There's been a lot of talk lately about the new backscatter scanners at airports that take a "naked" image of the passenger, and how airports have now instituted newer and more invasive
patdowns for those who refuse to go through the scans. Many feel that both of these practices goes way too far
. A whole bunch of folks have now been submitting the story of one guy who refused to go through the backscatter scanner, and then told the TSA (in a slightly crude manner) that he would not consent to having his groin groped
. Specifically, he warned the officer, "if you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested." This, of course, led to supervisors and supervisors and various reports being written up before he was escorted out of the screening area and told he would not be able to fly.
Of course, we've seen similar stories before. But where this one got even odder is that after he went to the ticket counter and was able to get his ticket refunded (even though it was a non-refundable ticket), he was approached by a man in a suit and two of the people who had both detained him in the security area and escorted him out of it -- and told that he could not leave the airport until he submitted to the invasive screening
. If he tried to leave, he was told he would be sued and could face fines of $10,000:
At this point, I thought it was all over. I began to make my way to the stairs to exit the airport, when I was approached by another man in slacks and a sport coat. He was accompanied by the officer that had escorted me to the ticketing area and Mr. Silva. He informed me that I could not leave the airport. He said that once I start the screening in the secure area, I could not leave until it was completed. Having left the area, he stated, I would be subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine. I asked him if he was also going to fine the 6 TSA agents and the local police officer who escorted me from the secure area. After all, I did exactly what I was told. He said that they didn't know the rules, and that he would deal with them later. They would not be subject to civil penalties. I then pointed to Mr. Silva and asked if he would be subject to any penalties. He is the agents' supervisor, and he directed them to escort me out. The man informed me that Mr. Silva was new and he would not be subject to penalties, either. He again asserted the necessity that I return to the screening area. When I asked why, he explained that I may have an incendiary device and whether or not that was true needed to be determined. I told him that I would submit to a walk through the metal detector, but that was it; I would not be groped.
With groups like EPIC and the ACLU fighting these machines, I'm guessing the guy has already been contacted by them and other such groups. The idea that buying a ticket and entering the screening area means you've agreed, no matter what -- even if you decide not to fly -- to go through an invasive screening process, seems like a pretty radical reading of the 4th Amendment that I'm sure some civil liberties groups would happily challenge.
You can listen to the audio of most of the encounter at the link above (there's video too, but it's mostly of the ceiling). Some have questioned why he was filming, and if he had set this up with a plan to get into a confrontation all along. You can see his explanation here
which makes sense. He claims that he had checked online prior to flying and the TSA's website had said that San Diego Airport did not
have the backscatter scanners, which is why he agreed to fly through there. Then, when he got to the security area, he chose a line that was a traditional metal scanner, rather than the backscatter lines. The person in front of him was told to go to the backscatter scanner, and after refusing he realized they might ask him to go instead, so he then turned on his camera, since he'd heard of numerous other incidents, and wanted a recording just in case. Throughout the experience he points out that 80% of the passengers are just going through the traditional metal detector, and he'd be fine if he could just use that same process, but they won't allow it.
It seems pretty clear that these new invasive scans and pat downs are going to end up in the courts. From my perspective, they certainly seem to go way beyond the "reasonable" standard, but who knows what the courts will say. That said, in this case, the security officials went way beyond even that level, by threatening to sue the guy for not consenting to go through with it, even after
he had said he would no longer be flying.