Saturday, November 13, 2010

I won't be felt-up again, Jet Blue!

Toni Litsinger writes Jet Blue's CEO regarding her humiliating experience visiting her mother:

Antonia Litsinger

November 9, 2010

Mr. David J. Barger
President, CEO
JetBlue Airlines
118-29 Queens Boulevard
Forest Hills, NY 11375

Dear Mr. Barger:

I am writing to you to let you know that JetBlue was always my first choice for airlines.

I say “was” because I’m not longer willing to fly – neither on your airline nor any other.

The reason for this decision is that I was “groped” by one of the TSA agents in Long Beach airport while catching a flight back home to see my mother on the occasion of her 90th birthday. A St. Christopher- type medal that my mother gave me had inadvertently fallen out of my wallet which was in my pocket. A simple scan with a wand-type metal detector would have found, and did eventually find, the culprit medal that set off the alarm. Instead, I was pulled aside, in full view of other passengers and patted down like a common criminal. The groping did not find it – she finally ran the wand over me and we found it in a fold of my pocket. Although they used the “back of the hand” method at that time, I understand that now I am either going to have to go through a naked scanner or be forced to submit to a more brutal form of search at the hands of the TSA, regardless of whether or not something sets off the metal detector. That one experience told me that I would rather not subject myself to that more enhanced type of abuse.

Thanks, but No thanks, Delta.

Jeff sent this comment using Delta's on-line form and got a response in which they refuse to take responsibility:

I appreciate receiving the Delta Airline email notices, along with all of the excellent service I've received from Delta and its employees over many years.  In light of that, it saddens me to have to write this letter.  As a part of the airline industry, I find it unconscionable that your company has remained silent on the TSA's increasing violation of your customers' basic human rights.

I don't feel the need to list extensively all of the violations against the persons or property of air travelers, none of whom have been charged with a crime.  We are all familiar with the infamous body scanners that not only produce vivid nude images of ourselves, wives and children, but possibly expose us and our loved ones to harmful radiation.  We are familiar with the so-called "choice" of receiving an alternative "pat down", the sort of human bodily contact that would, in the world outside of our insane airports, brand the perpetrator a sex offender.

Breaking News: What Happens When You Refuse

John Tyner had a run-in in the San Diego airport this morning. He opted out of both the scan and the pat-down, was intimidated by numerous officials, was escorted from the security area, got a refund from American Airlines, and then detained further before finally being allowed to leave. Read his whole story.

Friday, November 12, 2010

TSA News Roundup

  • CNET's electronic privacy guru, Declan McCullough, has an information-packed article on the scanners on CNET.
  • CNN picks up the story of growing outrage. The US Travel Alliance (is this the one the Orbitz belongs to) comments:
    "We have received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from travelers vowing to stop flying," Geoff Freeman, an executive vice president of the U.S. Travel Association, told Reuters.
    A 2008 survey found that air travelers "avoided" 41 million trips because they believed the air travel system was either "broken" or in need of "moderate correction," the U.S. Travel Association said. The decisions cost airlines $9.4 billion, the survey said.
    So keep the letters coming!
  • Muslim women are encouraged to maintain their right to privacy.

National Opt-Out Day

Gotta fly, but want to protest? Opt-out and create a bottleneck on Nov 24th.

Not gonna fly, but want to participate? Pamphleteering may be risky, but some groups are going to try it. Or, you can just go to a local airport and wander around wearing this t-shirt. The key is to advertise to passengers what exactly that big box is in the security area.

Round 2: Turning up the heat on Orbitz and US Air

I've sent these letters to Orbitz and US Air letting them know what I think of their responses so far:

Reply from Delta

Gary Cottington forwards Delta's reply to him:

Dear Mr. Cottingham,

RE: Case Number 1899562
Thank you for your email describing your unpleasant experience with the 
TSA check-in processes.  On behalf of Delta Air Lines, your feedback 
regarding the updated security screening directives are greatly 

I am sorry that you are disappointed with the new Advanced Imaging 
Technology (AIT) also commonly referred to as full body scanner 
technology.  This system produces images of the body in order to detect 
potential threats concealed underneath passengers' clothing that could 
have possibly gone undetected with the current method.  Please 
understand that safety remains our first and foremost priority, and it 
guides our day-to-day operations.  While federal regulations prohibit us
from discussing the criteria used for security decisions and we 
acknowledge they may be invasive and disruptive, they serve to make 
flying safer for everyone.  We understand that some requirements may 
make it difficult for passengers to travel and it may require them to 
make a decision on whether it is in their best interest to utilize air 
travel.  While we are sorry that it may require some passengers not 
travel by air, we follow all directives handed down to us from the 
higher authorities. 

