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If You Don't Get Every Detail Of Your TSA Detention Exactly Right, The TSA May Publicly Shame You

from the how-nice-of-them... dept

Following our story on the guy, who was detained by the TSA for refusing to go through a backscatter scan or to have his groin fondled by TSA agents, some folks pointed to a similar experience by Meg McClain, which she detailed on a radio program. You can hear her story here:

In response, the TSA has put out a public blog posting, which more or less calls McClain a liar. They took the somewhat extraordinary step of publishing the surveillance videos of what happened during McClain’s detention, suggesting that it proves she lied about the incident. The videos have no sound and for much of it you can’t really see what’s going on. It does suggest that McClain may have exaggerated some aspects of the detention. Rather than an hour, it looks as if it lasted more like 25 minutes. There may not have been a “dozen” police and TSA agents, but (especially towards the end) there are an awful lot (and some appear to be out of the camera’s frame at times). Also, she claims that no one else had to go through the backscatter scans while she was detained — and suggests she was “singled out” — but that’s not the case. Though, it does appear that no one else is brought over to the roped off area for a full on search while she was held in that area.

The big controversial claims involve whether or not she was handcuffed. While her version of the events stated she was handcuffed to the original chair she was placed in, that is not true. Some viewers of the second video suggest that as she’s escorted from the area, it appears her hands are bound together in some way. Honestly, it’s a little tough to tell one way or the other from the video. Her hands are definitely held together during the time she’s escorted away. Why that’s the case is not clear. You can see both videos below, though, they’re relatively long and not much happens:

What I find a lot more troubling about the entire thing, however, is this idea that if you speak out against the way you were treated the government might come out and try to publicly shame you by claiming you were lying. These types of incidents can be quite nerve-wracking, and it’s unlikely that anyone going through them will get every single detail correct, even if the larger description of what happened is accurate. The same thing was true of the other story in San Diego, where the guy even admitted he was so shaken he didn’t remember the exact order that things happened.

For the government’s response to be to attack someone’s credibility based on getting some small things wrong, rather than acknowledging the larger concerns raised by these types of searches and detentions, is really quite troubling.

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Comments on “If You Don't Get Every Detail Of Your TSA Detention Exactly Right, The TSA May Publicly Shame You”

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Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

Security Theater...

On a different blog, she stated that the TSA’s video isn’t complete. She says: “The camera angles in such a way that it doesn’t show a lot of what happened… There is a section where I was pulled to a second chair that is not included in there. There are a lot more agents and officers just off camera. There’s one angle where it only shows one of the two chairs in the section. It cuts to me walking away, but where they show me walking to in the second video is not where I walked to after that first video. It happened further on.”.

So in addition to suggesting that she’s lying, they’re possibly editing the video to make it look worse for her than it actually is.

In addition, I find it incredibly troubling that they ripped up her ticket. Theoretically, she’d need that for a refund. (Don’t say ‘nonrefundable’ because the other passenger references had his ‘nonrefundable’ ticket refunded after his similar experience.)

Regardless of whether or not this girl wanted her 15 minutes of crazy fame, the fact remains that there would be nothing for her to go crazy about if:

a. the TSA officers were professional.
b. TSA policies didn’t call for molestation or involuntary porn shots.
c. the TSA clearly videotaped all interactions.

All of these things are incredibly suspect on the part of our favorite security theater employees.

interval (profile) says:

Re: Security Theater...

The TSA officers aren’t really the problem, and I think “touch my junk” guy is aware of this throughout the whole situation. Its the feds who give these people license to do what they do. They are the only people who are granted authority to break the usual penal codes on assault. Its bs and I don’t really care if it give people that false sense of security they seems to think they need. I’m with this guy. I’ve resolved not to fly again until something changes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Security Theater...

>> Its the feds who give these people license to do what they do.

The “feds” do not have the authority to grant this license. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens from unreasonable searches by the Federal and State governments.

The Constitution requires that probable cause be presented before a legal search can take place. The purchase of an airline ticket, and / or attempting to board an airplane is NOT probable cause. I find it difficult to understand those who can claim that this is not an unreasonable search.

And even if some people have a fear of terrorists, that also is NOT justification for the government to perform unconstitutional actions.

Since many (most?) of the TSA’s airline security policies require that a government agency violate one or more articles or amendments of the Constitution, I claim the the TSA is a criminal organization.

