A kind of groin check

A full body scan is optional for all passengers. This is what the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) tells us on its web site. Thus, passengers who wish to avoid exposure to radiation or naked pictures may opt for alternative screening, including a metal detector and physical pat-down. Well, theoretically at least.

What may happen in reality highly depends on TSA agents’ behavior as John Tyner, a San Diego software programmer, found out at San Diego International Airport/Lindbergh Field on November 13, 2010.

A TSA officer directs him toward the full-body scanner in the security line. If Tyner says he opts for the metal body scan and a pat-down, the TSA agent barks he will conduct a kind of "groin check”.

When Tyner protests against such a rude intrusion of his privacy, agents pull him aside. The police come by and a supervisor tells Tyner that he is not allowed to travel unless he will submit to the check. Tyner opts to leave instead. To his surprise, an American Airlines agent refunds the price of his non-refundable ticket before he leaves.

A TSA officer tells him that if he would leave the secured area he would be "subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine." Tyner leaves anyway. He posts the incident on his blog and posts 3 videos of his confrontation on YouTube. Watch the videos here.

Tyner is probably the first to have the whole experience captured on his cell phone. He had turned on its video camera and sent it on his bag through the X-ray machine. There is little to see on the videos, but the cell phone picked up the audio.

You can hear a TSA supervisor explaining the groin check process:
If you are not comfortable with that, we can escort you back out and you do not have to fly today." And: "By buying your ticket you gave up a lot of rights."

If the goal of terrorists is to kill the democratic constitutional state, it is obvious they have won.

The TSA had not responded to our request for comment after 25 days and had only sent us an acknowledgment of receipt.

After several reminders, the TSA responded 25 days after we had asked the following question: “Do you have any comment on the incident at San Diego Airport/Lindbergh Field?”

However, the TSA ignores our question, but cut and pasted parts of the text on their web site into their email. As there is no obvious reason for the lack of an answer, the incident seems too embarrassing for the TSA to comment.

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