Short and to the point (Jet Blue)

Submitted online at by James Rich:
My concern is that I will never submit myself, my wife or my kids to radiation exposure and porn pics or to be felt up and sexually assaulted by TSA Gestapo squads and we will never fly on
an airplane again.
Jet Blue's response:

If you must fly, take this with you

The pat-down is already illegal in my book, but if you want to protect yourself from gross violations, take this form with you. As recommended on the FlyerTalk forum, fill it out before the pat-down starts. If you like, you can promise to tear it up if the agent just does his/her job and doesn't get too friendly or act like a bully.

UPDATE: Here is where such a claim should be sent to:
  • Email the Contact Center at
  • Email the Claims Management Branch at
  • Fax the Claims Management Branch at (571) 227-1904
  • Send written correspondence to:
    TSA Claims Management Branch
    601 South 12th St.
    Arlington, VA 20598-6009

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Follow-up on 'Does the state care about your health?'

(No, it doesn't.) Here's the content of responses that the UK Health Protection Agency is copying and pasting to concerned British citizens (via Facebook):
Thank you for your enquiry regarding airport body scanners.

After speaking to the HSE's Radiation Policy section, they have confirmed that the main government department that is responsible for the safe introduction and use of full body scanners are the Department for Transport (DFT).

The responsibility for the safe operation of the full body scanners will also lie with the airport operator who will need to ensure that risk assessments are carried out as legally required. This will ensure that safe working practises are in place as required in relation to employee exposure.

The following information may be of use to you in relation to your query;

Dear Hawaiian Airlines...

Ryan forwards along his letter to Hawaiian Airlines:
I recently moved to Waikiki and I love getting to and from the islands on any one of Hawaiian Air's planes. Your customer service is great and flying with you is a generally pleasant experience.

However, there's a problem. Getting to your gates is somewhat of a hassle. You see, I either have to submit to a machine-generated strip search or undergo a rather vigorous groping by a TSA agent. What the hell?

Flying used to be magical to me. I remember flying to Canada when I was just six years old. That was THE experience of my then still short lifetime. We used to be able to check in, hand over our baggage, and just saunter to the gates without being stopped and harassed by a Federal agent.

Strip-searches are usually reserved for prison inmates suspected of carrying contraband. Are we arrestees? No! We're ordinary Americans merely trying to see an old friend, attend a business meeting, or just trying to get somewhere for an enjoyable vacation. Grandma in the wheelchair or that double amputee with the prosthetics are hardly a terrorist threat.

Flight attendants' union takes a stand, too

Apparently, all the pilots and flight attendants' unions are getting their acts together and taking a stand against this security. Of course, they just want a crew pass and don't care if the rest of us continue to suffer, but it's a start.

(H/T Stephen B)

Professionals? Ha!

A reader writes:
As a former rape victim & survivor of childhood sexual abuse, the idea of going through one of the backscatter scanners and/OR an "enhanced pat-down" has me terrified.

When flying to Albuquerque last year, I mistakenly left my sweater at the seats after the scanners & security station in the Phoenix airport... I discovered the missing sweater on the way to the gate & returned to get it.  By this time, a long line had formed at the metal detector machines, so I was forced to go through the scanner.  As I was gathering my purse, carry-on, shoes & sweater to try to restore some semblance of order to my person & my belongings, I was able to hear someone smirking, "nice big tits on that one!"  I cannot tell you how mortified & embarrassed I was.  If I had not had Rescue Remedy with me, in my purse, I might have had a panic attack.
On a related note, Meg McLain said in her interview that not only was she the only person selected for the naked scanner on her recent attempt to leave Miami, but she has been selected for a pat-down in the airport before! I've flown at least twice a year since the TSA was created and I've never been "randomly selected" for a pat-down. Meg is purported to be "smokin' hot" - do you think it's a coincidence that she's had her breasts twisted by a TSO in the past and was selected for the naked scanner this time around? In my opinion, she was sexually assaulted the last time around, and her story illustrates the absurdity of those who say that the TSOs are professionals just doing their job to keep the skies safe.