Mike C. (profile) says:

Accusing the victim...

With so many complaints of people feeling “violated”, is it any wonder that my first thoughts on seeing the TSA response is that they are acting like a rapist accusing their victim? I understand it’s a harsh analogy, but I almost believe it’s come to a point where we need to make the harsh analogies to get people to realize how far some of our rights have been eroded.

More and more I find myself unwilling to fly unless completely unavoidable. I’d rather drive 1500 miles one way with my family of four than have to deal with the idiotic “security theater” that is the TSA these days.

Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

Re: Accusing the victim...

After seeing the video of a three-year-old girl sobbing “Stop touching me!” as TSA agent forcibly groped her for ‘security purposes’ and the mother of a 6-year-old boy yelled at for trying to comfort her son during his groin grope, I think your comparison is much less than harsh.

Aaaand the link is now down due to a copyright violation. Wow.

Anyway, these TSA policies are stupid. Incredibly stupid. If I wanted to take out a bunch of American travelers, you know what I’d do? Detonate the bomb in the screening area, before I ever get molested or irradiated.

I thank God that I have no need to fly in the foreseeable future.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Accusing the victim...

If I wanted to take out a bunch of American travelers, you know what I’d do? Detonate the bomb in the screening area, before I ever get molested or irradiated.

Bingo. It’s not like they pack us in like sardines or anything.

The air of terrorism is to instil fear and negatively affect our way of life. The terrorists have succeeded in these aims. Many people admit to being willing to cede their personal rights and freedoms if it means they can “feel safer.”

Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Accusing the victim...

I hope it does. I’d like to see the outcry when a typical mom-of-three married to a disabled veteran of the USMC, who has neither a passport nor a valid ID with which to enter an airport, is arrested for being logical.

My adorable crying children, the angry veteran husband/dad…

It would be awesome.

ChronoFish (profile) says:

Re: Re: Accusing the victim...

Don’t know where those took place.

I just took my boy from Providence to Orlando (and back) and in both Airports travlers with children did not have to go through the scanners. In fact we went through an express lane with the standard older technology. An no pat downs.

Not saying it didn’t happen. I am saying it didn’t happen to me on a recent trip.


Mike C. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Accusing the victim...

The one Rose and I has been taken down by the Tribune over a DMCA/copyright complaint. I did, however, find another pat down of a toddler posted just a few days ago:


Five minutes sleuthing is all it takes to find videos like this now. We teach our children that they shouldn’t be touched “that way” by anyone except a doctor or their parents and only with permission. Do we now have to add “police” to that list? What’s next… “People in suits that say they’re federal agents”? Where do we finally draw the line and say “find a better way”?

MikeLinPA (profile) says:

Re: Accusing the victim...

I agree with you. It is beyond ridiculous. The rules are silly and there is often no consistency from one agent to another. Lets all stop flying and make it a non-issue. When the airlines are starving and the TSA has nothing to do and laid off 80% of these wind up security guards, maybe they can start using a more sensible approach like what is used in civilized countries.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Accusing the victim...

Lets all stop flying and make it a non-issue.

If I didn’t have to fly for work, I’d be right there with you. Unfortunately, my paycheck is dependent on my occasional travel to exotic locales, and thus, if I wish to continue eating, I have to fly. Or find another job, or take up permanent residence on a street corner…

However, this incident broke just before a recent trip to Nevada I had to take for business, and when they pushed all of us through the porno-machine, I thought the same thing (to opt-out,) but then decided against it because of the problems she was having. I just hope that the person examining my nekked body got an eye-full. If I had been on personal travel, I’d probably would have drove or at least protested, but if I missed my flight, my boss wouldn’t have been so happy if I missed the flight. (Ok, maybe I am just a conformist/closet rebel.) I noticed two people who went through after me had both opt’d out, and they yelled “opt-out” and made it absolutely painful and miserable for both of these people too. Neither got out of the checkpoint earlier than 15 minutes later (and one of them had to wait in line for the other to finish getting violated.) Luckily, the airport in Nevada didn’t have these new fangled machines, so I didn’t get radiated on the way back.

TSA is a joke, plain and simple. But it is a joke that will never seem to go away.

Thomas (profile) says:

Re: Just wondering..

