TSA Claims You Need To Be Naked Scanned Or Groped After A Flight?

from the say-what?!? dept

The latest bizarre story of TSA scans, submitted by multiple readers here, is the story of blogger Matt Kernan, who recently flew from Paris to Cincinnati, and upon landing, but before being able to claim his bags, was told he had to go through a naked scanner or be groped. He has a detailed account of what happened on his blog, where he actually was able to eventually convince the TSA to let him through without a scan or a grope. Some of the coverage of his story highlights the fact that he was actually able to talk his way out without having to through the backscatter naked scan or the groping. And that is, indeed, an interesting point. He highlights his Constitutional rights, which state that as a US citizen with a valid passport, he should be free to enter the country. After a long while of going back and forth with multiple parties, he is escorted by over a dozen folks out of the security area and to the baggage claim without having to through the scanner or a groping.

But what’s a bigger point to me is why did he have to go through such a search after he’d already flown. At first I thought it was to get on a connecting flight, but that’s not the case. He just wanted to leave the airport and go home, and eventually he was allowed to do just that. He flew into the Cincinnati airport and lives in Cincinnati — and was initially told that his only options were to be scanned or groped… or to go back through customs. Kernan recorded (audio) many of the interactions. You can hear them below:

The details are interesting, and all of the interactions he has are quite fascinating. But what is still not explained is why he needs to go through the scanner/groping process after the flight. I just flew back into the US from Europe last week myself (after the “new procedures” were put into practice), and I did not have to go through scanners or a groping to get back into the country. I haven’t heard of it elsewhere, either. I’m curious if anyone supporting the TSA position can explain how this makes any sense. This is beyond security theater. This is security farce.

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Comments on “TSA Claims You Need To Be Naked Scanned Or Groped After A Flight?”

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TheStateOfMe (user link) says:

Poor airport design

I think this all comes down to poor separation of secure and insecure zones within the airport. In this case it seems likely that the Cincinnati Airport People Mover is the villain of the peace – inadvertently stirring up passengers on their way out (who went through TSA security and Nudiscans) with passengers on the way in (who went through possibly less stringent foreign security processes that still throw people into US airspace).

The same sort of thing used to happen at Orlando (MCO), which is one of the reasons that I’ve used Miami and Tampa on my more recent visits to M Mouse.

Most likely this problem exists elsewhere. Hopefully somebody will put together a list.

Free Capitalist (profile) says:

Re: Poor airport design

I’m not able to listen to the audio at work, but from the blog entry he makes it seem like the TSA is set up in-line with the customs check for incoming international passengers as part of the arrival procedure.

Do the international arrivals in Cincinnati get dumped into a terminal at a point where departing passengers have already been screened, perhaps?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Please, please bring back racial profiling

Oh right, that’s a good idea. It’s OK to abuse the rights of innocent people that look like someone that once blew something up just so long as they don’t abuse my rights because I happen to be in a demographic that by percentage doesn’t blow stuff up much.

Good plan.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Ummmm you are american right? (I’m assuming here – it tends to be americans more than others that speak of racial profiling).
I’ve never read it except bits online but I don’t recall any bit in your constitution or bill of rights that says “Everyone is equal except when it’s inconvenient for that guy over there then we can urinate all over whoever else we like as long as he’s fine”.
Americans go on about those documents so much I’m pretty sure I’d have heard if it was in there.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Re:

How about not being afraid?

It’s this stupid fear that people have about planes going down, after 9/11 don’t you think that passengers will take that kind of shit laying down?
So far every attempt after 9/11 have been foiled either through sheer stupidity from the “terrorist” or by fellow passengers stopping the attempt in its tracks.

The TSA refuses to acknowledge whether they’ve stopped anything, probably meaning that they’ve stopped 0 attempts. All they have done so far has been reactionary.

We don’t need to be afraid. The chance of any one of us actually becoming a victim of terrorism is smaller than being struck by lightning. By being afraid you are letting the terrorists win, as their goal is not to attack you, but to strike fear in you.

Al Qaeda couldn’t have wished for a better outcome than this. 9 years after their attack, and America is still running scared, like headless chickens.

