Last Tuesday, Andrea Abbott of Clarksville, Tennessee, was convicted of disorderly conduct for refusing to let Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers pat down her teenage daughter at Nashville International Airport in July 2011. Abbott faced a potential $50 fine and a 30-day imprisonment for her purported crime but instead received a year’s probation and a warning from the presiding judge to stay clear of trouble in the future. Abbott’s attorney remarked that her client was “disappointed in the verdict.”
Assistant District Attorney Megan King argued that Abbott’s behavior at the airport caused two security lanes to be temporarily closed turning a one minute security check into a 30 minute procedure. This action “prevented others from carrying out their lawful activities” therefore fulfilling part of the definition of disorderly conduct under state law. Commenting on the verdict, Abbott’s defense attorney Brent Horst noted, “Since 9/11 we’re losing a lot of freedom and we have to draw the line somewhere.”
Consumer advocate Chris Elliott, writing in The Huffington Post, suggests that it has become
Difficult to find a court in the land that is willing to stand up to the TSA, even on something as small as allowing the public to comment on regulatory rulemaking. Back in September, a D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the electronic Privacy Information Center’s petition to enforce the court’s own order on requiring public comments about the full-body scanners. To some, it looked as if the court told the TSA it had to follow the law and then said, “Oh, never mind”
TSA violations and complaints are a regular occurrence in the news cycle:
- In October 2012 the TSA at Sea Tac Airport was accused of humiliating a leukemia patient by publicly forcing her to lift up her shirt and check under her bandages after she was refused a private search.
- In 2010 it was found out that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was lying about the safety of X-ray scanners as records dating back to 1998 found that machines could be giving up to 100 people cancer every year.
- In 2010 the TSA also claimed that no children under 12 years old were receiving pat-downs despite video evidence to the contrary.
- Last week it was revealed that the TSA were quietly removing X-ray body scanners and replacing them with machines deemed to be safer.
- This week a former TSA officer is facing sentencing on bribery charges for accepting cash in exchange for allowing illegal prescription painkillers to pass through airports undetected.
Reason’s TSA back catalogue highlights even more instances of abuses of power and violations of customers’ dignity.
Video: Reason TV on the absurdity of the TSA: