Traveller re-enters USA without passing through a pornoscanner or having his genitals touched

Matt returned from Paris to Cincinnati, where he was given the choice of a pornoscanner or a bit of the old nutsack-fondling from the TSA. Instead, Matt insisted that it was his right as an American with a passport who was n ot suspected of any wrongdoing to enter his country. The TSA told him the airport cops would arrest him if he didn't comply. The airport cops told him it was up to the TSA and clearly didn't appreciate being made to do someone else's dirty work. In the end, he was escorted out of the airport without having to submit to either procedure. He recorded much of the encounter on with his iPhone's audio recorder, too.
He offers as an alternative, "What if we were to escort you out with us? It would involve a pat-down, but it would be us doing it instead."

"Would you touch my balls?"

"I don't want to touch your - genital region, but my hand might brush against it."

I clarify, "Well, like I said, I'll do whatever you say is mandatory. If you tell me that you have to touch my balls--"

"--I said no such thing. You're putting words in my mouth."

"OK. I apologize. If you say that a pat-down is mandatory, and that as a condition of that pat-down, I may have my genitals brushed against by your hand, even though you don't want to, I will do that. But only if you say it is mandatory."

"I'm not going to say that."

You Don't Need to See His Identification (via Reddit)


  1. Why on earth – what possible reason – is there for going through this nonsense after you’ve gotten *off* the aircraft?


  2. So every whiny, privileged American is going to bitch and moan and videotape their encounter with airport security for their own little slice of Internet fame? Great.

    1. Yeah, they should shut up about their right to reenter their own unencumbered. Seriously, this is ridiculous. You can make the argument that this invasive search should be performed before you enter the aircraft (I disagree, but it’s not an unreasonable argument) but why one Earth is this search required after you’ve landed? What possible reason is there? In all the flights I’ve ever taken, I’ve never been searched upon arrival.

  3. Some details must be missing from this story. Where do you encounter TSA when leaving an airport? Customs and immigration, maybe… I’m guessing he was changing planes and had to re-enter security to board the next flight.

  4. Apparently some airports are structured so that you have to go through a secured area to leave which means you get searched when landing via international flights. This is probably due to poor planning or unanticipated expansion.

    Atlanta is like this and I think so is the airport the event in this post occurs.

    1. But you are still essentially in the secure are when you land. You will have gone through security at the airport you took off at. Even if they have to have a security checkpoint, it seems unnecessary to use the body scanner at it. Any terrorist using this method to get a device into the secure area would have to get through 2 security checkpoints instead of one.

  5. Matt returned from Paris to Cincinnati, where he was given the choice of a pornoscanner or a bit of the old nutsack-fondling from the TSA.

    Don’t believe everything you read, Cory.

    When you enter the USA, you first encounter the INS agent at the desk, get photographed and your fingerprints scanned (if you’re non-resident, then you hand in your customs dec to Customs and you’re gone.

    TSA only comes into play when you BOARD a flight

    1. “When you enter the USA, you first encounter the INS agent at the desk, get photographed and your fingerprints scanned (if you’re non-resident, then you hand in your customs dec to Customs and you’re gone.

      TSA only comes into play when you BOARD a flight ”

      Welcome to Atlanta, welcome to SEATAC. They both have this procedure. I had international flights into this airports with connecting flights out, and they shipped us through TSA screening BEFORE we picked up our bags for customs.

    2. As I mentioned in my other comment, TSA comes in to play because once you leave customs they don’t have a way of separating out those who are going to board another plane with those who aren’t. So everyone gets the same treatment. In their eyes, *everyone* is boarding another plane.

      1. Understood.

        My experience of both LAX (Bradley & Terminal 7) and BOS (Intl) are that that inbound and outbound traffic flows are separate and that after Customs, you exit to a non-quarantined area.

        That said, it’s a pretty hefty indictment of airport management (or design) in the USA that they can’t manage what’s standard practice in virtually every other country and airport (that I can think of – 160k annually) i.e separation of inbound and outbound flows to maintain discrete sterile environments.

  6. I fly a lot (75k miles in 4 months) and just flew the Paris to Cincinnati Delta flight three weeks ago. The airport is indeed structured where you have to go through security – primarily because you also have to claim your checked bags first.