Also, you need to follow the money, who stands to gain the most by the deployment of these gaterape machines? Chertoff is one of the names.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ein minuten bitte!

So…. the putative reason for gratuitously invasive scanning etc is that planes are such a desperately attractive target to terrorists that they’ll try anything to get a bomb on board one rather than, say, target a train… right?

Can someone therefore explain why said terrorist, having gone to all the trouble of getting said bomb onto a plane somewhere else would then carry it off with him again?

OK if you don’t want foreigners in America, fine… dumb but fine… but isn’t there something in the constitution about illegal searches and seizures? At what point does this kind of farce hit that? And at what point do sheeple realise that “security” (public security at least) is a long way from the object of these measures?

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Ein minuten bitte!

Actually, while planes don’t seem to be much of a target these days for a while trains were the target of choice.

In the end what measures like this do is lose public support for their very existence. How long, I wonder, before the American public demands these things and anything like them be removed in their entirely from the airports as now the traveling public doesn’t know who to fear more — the statistically remote chance of a highjacking or the invasive and objectionable security attempts to prevent it.

Christopher (profile) says:

Re: Re: Ein minuten bitte!

People realize sooner or later how these things are NOT making them any safer. That is why they are eventually phased out.

Really, I’m suspicious of 9/11. 200+ people on a plane, and NO ONE reasoned out that “Hey, these guys are terrorists and most likely…. SUICIDE TERRORISTS! STOP THEM NOW!”

Seriously, if I was on board a plane, that is EXACTLY what I would have shouted out to the whole plane!

No, 9/11 REEKS of an allowed attack and/or government run attack. Yes, I am saying that Bush was involved in some way MORE than just allowing it to happen, or his government was!

Eugene (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Ein minuten bitte!

Most airplane hijackings tend to result in safe landings, because normal hijackers, no matter how seemingly crazed they are, usually want to continue living. 9/11 was not only exceptional, it was an exception.

So no, you *wouldn’t* have done that, because before 9/11, airplane passengers would have assumed the hijack was for money and that they were an asset to the terrorists, rather than collateral damage in an oversized incendiary missile.

Anonymous Coward says:

Cinci, not surprised.

In the past I’ve had issues with the Cincinnati airport also, when you are coming back into the country there is no exit to the outside. You must re-enter the airport behind the other screening stations and then make your exit. This is for all flyers, be you connecting to another flight or Cinci was your destination (often my case) you must go through a screening to be allowed to leave. How this messed me up was when i purchased some items dutyfree and then was told I was not allowed to bring them through the airport as the amount was too much. The fact I was walking to the exit is immaterial. Cinci is a mess, and I’m not surprised this happened there.

And to respond to George’s comment, Yes TSA are a bunch of underachievers who lucked into a govt job and now think they are US Marshals.

Berenerd (profile) says:


I have no problems with the scans after a flight, the TSA has already found 3 prohibited items on people after their flight in from other countries. (Water, a tube of toothpaste and a sandwich that he didn’t eat on the flight). Who knows, maybe one of these people is a terrorist looking to blow up the bathroom in the US!!! THEY ARE SAVING LIVES HERE PEOPLE!!!!!!

Seth (profile) says:

My experience flying back from Europe

When I flew back to the US from a trip to Europe in September, I landed in Philadelphia and was transferring to a flight to Seattle. As we were walking from the plane to our connecting flight, we were forced to pass through a security check point. We had not left secure areas since going through international security in London.

As I understand it, passengers traveling to the US must go through international security that meets US security standards. So why did I have to go through security again? To everyone in line it seemed like a massive waste of time (1 hour or so) and resources (TSA salaries etc.)

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

The state can never have too much security!

State security keeps people employed. It means money for manufacturers of security equipment. And you never know what contraband you might find. It also conditions people to acquiesce to the burgeoning totalitarian police state. You can also rapidly sort between the domestic extremists and the compliant & valuable worker citizens.

A few decades ago German citizens woke up to find that they had become much more secure from threats against the state and other undesirable elements.

