Portland's "Naked American Hero" not guilty!

Here's the live blog recap of Boing Boing reader John Brennan's trial for taking his clothes off in protest at a TSA screening checkpoint at the Portland Airport. John was found not guilty -- hurray!

NewImage10:40am — The first witness is in the case is TSA officer Steven Van Gordon, who relayed the story of Brennan opting out of the full body scanner, requiring him to walk through a metal detector and get a pat down. Brennan didn't raise any protest when Van Gordon patted him down. But when Van Gordon tested his gloves after the pat down, the computer detected "nitrates" on the gloves and Van Gordon told Brennan he'd need additional screening. That's when Brennan got upset and said, "I guess I have to show you that I don't have anything" and stripped totally nude.

"He whipped them off pretty fast," said Van Gordon.

"Were you able to see his genitalia?" asked the prosecuting attorney.

"Yes," said Van Gordon. While the TSA officers called Port police, the crew stacked plastic bins around Brennan to shield his nudity from passing passengers who'd begun pointing and taking cell phone pictures.

When port police arrived and asked Brennan to get dressed, that's when the Naked American Hero said he was protesting and that he was protected under Oregon's nudity laws.

The prosecutor seems to be painting the picture that Brennan wasn't legitimately protesting because he didn't raise any issue during the pat down and wasn't wearing any sort of written message—like painting his chest with some words of protest—admonishing the TSA.

Portland's "Naked American Hero" not guilty!


  1. “You failed to properly file a request for a permit for your spontaneous protest 14 days in advance of your completely unplanned actions, therefore your  impromptu demonstration is not considered valid.”

    1. Thanks for the link!  Mr.  Brennan strikes me as someone we would all enjoy flying with.  Also, he has a nice beard.

  2. “A Multnomah County prosecutor said if Brennan’s actions are considered protected by the First Amendment, then anyone who is arrested while nude can also claim that their actions are a protest.”

    Hey, you jackass prosecutor, if they are committing a crime while nude, than you can arrest and prosecute them for that crime. Otherwise, it’s not illegal to be naked in Portland. 

    1. It is, actually, under Title 14 of the City Code:

      It is unlawful for any person to expose his or her genitalia while in a public place or place visible from a public place, if the public place is open or available to persons of the opposite sex.

      14A.40.030 Indecent Exposure

      (Don’t let someone fool you into thinkin’ you can come here ‘n’ show off yer naughty bits without havin’ a chat with the local constabulary!)

      So, uh, the upshot was that the right to free speech granted by article 1, section 8 of Oregon’s Constitution trumped the city code against indecent exposure.

      Which is a pretty damn cool outcome.

      1. Oh, I was apparently confused. It’s a good thing I don’t habitually go walking around the block naked.

        Next time I feel the urge, I’ll make sure to make a sign first!

        I’m actually heading out through PDX in a few days. And I’m pretty peeved at the TSA. But I don’t think I’ll be able to bring myself to repeat Mr. Brennan’s statement. 

          1. Holy sh*t! That is sooooooo perfect! I’m making that sign now just in case! 

  3. If you are naked in public, you don’t need a sign or “written message” to draw attention to your issue.   

    That will take care of itself.

  4. Did someone say American Hero?

    ♫ Believe it or not, I’m wearin’ no clothes!
    Never thought I could be so nu-u-ude! ♫

  5. Congratulations, sir.  My… clothes… are off to you.  Never have so few exposed so much to shame so many.

    But this one just cries out for a caption…


  6. Funny, though I’m surprised that they didn’t make him shave his beard off. Could be hiding a terrorist or two in there. Just saying…

    1.  I’m opting out this summer. It will be an interesting and totally unscientific test to see if I get the same “nitrates” comment.

      For Science!

    2. Lotion with glycerin in it registers positive.  I was once told by a nice TSA gentleman to wipe down my CPAP (a medical device) with rubbing alcohol before I fly to remove the glycerine from my lotion to avoid getting a positive on the bomb materials sniffer thing.  

  7. The prosecutor seems to be painting the picture that Brennan wasn’t legitimately protesting because he didn’t raise any issue during the pat down and wasn’t wearing any sort of written message—like painting his chest with some words of protest—admonishing the TSA.

    Two points:
    1) People wearing t-shirts with anti-TSA messages have been told, not asked, told by the TSA to take them off.
    2) The prosecutor has said, if I understand him correctly, that if the protestor has an anti-TSA message painted directly on his/her chest, the (s)he will accept it as “symbolic” nudity and protected as free speech.

    So PDX users, you have your marching orders!

    1. 1) People wearing t-shirts with anti-TSA messages have been told, not asked, told by the TSA to take them off.

      What about t-shirts that just have the text of the Fourth Amendment on them? I’d wear one of those.

  8. It appears that the TSA officer’s testimony was truncated in the reporting.  It should have read:

    “Were you able to see his genitalia?” asked the prosecuting attorney.

    “Yes,” said Van Gordon.  “I was intimidated by his balls of steel.”

      1. Or it might just be a handy tool to “find” nitrates on people who opt out of the pornoscanners and the TSA agents then have to frisk.  If they make it as inconvenient for you as possible many people will just willingly be subjected to unmetered amounts of radiation to avoid the extra hassle and the joy of missing a flight.

    1.  Makes me wonder which laundry detergent to use before flying. 
      Are there any without nitrates? 

    2.  I suspect, but have no evidence, that the machines generate a random number of “positives” to keep the “officers” alert (since their job is 99.99999 per cent useless, repetitive and boring) and because there’s just going to be a certain error rate inherent in these instant chemist-in-a-box devices.

      (Note: the fancier x-ray machines can also generate random alerts when scanning carry-ons so a certain percentage will get hand-inspected for the same reason and to test the “inspectors”.)

      When working drug dogs or bomb dogs, they have to be allowed to find something once in a while or they get dispirited and bored and since the average TSA staffer is less bright than the average beagle, you have to work harder to keep them engaged since giving them squeaky toys doesn’t look good to the public.

      1. Why not?  Pjcamp wasn’t comparing the importance of the protest, he was saying that you don’t have to carry a placard to be protesting.

        The two protests have only this in common: there was no need for a sign. Everyone knew what the issue was.

          1. Because even comparing what blacks had to do to gain basic civil rights in the 50s/60s to this is disgusting.


    I just finished reading these comments when a story about Brennan ran on the local TV news. He was interviewed outside the courtroom, and came across as an articulate, level-headed, laid-back geek.

    Good’oh man!

  10. I was just in the EU and Canada this year. Not saying any other country is better than the US, since they all have their problems. But, I can tell these other places are generally a whole lot more laid back than our dear old U S of A. People mind their own damn business more and aren’t trying to control everyone else. Oh, there seems to be way fewer ignoramuses and ruffians in these places, too. Don’t know why.

  11. I opted out for the pat-down and told the guy that I was there for my “free government massage”.  He laughed and said he would go easy on me.

    1.  Yes, they’ve been using humor as a way to diffuse the situation now.  Smile while your rights are being stripped from you . . . . fools.

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