We've already covered the proposal in Texas to make TSA airport gropings illegal, and we've already noted that the TSA insists that it can safely ignore such a law (an argument that some dispute). However, now the Justice Department is apparently telling the Texas legislature that if it passes the law, flights out of Texas could be banned:
If HR 1937 were enacted, the federal government would likely seek an emergency stay of the statute. Unless or until such a stay were granted, TSA would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers and crew.
That's a mighty big stick the feds are pulling out there. The sponsor of the bill says the whole thing is ridiculous. He notes (quite craftily) that the bill clearly exempts TSA officials from being liable for criminal prosecution under the bill, if they can show the Constitutional reasons that allow them to grope anyone's private parts:
"The bill clearly states that an agent is exempt from prosecution as long as a constitutionally sanctioned federal law directs them to perform the invasive, indecent groping searches-including touching breasts, sexual organs and buttocks," noted State Representative David Simpson (R-Longview), the bill's author.
"Instead of threatening to shut down flights in Texas, why doesn't the TSA just show us their statutory authority to grope or ogle our private parts?" asked Simpson.
"All that HB 1937 does is require that the TSA abide by the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution," Simpson continued. "We aren't even prohibiting the pat-downs, per se. We're just saying you can't go straight to third base. You have to have a reason-you have to have probable cause-before groping someone's sexual organs."
Things certainly could get interesting. In the meantime, perhaps don't plan too many trips that involve flying out of Texas in the near future.
We've discussed an attempt in New Hampshire to make TSA agents liable to be accused of sexual assault for patdowns, and now we learn that a bill is making its way through the Texas legislature that would criminalize the aggressive groping procedures, if there is no "probable cause." That choice of words is obviously quite intentional, as the idea is to refer back to the 4th Amendment. Unfortunately, courts have not found that such airport searches violate the 4th Amendment, though they've become ever more intrusive over the years.
The big question, of course, is what happens if this bill passes and becomes a law (apparently it has a large number of co-sponsors). It would create a difficult position for TSA agents in Texas, and I imagine a lawsuit would eventually be needed to resolve things. But all of that depends on whether or not the bill will ever actually pass. I could definitely see the White House putting pressure on Texas' governor to veto the bill... Still, with various states now looking to pass laws against these procedures, isn't it time the administration and the TSA reconsider these procedures?
Apparently the TSA went to Capitol Hill this week to "demonstrate" the new groping pat downs to prove to folks in Congress that they're really not so bad. The only problem? Those watching the gropings seemed to get exactly the opposite sense:
He said that several House staffers were uncomfortable and averted their eyes when the TSA demonstrated an enhanced pat-down in the room of 200 people.
"The dumbest part: they did two pat-down demonstrations -- male on male, and female on female," the House staffer said. And they used a young female TSA volunteer "and in front of a room of 200 people, they touched her breasts and her buttocks. People were averting their eyes. The TSA was trying to demonstrate 'this is not so bad,' but it made people so uncomfortable to watch, that people were averting their eyes."
"They shot themselves in the foot," the staffer continued.
Now, will those in Congress actually do anything about all this? It's really amazing how frequently the TSA and its supporters insist that the gropings "aren't so bad." It really suggests a huge disconnect between what they're doing and what people consider "bad" to be.
With all the recent stories of questionable TSA searches of people who opt out of both the TSA naked backscatter scanners and a personal groping by a TSA agent, it really was only a matter of time until the famed Taiwanese news animators NMA stepped up with an animated recreation, which I would say... um... takes some poetic licenses with the story -- especially when it comes to the availability of a private search area for the grope. That said, it covers the story of the "don't touch my junk" guy (and shows picketers with a sign saying that), as well as a planned protest of the machines for November 24th, one of the biggest travel days of the year.
Among the more amusing bits are a prediction of all naked flights (on which the people all seem way too happy) and terrorists laughing at our new security measures.
Meanwhile, for those of us in the US (I know, I know, don't blame me, blame Viacom), you can watch Stephen Colbert's take on the TSA security mess, involving "x-raying your x-rated parts," along with noting that it appears the company making most of these devices, Rapiscan, hopefully is not pronounced "rape-iscan":