We joke about it until it happens. And then we stop joking, or rather, the jokers start disappearing…

interval (profile) says:


I find it interesting how many government agencies simply ignore his truthful statements about the constitution. Also interesting is the number of people who reply to his pointed questions that they can’t answer, which led to one (or more) logical incongruities.

It also occurs to me that “random selection” is the same as conviction without a trial, isn’t it?

Andrew says:

When will the US realize it is not the single country on earth, nor the only important one? It’s amusing how we think that the Europeans, the Asians, and anyone else is incapable of providing security for THEIR flights, so we make everyone re-do security when they come to this country. Amazing how other countries don’t have planes falling out of the sky, either. This is not so much a TSA issue as a national arrogance issue. We are not the only country capable of getting things done.

Richard F says:

Not really news

This is not really a new idea, it’s just brought to light by the recent Gropegate going on. Last year when I flew back from Ireland to NJ, I went through customs and proceeded through all the exit terminals to my connecting flight. At that point, I actually had to get a new ticket (I can’t remember why now) and then I was forced to go through the entire security process once more.

I was forced to do the same empty pocket, take off jacket, remove everything routine as when I left the country to begin with. This is despite the fact that I had been searched in Dublin and cleared through customs without any issue and was escorted by an airport employee to the ticketing desk (not for anything nefarious, I just had no idea where to *go*). My 2nd round of security in the US involved a pat down, albeit a light one. When I expressed my concern that the TSA and the government doesn’t want its own citizens to return to their own country, I was met with doe eyed expressions and laissez faire, no one cared. It was the first time in my entire life that I felt so disgusted at the actions of my government and its lack of care about its citizens. The fact that the TSA employees didn’t see any problem with meaningless searches didn’t help either.

Passengers are simply being groomed to not care about their rights and that being searched — potentially unlawfully — at whim is normal. While I’m not conspiratorial, I do believe this mentality is being engendered.

Beta (profile) says:

Re: Not really news

It takes a kind of courage to admit that one’s own job is meaningless; it’s much easier and more comfortable to rationalize. Likewise many passengers employ a little of the old cognitive dissonance to convince themselves that genital inspection keeps them safe. And any TSA worker who did accept the truth could probably be fired for saying it out loud.

DogBreath says:

I had a feeling this was going to happpen

This is just sad. TSA style screening on U.S. citizens just to “enter” the country? I thought the backscatter and patdowns were to protect us on the flight? I see… lied to, again. Just plain old incrementalism taking hold, once again. If the Cincinnati Airport was designed in such a way as to cause this “screening” to occur, then it’s time for the ACLU to file a class action lawsuit for intentional violation of 4th Amendment Rights by design.

Was there any Probable Cause? Were they momentarily confused and thought he was a laptop or a portable storage device? Was the call to the Federal Security Director part of a Turing Test to confirm the passenger was human and not a self-aware inket/laser printer toner cartridge?

Sounds like 4th Amendment violations and “fishing expeditions” are going to come fast and furious upon many citizens who do not understand their Constitutional Rights.

I suggest a new t-shirt for U.S. airline travelers coming back from abroad:

Keep your “policies” off of my “Constitutional Rights”

DogBreath says:

Re: OPT out OPTED out

On the news this morning, they were reporting everything was going smoothly at the local international airport, no crowds (very few people), and no signs of any opting-out taking place. They left out a crucial detail however, the airport currently has no backscatter machines installed, leaving nothing for anyone to “opt-out”.

This news report was kind of like going on a trip to “save the whales”, only to find out you were taken to the desert. I’ll have an order of Security Theater with a side order of News Theater to go along with it please.

DogBreath says:

Re: Re: Re: OPT out OPTED out

In the approx 5 min report, the 2 dozen or so people I saw behind the news reporter at the TSA checkpoint were putting their shoes, coats and carry-ons on the x-ray conveyor, walking through the metal detector, and picking up their stuff on the other side. I saw no groping or patting. Perhaps not enough people showed up for the random search generator to kick in.

