Are TSA pat-downs invasive maneuvers or 'freedom fondles'?

Texas surrenders bid to make them illegal

Texans have some history of stubbornly defending their turf to the bitter end. But in their fight against Transportation Security Administration pat-downs, Texas lawmakers opted to abandon the Alamo.

The Texas House of Representatives passed a bill in early May that would allow police to arrest TSA agents who touched specific X-rated parts of travelers, including “the anus, sexual organ, buttocks or breast,” writes Kashmir Hill on her “The Not-So Private Parts” blog at 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, 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

Wed, Jun 1, 2011

I went through the whole exercise yeday before yesterday at the airport. TSA monkeys are no-bodies that suddenly have been given "god rights." They can do any darn thing they want in the name of security. They are generally poor communicators and probably have low self asteem, hence their over-the-top struting of their power. Hell, for most its working at a hamburger joint or working for TSA. DUH! They all should sport a big "L" on their foreheads. And that is our country's first line of defense. LOL

Wed, Jun 1, 2011 Olde Sarge NW DC

We may as well give up flying as transportation. all this so-called added security has done nothing to make flying safer, let alone safe. Besides, fares have become so expensive that middle-class passengers are being priced out anyway.Flights from DC to Florida have dubled in cost since 2001. perhaps charter carriers will begin serving the general public through advertised general charters that do not need to be screened by TSA, since they are not scheduled services. Paul, you need to take a chill pill and forget the cop mentality. Joe citizen is not a suspect and is not guilty until proven innocent. If you want that kind of legal system, move to France.

Tue, May 31, 2011 Paul

I'm not sure how the Israelis are doing their security but I doubt they're profiling too much since they have internal issues just like we do. We currently have more of a threat from internal terrorists as any from the outside and they generally aren't olive skinned. As a former police officer, I know that looks can be deceiving and profiling doesn't really work. Everyone is a suspect until proven otherwise. As soon as you ignore that, your going to find yourself shot in the back.

Tue, May 31, 2011

Why is our only choice to either be radiated in a pornoscanner to make Chertoff and his cronies rich or to be groped by TSA agents with patdowns which would be considered sexual molestation in any other setting?!? These are unreasonable searches prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. If the federal government is really worried about security, they will stop the Politically Correct nonsense and just START PROFILING like the Israelis.

Tue, May 31, 2011 For Real

J Hancock... Seriously? There are exceptions to all of our rights? How many terrorist has TSA caught? Do you you think my 6 year old needs to give up her rights to fly? There are no exceptions to our rights. Rights are provided by God. The government does give us rights. They try to control them. Again TSA is a presentation of security not "real" security. You have to profile people if you want real security.

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