    Basically you get off the plane, go through passport control, pick up your checked baggage, hand over your customs form, then recheck your bags and go through security. I don’t know of any airports where you don’t have to get your checked baggage first – although I do know they are building a special terminal in ATL just for that purpose.

    I’ve been lucky so far – I time my entering the line to either pick the line w/o the pornoscanners or make sure someone is already in there. But I’ve had to still go through them several times – I’ve always found the TSA people to be courteous – though I happen to live in a city with a really wonderful airport in many aspects.

    In my case, I was connecting to another flight, so I understand. In his case, it’s totally a function of the fact that he would reenter the secure area of the airport before leaving, and I think the option they gave (full escort to a non-secure area) was a really good workaround to the problem that airports aren’t really set up for this kind of a thing.

    Although I’m not really sure what they can change in the short term, other than escort all passengers with non-connecting flights out. Still, kudos to the guy for staying calm and respectful, the cops for being patient, and the TSA guys for not just arresting him (even if they weren’t sure what to do).

    1. Cory Foy wrote, “Still, kudos to […] and the TSA guys for not just arresting him (even if they weren’t sure what to do).”

      With the exception of Federal Air Marshals, TSA staff do not have the authority to detain people, much less to arrest them. They are airport clerks, security guards, and bag checkers. Much as they would like us to think so with their police-style shirts and badges, they are not law enforcement.

      1. Fair enough. I meant more that they didn’t *have* him arrested, instead of implying that they would actually arrest him.

  7. I would probably like this if the guy was not such a douche about it. I understand people are terrified about cancer, and that the only thing worse is heavy petting – but I thought the main argument against both was how ineffective the security measures are. I don’t want to submit to anything like this unless I know that it works and works well.

    To harp on the “touch my balls” issue over and over again is painfully stupid.

  8. What is the point of doing the porno scanners or ball handling after the plane has landed? This is ridiculous.

    1. I’ve made a workflow of how it looks when you land at most airports from an international flight:

      As you can see, you first have to claim your luggage before going through customs and security. So in between that time you could theoretically get something from your checked luggage that is allowed there, but not in carry-on (like a knife).

      Because most airports don’t have a separate workflow for passengers staying there versus headed to a connecting flight, everyone gets funneled into F which is the secure area of the airport, and the place where it is assumed everyone is already security cleared. If you weren’t checked after coming back, you could grab a knife out of your bag, head to the secure area, and hand it to someone who has already been screened.

      In this case, they escorted the gentleman through F to G which is the unsecured portion, since he didn’t have a connecting flight. Until people can go from C straight to G (which some airports do support) there isn’t a whole lot they can do.

      That’s why I felt this was a reasonable thing they did. They escorted him through F (the secure area) to make sure he didn’t give anything to a security cleared passenger. His standpoint is that his rights shouldn’t be trampled solely because of poor design of the airport, and I think it’s a reasonable one.

  9. I don’t understand why BoingBoing is looking more like the Drudge Report, Right Wing News and Red every day. They have all these same articles up, and they are pounding away at them with the same incessantness that BoingBoing is.

    It’s possible that in a rare confluence of events, both Boing Boing and all the Tea Party, libertarian and conservative blogs are all correct.

    But when you’re pushing the same agenda as the Tea Partiers, you have to step back and wonder if you’re really in the right here.

    For f’s sake, half the headlines here on BB are emphasizing that the TSA is “groping your balls” or “fondling your junk.” Is it the worry that being groped might make you Teh Gay? Some comments were joking earlier that the reason that conservatives are alarmed now is because of their homophobic reactions to the patdown, but come on: the headlines here look just the same.

    Start looking at all the right-wing blogs, and see if you want half the articles here looking like copy-and-paste from them.

    1. That just demonstrates that no one wants these procedures, left or right wing. You’ll note that it’s not just BoingBoing posting this stuff, but plenty of other left-wing blogs. Just because someone with views you disagree with posts something you agree with you shouldn’t immediately discard that view. Cutting of the nose to spite the face comes to mind.

