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Monday
Apr252011

My TSA Pat Down Experience

“Those that would give up their liberty for security deserve neither and lose both.”
- Benjamin Franklin

Dear Friends,

To be quite honest, I almost didn't post this video and blog because I kept asking myself, "Am I just being a baby?" I’m also not one to stir up controversy. In fact, I do my best to live a very positive and healthy life. However, in the situation I’m about to describe, I felt truly violated and believe I should let my voice be heard. Ultimately, I hope others will do the same. Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” So, that’s what I’m doing by sharing this experience:

On my overnight, 11-hour flight back to Los Angeles last week after hosting the red carpet premiere for “Fast Five” in Rio De Janeiro, I connected in Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) where I had the misfortune of being selected to go through one of those full body scanners that emits radiation. Now, if you don’t fly very often, you might not worry about it. But I’m a frequent flyer and don’t wish to be irradiated more than I already am on flights (we get a pretty large dose of radiation while flying due to our proximity to the sun; the longer your flight, the more your radiation exposure) and in life in general (we’re exposed to radiation all day every day; it’s called “background radiation”). So I will always “opt out” of going through these body scanners, especially since the long-term effects of radiation are quite well documented: it mutates our cells, often in irreversible ways, and causes cancer. I’m all set with that!

Anyway, after “opting out,” I proceeded to follow a very nice older female TSA employee to the “pat down” area. It was an inconvenience, but I thought, “No biggie. I just went through this at LAX for the first time and it wasn’t too bad, so let’s just get it over with.”

Well, this pat down was completely different. It was MUCH MORE invasive than my first one at LAX, just a week before. To say that I felt invaded is an understatement. What bothered me most was when she ran the back of her hands down my behind, felt around my breasts, and even came in contact with my vagina! Honestly, I was in shock, especially since the woman at LAX never actually touched me there. The TSA employee at DFW touched my private area 4 times, going up both legs from behind and from the front, each time touching me there. Was I at my gynecologist’s office? No! This was crazy!

I felt completely helpless and violated during the entire process (in fact, I still do), so I became extremely upset. If I wanted to get back to Los Angeles, I had no choice but to be violated, whether by radiation or a stranger. I just kept thinking, “What have I done to deserve this treatment as an upstanding, law-abiding American citizen?” Am I a threat to US security? I was Miss USA, for Pete’s sake!

Besides, is this procedure really protecting us? I remember hearing about an Al Qaeda terrorist successfully evading security detection by placing a bomb in his rectum. All in an attempt to assassinate Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef. So what if that happened in the US? Would we then be subjected to random rectal exams in addition to x-rays and being groped by strangers? How far is this going to go? More specifically, how far will WE let this go? As they say, if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. I think it’s time to stand up for our personal liberty.

As a frequent flyer, I knew getting a “pat down” was inevitable, but I never expected it to make me so upset.  When it was over, I grabbed my things, walked over to my husband who was waiting for me, and was completely overcome with emotion.

I have never felt more violated in my life than I did that morning at DFW, and I’ve heard of others feeling the same way after these “pat downs.” Just a couple weeks ago, a video of a six-year-old girl being patted down by TSA made headlines. Talk about unjust and unacceptable. So I decided to speak to a TSA supervisor about how I felt, and make a video about what happened to post on my blog.

This “pat down” is a total violation of our rights (we shouldn’t be searched this way without probable cause or a search warrant), therefore I will be filing a complaint via phone, online and also in writing with the TSA to complain each and every time for as long as the TSA is violating my rights. I’m 100% against it, and if you care about your freedom, you should be too. This is precisely the kind of unjust search and seizure our Constitution was created to protect us from.

In my conversation with the TSA supervisor, I expressed to her how physically violated I felt. She was kind and understanding, but was nonetheless in charge of a department that was violating the rights of countless Americans every day. At one point during our conversation, I told her, “the fact is, if someone wanted to harm us, they simply would.”

Guess what. She agreed! She even went so far as to say, “We’re not allowed to touch children like we do adults. If someone really wanted to hide something, they could use a child. I know. There’re definitely loop holes with this.” So apparently, not even TSA employees believe this unconstitutional invasion of privacy works!

Here’s the video I made right after going through the invasive, unjust, unconstitutional and ineffective “pat down.” Honestly, I don’t like that I’m putting myself out there like this, but I wanted you to know what happened, what I was feeling, and that I hope you, too, will speak up if and when this happens to you. We shouldn’t be giving up our liberties as Americans because of our fears. The government can’t keep us safe. No matter how much they promise us they can, it’s a false promise.

