention to your fledgling blog!”

    I love the first part about her self-described “high-profile”.

  8. Cal me nit-picky, but if her “vagina” was fondled, the TSA agent would have had to insert something, which I very much doubt happened. Eve Ensler confused everyone calling the whole enchilada a “vagina” when the outside bits are actually called a “vulva.” (Maggie, back me up here!) Ya, TMI, but dammit I’m tired of female parts being eternally mysterious!

  9. Most of us know Erin is the author of the $5 Dollar Dinner Mom Cookbook, and she also blogs at

    This is her family blog and she had no idea that she would get so much traffic to it, because only her close friends and family had a link to it.

    So stop looking for ways to denounce her and go get yourself fondled. We’ll see what you say then.

  10. Thank you all for assuming very many things about me that are not true.

    My point is that journalism in this country is very very lazy, and this post is another example of that.

    Do I think that the TSA is regularly overstepping their bounds? absolutely. Do I want to see their authority reigned in? Yes. Do I believe assault is the victim’s fault? Not just no. Fuck no.

    PathogenAntifreeze: “what she alleges is not in dispute by anyone, including the perpetrators,”

    So where is the link to support this? Has the TSA acknowledged this incident? If so, why hasn’t it been linked in either her blog post or this one?

    My complaints are NOT about assault or privacy, they are about bad journalism. Did anyone else notice that Cory said this happened in Tampa, while the blog post says Dayton?

    1. You’re right that there isn’t corroboration yet for her specific story, including the bit about which actions the TSA employee narrated and which were performed without narration.

      What I’m referring to is the groping itself, which no one disputes. Her description of the grope and TSA’s description of the grope, and umptee million news reports’ descriptions of the grope all describe the same basic grope.

    2. “journalism in this country is lazy”

      Which country? The events took place in the USA, but Cory is a Canadian, living in the UK.

      You’re right to call out people for getting the facts, but considering what you just did, I see a pot calling the kettle black.

  11. So they won’t touch my helper monkey but they will touch my monkey? also i will give the first person on video getting the enhanced pat-down that shout out “That’s right play with my balls” $5

  12. I had that happen at a gaming event once… somehow, they had chosen a venture with very strict security. They only had male sec personnel and I thought “okay, so they probably won’t touch me” since I’m female. But one of the guys did, hand right up between my legs and all, and seemed to enjoy it. I was too shocked and surprised to do pretty much anything (truth be told, I’m the type who probably wouldn’t have said anything even with advance knowledge… not because I like authorities, pretty much the opposite, but simply because I’m too shy to cause a scene like that). Since that day, I’m all for body scanners. At least they don’t touch you in private places.

  13. Several years ago I had an enhanced pat down in a German airport after setting off the metal detector. Their security didn’t speak English and I don’t speak German. I was anticipating the standard pat down, but when it became more invasive it was certainly shocking. When her hand went down my pants my travel buddy about died laughing from the look on my face.

    Quite frankly, I’m a bit of a slut. I don’t usually mind near strangers touching my parts, but this was shocking even to me. I can imagine that to someone who is more conservative and sensitive it would be very traumatic. It’s bad enough that they conduct these types of searches, but to do it without clearly explaining what to expect is not okay. The german woman very well could have been explaining to me what to expect, but I had no ability to understand her. I don’t begrudge them as I am a bit suspicious.

  14. I’ve just gone through security in a Central American country and I had a pat-down of my whole body, including my chest, crotchal area, going up the legs, etc. (Disclaimer: I’m male). I didn’t enjoy the procedure, but it didn’t strike me as sexual encounter. Just standard security.

    1. I think that’s the issue. If being able to fondle whomever becomes ‘just standard procedure’, what’s next in your line up of ‘just standard procedures’?

      TO BE HYPERBOLIC (sort of):
      If something ‘feels suspicious’ to a TSA officer, can they pat you down more? Perhaps standard procedure in the future will include a prolonged cavity search?

      How many fingers up your ass does it take before ‘just standard procedure’ becomes sexual abuse?

      @typorrhea (#41)
      Why are we caring about cholera in the Dominican Republic when there are sex dungeons in Congo? Hell who wouldn’t rather be systematically raped by several dozen than have a rather aggressive yet entirely treatable disease?

      Your point, the focus of boingboing, is a noble one, but you still read even though almost every post has nothing to do with such issues. Do you mind when they talk about copyright issues(the imaginary rights you gain enforced by imaginary rules caused by imaginary barter units which allow you to eat), or the Cool Tools which few in the DomRep will ever know existed, nor would have been able to obtain otherwise?