RobShaver (profile) says:

why he needs to go through the scanner/groping process after the flight

@Mike, you asked, “why he needs to go through the scanner/groping process after the flight”

After hearing what the TSA guys had to say, I thinkhe had to be re-screened because A) the Paris screening wasn’t up to TSA standards and B) this screening was after leaving customs where the passengers had access to their luggage and would be released into the airport post-screening area to reach other flights. The fact that Matt’s travel terminated in Cincinnati didn’t matter to them.

So it sounds like if they had an exit into the pre-screening part of the airport, they could have let him go.

That’s the only logical reason I can think of.



DogBreath says:

Re: why he needs to go through the scanner/groping process after the flight

I agree with your assessment. By placing the only exit after Customs to the outside thru a TSA pre-screened area of the airport, a mandatory TSA checkpoint would be required.

So it sounds like if they had an exit into the pre-screening part of the airport, they could have let him go.

Until the day someone decides this type of “TSA checkpoint”is a good idea and they start doing it at all international U.S. airports, and purposefully set up the only exit out this way. All in the name of “security”.

Hal Bredbenner says:

Its a losing cause...

TSA’s efforts at ensuring air safety are a crime against our civil liberties. They represent a pure defensive mode which cannot win against a determined enemy.

Take alook at http://blog.hjbnet.com/2010/11/23/what-will-happen-next.aspx for an example of how easy it would be to cause massive destruction right under the noses of TSA.

If we have an enemy, then we are in combat and those in combat who chose to have a siege mindset usually lose. Victors are those who go on the offensive.

Anonymous Coward says:

All I can say to any of this farce at the airports is I am watching the terrorists win. The airports are absolutely terrified and the TSA is playing the terrorists game like it was scripted.
If I were a terrorist or other warrior type I would make a huge distraction (printer bombs) and get all of the attention directed towards planes (like now) and then blow the hell out of a stadium (50,000 plus), subway (unknown numbers) or any other highly attended event, that is policed only by rent-a-cops. It’s called a distraction. Throw the rock to the left and go right. Also it would be so easy to make up a couple of thousand laser cartridges and ship them to the US by a convoluted route and then sell them here to companies only to be installed on their Laserjets. We already get all of our goods from a foreign country.
After growing up on the streets in America I learned I should go right after hearing the rock hitting something on the left.

Bruce (profile) says:

Actually this all made sense, but took way too long.

Well, TSA had a logical reason for its requirement, but I think TSA should have come to the end solution much quicker.

I worked for TSA for 7 years (left in disgust this year), so I think I understand perfectly why they were doing the screening, although I think their Screener and Supervisor did not take the appropriate action. The FSD did the right thing to just have this man escorted through the sterile area.

The reason for the screening was that this man’s plane from France let the passengers out into the sterile area for domestic flights, meaning the area where they would have access to all other passengers on all other domestic flights. France does not screen per US standards, so additional screening, i.e.the intrusive BS that TSA is now having its dufus employees blindly follow for show (Theater Security ), was needed to satisfy the requirement that all passengers entering the sterile area have gone through this rigorous screening. The worry of TSA is that if they do not do this, terrorists can use a flight from France to Cincinnati to get explosives on a domestic flight without getting this type of screening and thus defeat the system. France is a known avenue for terrorists to try to bypass rigorous screening due to lax French screening.

Where the front line TSA idiots screwed up is not recognizing that since this passenger was from Cincinnati, all they needed to do was get him through the sterile area to assure he did not give a prohibited item to another cleared passenger, since that was the purpose of the additional post-flight screening of arriving passengers from the French flight. That is what the FSD (to top TSA official in Cincinnati)was clever enough to recognize to resolve the situation, which is why the TSA escorted the passenger through the sterile area to the public area.

I agree with you on this one, Mike. TSA stands for Those Stupid Asses but at least there was one guy (the FSD) with a brain and some common sense at the top to resolve it in a logical and secure way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Actually this all made sense, but took way too long.

The worry of TSA is that if they do not do this, terrorists can use a flight from France to Cincinnati to get explosives on a domestic flight without getting this type of screening and thus defeat the system

Except if that was their worry then it still has a gaping logic hole in it: What gain does the hypothetical bomber get risking getting caught passing his bomb to an outgoing passenger over, say, detonating it as the plane he came in on approaches over the city?

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