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« Why Everyone Should "opt out" of the Airport Body Scanners: Part 1 | Main | Susie's Strawberry Shake »
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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Reader Comments (642)

Please file a police report ASAP. If you had been assaulted by a Walmart employee, would you be content with a customer complaint form? TSA internal complaints are meaningless. A crime was committed. You deserve justice and restitution.

Thank you for standing up to these thugs!

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames Babb

I was very moved by your video and agree that I wouldn't want to have my wife or daughter to experience this. I'm not disagreeing that "something needs to be done." And, I wish we could get a truthful answer about the scanner risks.

But i'm also frustrated with all of the demands to end this, while at the same time we all demand to be kept safe in the skys from those who would wish us harm. I see everyone complaining, but don't see anyone offering a better solution. How would you propose to protect the flying public if we take these two methods away?

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPhilipv

Even if you went through the body scanner, most likely they would have given you the groping pat down anyway. I am a travel agent and have seen my business go down due to the recession AND the TSA (some clients actually cancelled their trips after last November). I will not fly until this practice is eradicated and don't expect it to be anytime soon because now the bastards are unionized!! Anyone who condones this doesn't deserve to live in America! Another idea; next time you travel just wear a full burka because as strange as it may sound, these people are not searched. I mean, it could be a man with a suicide vest strapped on, but JUST WALK ON THROUGH.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlulu

Visit www.stopaustinscanners.org. Susie needs to contact Texas State Representative David Simpson, he has a bill pending in Austin that would prevent this.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFreecon

What a croc! This video looks like a setup. It appears to be filmed with a professional camera, not a phone camera. Also, if you were changing planes at DFW, you should already be in a secure area, and you would not have to go through security.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFort Worth Resident

I am hot with rage that you had to go through this horrendous experience. No, you are not overreacting, it is the others who are underreacting to having their right to personal privacy and dignity stripped from them. We should not have to be stripped naked by a radiation emitting machine OR molested by a random stranger to the point of being reduced to tears every time we wish to travel in the world into which we were born free. I could not believe my eyes and ears when this technology was being tested last year and people being interviewed said that they were okay with this if it meant being more secure!! This system does nothing to ensure security as a bomber can hide a device inside various body cavities if so determined. So like you said, what's next, full-on compulsory medical strength X-rays?! Surely we have the right to refuse any kind of irradiation no matter how small the dose, surely we have the right to deny being stripped naked by a machine, surely we have the right to deny a stranger images of our naked bodies, surely we have the right to deny a stranger the ability to touch our sexual organs, because if not then we are being viewed as nothing more than processed cattle by the system. We have a right to privacy and a right to preserve our dignity. I wonder how TSA officials would feel about their wives coming home in tears having been intimately touched by a stranger? The scary thing is that maybe they wouldn't care, so they assume the rest of us don't either. Well, WE DO!

Take care Susie, I hope you never have to go through such an experience again, and that somehow this madness can be stopped.

Paul

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Susie, I'm sorry you had to go through such a tramatizing ordeal. You certainly didnt deserve any of it. And your feelings are completly valid. Don't feel any shame, you were clearly treated improperly. I appluad your courage and bravery to come forward and share your story. No matter what anyone says, remember... you are a true example of the American spirit. People like you - make this country great. Thanks for taking a stand to preserve our freedoms. Personal protection is the first step to preserving national security. God Bless America & God Bless You!

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStrong Supporter

"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 "


That journalist, just like 99.99999999999999999999999999% of all Americans are brainwashed by those very media outlets.

God help us.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmery

Call. The. Police.
File. A. Report.
Call. A. Lawyer.
Sur. Their. Ass. Off.

This blog and video are great, but you need to take action. Think of how many little boys and girls they are doing this to. Unless you take aggressive legal action, you allow the thugs to keep touching sons and daughters in ways mommy and daddy said NO ONE should touch them.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Dear Susie,

I am sorry but not surprised to hear about your experience. I am an aviation security professional that has been working with others that have left government and the private sector for the past 10 years to come up with a more rational risk-based and pleasant approach for screening passengers at the world's airports.

Our position is that the current strategy, which was designed in the 1970s to counter the "Take Me To Cuba" style hijackers is outdated. While I cannot offer you any immediate relief, I can let you know that many large international organizations - both private (airlines and airports) and government (including, believe it or not, the TSA) - realize that the current situation is untenable and are finally taking at least initial steps to change it.

If you are interested in seeing where this might go in future and how it might make life easier for the vast majority of travelers that harbor no ill intent, please feel free to visit our website: www.AVSECprofessionals.org. Interestingly, based on my recent discussions with my contacts within the TSA, there is increasing support for this kind of an approach. Public outrage from people like you who have suffered under the current strategy, while unfortunate is, in my opinion, absolutely critical to help drive this process. I travel extensively, and while I lack the concern over the dose-rate of the current body scanners, you rightly point out some of the deficiencies of today's generation of body scanners. I will continue to work towards the day when security will be more rational and easier for all of us, including me.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Wolff

Whah, I got a pat down going through security to get on a big jet plane. I was Miss USA, whah! I don't look like a terrorist, whah!

