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Dear TSA, Please Stop Molesting Kids at the Airport

The ugly truth about security theater.

The other day—after slogging through a check-in line at one of the nation's busiest airports, dutifully removing my shoes and belt, and checking my bag and pockets for other potentially dangerous items (water and loose change)—I was pulled aside by a crack Transportation Security Administration agent so he could further investigate the contents of my carry-on. While waiting, I witnessed what looked to be a 10-year-old boy being molested by a 250-pound man.

Now, normally I would have reported this incident to the proper authorities. Inappropriate contact with a child, inside or outside his clothing, is a criminal act. But in this case, the proper authorities were the ones feeling up the kid, and the father had already protested the frisking—although, like all of us, he probably understood that no matter how vociferously he objected to this bit of state-sanctioned criminality, it wasn't going to change anything.

Who knows? Maybe the kid had earned the attention of TSA by sporting that "Minecraft" hoodie. Or maybe his laptop had set off the explosive detection machine. Or maybe he was randomly picked. The boy looked innocent enough to me—which may have been exactly what the little would-be villain had in mind. When the father inquired, the agent told him—right before touching his son's crotch—that this sort of thing has become necessary because of drug mules using children.

If you don't think the terrorists have won, you probably haven't visited an airport in a while. Not only do these places needlessly gobble up hours of our days and billions of our dollars but here we also collectively lose all dignity and act like a bunch of automatons just so they'll let us out of the place. Though sometimes it seems as if we might never escape. If we really wanted to slow the caravan from Central America down, we would make the migrants enter through a TSA checkpoint.

It is at those checkpoints that we suspend our disbelief and pretend that (often) disheveled and (very often) rotund government agents who separate us from our water bottles possess the expertise to ferret out terrorist plots. (By the way, is there not a single physical requirement needed to hold this allegedly vital security job?)

Then again, it's one thing to force millions of adults to schlep through these slow-moving lines so their toiletries can be scanned by some uninterested government worker—on occasion sharing a few moments of rough intimacy with a blue-gloved stranger—and another for kids to be used as props in this production of security theater.

If you're thinking, "Hey, David, you have no expertise on issues of security, and you know nothing about how to stop bad people from getting on planes," you're 100 percent correct. That only means I could probably work for the TSA.

Let's not forget that in 2015, the TSA sent internal investigatory units, "red teams," to airports around the nation to see whether they could sneak explosives and guns through the screening process and onto planes—which they did 67 out of 70 times. Although I'm no security specialist, by my rough calculations, that means that the terrorist success rate was over 95 percent. Maybe the 5 percent who were nabbed by TSA agents posed as preteens.

This information, incidentally, was only leaked to the public. We have no idea whether the TSA is performing any better today. But even if it has vastly improved—say, the agency is now stopping 70 percent of fake terrorists—it would mean the billions of dollars spent on airport security is still being wasted. In a merit-based environment, this would result in mass termination and a complete overhaul of the system. Instead, the Department of Homeland Security—a Cabinet-level department formed in 2002 to ensure that a number of inept agencies could work together incompletely—is still patting down old ladies and preteens. Nothing has changed.

The TSA claims that it has employed "modified screening procedures for children 12 and under that reduce the likelihood of pat-down screening." Is there any evidence of this? And why do we allow any children to be patted down after they've walked through body scanners and metal detectors anyway? There is no plausible reason for a grown person to put his or her hands on a child in this way.

Obviously, security isn't going anywhere. Obviously, security measures also act as a deterrent and can't always be properly measured. Of course, I understand that the agent was only doing his job. Whether his contention about drug mules was true or not, though, you might not be surprised to learn that this kid didn't end up having heroin stuffed in his underwear. Even if he did, is it really worth subjecting hundreds (thousands?) of boys and girls—not to mention septuagenarians, the disabled, etc.—to this kind of search on a daily basis? There has to be a better way.

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  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Maybe the kid had earned the attention of TSA by sporting that "Minecraft" hoodie.

    Sounds like that kid was a damned tease.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Yeah man, if ya don't want to be molested like a thug, don't wear a "Minecraft" hoodie like a thug!

  • Number 2||

    "When the father inquired, the agent told him—right before touching his son's crotch—that this sort of thing has become necessary because of drug mules using children."

    Wait a sec...I thought the TSA searches were to protect us from terrorists. How did drug enforcement become part of its responsibility?

  • SQRLSY One||

    Welcome to "mission creep" from your favorite creeps in Government Almighty!

  • Number 2||

    True, but it is odd that David did not develop this point more extensively then a mete single sentence mention. It seems more significant send yet another standard-issue story about TSA silliness

  • Tony||

    Also, Mission: Creep. A program to keep serial molesters employed and thus controlled.

  • West Texas||

    If you ask Sheila Jackson Lee, and other congress-people, one of the main purposes of TSA is to employ EVERYONE in their district, not just child molesters. Which is why you end up with such a crack team of experts at every checkpoint.

    They're not looking for terrorists; they're looking for government bennies.

  • Curly4||

    Well, they have struck it rich then!

  • Fisthardcheese||

    Even worse, the Supreme Court has explicitly said that airport searches may NOT be used to search for drugs, but only items that pose a risk to the plane like weapons and incendiaries. Stating that they are searching for drugs "because people are using children as drug mules", is not only a blatant lie, but a complete violation of our Constitutional rights.

  • Trainer||

    Because searching anyone that want that wants to fly in a plane isn't?

  • Rat on a train||

    If you take away the perks, how are you going to attract the best?

  • Eddy||

  • DiegoF||

    At least they knew the right state to place him in. Who said the allegedly monolithic Federal bureaucracy lacks familiarity with local culture?

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Did he wear a Penn State pin on his blues?

  • Curly4||

    Abused girls? That priest was an odd ball!

  • DiegoF||

    The boy looked innocent

    Go on...

  • Eddy||

    Talk about sex under socialism!

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    I heard it was better, but I didn't believe it until now!

  • sarcasmic||

    This is why I will never travel by air with my child. I'd end up in prison for breaking Chester the Federal Molester's nose.

  • DiegoF||

    Not even white-collar resort prison, either. Unfortunately, and ironically.

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Don't dismiss security theater so lightly. I remember in the early days of TSA and new screening procedures, a majority of Americans applauded the "enhancements" and said they were afraid to fly without them. Of course, other poll questions revealed that TSA fans seldom or never flew--and among those who actually went to airports pretty much hated the new process. But, votes!

  • creech||

    Meanwhile, approximately 70% of weapons were passing through security undetected yet there were no hijackings, explosions or other terrorist acts committed that week (unless, of course, the TSA-sucking media is covering them up).

  • GlenchristLaw||

    "But in this case, the proper authorities were the ones feeling up the kid...

    No.

    TSA are not law enforcement, and airports are (generally) not federal lands.

    All it would take is one governor, sheriff or mayor with balls to put real law enforcement officers in their airport and put the TSA on notice that any employee who touches a child will be arrested and charged with a sex crime.

  • Vernon Depner||

    And just because they don't have the balls yet is no reason not to make a report. Go ahead and report the crime to local law enforcement and make it clear you're willing to testify. If enough people do this, that might hasten the day when some local official will find his balls and make an arrest.

  • Eddy||

    ...and lose their federal funding and face a federal "corruption" probe?

  • Vernon Depner||

    In defense of a child molester? That would be an interesting public opinion stand off.

  • Dan S.||

    Texas was about to do exactly that, until the TSA (or maybe the FAA) sent a letter to the governor stating that if they did, all commercial flights into or out of Texas would be banned. Could they really do that? I don't know, and neither did the governor, but Texas backed down.

  • Curly4||

    And when children are no longer subject of search the child would be come the main means for the terrorists and drug dealer to do their business.

  • MSimon||

    If we don't molest children the Drugs will get through. And if we do molest them some will need the drugs.

    Dr. Lonny Shavelson found that 70% of female heroin addicts were sexually abused in childhood.

    Addiction is a symptom of PTSD. Look it up.

  • CGN||

    As usual, my comment that government fucks everything up is shown to be true. The tax money currently being used to fund the TSA and its incredibly stupid employees should be used to hire a for profit firm to protect us.

  • Robert||

    What if the for-profit finds it's cheaper to put $ into a compensation fund for victims of hijacking?

  • Robert||

    Or even cheaper to pay passengers not to bomb or hijack?

  • Curly4||

    You think that a terrorists or a hijacker would could be paid off? I don't! For the terrorists it is not about money nor is it for most hijackers.

  • Sevo||

    OT:
    It's contagious:

    "Hillary Clinton: Europe must curb immigration to stop rightwing populists"
    [...]
    "Europe must get a handle on immigration to combat a growing threat from rightwing populists, Hillary Clinton has said, calling on the continent's leaders to send out a stronger signal showing they are "not going to be able to continue to provide refuge and support".
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/
    nov/22/hillary-clinton-europe-must-curb-
    immigration-stop-populists-trump-brexit

    Immigration is like climate change; if there's too many right-wing voters, it's immigration. Too many left-wing voters; immigration.

  • Tony||

    And you disagree with her position?

  • Sevo||

    "And you disagree with her position?"

    Irrelevant; the Ds are screaming at Trump for his stand, and now their standard-bearer takes the same position.

  • Eddy||

    Yeah, but Hillary is compassionate, nuanced and scienc-y, while Trump is icky. See the difference?

    Plus, does hillary actually draw conclusions about U. S. policy?

  • DiegoF||

    She is reverting to form, for some odd reason that I can't figure out. Pre-2016 Hillary sounded like today's Trump on immigration. I have to give her this, although she phrases her advice in the form of political expediency it isn't clear how it helps her if she does think she can be nominated again (or even be remembered fondly by Democrats). She is already maxed out on the white, middle-aged, crime-wary Nassau County lacrosse-mom crowd. This will only give the wokeniks fresh ammo against her. Those voters, which are the folks she needs, are going to be horrified by this.

  • Tony||

    And you find it productive to spend all your time at the lowest level of argument, pointing out alleged hypocrisies (I bet you didn't know her immigration position before), even when you agree with the stated position?

  • Sevo||

    Tony|11.23.18 @ 1:24PM|#
    "And you find it productive to spend all your time at the lowest level of argument, pointing out alleged hypocrisies (I bet you didn't know her immigration position before), even when you agree with the stated position?"

    Move them goal-posts, shitbag!

  • bevis the lumberjack||

    "And you disagree with her position?"

    Of course she's correct. Rights should only extend to certain people, amirite? Can't have rights without RightThink.

    Tell me again what separates the left and the right? I've forgotten.

  • Tony||

    Choosing science over blind idiocy is a big one for me.

  • Eddy||

    There's nothing like a mob of crystal-gazing, chakra-invoking, organic-foor eating, wicca-practicing, horoscope-consulting leftists marching down the street proclaiming their love of science.

  • Jerryskids||

    If you don't think the terrorists have won, you probably haven't visited an airport in a while.

    16 years ago next week. I flew out to KC to visit my brother who - not so coincidentally - had tickets to the Chiefs/Seahawks game. Flight out, no big deal, flight back, big problem. It was only a year after 9/11 so the TSA was only getting started but after enduring the bullshit, the fat cow explaining how people shouldn't complain about the procedures because it was to "protect our freedoms", the creepy-as-fuck TSA guy who picked me for a random patdown and kept whispering suggestively in my ear that we could go somewhere private for this if I felt uncomfortable doing it in public, the Nurse Ratched gate agent who kept passive-aggressively warning a group of pissed-off travelers that they'd have to calm down or "steps would be taken" and I knew if I ever attempted another flight I'd wind up either dead or in prison because I'd sure as hell kill some motherfucker and I haven't flown since. The terrorists won, I'm now too scared to fly.

  • Henry||

    It's not always about scared, it's also about marketplace decisions. I used to fly twice a week for business. In the past 20 years, I've taken exactly two flights, and those only because I couldn't make it there in my RV before the funeral. In the past 20 years, I've had maybe four colds, as opposed to monthly like I used to get them. And I get to stay armed. Upsides all around.

  • West Texas||

    "Randomly selected."

    If you need some cheap entertainment, try explaining to these knuckleheads there is no way for anything created by man to be "random" and that the proper term is actually, "arbitrary".

    Drives them crazy: "I didn't pick you you. The machine does it randomly."

  • AlmightyJB||

    The only reason that Congress would allow this to happen is that most of them are also pedophiles.

  • Vernon Depner||

    I doubt most of them are, but they do live in a world in which pederasty is an unremarkable peccadillo.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    I appreciate your pedantry.

  • Rock Lobster||

    If we really wanted to slow the caravan from Central America down, we would make the migrants enter through a TSA checkpoint.

    Some say the worst mistake of GWB's administration was the invasion and subsequent maladministration of Iraq. Horseshit. It was the creation of a redundant cabinet level bureaucracy and the infliction of the TSA on the American people, hands down.

  • AlmightyJB||

    "we would make the migrants enter through a TSA checkpoint"

    Making them go through security would be racist.

  • Antilles||

    Women are lucky they get patted down by female agents. I feel violated every time a male agent does it and think it would a little less awful if a woman did it instead.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Are women allowed to request a male agent?

  • DiegoF||

    Someone should try it see what happens!

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    Not if you're Tony.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Tell them you identify as female.

  • Johnimo||

    Give the pilots firearms, and tell them to "shoot to kill." Get rid of all the other so-called security, and then we can get back to living our lives as we once did before this nonsense commenced.

  • kevinq||

    America: Land of the free*

    *Some restriction may apply
    *Permit may be required
    *Subject to change without notice

  • Curly4||

    Are you suggesting that children should not be frisk to determine if they are carrying any forbidden items? If that comes to past so that children are never frisk then shortly after then the drug cartel a terrorists will quickly turn to children to get these items into the country.
    We all need to step back a step or two and rethink what we are saying about the TSA agents. Accusing them of being child molesters is not building confidence nor is it helping them to do their job. Now instead of calling them child molesters demand stronger background checks and then if something comes up prosecute that agent but don't damn all agents because your child is examined and that made you mad.

  • MSimon||

    There will be problems.

    If we don't molest children the Drugs will get through. And if we do molest them some will need the drugs.

    Dr. Lonny Shavelson found that 70% of female heroin addicts were sexually abused in childhood.

    Addiction is a symptom of PTSD. Look it up.

  • Boomer||

    WTF do drug mules have to do with airport security?

  • Eddy||

    To paraphrase Madeline Albright, what's the point of having a whole army of gropers if you can't use them to grope around for whatever you want to look for?

  • Wilson||

    Be mature and let TSA do their jobs. It may be overkill, but better safe than sorry. I have been frisked many times, and TSA has always been professional, and I don't mind making small sacrifices to keep everyone safe.

  • Vernon Depner||

    The problem with that is that there is no evidence that TSA's molestations contribute anything to safety.

  • Wilson||

    Is it fair to call it "molestations"?

    I have been frisked several times, and I wouldn't characterize a single one as a molestation.

    It hasn't even come close to inappropriate.

    If we made it taboo to frisk children, however, it could become a safety risk.

    Drug smugglers, terrorists, and other criminals will take advantage of every loophole we give them.

  • Wilson||

    I personally don't believe in the drug war; my concern is terrorism.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Intentional, unwanted touching of the genitals is molestation.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    The other problem with that is that "small sacrifices" tend rather quickly to morph into larger and larger sacrifices. Power is a ravenous beast.

  • Richard Stallman||

    As I understand it, the Theater of Security Agency has only one
    official mission: stopping terrorism. It is not allowed to do
    anything with the specific purpose of detecting drugs. I believe that
    there have been court cases which ruled that if the TSA did anything
    specifically to look for drugs, that was illegal

  • Bill Poser||

    The TSA isn't supposed to look for drugs. It's only supposed to prevent terrorist attacks on and using airplanes.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Perhaps checking to see which little boys are circumcised helps with threat assessment.

  • Incomprehensible Bitching||

    I get it: we can't have basic transportation safety because a billionaire might pay more in taxes.

    Geesh: libertarians.

    Carry on, clingers.

  • RUBluegrass||

    Unfortunately the more negative and cynical comments in this thread are correct. I fly weekly for work so I have many opportunities to experience and observe TSA throughout the country. While I have PreCheck (and Global Entry), which improves things a bit, because I have artificial hips I still need to go through a scanner rather than a metal detector. After prepping the best I can (belt off, nothing in pockets, no light jacket--just me and and my clothes) the scanner "alarms" 8 (or more) out of 10 times. Alarm area is almost always mid-torso but also often crotch area. I am way past being embarrassed at being fondled in public, and to their credit the agents are generally professional in following their protocols. But with so many false alarms, and I witness many others suffering the same fate, I'm sure the agents focus more on clearing the exception than finding the problem. Alarms should be a meaningful concern, not another routine false signal. Whatever technology they are using is pathetic.

  • EWM||

    The TSA doesn't molest. People do.

  • The Last American Hero||

    Retaliate against those people and you will learn quite quickly that the TSA exists as they bring a great deal of violence upon you.

  • Surgeon Putnam Valley||

    Yes, she is already maxed out on the white, middle-aged, crime-wary Nassau County lacrosse-mom crowd.

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