And here’s the TSA compliment/complaint card that I filled out and mailed to the DFW TSA. I’ll be filling one out each time I get “patted down” at an airport. Hopefully tears won’t be involved every time:

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Like I say in the video, we as individuals have to speak up and protect our liberty. If you feel like your Constitutional rights have been violated by the TSA, please follow my lead and contact your Congressional representatives. Let them know that if they want your vote they must stand up for our rights.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this so feel free to post a comment below.

Lots of love,

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References (46)

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Reader Comments (646)

Hey Susie,
I totally agree with you on this matter. That is totally uncomfortable and not right. I went to Texas and live here in Massachusetts and the same thing happened to me. Do I look like a bomber to you? Its insane. i am going to go on that website and complain. As the Miss Ethnic New England World, I am going to be traveling a lot, and never want to go through that again, But thank you for taking a stand

PS.
You are my idol, I grew up in Lawrence and admire you

Thanks
Yadira

April 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterYadira

Susie, I am so proud of you for doing this! I have yet to travel since the scanners have been implemented but I am going from LAX to JFK in a week and I worry. I HAVE had one of those "pat downs" before. After a fantastic trip in Jamaica with my boyfriend at the time, who happened to also be Muslim-American. It was BEFORE 9/11 but I guess the TSA has always been suspicious because though he didn't "look"Muslim his name was and he said he would get stopped every time he traveled. He was pulled aside for no apparent reason other than his name and bc I was traveling with him, I was pulled aside too. A huge, not nice or friendly at all, woman took me into a room ALONE with her and "pat" me down touching my personal areas 2-3 times. I was only 20 at the then and so scared of these people who were supposedly there to protect me. I cried too and it put such a damper on a beautiful vacation. I felt helpless and violated. I wish I would have been brave enough then to file a complaint and do something about it. Thank you for standing up for this.

April 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergrasie

Susie...I've known you for a long time and I'm really having a hard time with this. You've had some amazing opportunities because of your hard work. You always seemed down-to-Earth...now...I don't feel as sure. I think it's great that you are an advocate of well...YOU. Did it upset you because you were abused as a child/teenager?

This is what I read:

"I just got back from Rio hosting a movie premiere.
I fly all the time.
I don't look like a security threat.
I was Miss USA (for WHOSE sake?)"

All super cool things but, it all read a little "high and mighty".

Next, I stopped/skimmed/watched the video.

No one deserves to be molested. I agree. It is your right not to be. You DID/DO have a choice. If you want less radiation exposure...don't fly as much. Problem solved. You say the government can't protect us from terrorist attacks (or anything from the sounds) but, you felt that talking to the supervisor and filling out your card AND talking to representatives WILL do something? That's quite the mixed message.

If you were NOT abused, Check out people who DON'T have your blessings/opportunities...get some perspective. They have been molested/abused REPEATEDLY to put a damper on their whole LIFE! The government couldn't/can't protect them either but, they live here, too.

http://www.aaets.org/article120.htm
http://love146.org/
http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims

Susie good on you for standing up for your rights and for informing others that their liberty and freedom and health are all important. With an abundance of caution I would suggest that being a silent warrior in these matters may be more effective, as you continue to work and enjoy life to the best of your abilities. Peace out.

April 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShawn

Dear Susie: I am so sorry to hear about what you went through. I am a huge critic of the current TSA search policies, and oppose both the full body scanners and invasive pat downs on reasons of constitutionality, effectiveness, radiation, invasion of privacy and so, so many others.

I also experienced the "enhanced pat down" a few months ago and I felt violated by it. And humiliated. And helpless, weak and insignificant. I am even more ashamed of myself for cowardly standing there and letting them do it without fighting back. I am now refusing to fly until some level of sanity has been restored to airport security.

You are not alone in feeling like you do, and honestly, I still (months later) feel violated and incensed by what I experienced.

While I am not glad that you went through what you did, I am glad that another American is waking up to what the TSA is doing and starting to fight back. There are still millions who still blindly comply with, and even support these unconstitutional procedures.