    2. I imagine it’s because this situation is somewhat new. Although our government has been detaining people and wiretapping at a growing rate for a few years now, those things are easy to ignore for the average person (like myself) It’s easy to say, well Im doing nothing wrong so that wouldnt happen to me. In a way, this issue crosses a line where lots of ordinary people are experiencing this new intrusiveness firt hand, and seeing how it’s not actually making them safer.
      Basically normal people are starting to come to a consensus that something is wrong. that means maybe drudge and boingboing are going to agree on this subject.

      In a way there are only 2 ways to proceed. Either get our legislators to do something about it by changing laws, or push the system, take cases to court and have the courts show that in some way (constitutionally) this is already illegal. The hero here is doing the later and I applaud him for it. I’ll do the same if confronted with such a situation and I think everyone else should too, until this does go to court or the government (TSA) comes to their senses.

    3. It seems there are issues that can draw people who would normally disagree together in opposition to them, and I for one am not shocked that unnecessary genital fondling by uniformed strangers is one of these issues.

    4. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
      You should be celebrating that there’s actual common ground between you and your “natural enemies”; if anything, it means the Powers That Be will be forced to do something about it, rather than dismissing you as the usual bunch of hippies.

    5. SamSam, TPTB around here have a mighty wide libertarian streak.

      And let’s keep the kneejerk quotient down a bit. You’ll have a good hike ahead of you if you want to find somebody who’s warier than me of the Tea Party, but take it from a Democrat: the government spends too much money and it’s too intrusive. The Tea Party is right about that.

      There. I’ve said it.

      1. The problem with the Tea Party isn’t that they think the government is too big, it’s that they just want to cut government programs they disagree with. That behavior doesn’t make you a Libertarian, it makes you a Constitutional Moralist.

        1. That behavior doesn’t make you a Libertarian, it makes you a Constitutional Moralist.

          Maybe we can just look at some of the biggest funders of the Tea Party and their ACTUAL actions instead of the farcical feel-good vibe you’d like to emit and embrace here?

          What wonderful moral philosophy they have, yes?

          Go ahead, it’s now your turn to dodge, weave and divert… if you even bother to read that link at all.

          1. “Maybe we can just look at some of the biggest funders of the Tea Party and their ACTUAL actions instead of the farcical feel-good vibe you’d like to emit and embrace here?”

            You’re approaching SamSam levels of generalization, coloring, and dismissal.

            EVERY party has corrupt assholes tossing money at them – they just usually throw it at a party they think has a chance at winning elections.

            Now, no doubt Koch is a total piece of shit, but a political party in its infancy isn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

            Oh and hey lets look at Obama donations!

            Goldman Sachs $994,795
            Citigroup Inc $701,290
            JPMorgan Chase & Co $695,132

            As for what the tea party is, there’s no real consensus, and yes it’s attracted its share of whack jobs, but i think the only thing anyone can say for sure is that the tea party is mad as hell, and they are yelling such from their windows.

          2. I’m not what you read into my post there. You seem to think that “Constitutional Moralist” sounds like a good thing. It’s not. It means you use laws to impose your beliefs on others. It is the opposite of traditional Libertarianism, which largely says that you shouldn’t do that. I’m well versed in the hypocrisy of the Tea Party, and while I think their policy opinions (in the rare cases where they even have actual opinions instead of incoherent outcries) are full to the brim with lies and doublespeak, their central stated thesis – that the US Government is bloated, wasteful, and mismanaged in many ways – remains true. That they don’t actually want to fix that (or anything) doesn’t make it less so.

    6. Colonoscopy does not make you gay either but that does not mean that i should have to submit to one in order to border a plane.

    7. The difference is that Boing Boing (and others, like Glenn Greenwald, etc.) have been talking about the erosion of civil liberties for a long time. The Teabaggers are up in arms because the president is a Democrat (and, I would argue, black, but that’s another story).

      I do agree that a lot of the outrage over junk-touching is going into some juvenile and homophobic territory with some people, but there are enough alarming stories out there–the guy with the bladder condition, the woman with the artificial leg–that show that some TSA screeners are humiliating people, intentionally or not.

  10. Great! I’m glad that people are standing up for their rights – even if it does take 2.5 hours for the cops & TSA to admit Matt is correct.