Get over the pat down or go through the scanner. The radiation level in the scanner is hundreds of times less potent than you get just being on the plane itself at 36000 ft.

"A single scan using backscatter technology produces exposure equivalent to two minutes of flying on an airplane, but delivered in several seconds." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millimeter_wave_scanner

You clearly are not very educated about the scanners and have made it clear it's all about bringing attention to yourself. Been a while since you saw your name on the news???

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenternk

Well i think it would help if men we're searched by attractive female tsa employees and vice versa. It's something that needs to be done in this day and age, it's sad to say. but thats' the way it is. Ask some of the family members left, after 9-11 if they think we should just pray and hope before we travel.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGeturdone

Susie - Good for you for standing up! Keep it up. It's inspiring when people in the public eye speak out. I think you should expand your platform to other areas where the Government is slowly taking away our rights "for our own protection".

PS: Put your petition on facebook for all middle aged people who dont tweet.

Molested Repeatedly for 3 years - So we should feel blessed when we feel violated because it could have been worse? That is a terrible outlook. So if a man exposes himself to my daughter I will tell her count your blessings it could have been worse?

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterA regular working mom

Ms. Castillo: My comments are not significantly different than those already posted. But partly because I am thinkng of your headspace, and you seem sincerely upset, but also for the sake of my family - I fly a ton,..and my family needs me safe to provide for them. I don't want flying to be less safe because of campaigns like yours.

So I ask that you think. Really. Stop and think. I listened and watched your video on this 3X carefully. I have read all posts above carefully. Read Ben's post carefully. As politcally uncorrect as this may seem,....THERE IS A RIGHT AND WRONG TO THIS ISSUE. Said many different ways in related posts,....me, you, Miss America,...every one must put up with some issues like this in order to try,...to try,....sure, no guarantee,...but to try to make flying safe. Ultimately, the bad guy here is not Susie, not TSA,...it is intolerant persons who hijacked planes.

As someone who flies a lot, if I have to submit to full body naked cavity search, in public in order to significantly increase air safety,...then I will do it every day. Don't laugh. Myself,.....I have no reservations about someone touching my genitals, anus, breasts,...whatever, especially through my clothes,...for the sake of safety. Hey,...I have nothing special. and hey,....even if that somehow makes their day, gives them a little thrill,...hey,....it's not that big a deal. As a parent, husband, provider, community member,....I have much bigger things to be concerned about than some guy or woman brushing my penis. Get patted, overly friendly or not, move on. Just that simple.
I am all for sensitivity,...but this is not place to be overly sensitive.

People like Mike who posted April 27th,..this is just lunatic fringe,,...crazy, and he is frankly wrong and innacurate. "...busloads...." Just not happening. And it is insulting to 99% of TSA employees,....which like any job, there are 1% bad ones. Probably less at TSA.

You are a high profile person. You have the ability to affect people's opinion/position. You are wrong. Sorry,...but you are wrong. We need these measures,...x-ray or pat downs - not the perfect solution, but the best we have and well worth what it could save us. If you were in the air on 9/11, you might think differently. So I would politely suggest that you change your position,...not total reversal if it feels better,....but to not slam the whole process - do the right thing,...have a sit down talk with THIS ONE employee and her superior. Have them go through training exercise/demo on each other. Do the right thing,...assuming this is not all a publicity stunt on you behalf.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commentergary

Did you eat anything at the Dallas airport? I can never seem to find any good food when I fly through Texas...

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Well i think it would help if men we're searched by attractive female tsa employees and vice versa. It's something that needs to be done in this day and age, it's sad to say. but thats' the way it is. Ask some of the family members left, after 9-11 if they think we should just pray and hope before we travel.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGeturdone

Dear people who get off on things like this, when celebrities are violated...
Imagine it isn't a celeb, but your 4 year old daughter.
What do I now tell my children? "No one but mommy, daddy, and TSA agents can touch you here, okay?"
Let me be clear here... I would rather me and my children die in a place crash than have them go the rest of their life knowing mommy and daddy stood and watched a stranger touch their privates when they were little.
There, I said it. Thank God I love to drive.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Never knew who you were until I saw the video of you after your experience, and I am very sorry you had to endure that. I fully agree with you, the logic and reasoning behind the scanning and the pat downs is just completely bogus. Even worse is the employees responsible for executing these orders are neither competent enough or trustworthy enough with the powers they are given. There are plenty of articles and instances of them abusing powers, lying about the health effects of the radiation scanners and worse. If we are all a danger simply because we fly and need to be searched how long till we should be searched before being allowed on the public roads, and to what level should the searches go to? Hope your efforts help impact this critical issue.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian M

I hit like on your youtube video, because I like your message, I don't like what happened to you.

I feel quite opposite of that old TSA lady who says this is better than being blown up. I'd much rather be blown up, than subject every law abiding man, woman, and child to regular molestations.

I actually wrote to my congressman and senator over a month ago on this matter. Please keep up the good fight to keep this in the publics attention.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdkhilly

Next time you fly, I suggest you pack your big girl panties. Seriously.

April 28, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterteejay

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