Good luck to you,

Paul

April 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Bravo Susie, for taking action for positive change in the world! Thank you!

thank you so sharing, i'm sure that was horrific, you poor thing! it is not right!!!! ughhh it disgusts me! i hope you have a good lawyer! i'm flying soon, and if this happens to me, you better believe i'm calling a lawyer! zero tolerance! we are not criminals and should not be treated as such! feel better! xo

April 25, 2011 | Unregistered Commentermisha

Just watched this video and it is indeed disturbing to hear that the TSA still haven't wised up on there wrong doings towards passengers and obviously in my view more sturdier actions need to be taken against the TSA,especially if passengers like Susie wanna send a clear & open message to the TSA and say that there Pedo actions towards passengers will NOT be tolerated and if they choose to continue such devious actions towards passengers,then they will be met with defensive passengers whom won't think twice on challenging the TSA

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRobin

Thank you for posting this. I too thought originally I was being too sensitive but no, then I realized my Constitutional rights are being violated. Please keep us updated. The TSA has effected my so much I have decided not to have children as a result. I served in this nation's military and I have never been so disappointed in this country then I am now.

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

Susie,

I'm sorry for what you went through. I have been totally clear as to what to expect if I choose to fly, so I have chosen not to fly. I have friends getting married in Las Vegas mid-June, and I don't know how I'm going to get there. I would refuse the scanner not only because of the radiation, but also because it is not just a scan, it is a nude image, a nude picture if you will, and not only can it be stored, but also uploaded to the Internet as well. All of that equipment is on board each scanner. If any of you reading this don't believe me, do the research.

I don't want a sexual assault, either, so I am not going to fly until my personal rights to my own body are restored. The government is not marrying me or fathering my children, so it is not entitled to see me naked or touch me intimately. It's as simple as that. I could not enjoy any trip that was preceded surrendering my rights, being violated and enduring the resulting humiliation. I can't do it, I won't do it. Not for any reason. If we never get our rights back, I'll never fly again.

Thank you, Susie, for publicly sharing your experience. I understand that this is like being violated all over again. I don't care that some of the others claim you are being egocentric; it's a selfless act to put yourself out there like this. I hope that you open some eyes and make people aware of what they are giving up and make the government aware that it is victimizing people for the crime of traveling.

Sincerely,
Roxanne

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRoxanne

Susie ~ I think it's great that you have blogged about what happened to you. You are 100% right. The Constitution is supposed to protect us from being searched without probable cause; it certainly should protect us from invasive searches like you experienced and from irradiating nude body scans. Brava to you for speaking out!

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSeavu

Susie, what happened to you was very wrong, on many levels. Your privacy was invaded, your person was violated, and your Constitutionally protected right to be free of warrantless search was infringed. How could anyone NOT expect you to be upset? I agree with you completely. Nobody who buys a ticket to travel on a commercial carrier of any kind in this country should expect to be electronically strip-searched or physically violated as a consequence of the purchase. Reading your account, I felt as if they'd made the decision to grope the living embodiment of the Statue of Liberty -- your title of "Miss USA" makes you a symbolic representation of America's ideal woman, after all. Who's next in their queue? Miss America?

The TSA's employee activities and procedures are loathsome and degrading, and decency demands that we take a stand against them, and abolish them. The TSA and its operatives are a symptom of a much larger problem, a kind of national paranoia, that our bureaucrats in the Department of Homeland Security have instilled in us since 2001. At present, our recourse is through civil disobedience -- refuse to give all consent, and that means don't fly, don't say yes, and don't vote for people who support this nastiness.

I want to encourage you (or anyone reading this who agrees with you) to join our efforts to spread the word and educate people about what the TSA is doing at the "Boycott Flying" page on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Boycott-Flying/126801010710392

Until our leaders understand that we are unwilling to submit to tyranny and oppression in any form, at any time, we must be vigilant, and unite in our opposition to them.

And thank you VERY much for speaking out about your dreadful experience. This may give others courage to speak up, too.

-mb

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterM.L. Browne

Thank you Susie for having the courage to speak out about this horrible experience. I went through this twice in November. I felt violated. Later I felt more violated because I realized my rights and freedoms were disappearing. At first I felt like I was overreacting. As more people like you speak out, I know my feelings are normal.

I hope more people will wake up and make Congress stop this insanity. We are not safer, only molested. I have found the information and people on BoycottFlying to be supportive.

Thanks again for all your efforts!
Marilyn

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarilyn

You might want to become a supporter of Ron Paul's presidential candidacy. He's the only presidential candidate who was against the TSA from the beginning.

A conservative is a person who's been mugged.
A libertarian is a person who's been mugged by the government.