    Please join us in protesting the TSA and making our voices heard.
    We will be protesting on November 24th as part of the National Opt Out Day (more info at
    We will also be protesting on December 1st as part of the Shut Down the Airports protest (more info at

  11. This is civil disobedience folks, something that was quite popular in the days when people actually cared about their rights. Keep it up, and the more media attention it gets the more likely some legislator will notice and put forth a bill to fix all of this. The worst thing that can happen is for all this to just fade away and return to the status quo.

    1. knyghtryda wrote, “This is civil disobedience folks.”

      Best I can tell from his blog post and audio recordings, Matt Kernan did not disobey anyone during this incident. He was not required to submit to the strip search or frisk, and he chose not to do so.

  12. Why only airplanes?
    Why not big office buildings, boats, trains, shopping malls?
    Why have they singled out only airplanes?

  13. No one seems to have addressed the central point of the article. Does a USA citizen have a right to enter the country without being scanned or patted-down except upon reasonable suspicion? I’d be interested in knowing the answer.

    1. This came up in a previous post when someone decided not to answer Customs beyond what should be legally required (proof of citizenship, written customs declaration).

      In theory, you shouldn’t have to go through any additional searches when returning home, however, as we all know, in practice, the TSA skirts well into extra-legal, extra-constitutional territory, which leads ultimately to the fact that they have the power to mess with you however they want.

      If you’re interested in the post and followup on the person refusing to answer Customs’ quetions:

      “The only absolute and unqualified right of citizenship is to residence within the territorial boundaries of the United States; a citizen cannot be either deported or denied reentry.” U.S. v. Valentine, 288 F. Supp. 957, 980 (D.P.R. 1968)

  14. “Why only airplanes?
    Why not big office buildings, boats, trains, shopping malls?
    Why have they singled out only airplanes?”


    We all know that terrorists aren’t going to aim for only airplanes (if, in fact, they haven’t already given up on that idea altogether)…so why not implement scanners and pat downs for every person entering any area where large numbers of people gather?

    After all, they found a bomb in a truck parked in Times Square, right? Hell, we should just go ahead and have scanners, metal detectors, and full vehicle searches, including bomb sniffing dogs, placed at every entrance to every major highway in the country (oh, heck, why not even the minor ones, while we’re at it).

  15. Most people are missing the real issue here… The 4th Amendment says that people should not be searched without probable cause or a warrant. And don’t give me the crap about ‘the terrorists’ because that’s just a plausible excuse to give the govt the pretext to infringe upon, and to eventually eradicate, our rights to privacy and freedom to travel unencumbered. They started by putting the airports under martial law, and they’re already talking about doing the same thing with bus & train stations. The logical conclusion and end of this will be that govt agents and others will be able to question & search anyone at any time for any reason. That’s what this is really all about. “Why are you here? Where are your papers?” They will be able to ask you these questions anywhere, and for any reason, or no reason at all. Think people…

  16. The crucial aspect of this story is that its about re-entry into the country of citizenship, not boarding a plane.

    No matter how dumb the new TSA policy is, no one has a “right” to board a flight, and refusing the TSA procedure can result in you not boarding a flight. But, when it comes to re-entry, especially if you’ve done everything customs asked, you have the right to enter your own country. Its probably the most basic and fundamental right of citizenship (as a comment above nicely points out). I don’t think the TSA has a legal leg to stand on regarding forcing this procedure on people who simply want to re-enter their own country. Re-entry and boarding a flight are two different things.

    The problem is one of airport design. There are two groups of people, those boarding connecting flights, and those re-entering their own country. Their legal rights are different with regard to this TSA procedure, but due to airport design they must go through the same procedure. Its one procedure for two different events. This procedure has a decent legal standing (thus far) for one event, but not for the other.

    The outcome of this episode has no relevance with regard to having to go through the TSA procedure to board a plane.

    As for people complaining that he was whining or being a douche, sometimes thats what you have to do to make sure your rights are not being violated. And ultimately, standing up for your rights is a worthwhile cause, not just for him, but for everyone who wants to hold on to that right. A right not exercised is a right you’ll eventually lose, and in his case, he’s talking about one of the most fundamental and basic rights of citizenship (ie, being able to re-enter your own country). Thats one worth fighting for!

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