Texas surrenders to TSA pat-downs

Texas has abandoned a metaphorical Alamo, withdrawing legislation that would have outlawed Transportation Security Administration pat-downs.

The Texas House of Representatives passed a bill in early May that would allow police to arrest TSA agents who touched specific private parts of travelers, including “the anus, sexual organ, buttocks or breast,” writes Kashmir Hill on her “The Not-So Private Parts” blog at Forbes.com. That includes touching those private parts through clothing. Hill added that Texas state senators were scheduled to vote on the measure May 24, but its sponsor, Dan Patrick — no, not of ESPN SportsCenter fame — retracted it.

Patrick said he withdrew sponsorship for the bill because he did not have enough votes after the Texas Senate debated the bill, writes the Texas Tribune’s Becca Aaronson. That support waned after TSA threatened to cancel all flights departing from Texas airports if the legislature approved the bill, Hill wrote for Forbes.

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In a May 14 post on the “TSA Blog,” TSA’s Blogger Bob wrote matter-of-factly that Texas’ proposed bill would violate the Constitution. If passed, the bill would have allowed a state to regulate federal government, which is a constitutional no-no. U.S. Attorney John Murphy agreed with TSA’s assessment and notified Texas lawmakers before they debated the bill, Hill writes.

Texas lawmakers such as Patrick have expressed outrage over the touchy-feely pat-downs administered by TSA agents. In the past year, recent complaints have become PR nightmares for the agency responsible for securing U.S. travelers. However, rather than making air travelers feel secure, TSA agents have made some, such as former Miss USA Susie Castillo, feel violated.

Castillo made a teary-eyed video after receiving a pat-down at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in April. In the video, she said agents touched her between her legs. According to an article by ABC News’ Elicia Dover and Alicia Tejada, TSA asserted that the agent was just doing her job.

TSA’s website states that agents will conduct a pat-down if a traveler sets off the alarms of a metal detector or Advanced Imaging Technology scanner. In addition, agents will pat down travelers who decide they don’t want to pass through an AIT scanner.

In Castillo’s case, she chose not to go through the AIT scanner because she said she has concerns about radiation exposure. To commentators such as the San Francisco Chronicle’s Debra Saunders, that means Castillo shouldn’t complain about a thorough pat-down performed with national security in mind. In a blog post on Creators.com, Saunders rants that we have become a nation of whiners. The difference between a could-be-groping pat-down and a security-improving “freedom fondle” is strictly a matter of perspective and risk tolerance, Saunders writes.

A group of legislators across nine states have formed the United States for Travel Freedom Caucus, which held its second meeting May 24 to organize state-level, legislative resistance to TSA’s pat-down procedures, writes the Hawaii Reporter’s Malia Zimmerman. Legislators from Alaska, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington are part of the organization.

The debate figures to spark skirmishes now and then — possibly until a better technology arrives that satisfies both privacy and security extremists. And for those who wish to politicize the wrangling, it will remain a tinderbox topic forever

About the Author

Michael Protos is a web content editor with 1105 Government Information Group.

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Reader comments

Tue, May 31, 2011 RayW

I like the comment about how we are now safer with TSA blocking stuff on the aircraft. My dad carried his weapons onboard commercial aircraft. I carried mine when I first started flying, then I had to give the handgun to the stewardess, then the long arms, now I probably can not even say the word "gun" without having the entire airport locked down and the swat team spreading people on the ground.

Before my dad died he commented on this new "security" and said something like "the more we try to protect people from each other by limiting what we can do or have, the more incidents are perpetrated by those who prey on others using those and other means". While I have not performed an analysis on the history of aircraft abuse and agree that being young I may not have looked at the problems that occurred in the 50's and 60's like I do in the 90's and on, I have to think about the old codger who was recorded at the San Ysidro McDonald's massacre site back around 1984 (and was only played once that I know of) who when asked what would have happened in the old days replied, (paraphrased) "He may have shot a couple of folks, then the rest of the folks would have shot him". Granted that today is not like the 50's and 60's, we are a less civil nation, so maybe self protection is not the answer anymore, but I keep having the urge to go Baaaa! when I am at the airport.

Tue, May 31, 2011 raing Edmond

Why not learn from International Community instead of trying to reinvent a square wheel.... Its not the pat downs, it the guy fondling your breasts at 5am while 20 plus people stand blank eyed and stare at you while they drink starbucks coffee like cows chewing cud! Do it behind a small curtained area! GOOD GOSH Japan and Taiwan have been doing them for 20 years but they don't treat humans like they are complete dehuman. It speaks more of our way of life lost than any terrorist could do. We have lost respecting individuals culturally in public places.

Tue, May 31, 2011

How about just driving instead of putting up with it? The only real reason for flying is if you are going to Europe or Asia or Australia. I don't like the crap they are forcing down our throats either, but you have to remember that you are not the only person getting on that plane. So, go it alone and drive.

Tue, May 31, 2011 San Diego

I just had another LLP or "Liberal Logic Problem" as I call them. It's when the policies/ideas/etc. of a group of Liberals directly conflict with another policy/idea/etc. of the same and/or other Liberals. (It happens quite often.) This weekend I had a conversation with one about illegal immigration. When I said that, economically, if no one received a benefit that I had to pay for I'd be for open borders. But then there is that that little fact that there are people who want to blow up our buildings so I think we need to control that. She used the standard reply, "What about Timothy McVeigh?" and I didn't pursue it any farther. But after reading this article, the LLP hit me. If we don't need to close our borders and control who gets in and who doesn't whether for economics or terrorism or anything else then why do we need TSA pat-downs? Better yet, WHY DO WE NEED THE TSA??????

Tue, May 31, 2011

Remove the security scanners, fire all the TSA folks, let anybody carry anything they want onto an airplane. Do this and watch how fast the airline industry becomes obsolete. Get over it folks, an airliner is the only place where one lone individual can easily kill several hundred people with minor effort. Security ups the effort required it doesn't eliminate it. If you want the other guy to be forced to endure security patdowns you have to be willing to accept them yourself.

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