      My point: Problems are problems There are bigger problems. There are always bigger problems. Boingboing’s foci is on what they are interested. If you feel they should report on more atrocities/problems, then maybe you should take that into your own hands and start your own blog. I’d help even. I don’t think your heart’s in the wrong place, but your browser is.

  15. Who cares if she’s an upstanding citizen or not? Or an attention whore? All that matters is whether it happened or not, which I can’t attest to.

    If it went down as she says it did, it doesn’t matter if she’s ‘high profile’ or a ‘mommy blogger’ or any of that. I could loathe her as a human being, but that doesn’t make the TSA any more in the right.

    Jerks have rights too. The fact that the T&A wants to photograph, grope and fondle you and your children’s naked, flabby bodies is the prime concern here.

  16. So here’s what I’ve managed to turn up. Thanks RifK for at least providing a useful link along with his condescension.

    Here’s Erin’s Twitter stream, where she links to the interviews she’s doing about her experience:!/5dollardinners

    From that you can find:

    And she’ll be appearing on a local fox affiliate shortly.

    I haven’t been able to find any response from the TSA about this.

    1. Listen up dude, I’m not even in her target market and I’d heard of her before. You are simply clueless and uninformed. But, at least you’re not like Burzmali.
      TSA is notorious for being paranoid and secretive. They refused to tell Congress how many people they’ve employed.

  17. Just to echo ScottTFrazer’s thoughts, if I started a blog today and claimed a TSA officer jammed his fist up my backside to the elbow, it would probably make Boing Boing inside of 15 minutes.
    Check the last few days worth of articles, this site is digging harder and harder to paint the TSA in a bad light and frankly, they don’t need the help. Dredging the net for every last (unsubstantiated) story about why the TSA is evil is just preaching to the choir at this point and ends in shoddy journalism (court house nudie scanners that weren’t really nudie scanners anyone?)
    Hell, I even have this great bit rehearsed about how I’ve named my left nut Resistance because it hangs lower and should result in a quicker pat down should I ever need to go through a TSA pecker check.
    Also, what can I say, I’m a Massachusetts liberal and even I wouldn’t be running out to register and trying to get on the radio if such an event were to occur.

    1. I hardly call comprehensively covering a current event issue dredging the internet. If they were dredging, they would have posted the video I sent last night of a frantic & sobbing 3 year old getting the ol enhanced pat-down.

      Seriously, boingboing has a wide audience; why shouldn’t they be able to use their platform to talk about issues they think are important?

  18. Over at, Bug Girl blogged about this kind of TSA groping, from the point of a rape survivor:

    Another thing to take into account is that a lot of people have had in their lifetime a lot of medical radiation, and would like to avoid the added security “naked scan” for that reason. The problem is that the only opportunity the TSA leaves them is the groping. Nice.

  19. This is my take. It might be a lot of attention- seeking. But frankly this needs all the negative attention it can get. The scanners, the pat downs, it’s all an overblown response to a threat that exists mostly in peoples’ minds. Once again it needs to be pointed out that they are reacting to the last chess move made instead of trying to anticipate the next one. As it is, the shoes, the scanner, the lighter ban are all based on attacks that failed- and failed because they were flawed plans to start with, not because the perpetrator was stopped by someone. So restricting freedoms and subjecting people to unnecessary pat- downs and scans in the name of stopping terrorists who aren’t there and would have already thought of that anyway is something I want to see less of, thank you.

  20. I just went through the TSA enhanced patdown, and am feeling pretty uncomfortable with what just happened. I really thought that the patdown would be less uncomfortable than the strip search, but despite my best mental efforts to the contrary, I still feel pretty disgusted/violated. This is going into the suppressed memory file.

  21. I’m agreeing with Pathogen on the crowd issue.

    In a crowd it’s not like someone walks up to you preforms a pat down and cops a feel. I’ve been in crowded areas and have accidentally brushed peopled…usually I apologize profusely and try and move away if possible. I mean this isn’t late night Cinemax, where the security guard is a beefy guy wearing break away pants. That is what would constitute grounds for some type of charge. That and the high possibility of assault as well (you know if it wasn’t a crime to hit a TSA officer for groping you.)

    If you remove the governmental backing of the TSA then it really would result in lawsuits on the airline industry. Either that, or you would be presented with a full disclosure of what was going to happen before you bought your ticket.

    And the whole issue with the images released from the Florida machine isn’t that it was a mm based old machine…it kept the pictures. When the whole backscatter/xray machine thing first came up and test were being done, everyone said “No, no these don’t save pictures.” So since the beginning we have been lied to about what these machines are doing and what is being done with that data.

    My wife is flying in December and I hope she isn’t one of these statistics.