Dear Southwest and Alaska Airlines...

JC Warren writes: "Using their respective web sites, I sent the following message to both Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines which are the two I typically use:"
Flying with Southwest Airlines is a pleasure, but getting to the plane is a total pain. I don't fly much and won't be flying at all until the TSA changes its "security" tactics. I refuse to submit to a virtual strip search or a sexual assault by some government goon. I have every confidence that your airlines could do a much better job of ensuring the safety of flights than the boobs at the TSA. Please make every effort to reign in the tyrannical behavior of the TSA. And if you're feeling especially customer service oriented, you could lobby (hard) for the total elimination of this ludicrous federal agency. Thank you.

John Whitehead on Michael Roberts

John Whitehead, an attorney and founder of the Rutherford Institute has a great write-up about the scanners, touching on all the issues.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dear Jet Blue...

Dear Delta...

Gary Cottingham wrote the following to Delta Airlines:
due to the tsa's current use of the irradiation scanners--i like to refer to them as porno scanners--i have been opting out of being exposed to the x-rays and refuse to expose myself in a virtual strip-search.  the images produced by these scanners are pornographic and if a minor, certainly violate the spirit of child pornography laws.

i believe that the tsa is now retaliating against those of us who opt out by doing their 'enhanced' pat downs--basically a disgusting groping exercise if you will.

as long as your airline tacitly approves of this violation of my 4th amendment rights i will be driving more and flying less.



Gary L. Cottingham

Dear Continental...

Paul Aubert forwards along his letter to Continental Airlines customer service. The response so far, according to Paul is: "I received basically a form letter response telling me my letter would be forwarded to more senior management. We shall see."
Dear Customer Service:

I am writing to let you know that I will no longer fly a US airline unless it is absolutely and utterly necessary as a last resort.

Over the last ten years, since the tragic events of 9/11, there is no longer any joy in flying.  I used to look forward to go to the airport, knowing that I would be flying. I remember how much fun it used to be to look out of the window and just to be on an airplane, flying somewhere distant and reaching that destination so quickly.  I used to take fun weekend trips, using your specials, all the time just because it was such a great deal and you could get somewhere so quickly.  I have not done this in years, though, because air travel is now such a burden.

As long as you permit the FAA and TSA (and goodness knows how many additional federal agencies) to control how you run your airline, your business will suffer and suffer badly.  It does not do for you to say that you have no control over what these agencies do.  If all of the major airlines stood their ground and refused to permit mindless government bureaucrats to run airline and airport security (and for that matter, to run air traffic control, which has also become a tremendous hindrance to a pleasant air travel experience), this madness could be curtailed.

Dear Mr. Chertoff..

Dear Mr. Chertoff:

You should be ashamed of yourself for shilling for a technology that has not been tested enough to prove its safety and that is so extremely invasive.  I can only hope that you suffer through the humiliation and indignity of being screened while being doused with radiation on a regular basis as well.  If I had to guess, though, you and most of your lobbyist buddies and fear mongers make enough money from your selling out the Fourth Amendment that you fly privately on a regular basis.

Thanks for profiting off your illustrious position as the head of the ultra-fascist DHS.  I recently returned from serving in the US Army in Kuwait but I cannot say I am proud to have served a country that no longer values our fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution.  I am fairly certain that Patrick Henry did not utter “Give me a false-sense of security or give me death!”


Eric S. Morris

 Eric says that Mr. Chertoff has not responded and: 
His email address can be found here:, you can make comments to his Chertoff Group here (, and you can even comment on Rapiscan’s website here:

The Good Guys (sorta)

British Airways and now Ryan Air have both come out against the scanners. Although, it's not clear to me that they are refusing to service airports with the scanners... that would make things change quicker (but hurt their bottom line in the short run). I'll try to keep tabs on these companies so we know who to give our business to after the scanners are removed and who to continue to boycott.

Strong words from pilots' unions

Captain Mike Cleary, head of the US Airways pilot union is using stronger language than his American Airlines counterpart did last week. An excerpt:

Let's be perfectly clear: the TSA procedures we have outlined above are blatantly unacceptable as a long-term solution. Although an immediate solution cannot be guaranteed, I can promise you that your union will not rest until all U.S. airline pilots have a way to reach their workplace ... the aircraft ... without submitting ourselves to the will of a TSO behind closed doors.
His recommendations are that pilots do not go through the scanners, opt for a private pat-down, and make sure to bring a witness to the private screening room, and then: "After being subjected to an enhanced pat-down procedure, pilots must evaluate their fitness for duty."