None. The answer is “none.” They have never caught anyone and they never will. The only terror plots that were ever foiled, were done in by police work and intelligence gathering. If we took one tenth of the money we spend on dick-measuring machines and having mouth-breathers groping children, and spent it on actual intelligence, I think we would find a multitude of terror attacks being planned right now. Attacks that we don’t know about, that may cause deaths, and won’t be stopped by making Aunt Edna take off her corrective shoes and submit to invasive groping.

Thomas (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Just wondering..

Both of those attacks could be considered successful because the attacker got on the plane with an incendiary device and could have done damage. I was mainly referencing other terror plots (not just aircraft bombing) that have been prevented by intelligence gathering and going after actual criminal and terror suspects. No determined terrorist is going to be deterred by pat downs, x-rays, or any other ridiculous measure they come up with.

MikeLinPA (profile) says:

Re: Just wondering..

And they never will. The system isn’t designed to catch terrorists, it is designed to inconvenience citizens while looking like they are doing something.

The no-fly list is another part of the farce. Suspected terrorists are not put on the list so as not to tip them off that they are being watched, so that means that everyone on the list is not a suspected terrorist. However, if you openly criticized the government during the Bush-Chaney years, you were put on the list as punishment, er, I mean because you said something suspicious. Yeah, right.

MuddyBulldog (profile) says:

You got it wrong

Wait, Meg McClain tries to shame the TSA and that’s okay but when they provide what they believe is evidence to the contrary that’s troubling?

Up until they responded there was only one truth, hers. The TSA believed her account was inflammatory and responded. The TSA’s response may be downplaying the event. I don’t know and neither do you.

She called the TSA out on HER radio program (not “a radio program”), a public forum. They responded in a public forum. Seems to be in the spirit of the Confrontation Clause, in my opinion.

I find the current TSA requirements ridiculously wasteful and ultimately useless, but I have to stand by their decision on this one.

We all so quickly believe the story that portrays the evil overbearing government or police force or corrupt official. Why is so difficult to consider that sometimes the accuser may not be so pure either?

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Re: You got it wrong

She called the TSA out on HER radio program (not “a radio program”), a public forum. They responded in a public forum. Seems to be in the spirit of the Confrontation Clause, in my opinion.

The TSA is a government agency, not some idiot with a microphone. They should have at least consulted their legal or public relations expert (assuming they have one) before impulsively lashing out in self-defense — which makes them look guilty.

The whole TSA situation really is odd. Government is usually in the business of protecting and capturing markets…

Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Even pregnant women, despite the complete and total lack of studies with these machines involving pregnancy.

Of course, you can choose to have your breasts and genitals groped instead, which is definitely painful during pregnancy, and probably emotional problematic.

My own TSA grope during pregnancy was horrible, and it was years and years ago. (Being yelled at for having a .75″ Swiss Army-type key chain with nail clippers that I had forgotten about was just as bad, honestly.)

out_of_the_blue says:

Isn't *one* thug with a gun harassing a citizen for no cause enough?

Why even credit a bit that you don’t see a dozen police or TSA? *YOU* are helping shift debate away from whether she did anything even slightly “wrong” or whether the new scanners / opt-out punishment are in any degree justified.

[A standard tactic is to “attack someone’s credibility based on getting some small things wrong”. — Yes, just yesterday some Anonymous Coward mentioned only my typo while completely ignoring the larger point — which is still without answer.]

m3mnoch (profile) says:

you think this is bad

man. you think that’s bad? just imagine if you had to put up with israel’s security.






“That’s the process ? six layers, four hard, two soft. The goal at Ben-Gurion is to move fliers from the parking lot to the airport lounge in a maximum of 25 minutes.”

and no groping needed.


torment says:

Re: you think this is bad

The difficulty with the Israeli approach is that it isn’t really scalable. They have FAR fewer airports to protect, and a much lower volume of air traffic.

The comments on Schneier’s blog (as well as the links in his post) reference the actual scaling difficulties:


Anonymous Coward says:

"Shamed" by the TSA

I’m happy to say that the TSA nor anyone else can “shame” me. Only I can do that by my own behavior. If the TSA publishes video, that doesn’t “shame” anyone, and to claim that it does is disingenuous. The video shows what it shows. If I have exaggerated what happened, and the video exposes the exaggeration, it’s not the video that has “shamed” me. I have, and I’ve been caught in my exaggeration.