  22. If you believe it’s OK for the government to restrict your natural rights to self defense and to bear arms, this is a necessary procedure. If nobody’s going to check my package, I can bring weapons on board – this is not a matter of opinion, it’s a raw fact. There’s no reliable way to disarm a human being that’s not intrusive and/or humiliating. And of all the places to disarm people, an airplane is the most meaningful – I can’t crash a courthouse or a cafe into a skyscraper and kill thousands.

    On the other claw, though, if you think it’s an unconscionable abuse of police powers for the government to prevent law abiding citizens from having weapons in any place for any reason, sure, this is a tyrannical restriction on the basic human right of self-defense. This is what the bloody tea-baggers are on about, you know? This is what they mean when they start ranting about the “nanny state” and “socialism”. They can’t help it that they are generally unlettered and ignorant. At least they know that the ship of state is careening out of control, and they are trying to rally their fellow citizens.

    Laws that restrict an honest man’s ability to project deadly force purposely strip away that same man’s ability to promote peace and justice in his community and to respond to criminal actions in time to make a difference. Calling the cops won’t help if there’s a criminal with his hands around your neighbor’s throat.

    If you think it’s OK to disarm people, if you aren’t going to oppose that in your statements and in your voting booth, then you’re going to have to let armed stooges feel you up. That’s how reality works, and it doesn’t care about your sexual hangups.

  23. Here’s what I don’t understand:

    I don’t like the idea of either pat-downs or naked x-rays anymore than anyone else.

    BUT, if you accept that the TSA will pat you down, how can you not accept that they will touch your “sexual areas?”

    If there are specific zones that no one can touch, then what’s the point of a pat-down at all? None at all! If I know that the TSA can only touch my sides, I can just stick the C4 in my crotch, obviously.

    “ryxxui” above says “what the TSA is doing here is way beyond what should be considered a standard pat-down … never have my girlfriend or I been touched on the chest at all.

    So what was the point in all the pat-downs at concerts you were given, if you knew that you could just tape the knife to your chest?

    Either fight pat-downs as a whole — i.e. fight the laws that make any pat-downs by the TSA legal — or accept them along with “touching privates.” Pat-downs with no touching of privates makes no sense.

    1. Well yeah that’s kind of the thing here lol. At all of those concerts, I knew that the pat-down was security theater, and that it was kind of funny. I’ve always been able to get whatever I needed into concerts (hey, it was Ozzfest) with no problem regardless of the level of security. The problem isn’t requiring people to go through security theater. The problem is that they’ve started believing that security theater is actual security, and they’re using that illogical belief as a justification to thoroughly violate people (as opposed to just inconveniencing them).

  24. Actualy, Ito Kagehisa, you’re wrong. You say “If nobody’s going to check my package, I can bring weapons on board.”

    But if nobody checks inside your rectum, you can still bring weapons on board.

    So, lucky for you and the terrorists — you can both still bring weapons wherever you think you need them.

    The rest of us have to put up with the madness and baloney that constitutes this security theater.

  25. What is the reasonable reason to detain and search in the first place?

    The fact that you want to fly? Is driving next?

  26. As a chiropractor, I occasionally have to touch people in a private area. I was trained to do pelvic exams, prostate exams. We had live models/teachers. In retrospect it seems an obvious way to do it, but
    say “I am going to touch you in this area”. Be specific. We explain why, but I understand security may not want to give away secrets.

    “Is that OK”

    for anyone who says this isn’t sexual assault, be aware that a huge chunk of the population have been sexually assaulted. Making them revisit that experience is pretty shitty. I assumed this would be an obvious standard. Bizzare that they groped first and asked questions later.

    1. As a survivor of rape I agree. First off, I don’t want anyone touching my breasts or between my legs unless I explicitly allow it. The only two people allowed to touch me there are my significant other and my gynocologist.

      To touch someone there without telling you first and asking your permission is absolutely wrong. You don’t know if you’re dealing with a survivor of assault or trauma, and you have no idea what even touching the surface of their breasts or labia will do in terms of flashbacks or further trauma. You don’t just “get over it”. I went through extensive counselling and I’m still not “over it”. I probably never will be.

      Damned if you do and damned if you don’t here. I’m worried about the radiation exposure, but I also don’t want to be touched. I have already booked plane tickets for next February, but I will say that I no longer love to travel like I used to unless I can do it by car or train. I hate flying. It’s nothing but a nightmare anymore.

  27. More stories on this subject please. I am noticing a few non-TSA stories are still getting through. Cut it out already. Nobody cares about cholera in the Dominican Republic so long as the TSA might invade my personal space for a few minutes. Hell who wouldn’t rather have cholera than have a mildly uncomfortable moment???

  28. A female TSA agent thoroughly inspecting the chest and crotch of a female passenger is sure to titillate a few people innocently standing around, waiting to feed their bags through the x-ray machine.

    For all the legitimate worries about the scanners’ safety and references to virtual strip searching as “porno,” this sort of groping pat-down can be far more sexually charged since it is carried out in full view of other passengers.

  29. So what would be an acceptable alternative to the anti-TSA crowd? Keep in mind that “No borders, no cops,” is not a valid answer. How would you keep bombs, boxcutters, guns, etc. off of planes?

    1. How were we keeping those things off of planes before 9/11? With that one exception and a few very minor other exceptions, whatever we were doing back then seems to have worked a rather large percentage of the time (a percentage that should be contrasted with the relatively small percentage of the time that the new security requirements actually prevent something from happening).

      1. Well, hey, “9–11 changed everything,” so I don’t think a pre-9–11 security stance is politically viable, at the very least. But if the contention is that these new procedures neither make us safe nor free, then the question remains: What would work? What would preserve liberties and privacy? What would you do?

        I’d also contend that the ZOMG THOSE AWFUL TSA THUGZ LOLZ response is the worst possible way to counteract the frightening specter of security theater and the 24–7 surveillance state, but that’s another issue…. ‘Shooped memes-du-jour are great, but these parodies and lampoons rather pale as viable policy alternatives to creeping fascism. We should be capable of providing alternatives to this BS without the “Handz of my Bewbz” LOLgasms….

        1. Secure cockpit doors… done and done. “We haaaaaafta keep spending tax money” is far less valid than “Handz of my Bewbz.”

          Want visibly more than we had pre-9/11? Hand everyone on the plane a small baseball bat. Take them away from anyone ordering alcohol. The few laughable “attempts” at in-flight terror attack since 9/11 have been stopped by other passengers, not TSA. Someone on the plane doing chemistry with noxious chemicals: bat time will be effective long before any ridiculous notion of a bomb. Someone pulls out a box cutter, pool cue, machete, chainsaw, knitting needle, or ball point pen and threatens someone’s life? Who cooperates with hijackers since 9/11, or even on 9/11 after the first attacks??? That person will, at best, commit a murder, just like they could at your local supermarket… with the bats in everyone’s hands, he or she will commit only one murder before being taken down: that’s better odds than the killer at the supermarket.

          So there: a cheap, silly ass idea that is infinitely more effective than our yet-another-tax-money-pit, demeaning, useless TSA, and it even “looks” like people doing something for our safety, even though it’s above and beyond what’s necessary.

          1. Granted, and the baseball-bat idea is rather good. So that’s three!

            In posing the question, I’m not trying to defend the TSA, bewbz-patting, etc. I’m just trying to present the issue as a set of practical problems, and NOT as another chance for Snarkforce Digerati to fulminate against ‘Da Man and ‘Da Man’s Hatred of Sacred Liberty.

        2. Tdawwg, personally, I don’t care if people bring boxcutters onto a plane. The boxcutters aren’t a threat now that airline passengers are willing to jump on would-be hijackers rather than just sitting back and letting the plane be hijacked.

          Bombs don’t seem to be much of a threat either. The shoe-bomber didn’t manage to succeed in setting off his device, and the underwear-bomber only managed to set his own genitals on fire. If al Qaeda has a secret plot to set all of their own guys’ junk on fire, I don’t see any reason to make that difficult for them.

          Guns? We’ve been keeping guns off of planes for decades without having to fondle people’s genitals.

          The main reason we’ve got back-scatter scanners is because the head of DHA was getting money from the scanner manufacturers. There’s no evidence that the things actually make us safer.

          1. Well, you know, the next fiery genitals may come in the form of a mushroom cloud.

            DING-DING-DING-DING-DING! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner in the fear-mongering troll category! Step right up here sir! Do you use our sponsor’s magic ointment?

            Here in reality, if you can build a nuke that can be hidden from the most cursory screening imaginable, you have the resources to build a shielded device that can be easily secreted inside a human. Are you seriously proposing that we vivisect passengers?

          2. “Well, you know, the next fiery genitals may come in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

            Bwa-ha-ha. Do you really think that someone who is sophisticated enough to acquire a nuclear weapon won’t be able to get it past the mouth breathers at the TSA?

          3. It was a . . . joke. Test irony meter.

            Besides, nukes are heavy and shit, not to be placed next to, or on, or beside (and especially not inside, ouch!), one’s tender genitalia.

