Beware the Depends Bomber

The TSA's latest ritual humiliation of an innocent traveler


Editor's Note: This column is reprinted with permission of the Washington Examiner. Click here to read it at that site.

On June 18, officers of the Transportation Security Administration forced a wheelchair-bound, 95-year-old leukemia patient to remove her adult diaper, lest it contain a bomb. As always when the TSA commits some new atrocity—like last April's "freedom fondle" of a 6-year-old girl—a designated bureaucratic spokes-unit affirmed that the officers acted "according to proper procedure."

As my colleague Julian Sanchez observes, it's bizarre to think we're supposed to find it comforting "that everything is being done by the book—even if the 'book' is horrifying." Wouldn't you rather hear that such actions were the work of overzealous line officers, instead of policies vetted and approved at the highest levels of the federal government?

Worse still, in a classic case of "mission creep," TSA is taking its show on the road and the rails.

Remember when, pushing his bullet-train boondoggle in the 2011 State of the Union, President Obama cracked that it would let you travel "without the pat-down"? Not funny—also, not true.

Earlier this year, Amtrak passengers in Savannah, Ga., stepped off into a TSA checkpoint. Though the travelers had already disembarked the train, agents made women lift their shirts to check for bra explosives. Two weeks ago, armed TSA and Homeland Security agents hit a bus depot in Des Moines, Iowa, to question passengers and demand their papers.

These raids are the work of TSA's "Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response" (VIPR or "Viper") teams—an acronym at once senseless and menacing, much like the agency itself.

On June 14, TSA head John Pistole informed Congress that VIPR teams had carried out "over 3,700 operations in mass transit and passenger railroad venues" over the last year—and the agency wanted funding for more.

Meanwhile, no thanks to TSA, Al Qaeda looks increasingly harried, desperate, and weak.

Earlier this month, al Qaeda-ist Adam Gadahn—"Azzam the American" by his rap handle—put out a video urging American Muslims, "Do not rely on others, take the task upon yourself." He noted that "America is absolutely awash with easily obtainable firearms, what are you waiting for?"

Predictably, The Washington Post and the Daily Kos seized on the report to stoke fear and urge Congress to close the "gun show loophole."

But Gadahn's call is best seen as a mark of how far Al Qaeda has fallen—and how they're anything but an "existential threat" to America. On Sept. 11, they left a smoking hole in the Manhattan skyline. Now, for their follow-up, 10 years later, they hope some kid will take the initiative and shoot up a shopping mall.

Even supposing that what's left of Al Qaeda is clever and resourceful enough to recruit kindergartners and elderly leukemia patients, it's not at all clear that tactic would be successful. Risk analysts Mark Stewart and John Mueller report that when the Christmas crotch-bomber's "effort was duplicated on a decommissioned plane in a test set up by the BBC, the blast did not breach the fuselage, leading air accident investigator Capt. J. Joseph to conclude, 'I am very confident that the flight crew could have taken this aeroplane without any incident at all and get it to the ground safely.' "

A free people ought to be brave enough not to quake before the imaginary threat of a Depends bomber. No society can be made perfectly safe, and, in the pursuit of safety, certain policies ought to be considered beyond the pale.

We can debate whether waterboarding falls into that category, but ritual humiliation of innocent citizens surely qualifies. TSA's abuses are making our choice ever clearer: Assume some risk … or assume the position.

Gene Healy is a vice president at the Cato Institute and author of The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power (Cato 2008). He is a columnist at the Washington Examiner, where this article originally appeared. Click here to read it at that site.

NEXT: Declaration of Independents Tour Rolls in to D.C. & The Nation's TVs & Radios

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I think I’d rather have Al-Quada then the TSA, at least then I know who I’m dealing with.

    1. If by some chance you actually encounter a terrorist, you can beat him into a smear and/or fill him with holes. You’ll be a national hero. Not such a good option for dealing with the federales.

      1. What a sad world we live in, eh.

  2. Pistole should be tossed into a vat of pig shit.

    1. Bricktop approves!

    2. What do you have against pigs?

      1. I would stipulate that.
        The pigs should be evacuated (after fully evacuating) before tossing in Johnny Pistol(e).

  3. TSA is the vehicle being used to move us closer to a complete, “security takeover,” by the feds.. I want a performance review of TSA since they began their pogrom.. How many terrorists have they stopped? How many have they even discovered? Are the agents so incredibly stupid that they honestly don’t know how to discern if a 95 year old woman, a 6 year old girl, an obviously challenged young man, are harmless or a security threat??

    I don’t believe that the TSA is concerned about our safety.. I believe that they are being, powered up, by the government, and will soon be a total, “civilian security force,” within our borders.. This is looking more sinister all the time.. Keep the gas prices high, and make flying too distasteful for people to casually do, and bingo, an immobile society is so much easier to control..

    1. So what the fuck you gonna do about it…huh. That’s right, not a Goddamn thing.

      1. Any ideas out there for civil disobedience? Miss your flight and you’ll end up paying a “change ticket” price. Maybe get to the airport five hours early so you’ll be processed in time to catch the flight anyway?

        1. They know when your flight leaves, and if you do not show sufficient respect they may detain you until the second it takes off.

          1. There is anecdotal evidence that this has happened before.

            One thing I have noticed lately, however, is that now they only check your papers at the beginning of the line and encourage you to put your ID and boarding pass in your carry-on bag until you’re done with security.

            The big plus of this is that you can berate them and argue back and unless and until they ask for your ID or threaten to “randomly” search your bag, the people you are arguing with have no idea who you are or what flight you’re on. At that point you can either back down or give them the necessary information to retaliate, but I’ve felt “better” about talking back lately knowing that it is at least a little bit anonymous to the person I am talking back to.

            I guess too, in theory, you could collect all of your belongings and put your clothes and shoes back on and THEN start arguing once you’ve passed through, then they theoretically would have no means of knowing who you are or threatening you, but of course by that time the moment has passed and you start entering into Grandpa Simpson territory and just come across as picking a fight.

            1. Putting your ID and boarding pass in your bag and sending it through the scanner is foolish. If the goons decide to grab your bag, and you’re anyplace other than your home, you’re SOL. ALWAYS stick your ID and pass in your pocket after the front thug has deigned to let you approach the next stage of your purification. At least that way, you’re still you, if you happen to meet some friendly official who’s not into respecting individual integrity.

        2. The problem is that not enough people care. People traveling on business are not going to risk missing their flight and getting fired. A large number of those flying for pleasure either support the procedures or just flat out don’t care. A lot of others have dropped a months salary on a vacation and don’t want to miss it. How many people have a few hundo that they can drop on a flight just so they can go to the airport and make a scene. I do think there is a good opportunity for a presidential candidate to capitalize on this but any anti-statist is going to be marginalized by the media and establishment from the get go.

          1. And those people look at the people who do care as just a little bit crazy. You don’t want to trade liberty for security ??

            1. Yes. It makes you want to punch them doesn’t it.

              1. Actually makes me sort of want to puke a bit.

        3. I am all up for civil disobedience and when I have time (and am traveling alone – my wife thinks I am a nut when she travels with me) I take every opportunity to talk back and raise a ruckus. Any additional costs in money or a missed connection are often worth it, in my opinion.

          But I can afford it, and unfortunately, as mentioned downthread, many other people can’t and I won’t presume to tell them that they should do the same thing that I do.

          1. Or upthread… it was downthread when I posted it…

        4. Civil disobedience…

          What about showing up 8 hours early and passing through security as many times as possible before your flight? Also make a point to leave and re-enter the secure area during each layover (if you have time).

          Each time you go through, make an excuse about how you forgot something in your car…

          1. This country is getting what it wanted….good and hard!

        5. Civil disobedience? Are you fucking serious?

          Stop fucking flying.

          It doesn’t get any easier than that. Relatives want to visit you? Convince them to drive, or drive to see them. Ever rode on Amtrak? Maybe now’s a good time to try it.

          1. stop fucking flying


            “On June 14, TSA head John Pistole informed Congress that VIPR teams had carried out “over 3,700 operations in mass transit and passenger railroad venues” over the last year?and the agency wanted funding for more.”

            jasno circa 2035: “Are you guys kidding? resisting anal/vaginal cavity searches at the rail station/airport/carport/playground/seaport/subway?

            Get real. Don’t like the TSA? Just walk. Tell your relatives to hitchhike across the country or hitchhike to see them.”

            1. “It doesn’t get any easier than that. Relatives want to visit you? Convince them to drive”

              Read that until you realize your moronic post failed to refute his point Sy, then find a bridge and end it.

              1. “stop fucking flying” doesn’t do anything to the TSA, dipshit. They’ve already expanded their power to subways and other forms of mass transit. The only thing it will hurt are private businesses. So, “stop fucking flying” won’t phase them in the least.

          2. Maybe you might find it easier to type if you weren’t on your knees with a mouthful of dick.

        6. Last time I went through the Total body scanner, I gave a double handed bird to the screener. I have to admit, I did get an enhanced pat down, but you know what, it was kind of fun and only took a couple of minutes

          1. I say nothing to them, do not acknowledge by word anything that they say, and any time I do have to even acknowledge them, they get my best attempt at a look which shows them just how much I loathe them.

            The ones that are all polite and pleasant to the goons make me sick.

            The TSA are quislings, trading their country’s principles for a few coins.

        7. I opt out every single time. The TSA personnel in San Diego have gotten pretty used to it and I must say they are getting through the enhanced groping pretty quickly.

    2. An immobile society is bad for the economy and politicians’ re-election chances.

      1. they don’t care. powerless serfs are easier to rule.

      2. but an immobile society is great for the environment. Also if your immobile nobody can go to Washington to complain about it and lastly with an immobile society that definately place politicians in their own class since they’ll be the only ones who can travel with out all this fuss.

    3. The whole mission creep thing is scary.

      I was in a MARTA station here in Atlanta a few weeks ago and saw a sign there saying that all persons and bags were subject to search by TSA personnel. Ive never heard of TSA trying to search anyone in Marta. I have to believe that like all suspicionless searches it is unconstitutional but the govt and courts may find a way around that.

      Aside from the Savannah incident has anyone heard of TSA searching any bus or train passengers? Someone has posted something about TSA searching passenger cars–can anyone provide specifics?

      1. This article from Brownsville, Texas mentions searches of passenger cars and trucks entering/exiting the Port of Brownsville. http://www.krgv.com/news/local…..Rgu3w.cspx

        Ports are different, yadda, yadda. I can personally attest to sitting in line waiting to drive over the Hoover Dam while random searches of vehicles were being conducted. This despite the fact you’d need a fucking nuke to do more than scratch the thing.

  4. “We can debate whether waterboarding falls into that category”

    Only if we’re willing to “debate” with savages.

    1. TSA is the vehicle being used to move us closer to a complete, “security takeover,” by the feds.. I want a performance review of TSA since they began their pogrom.. How many terrorists have they stopped? How many have they even discovered? Are the agents so incredibly stupid that they honestly don’t know how to discern if a 95 year old woman, a 6 year old girl, an obviously challenged young man, are harmless or a security threat??
      @ I paid $32.67 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Toshiba laptop for $94.83 being delivered to
      our house tomorrow by FedEX. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores. I even sold a
      46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website we using to get
      all this stuff, BetaSell.com

  5. We can’t know you’re innocent until we first prove you aren’t guilty.

  6. Maybe I am the only one…but I am glad that this is happening. If these assaults continue (note my word choice) and they are used in absurd results, I say good. The majority is quite comfortable as long as those people are screened, harassed, etc. When it is one of them (old people) the policy may change.

    Though I believe that the result will be exceptions (old ladies are ok) or more stupidity (trusted travellers, id cards)

    1. Yeah. I don’t think you’re going to hear outrage unless the old lady or little girl is a minority. I’m not trying to race bait, I just think that’s a fact.

      1. Really? Even with a media-sphere that suffers from Missing White Woman Syndrome?

        1. Different situation. The media wants to show a pretty white girl as many times as it can on their screen because sex sells. In this case, we’re talking about pre-existing friction between law enforcement and minorities, as well as some victimization politics, that could be a trigger if some little old black lady in a wheelchair is asked to remove her undies by a federal LEO. I think if this would have been a black woman there definately would have been an escalated (more appropriate) response. When I say appropriate response, I do mean outrage.

          1. Race baiting is the realm of the politically correct and beltway “libertarians”.

            1. Not being allowed to discuss the truth regarding race issues is the realm of the politically correct and beltway “libertarians”.


            2. It’s not race-baiting to point out that a certain race of people gets targeted by law enforcement and the government way out of disproportion with the amount of crime they commit.

              Please go back to NRO and whine about how “illegals” are taking the good jobs.

  7. Freedom isn’t free. Or something.

  8. FOIA’d Documents Raise New Questions About Body Scanner Radiation Risks

    From the web page: “One document set reveals that even after TSA employees identified cancer clusters possibly linked to radiation exposure, the agency failed to issue employees dosimeters…”


    1. Just like…

      Cluster of testicular cancer in police officers exposed to hand-held radar.
      Davis RL, Mostofi FK.
      Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle 98195.

      Within a cohort of 340 police officers, six incident cases of testicular cancer occurred between 1979 and 1991 (O/E 6.9; p < 0.001, Poisson distribution). Occupational use of hand-held radar was the only shared risk factor among all six officers, and all routinely held the radar gun directly in close proximity to their testicles. Health effects of occupational radar use have not been widely studied, and further research into a possible association with testicular cancer is warranted.

      I’ve got that world’s smallest violin around here somewhere…

      1. How could radar possibly harm human cells? This is like that persistent claim that cell phones cause brain tumors, even though there’s no possible physical connection…

        1. The swedes think otherwise…

        2. I’m gonna bet that the power level for a 1980’s radar gun is several times that of a modern cell phone. Sure, it’s still non-ionizing radiation, but if the frequency is such that it is easily absorbed by structures in copnuts, you’ll get heating and inflammation that over time could lead to cancer.

        3. You’re kidding, right?

          1. That was for ‘some guy’.

  9. The odd thing is that such a small portion of suicide bombers are elderly people. At first glance, it makes sense for people with fewer years left in life to be more likely to sacrifice their lives for a perceived greater good, because they would be giving up fewer years. Despite this, the majority of suicide bombers are young men. Young men are more likely to commit suicide in Western nations as well. Maybe we should stop thinking of suicide bombers as fighters trying to advance a cause and start thinking of suicide bombers as suicidal people trying to give their deaths meaning.

    1. Well, yeah, for now.. but just wait until they start messing with medicare!

      1. You see, it’s all a part of the government’s strategy. We’re going to cut social services, so we need to prepare for the coming wave of elderly, retarded suicide bombers.

  10. I’m still convinced it’s all those cop shows that make it impossible to get most people to see this as a problem. The “good guys” always get the bad guys, despite them trying to hide behind their “rights”.

    1. Yes. If you have “nothing to hide” why should you have a problem with the feds installing video camera’s throughout your house.

      1. … or on your person.

        “He’s wearing a wire!”

        “We all are, dumbass!”

  11. The wife and I are flying to Indiana tomorrow. Looking forward to the TSA anal probe… Oh, wait. I’m not.

  12. What I find most disturbing is that the TSA is able to find so many Americans willing to do this work. I once read a poem that went something like “were will they find the boots to trample us down but from among us”. I call for everyone who goes through airport screening to verbally shame these people. Maybe we can get them all to quit and then bring some sanity to the situation.

    1. Concentration Camp had their Capos – prisoners who were given special privileges, provided they terrorized the other prisoners.

    2. This is a common gripe of mine… wrote about it here on H&R yesterday.

      The people taking these TSA jobs are ignorant and quite literally don’t care whether what they’re doing is unconstitutional. All they care about are the union job, the benefits, and the plastic badge that lets them lord over anyone they please. For most of them, for the first time in their life they get to tell a rich white guy what to do and can hassle him to no end if he doesn’t comply with whatever they tell him to do. And they know that “Blogger Bob” will ultimate tell the public that “proper procedure was followed” lest the facade crack and people start to fight back.

      It’s kind of like the Khmer Rouge or the French Revolution. The underclass gets to boss around the bourgeoisie and it’s seen as a perk. In theory, our leaders would be moral enough not to let this shit happen, but there was only one George Washington and he’s dead now.

      1. From what I’ve seen the smaller airports have better TSA, the bigger airports have worse.

        1. That might be the case in general, but have you ever flown through Yuma, AZ? For a while they were giving extra attention to anyone who had dust on their shoes. It’s Yuma! There’s dust on everything.

        2. I dunno, my experience has been worse at smaller airports generally. Basically, there are fewer flights and fewer passengers so they can “concentrate” more on their jobs. But anecdotal evidence is obviously not conclusive either way.

    3. Their actions are so egregious, I sometimes wonder if some of them are TRYING to spark outrage with this stuff, so people will demand the rules be changed. Maybe they go home after work saying to themselves WTF is it going to take to get these pussies to stand up for themselves?

      1. B-

        Nice effort.

        1. well yeah, I don’t actually believe that, but you do have to wonder how far they would go and what it would take for people to say enough.

          1. If getting finger-banged by a TSA goon—a la the Advice Goddess’s experience—doesn’t make people say enough, I don’t know what will. It’s one reason I do everything possible to not fly; I think I’d end up going to jail if some goon did that to my loved one, and knowing that I was going to jail, I’d make it worth my while. Better to just drive instead.

            I wonder about the logistics of driving to either Mexico or Canada and flying out of there?

            I’m somewhat surprised they haven’t done the cavity search-full X-Ray route yet, in response to the potential guy-with-a-block of TNT up his ass threat. (It’d be a race to see whether he’d be poisoned by the explosive before he could detonate it.)

            1. The problem with driving to anywhere in Mexico is that you have to drive through the northern part of the country, where the likelihood of getting kidnapped or just plain shot is too high for my liking.

              FWIW, Mexican airport security is much easier to deal with than American security. You go through a metal detector, they check your bags for hidden compartments (I know, the War on Drugs is dumb…but it’s not going away), and that’s it. No fingers in your butthole or anything. I’ve never gotten selected for any kind of “enhanced” screening, ever, because I am obviously not a drug runner or something. Maybe it’s the math books and obvious gringo-ness that give me away.

              1. I had friends who went to school in Monterrey a few years ago, who’d drive from Houston straight to Monterrey. Doubt they’d do that now, what with the Zetas and Gulf Cartel killing everything in sight.

                Driving to Matamoros, OTOH, and then taking a flight to D.F. or wherever you’d pick up your international flight, might be different. Really though, I think it’s more of an option for those who live near Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal.

                Way out of my price range, but I can really see the appeal of something like a jet card or other charter flights. And I suppose there’s always getting your IFR license and renting an airplane.

                1. The TSA is busy evaluating how to start screening private flights and private pilots.

  13. I love it when they start with a cool acronym, and then try to come up with a name to fit it. Intermodal?

    1. That’s called a “backronym” – when the phrase is constructed specifically so that it fits the pre-chosen word, such as ‘VIPR’. Your government is clever like that.

