TSA groping allegations are easily solved

Nov 14 Update: OK, Wild Ducks! I have listened to my readers. Many of you support Amy Alkon’s claim of rape, and I have re-read her original public rant. I agree that—if true—the behavior described is egregiousness and constitutes an abuse of authority. This doesn’t change the validityof my observation nor my advice to Ms. Alkon. But because I am inclined to believe Alkon, I have edited out my own sarcastic spin.

Last month, Forbes.com blogger Kashmir Hill wrote about TSA groping, a topic that never goes away. After all, who can forget this video of a 6 year old girl complaining? *

In the more recent case, Amy Alkon, author of a personal advice Blog, took her gripe to the Internet. She called her LAX pat down a “rape” and claims that the TSA agent put hands into her body four times. Ms. Alkon also said that she would file sexual assault charges against the agent.

TSA pat down
Woha!! I don’t even let my husband do that!

Not surprisingly, Alkon dropped plans for a suit after consulting a lawyer. While the agent may have had a very bad day or may even be a power freak as Ms. Alkon asserts in compelling detail, juries tend to go with any process that protects them from deranged bombers. To prevail, Alkon would need multiple witnesses unani-mously agree that the agent abused her authority and crossed the line from reasonable to rape. Even though Alkon decided against filing in court, she went public with the agent’s name. For the record, it is Thedala Magee.

Short of an investigation and legal contest, we cannot determine if agent Magee probed Alkon’s body cavities without authority or cause. So, the real question is whether it is reasonable to go public with unproven claims against another individual. The answer, of course, is it is reasonable, so long as the complainant doesn’t lie for the purpose of defaming another individual. We call this “Free speech”. We don’t need a judge and jury to say that so-and-so is a jerk or a bully. It is understood that these are personal opinions. Of course, the recipient interprets the claims through a lens of cultural bias, personal experience, and the history and reputation of the speaker.

Alas, Alkon’s claims caused agent Magee some grief, and so she hired her own lawyer who says that Alkon’s blog constitutes defamation. The agent’s attorney wants the slanderous post removed and also wants a settlement of $500,000 (whaat?!!). Agent Magee’s attorney also states that on a return trip to the airport, Alkon called her client “a bad person [who had] sexually molested” her. But wait! It gets better…

As you can imagine, like Sneetches on beaches, it became a free-for-all and everything spun further out of control! Now Alkon is represented by free speech impresario, Marc Randazza, who asserts–you guessed it–his client’s right to free speech.

A free speech lawyer will quickly bring this dispute to an end, because Alkon did not break the law. Our constitution entitles her to publically assert that she was molested and raped so long as it is her view of the event – even if these claims are hurtful, unproven, or refuted by witnesses. It may be unfortunate to agent Magee, but in the court of public opinion, it is sometimes necessary to defend one’s self.

But what about the truth? Was Alkon molested? Perhaps. There’s nothing that she can do about it this time. But guess what? She can do something about it next time!…

This claim of sexually aggressive pat downs by TSA agents is in the press a lot lately, but c’mon folks… It has a simple solution.

Of course, no solution is acceptable if safety is compromised. But let’s look at the requirements pragmatically. If we can satisfy these requirements, then the problem no longer exists:

  • We cannot accept aircraft that are blown to bits because a passenger confuses a security process with sexual molestation (or in this case, “metaphorical rape”).
  • Likewise, with reasonable accommodations, we can avoid the potential for a few bad agents groping travelers with salacious intent.

This leads to the simple solution that I promised:

  1. Pat downs, including those that are near (or within) private areas are a necessary part of vigilance, deterrence and public safety. After all, those who would kill us are willing to die in the process. They cloak explosives in underwear and bras.
  2. If a traveler suspects that a pat down is motivated by anything other than a concern for public safety or if he/she suspects that the process is unnecessarily invasive, that passenger should request the following:
  • Same sex agent
  • A private room away from other eyes
  • A witness (i.e. a traveling companion in the room)
  • Optionally: A video recording of the process taken by the traveler or given to her immediately.

This pretty much takes care of it. None of these things will delay protocol or degrade effectiveness. If availability of these customer-centric accommodations fails to assuage fears of a few travelers, I suggest that they avoid mass transit. In an era of terrorism, it’s perfectly reasonable to accept a uniformed stranger looking through clothes or touching a tush at places of embarkation. That stranger is saving your petootie!

Post Script: I know a thing or two about lushes, letches and womanizers. They do not gravitate toward careers in airport security. Body searches are more impersonal and degrading for the toucher than the touchee. It lacks visceral thrill and actually numbs the Mojo. I defend Ms. Alkon’s right to cry “rape” (if she believes what she claims), but I seriously doubt that TSA agents are molesting passengers. No, not at all! They are protecting us from terrorists. That’s what they do.

So sayeth Ellery. If you think otherwise, please add a comment.

* In the video linked at top, the child is not in distress and the video doesn’t show unreasonable invasion or tawdry activity.