          4. And where’s the “passengers will fight or die” meme coming from, all of a sudden? How do we know this? The same passengers who’ve been cowed into de-shoeing themselves and getting their bewbs patted down, these are now the Freedom-Loving Terrorist-Fighting Sky Lions upon a boxcutter’s brandishing? I really don’t buy that one, at least, not as a given, something assumed at the beginning of an argument without question. (And I’m supposed to get slashed taking down a boxcutter-wielding killer? Really? Can’t we just keep those on the ground?) Not to belabor this point, but I’m sort of surprised at this untested (and hopefully never to be tested) new vision of America’s airline customers. “Let’s not roll,” in other words.

          5. Tdawwg “And I’m supposed to get slashed taking down a boxcutter-wielding killer? Really? Can’t we just keep those on the ground?”

            Hello? Metal detectors?

            Unless you mean those new ceramic or carbon-carbon box cutters that are all the rage. In case you are, then by all means, let’s just all strip. The TSA will still have to grope scrotums and breasts for implanted foreign material, and do a vaginal and rectal probe to make sure there’s nothing there.

            At least there will be no boxcutters.

          6. So, about 10 years ago, there were these 4 planes that got hijacked… 3 went into buildings, but the passengers of the 4th plane learned that “everything changed on 9/11.” They learned a bit too late to prevent the plane crash, but they did prevent a building collision.

            A few years later, dude on a plane tries to light his shoes… passengers pin him, bind him, and that’s that.

            There have been multiple incidents since 9/11 where someone threatened a hijacking or other such violence, and that is where push came to shove and passengers took the offender down.

            This is not an all-of-a-sudden meme. People won’t allow a hijacking for a good long time… next time it works will be after everyone who watched events unfold on 9/11 is dead of old age… and that’s a maybe.

            I know this is news that lobbyists and politicians and bureaucrats don’t want to hear, but it’s been valid since about an hour into the events of 9/11.

            So, what threat do you face now if we simply disband TSA? The same threat you face every time you walk into a restaurant: a random psycho or group of psychos might decide to kill you. This is a real threat, albeit with a very small statistical likelyhood. We can pretend to combat this threat with policies like TSA’s current theatrics at the entrance to every human gathering point… every restaurant, every mall, every theater. Ball point pens will still work. Attacks in the queue for the Scope or Grope will still work. You can still be murdered by a random psycho, but hey, it looks safer, right?! It also costs a lot more, both in money, and in any sense of dignity in our relationship with “our” government. I grew up in “the Land of the Free” and “the Home of the Brave,” and none of this shit qualifies.

          7. Those flying restaurants must sure be something!

            Dunno, I guess I just think there’s some middle ground between taking a boxcutter slash for liberty and taking a gloved finger up my ass for security.

          8. The fight or die thing isn’t a sudden unexplained increase in the bravery of airline passengers – it’s a change in the assumptions about airline hijackings.

            Once upon a time, if someone was hijacking the plane, you could basically assume that you’re best hope of survival was to sit down and shut up. You were a hostage, and negotiations would proceed, and probably you’d be released.

            Since 9/11, the assumption has changed – now every hijack attempt is going to be viewed as something that’s going to end in a plane crash. Even if hijackers were to say that they just want to commandeer the plane for Cuba, no one would even believe them. Since 9/11, passengers are going to assume that a hijacking will end in their death if they can’t prevent it.

            This “untested new vision of America’s airline customers” isn’t actually completely untested. On 9/11, one of the airplanes crashed without reaching its target because of a passenger revolt.

          9. That point bears repeating. My brother-in-law likes to rant that if he’d been on either of the planes heading for the WTC he would have fought the hijackers tooth and nail- but the wisdom of that action depends on the cost/benefit equation you’re working with, especially in a situation where rushing the cockpit will very likely result in the deaths of everyone aboard. If your captors just want the plane for hostages then it may be best to wait things out and hope for rescue, but if your captors want to use the plane for a suicide attack against even more innocent people then it’s a whole different ball game.

          10. Part of how the 9/11 plot worked is the disbelief that they would sacrifice an entire plane and commit suicide. It’s also well known now that they had fake bombs. And that day, one plane did fight back, and quite likely saved the capitol. Post 9/11, yes, part of my travel plans include getting slashed taking down a boxcutter wielding killer if need be.

        3. hey, “9–11 changed everything,” so I don’t think a pre-9–11 security stance is politically viable

          All this paranoid nonsense was implemented by Bush and Cheney to, in the most charitable possible interpretation, cover their asses and distract everyone from their failure to follow normal procedure and stop the planes once they’d gone off course.

          Bush and Cheney are gone, and their continued further incompetence over the following seven years has led both parties to repudiate them. No one in power today is politically invested in them or their foul legacies.

          Airplanes have been rebuilt so passengers can’t take over any more.