The TSA sucks enough that we shouldn’t be exaggerating in our reports of the bullying and mindless tactics. Just tell the truth and let the TSA shame itself.

jakerome (profile) says:

TSA should release ALL videotape

What disturbs me most is the selective release of video. If TSA can choose to make any video public, then they should be forced to make every video public. Post it all. Hopefully someone is filing FOIA requests for all the TSA harassment incidents. Clearly, the release of the videos don’t endanger security, or else they’d have to keep this one secret, too.

The TSA is emblematic of the destruction of American values. The agency should be disbanded and replaced with an organization focused on security instead of security theater. They are making our country less safe.

James says:


If this agency is having someone accuse them of improperly (and horribly) handling this process, it might not be unreasonable for them to attempt a response.

However, it does lend the question of why there needs to be one. Also, some transparency into the process will go a LONG way towards making this all flow better. There needs to be some insight into how you will be screened before you purchase a ticket; then you can agree to it, or against it, before you buy.

Lastly, its also quite clear this agency needs some oversight regarding the whole process (women choosing women for screening, men choosing men), its would seem the breeders working the machines are thinking with their genitals and not with their brains.

ac says:

scanners and pat downs

scanners and pat downs do nothing. a person crazy enough to enact a suicide bombing is easily motivated enough to hide en explosive in one of his/her orifices, which are missed entirely by both types of scanners and surface pat downs. Honestly, using trained dogs or some other means of detecting traces of explosives is vastly more effective. If the dogs alert to something, then by all means pull that person out of line for more detailed inspection.

I feel that by virtue of being a branch of gov’t, the TSA is violating the 4th Amendment rights of passengers. One could argue the exemption of borders, but border searches are still subject to ‘reasonableness’. I think that dogs alerting, other detection of trace materials, or even failing the metal detector would satisfy the reasonableness check, enabling use of the body scanner and/or enhanced pat down. I feel that random screening is an abuse of power by the TSA, and it sickens me.

ChronoFish (profile) says:

While I in no way support the use of the backscatter scanners....

I find it funny that you ridicule the TSA for doing the exact same thing that what you praise others for.

The TSA is the defendant here. They have been called out as violating a passenger rights (which they still may have done) and in response they released evidence which they felt would indemnify them.

How is this different than someone posting a legal notice from the RIAA or other tyrannical organization to their website with a list of reasons why the notice was uncalled for?

In fact this method is exactly what you highlighted as being more effective than taking someone to court for over copyright violation. Call the offender out in public, and watch his (her) status go down the tube.

Certainly they don’t win any style points, but it seems like an effective way to prevent hyperbole and lawsuits, especially at a time when their public opinion is about to take a huge nosedive now that travelers are realizing that they are submitting themselves to a strip search, in violation of our Constitution, just for the convenience of air travel…


Ryan Diederich says:

After this...

My views on the new technology has changed.

Metal detectors stop everything metal.

The glass room that blows particles off of you and then checks for explosive ones prevents most people carrying explosives

What do they need a backscatter X-Ray machine for? I dont remember what the reasoning is, if there was one.

Why not just continue checking people the way they are?

Nonetheless, I have accidentally taken a spray bottle of lense cleaner on a plane…3 times. Obviously their systems arent the best.

Anonymous Coward says:


It does seem strange the TSA had only had 2 camera angles to provide, but according to TSA “Blogger Bob” thats all the video they had. I say strange because in this accusation of a prior incident that spanned approximately 9 minutes, there were at least nine camera angles (even timecoded) to prove TSAs innocence. Sure it may have been a different airport, but the next time you fly look around (not too much, TSA might think you’re casing the place) and tell me you don’t see them everywhere (except for the hidden ones, of course).

I find it difficult to believe the airport she was in did not have cameras covering more angles of her than what they show, but I never doubt incompetence when it comes to any government and their fix-all programs. I would still bet there is more unreleased footage in the Meg McClain case, but irregardless of any lack of audio it might be too easy for a lip reader to pick up on exactly what was said. Who knows what might be gleaned from that? (Hint: the TSA knows).

The below image is in jest, but it’s how many people feel they’ve been treated by the TSA.

TSA Instructions for Screening: Infant Travelers

It might be humorous now, but one day… if were not vigilant enough to take a stand at some point, it may not seem so ridiculous anymore.

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