Podcast: TSA officers report TSA racial profiling

Thirty TSA officers at Logan airport in Boston have reported that a screening program meant to spot potential terrorists functions instead as a racial profiling program that targets Middle Easterners, blacks, hispanics, and other minorities--and what happens at the airport in Boston doesn't stay in Boston. Logan airport is the testing ground for expanded use of what the TSA calls "permitted behavioral detection methods."

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"You Have a Cute Figure"

ACLUm Online Coordinator Danielle Riendeau contributed the following:

As a frequent flier--and a young woman--I couldn’t help but sit up and take notice when this news story crossed my desk. A Dallas news station investigated what appears to be a truly gross invasion of a woman’s privacy by TSA agents at DFW airport, when they made her go through the “naked scanner” 3 times.

She was told she had a “cute figure” by one agent, made to go through the machine three times, and even overheard an annoyed female agent talking to her colleagues watching the images behind the scenes. It sounds a whole lot like exactly what is not supposed to be happening, and this case is far from the only one: CBS reported on the myriad complaints aimed at the TSA--many of them sent in by women who have felt violated by the technology and their treatment at the hands of TSA agents.

Hey, TSA, what about all those assertions about protecting our privacy that were hurled around last time a spate of complaints and unsavory stories made the rounds? Stories that passengers have shared with the ACLU, or the case of an agent who had helped test one of the machines and attacked his colleagues after they ridiculed him for having a small penis have a habit of sticking around and becoming all the more relevant in light of recent news. What happened to the stick figures that you promised our naked images would be converted to?

I fly between two and six times per month. I’ve been patted down (the consequence of “opting out” of the privacy-invading scans) in six cities in the last year alone, and once had a 12-flight streak of being manhandled before I finally had the good luck to fly through a gate with normal security.

I’ve seen first-hand what this security theater creates--a sense of power over other individuals, a complete disrespect for travelers’ dignity and privacy, and an atmosphere of fear and nervousness for fliers. Security experts contend that these expensive new machines aren’t improving anyone’s safety, and the consequence is that these privacy violations run rampant. TSA, it looks like you’ve been caught with your pants down--again.

Flight Risk?

The following guest blog originally appeared on Boston.com.

The ACLU is always concerned about ways in which ordinary Americans get inconvenienced by "security" measures that actually make us no safer, and less free. TSA's unpopular and invasive scanners and "pat-down" searches, which began frustrating travelers at Logan and nationwide last year, are a perfect example.

Recent reports of what happened to Arlington-based musician Vance Gilbert, who was questioned after reading a book about vintage airplanes on a flight out of Boston, seems to bear out that concern. Mr. Gilbert made it past TSA scanners and screeners, but then found himself being questioned after boarding his flight. We are reposting here Mr. Gilbert's open letter to the ACLU about what he experienced. He titled it "Racial Profiling First Hand".

Suspicionless searches and seizures at the airport: we're suing

Freedom of association is so vital to our democracy that the framers put it in the First Amendment, alongside freedoms of speech, press, religion, and petition. After all, what good is the right to speak, pray, or petition the government if you can’t freely associate with other people who support your cause?

That is why the ACLU today is filing a lawsuit in Federal Court in Boston on behalf of a 24-year-old computer programmer and Cambridge activist named David House.

Read Carol Rose's "On Liberty" blog at Boston.com | News Release | Background