          Problem solved.

          Everybody fuckin’ get over it already.

    2. Within about an hour or the first 9/11 attack, the flying public learned something: never allow a hijacking again. At this point, the level of danger posed by boxcutters on a plane is the same level of danger posed by boxcutters in a restaurant… and no restaurant I’ve been to requires Scope or Grope (or paying my non-refundable bill up front), and few require ID for entrance.

      Bombs and guns are a little more serious… and the ancient metal detectors of yore dealt with guns just fine, and the explosive-detection swabs that existed pre-9/11 worked well too.

      The TSA and its new nonsense have prevented absolutely nothing that wouldn’t have already been prevented otherwise: (a)plots that don’t work, except on TV, (b)passengers who will take down any hijack attempt, or (c)stuff like guns that were also caught by metal detectors

      The locking cockpit doors was a valid security improvement after 9/11. TSA is completely unneeded by the traveling populace and does nothing for our nation’s safety. TSA does provide a jobs program that every politician can get behind as it gets votes in everyone’s district, and TSA’s ongoing, perpetual purchases of new technology does reward the lobbyists who fund those politicians.

      1. Restaurants can be flown into large buildings, killing thousands? Kewl!

        The locking of the cockpit doors was a good idea, as was, IMHO, the re-introduction of air marshals onto flights. So that’s two things, I guess.

        1. I think the point is that a guy with a boxcutter or even a gun isn’t taking control of an airplane anytime soon, because passengers will fight back. So the argument that we need to be felt up to prevent the terrorists from flying into skyscrapers doesn’t hold a lot of water.

          1. Sure, but “guns on a plane, however inadvertent” is hardly a rallying cry for any kind of politics in 2011. Pass.

  30. Just to be clear it wasn’t her vagina that was fondled it was her labia. I’m guessing the cavity searches won’t be implemented until the furor over the new proceedures has died down.

  31. OK folks… if we’re going to have a discussion about invasive screening techniques we need to get out terms right.

    Vagina= internal cylindrical structure between the labia and cervix

    Labia(or vulva)= external structures

    So unless the TSA agent penetrated her, she did not have her vagina examined.

    Want a drawing?
    Vagina diagram

    (Line drawing, safe for work)

  32. I agree that the TSA’s new measures are unnecessary and pointless. I also think half the other crap they do is equally pointless, unless we’ve caught a whole bunch of 3-oz. shampoo bottle bombers.

    That said… the moment someone refers to themselves as a “mommyblogger,” I find myself immediately disinclined to take them seriously, never mind agree with them.

  33. My mother and my mother-in-law each travelled to Asia this year. Both paid extra to ensure that they would not go through the United States.

    I’ll be doing the same thing next time I fly somewhere.

  34. There are 2 reasons your gynecologist or proctologist are granted permission to touch your genital areas, or any area of your body: One, because there is a direct benefit to your well-being, and two, because they are professional about it.

    The TSA’s history of security theatre and dismal shortage of training and professionalism are the problem here. If I felt it was really effective security, and the person doing the search (male or female) was courteous and professional, assault would not be an issue.

  35. I’d fly again under the baseball bat policy, although I’d still prefer to let every taxpayer be as armed as they wanna be, all the time (even on planes! even in schools!).

    Some people have such a fundamental fear of their neighbors that you have to wonder what’s going on in their minds. It’s like the “conservative” politicians that shriek about homosexuality – some of them apparently just want to be protected from their own urges. Do these folks that want to disarm everyone have murder sprees on their minds all the time? I notice that the same administration that gleefully passed the Patriot Act was also guilty of torturing innocent people to death…

    1. I’m not worried that everyone in schools is planning a murder spree; normally nobody is. I am worried about hundreds of untrained, easily startled teenagers reacting to a perceived crisis by killing everyone who looks responsible, or was standing behind those who looked responsible.

      1. I’m not worried that everyone in schools is planning a murder spree; normally nobody is. I am worried about hundreds of untrained, easily startled teenagers reacting to a perceived crisis by killing everyone who looks responsible, or was standing behind those who looked responsible.

        First of all, I said I don’t mind taxpayers being armed in schools. “Untrained, easily startled teenagers” attending school in the USA do not pay any taxes. If you are an adult attending school part-time you might be paying taxes, full time students and children living at home do not.

        Secondly, I think weapons training should be required in schools, with the usual opt-out for Quakers and any others who have sincere philosophical or religious reasons for non-violence. Why should children learn use of weapons from watching TV instead of from legitimate, licensed instructors?