April 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

Susie,
I am also one of those women who has given up flying until the TSA and DHS is reigned in. These gestapo tactics MUST stop. The people at the top must fire the likes of Mr. Pistole and Janet Napolitano. They are the breeding ground for this parasitic agency called the TSA.

Another great website to get your voice heard is www.flyertalk.com. They have a section called Travel, Safety and Security. There are many, many posts from men and women who have been physically and emotionally violated by the TSA who choose to speak out on this frequent flyer website. The TSA uses also uses this website to justify these horrible molestations. I think you will be quite enlightened after reading about this.

Keep up the good work on getting the word out. If we all do our part through educating the flying public, perhaps someone in Washington will Finally listen. Well, I know who I am NOT voting for in the next elections!

April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Thank you, Susie!

Anyone who thinks TSA makes us safer has obviously never worked in an airport. While they're sexually assaulting adults and molesting children at the main entrance, there's unscreened cargo and unscreened employees arriving by the truck/busload around back. Everything they do is to make you FEEL safer – it doesn't actually MAKE you safer.

I hope everyone reading this will take 3 minutes to contact their Senator and Representatives. Tell them TSA must be reined in immediately.

Also, if you can avoid flying, please do so, and tell your airline(s) why you've stopped flying. If the airlines lose enough business, they'll lean on Congress to get this changed.

My thoughts are with you and everyone else TSA is terrorizing.

April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMike

I'm posting your video and linking to your blog item on my blog at advicegoddess.com. I, too, had a woman touch my vagina. She put the side of her hand between my labia! Four times! Details here, and my suggestion that people not make this emotionally easy for the TSA lackeys to violate our rights:

http://www.advicegoddess.com/archives/2011/04/26/make_it_tough_t.html

I recommend that people sob their guts out while being violated -- and any touch by a government employee without probable cause is a violation.

April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy Alkon

People have been complaining but our government (formerly for the people, by the people, of the people) does not listen. Everything we complain about goes nowhere but in one ear and out the other. Congress has paid lip service to this TSA problem but has taken NO action. Why? Because we are being treated like cattle and slaves for a reason. This country no longer supports the citizens but rather rules the peasants. Liberty means freedom and this country has only the illusion of both. Our fellow citizens sleep through their entire lives watching TV and eating potato chips. Read the Constitution and ask yourself what authority is the government acting on when it does anything?

April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Hey Susie!

What happened with TSA is wrong. period. I'm not going to go into that, I think you've had lots of pertinent comments about it.

What I wanted to tell you about, as a PhD in physics and a practising physician, is that the total amount of radiation that you get from a total body scan is actually not that big. The worst estimates put it at about 1/50th the dose of a chest X-Ray. A chest X-Ray in itself is about 5 days worth of "background radiation" that you get from everyday living. So if we put the two together, going through a body scanner, at worst, is equivalent to living 2 hours on earth in the US... not so bad after all isn't it? What's more, the kind of radiation used in total body scanners is not quite the same as the ones used for X-Rays and such, so they have a slim-to-none chance of causing cancer.

And what about flying often? It does exposed you to a little more radiation, but again it's quite little. A single 8hr flight is the equivalent of 1/5th of a chest X-Ray, or about 1 day of living in the US with background radiation. Again, not that bad.

All in all, I guess my suggestion is to go for the total body scan next time!

Hope this helps,
Ben

April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBen

Susie, terribly sorry for what you were forced to endure, glad you posted this. I, too, have been trying to wake the sheeple up about TSA abuse. I've written and spoken out relentlessly -- at blogs, in letters to the editor, letters to my Congressional Rep, Senators, local representatives, in conversations with friends -- and the sad, sorry, bitter truth is that most people still don't get it. And they won't, until it happens to them or their loved ones.

A prominent journalist friend -- she works for one of the top three TV networks based in New York -- just this morning sent me this missive -- I'm copying & pasting it in its entirety without revealing her name:

"Lisa,
Can you please take me off your crazy list? You are starting to sound like a lunatic and it's really annoying. So please... Remove me from the list for all transportation, strip search, govt jackboot conspiracy nuttiness. I mostly delete it unread now anyway.
Thanks."

Stories of assault -- thousands of them verified, documented -- become "nuttiness" and "jackboot conspiracy" theories. With that kind of attitude, from journalists, no less, who are supposed to question authority, not buckle under to it, it's no wonder our rights are being shredded before our eyes. The rest of us have to keep fighting.

April 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Simeone

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