Hey, pilots! Don't forget about the mere customers who pay your salaries!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Seattle Times on the scanners

This article in the Seattle Times appears to be a factual FAQ that does not just rubber-stamp the government policies. It's a little tame, but is probably more palatable to the masses.

US Air revises their "offer"

Cynthia from US Air called me and stated that they will now waive the $150 change fee (the letter I posted earlier today said that they will not waive the change fee). So, I've booked my new flight going through a scanner-less airport*, but had to pay the $100 fare difference and will also have to (as of now) pony up for the one-way rental car.

*In case you're interested, Allentown, PA, Atlantic City, NJ, and Norfolk, VA are the nearest airports to DC that have no scanners. All are about a 4 hour drive. Let me just say that if I were not going clear across the country, the amount of time I'll be investing in this trip would not be worth it.

Keeping tabs

My cousin writes to tell me that he and his wife are canceling their plans to fly home for the holidays and will be driving 7+ hours through a New England winter instead.

He also sent the following letter to Sen Leahy:
Senator Leahy,

I want to know what, if anything, you are doing to put an end to the intrusive methods being used by the TSA to screen air travelers.

I'm talking specifically about the backscatter scanners and the pat-downs, which include crotch, breast and buttock touching.

I'm not okay with this new policy from the TSA and I hope that you would immediately put an end to it or at least suspend it indefinitely.


Kevin McElroy
I will be keeping a running tab of letters sent to businesses and representatives, as well as there responses on the Letters page.

Response from US Air

My most recent letter crossed paths with US Air's response to my first letter. I don't have time to transcribe this or comment on it now, so I'll leave it at: this is a really lame reply.
USAir Response #1

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pilots: Will you help us?

Michael Roberts, the pilot who refused a scan and pat-down during his commute last month, has another article online. I think it is worthwhile to reproduce it in full here (after the jump). Reading it gave me an idea, since he refers to his colleagues' concern and letter to their employer in August. Now, Roberts is already doing his part, but what about the other pilots across the nation. Many of these guys are unionized (as are the flight attendants) and some are boycotting the scanners. But it would be more beneficial if they went on a strike I could get behind: refuse to work until the TSA stops invading the rights of all crew and passengers. Presidents have been known to (wrongfully) intervene in strikes that threaten entire industries, so this may actually force the issue all the way to the White House.

The scanners aren't the only problem

I've done a lot of complaining on this blog. But, aside from stopping the use of scanners, what is the solution? I am opposed to pat-downs as well, on the same 4th Amendment and human natural rights basis: you must suspect a particular individual of a particular crime to violate their inherent sovereignty in their own person.

Are you a social conservative? Then you have a moral sense that all of us should reserve for the bedroom what belongs in the bedroom. Following this logic, men, women, and children should not bare themselves to strangers nor let strangers touch them in inappropriate ways.

Are you a social liberal? Then you stand up for a woman's right to her own body. To quote Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (hey! I'm a child of the late 80's/early 90's!):
I say who! I say when! I say who!
While you may not care if someone looks at you or touches you in certain ways, you can certainly understand that other people may care. And it is theretheir right to care and be protected from a violation of their rights as owners of their own bodies.

I am guilty of putting up with the various violations of the TSA, airport owners, and airlines (under pre-TSA FAA rules) of my rights.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Orbitz Complicity

Orbitz is not only complicit in the TSA scanner policy, they have officially recommended the scanners over pat-downs for customers:
Because the pat down will take longer than the 30-second body scan, Orbitz Senior Editor Jeanenne Tornatore recommends the scanner.
Meanwhile, the "National Newspaper of the Travel Industry" has a poll on its website asking if you prefer a pat-down or body scanner (no third option). "Pardon me, ma'am. Would you prefer if I rape you or stab you?" Here's a screenshot of Travel Weekly's poll (lower right):

Tell Orbitz and the rest of the travel industry what you think of their recommendations and polls!

Dulles gets scanners

The Dulles website confirms the report in this article that the scanners have arrived. TSA has not updated their website.