        And finally, your gory fantasy hasn’t actually happened, despite the hundreds of years in which schoolchildren could and did carry firearms into schools routinely. In my parents’ time farm kids would leave shotguns in the cloakrooms of rural schools, because they were going hunting on the way to or from school. You need to acknowledge that your fear is unrealistic, and that imposing legal restrictions on other people due to your unrealistic, neurotic fears is both cowardly and tyrannnical.

  36. IMHO the whole sexual aspect is a red herring.

    Either we are OK with scanners and enhanced pat-downs or not. The issue we should be discussing is whether the scanners are necessary or a stupid invasion of privacy. Personally, i think they’re a stupid invasion of privacy.

    If we’re OK with scanners and enhanced pat downs then we’re ok with very intimate searches including having our junk groped. Otherwise what’s the point of the pat-down? Again, personally I think that having every passenger go through a scanner of have a pat-down is excessive. But the sexual aspect? Red herring.

    In the case of this mommy blogger, the agent obviously should have explained the procedure ahead of time. But to claim sexual assault seems disingenuous to me.

  37. There are three things that need to be done, post-9/11, to make flying safer:

    1. Locks on cockpit doors;
    2. Panic buttons for planes – if a pilot presses it, the plane goes into autopilot, cannot be switched off, and lands itself;
    3. Go back to pre-9/11 screening.

    Personally, I am unwilling to be a hostage, and if I have to pay the price for living in a free society, well, there are fates worse than death.

    Sexual assault is NOT a valid security measure. Ever.

  38. @Oliver: The 4th amendment doesn’t offer Americans protection overseas, and it’s not appropriate to expect the same levels of privacy in countries without the same laws regarding searches. In the US, however, this sort of physical search is, as far as I can tell, illegal.

  39. Cory–

    Recognizing that this incident could very well have happened anywhere and the location of its occurrence is not vitally pertinent to the greater discussion going on here:

    PLEASE–I am a Tampa resident who loves her home and is nervous enough as it is about the prospect of flying, now watching this new development in “security theatre” with increasing horror.

    THIS particular incident was reported to have occurred in Dayton, OH. I am not sure how Tampa got pulled into this. We have plenty enough going on here to get associated with this kind of thing, too.

    Ahem. Thank you. Please, carry on.

  40. Most airline travelers would rather be slashed taking down a mad boxcutter wielding killer than be exploded when the plane crashes. Not only do I get to save the murder victim, BUT I also save everyone on the plane, and everyone under our crash site on the ground.

    I’ve got socialized healthcare – I’m willing to take risks to save other people in a crisis.

    Besides: he’d have to get REALLY FUCKING LUCKY to actually KILL ME, or even do me permanant damage. The worst I’m looking at is an uncomfortable six to twelve weeks, stitches and scarring (like my appearance is something I’m worried about, snort) and perhaps some chronic pain – which I already have, so my existing medication will probably cover it.

    Even if he gets lucky and severs a tendon, they can fix that now thanks to the large amount of practice and money the professional athletic teams funnel into surgical research. He’s bloody unlikely to hit an artery or vein with a BOX CUTTER in a brawl. The damn things break off in a struggle, are one sided, don’t have any points, and can’t be extended more than a few inches before they start breaking off very quickly.

    I’m not a fighter. I’m not rough and tumble. What I am is fat, tall for a woman, asthmatic, and with chronic joint pain (due to being fat). I bet that he’d be bloody unlikely to kill anyone after I tackle him, and other passengers will dogpile on and stop him before I get horrible mauled. And with 250 lbs of angry fat woman sitting on him, he’s not doing much to anyone else.

    Hell, with the fat I’m not sure he’d even get to do muscle damage with a fucking box cutter.

  41. I am 5 months pregnant, which means I should not be going through the scanners. So my only option is to have my breasts and labia fondled? I am also a very modest person and this terrifies me. I traveled 50,000 miles in the last year for work and the thought of being groped on every future flight is making me literally sick and far more fearful than I have ever been of a terrorist attack. I also fear for the well being of my future child. I have read that babies and small children should not go through the scanners either. So how do I know that the people doing the pat downs are not sex offenders or getting off on it? And how can I be sure that having a perfect stranger touch my little boys genitals every time he files will not mess him up mentally in the future? This is all wrong to me.

  42. Tdawwg: “Dunno, I guess I just think there’s some middle ground between taking a boxcutter slash for liberty and taking a gloved finger up my ass for security”

    AND THAT is EXACTLY what we’re talking about. the security measures are getting pushed further and further. Seriously, I never would have thought that it would be considered okay for an airline worker to rub their fingers on and around my labia. never crossed my mind. i

    the reason they’re doing it is to cow us into quietly climbing into the backscatter, not because they think I have a teeny tiny boxcutter secreted between my lower lady lips. If you think a cavity exam is not a possibility at this point, then you’re charmingly naive. I don’t want a finger up my ass OR between my labia. yeesh.