  14. For those of you curious as to what TSA Blogger “Bob” looks like, feast your eyes:


    1. It’s like a TSA gate agent raped a computer science major and had a gay son…

      1. Consistent with your observation, note the likeness to ‘Roderigo’ here =


    2. Blogger Bob,what an ASSHOLE!

  15. you can get a lot of boom boom in a diaper…hope they used gloves when they were fishing around in there.

  16. What gets me is how there have never been any successful attempts to smuggle working weapons aboard since pretty much the advent of metal detectors, yet how we continue to ratchet up the security theatre in the one worst possible area. If I were a terrorist trying to get on a plane, since the advent of metal detectors, I’d have worked to get through security from behind, not directly through the gauntlet. However, the more the TSA upsets its customers, the harder its going to be to judge a normal irate person from someone with something to hide. I can just imagine a terrorist waiting for a ruckus to start somewhere in the security line because the TSA is once again molesting someone and then he/she takes advantage of the distraction to get through security somewhere else.

    1. Why would we waste time killing people on a plane when we could just kill people waiting in the security line?

    2. Oh you could not be more wrong sir. Last year they conducted tests with dummy weapons and they all got through.

      1. The dummies are on the wrong side.

        1. How do we know that such “dummy” tests were actually conducted? Qui buono? The question must always be asked.

          1. There is no spoon…

      2. and pray tell what orifice did they get the dummy weapons through in? Did they hide them in their shoes? Did they have the colt up their ass?


        We spend so much time giving passengers swirlies, dummy guns are getting through everywhere else.


    3. Agreeing with you L_I_T. The next airplane bombing campaign, if there’s ever going to be one, is not going to go through the front door of passenger security. It’s going to go through the unscreened ground crew, baggage handlers, and airplane servicers/cleaners.

      You don’t even need to recruit them to your cause. How many drug-running rings have gotten discovered at commercial airports, even after 9/11? Just substitute a bomb for the usual payload of dope; it’s not like the members of the smuggling ring are opening the packages.

      They can’t even discover a bomber when they’re tipped off in advance, a la the underwear bomber.

  17. It’s not civil disobediance, but… I carry a piece of paper in my wallet. Its so I will always have a place to write the name and badge number of any TSA agent, or his supervisor, who conducts the advanced pat down on me. “You can’t touch me until you show me sufficent identification so that you can later be positively identified.” (Godwin/Neuremburg)

    So far, I haven’t needed it! It’s similar to my previous game to ALWAYS demand a private screening room when submitting to ANY patdown. That ties up two of them.

    And always wondered what would happen if I claimed “teh gay” and demanded a female agent.


  18. The people in this country are getting just what they deserve.

    1. Oh, I haven’t even started fucking you yet, especially you cracker bastards.

  19. The granny in question now says it was no big deal and it made her feel safer. Job well done TSA!!!!

  20. The statists have started using this “don’t be a prude” line. Looks like a winner to me. If you don’t submit you have a small weenie.

    By their logic those provincial Jewesses should have welcomed their liberating nudie intro to the fun camps, and Polanski should be celebrated for opening the young gal in places she might have kept shut given the choice.

  21. While I am fully aware of the rule that bringing up a comparison to the Nazis is tantamount to losing an argument, I still say that the TSA is blatant proof that America has no shortage of under-brained goons with control fantasies more than willing to join any Waffen SS that will given them uniform.

  22. I paid $32.67 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Toshiba laptop for
    $94.83 being delivered to our house tomorrow by fed3x. I will never again pay expensive r3tailprices at stores.I even sold a 46 inch HDTV to
    my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website
    we using to get all thisstuff,b?zzsave. c0m…

  23. Two weeks ago, armed TSA and Homeland Security agents hit a bus depot in Des Moines, Iowa, http://www.petwinkel.com/pet-d…..-c-23.html to question passengers and demand their papers.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.