  43. There’s no doubt it’s sexual assault.

    In her situation there was no consent as she was not told that she would be groped, and was thus unable to give consent.

    Even if she were told that she was about to be groped and acquiesced, it seems to me that her consent would still be problematic as it is coerced consent (let me feel you up or get irradiated or you can’t fly).

    In all other areas of law regarding the groping of genitals, it is assault if the party being groped feels like it is assault. The law has a similar view of sexual harassment.

    This is sexual assault in every sense that we as a society view sexual assault.

  44. Well – this country brought this criminal liberal TSA scanning on itself by voting for Obama. Just deserts for not voting for John ‘Captain Freedom’ McCain.

    Okay, okay – I’m a troll. But I don’t live under a bridge. I live in an Aerostar by the river with my bra. Our ‘rents kicked us out of the basement and are holding our shitzu hostage. Liberal assholes. They’ll be sorry when we make THEM live in the Aerostar by the river after the revolution!!! Viva McCain!!! Viva Palin!!!

  45. I had a professor who, after handing us the now-mandatory security procedure addendum to the syllabus, suggested if we were taken hostage during a shooting spree incident in a classroom, we should duck behind our desks and remove our shoes. He would yell, “GO!” and we would all throw them at the same time. As the shoes were being thrown (likely disorienting the attacker), he would tackle the person.

    Why not train passengers for just such an event? I mean, even if the terrorists know shoes are coming, 50+ pairs being hurled from all directions would be disorienting to say the least. I would prefer the off-chance possibility of a smelly cabin to being groped by a TSA agent every single time I need to fly.

    To those who say, “You knew the rules when you bought your ticket,” my response is: What if I HAVE to fly? What if there are no other options? My choice is being touched inappropriately or being viewed naked? I don’t care if no one is taking pleasure in the experience. It just isn’t right.

  46. First: there’s no question that this is sexual assault. The perpetrator should be arrested, prosecuted, and if convicted, subject to the same procedures as any other sexual predator.

    Second: there’s also no question that the purpose of these intrusive searches is to coerce sheeple into the backscatter scanners. The searches are DESIGNED to be as offensive, intrusive and unwelcome as possible for just that reason.

    Third: of course there’s no security value in either the scanners or the searches. Anyone with even slightly more intelligence than the thugs at the TSA (and that includes most of the population) can figure out ways to do horrendous damage with major casualties by exploiting the obvious.
    (Did you ride a shuttle from the remote parking lot to Terminal C? Really? Were you or your bags searched when you got on?)

    Fourth: it’s only a matter of time until someone reacts to the sexual abuse of one of their children at the hands of these child molesters.
    I’m sure the TSA spokesliars will blame the victims; that’s their job.

  47. The only times I have ever had a female in any authoritative position touch me like this was when I was arrested. Even then she didn’t touch my buttocks and the top and bottom of my boobs. She had me run my fingers under my bra and shake it so anything that was in it fell out. She definitely didn’t touch anywhere near my labia. These actions are defined as sexual assault everywhere. TSA should not be exempt from law. Sexual assault can be purely verbal as well. Lines were crossed here and they should be checked for it.

  48. Huh. I was wondering how the collision of the “TSA scope/grope= righteous internet-wide fury” meme + “any actual human lady reporting a sexual assault experience=righteous internet-wide smackdown of that attention-seeking bitch, who was probably asking for it, is certainly lying, and definitely shouldn’t mention the experience to anyone ever until she has a conviction in hand and probably even not then” meme was going to play out.

    Not as bad as I was expecting, actually. Go you BoingBoing commenters for somewhat surpassing my low expectations!

    What I’m wondering about the scope/grope process is, what about trans people? What about other people who have secrets of their bodies that have a need for privacy and respect beyond everyone else’s (perfectly reasonable) desire to keep the contents of their underpants private? Intersex people? Women who have undergone major external FGM? Colostomy bag patients? People with incontinence, or all kinds of private medical issues that are usually not a part of one’s public life? All kinds of people who are part of our society but for whom the concern isn’t so much “oh fuck, government-paid security guards getting a look at my vagina/penis” but more “oh fuck, government-paid security guards with the power to completely ruin my day/week/year because the contents of my pants are not what they have any training in dealing with”?

    There is CLEARLY scope for traumatic abuse here, and trans people and people with disabilities are already at incredibly high risk of abuse. I want to know, what the fuck does the TSA have to say about handing round that kind of power to expose, reveal and abuse vulnerable people?

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