I want to tell this story while it’s fresh in my mind. (I wrote this immediately following the events) Everything unfolded so quickly. Looking back I wish I’d done things differently. Alas, I can inform you and hope it makes a difference on your travel experience, and your thoughts on the TSA.
While waiting in line to unpack my gear, I noticed a short, Asian TSA agent (Agent A) shouting instructions to travelers. “Please remove all laptops.” “Take off all jewelry.” “If you don’t want a free pat-down from the Government, take the coins out of your pockets.”
[Insert unintentional eye roll]
“Please keep all negative comments to yourself until you’ve left the TSA area,” he said.
I could not help myself. Who is this man to say I can’t vocally disagree with something he says or does? “Freedom of speech doesn’t apply here?” I mumbled.
The agent, taken aback, said something about voicing my complaints to DHS and being entitled to my opinion. I said I am, I’m also entitled to the Constitution.
Like the rest of the sheeple, I took off my boots, unloaded my laptop and walked through the metal detector (lucked out and didn’t get the x-ray). I waited for my bags on the other side when I noticed the aforementioned agent come to watch the screening of my bag.
Agent A and another agent scanned my bag, looking for the slightest violation. Bingo. Agent A asked me to come to a table for further inspection. My almost-full tube of Colgate, according to him, is a liquid and cannot be carried-on. Starting to wakeup, my flight left at 6 AM, I said you’ve got to be kidding me. Taking away toothpaste is going to keep America safe? This is what we’re focusing our time and energy on?
Soon two other agents came to inspect my toothpaste. Agent B, a tall, semi-balding man in his early 30′s, looked down on my protest while Agent C, an older man, didn’t seem to care. Agent A, feeling a sense of authoritarianism, said something about it being the rules. [I looked on the TSA website, and nowhere does it mention toothpaste being prohibited if over a certain size ]
Feeling flush, I blurted, “You were so busy looking for toothpaste, you missed my mace.”
All three agents turned, baffled, at my words. Agent A asked where it was. I pulled out my mace and continued to voice, in my opinion, what is wrong with the TSA. Agent A soon disappeared. I stood next to B while he jotted down notes, letting him hear it.
I said it’s not the role of the government to oversee airport security. The airlines are a private industry. If a private corporation wanted to pat me down to fly, I, as a consumer, have the right to say no. I am free to not use their service. However, the government forces us to be x-rayed or patted down by obviously incompetent people. It is unlawful search and seizure and I think it is wrong.
I also said, based on evidence from the morning’s events, TSA is clearly not about security. TSA is about government control and civil obedience. The government is desensitizing us to privacy in the name of “security.” TSA does not belong at political rallies, sporting events or mass transit stations. This is the role of the company or business. Not the taxpayers.
If TSA and DHS are so concerned about security, why aren’t they at the US/Mexico border? The DHS website speaks for itself. TSA is not effective, makes little difference in airport security and is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
If anything, this morning’s events make me feel less safe. Agents are so concerned with liquids and pastes, they fail to miss the blatantly obvious: my pink palm-sized mace.
Agent B, like other agents and travelers, could not believe what I said. “Next time,” he said, “maybe you should keep that to yourself.”
The next minute seemed like a blur. Adrenaline shot through my body and it took everything in my power to walk away. Who is this agent, to tell me I should keep my “prohibited items” to myself? I said something about him needing to do his job.
In hindsight, I wished I’d taken a photo of my items. I wanted to shout, for the terminal to hear, hoping others would rally with me. I worried about voicing further disagreement. I could not miss my 6 AM flight since we had clients coming in that afternoon (I work for a well-respected marketing company in the LA area).
The last thing Agent B said as I gathered up my belongings was to “stay in school.”
“I’m 25, college educated and lived in China.” I said. “If anything, you’re the one who needs the schooling.”
I walked away and promptly called my dad at 5:20 AM to rehash the scenario, completely mind boggled.
I’m still angry I didn’t get either agent’s name. Their image is burned in my mind, and I could easily identify both out of a lineup.
Monday’s scenario is my firsthand account of why we must disband the TSA. TSA is not about security, but control. Airport security is the job of the airport, not the government. Privatize the security industry. Incentivize agents to do their job well. Use methods that are less invasive and degrading, and more effective.
I’m filing a complaint with the TSA and demand an apology. Discrimination against someone based on their freedom of speech is wrong. If TSA refuses to apologize and take action with their employees, I will do everything in my power to help Americans disband the unconstitutional TSA.
I encourage everyone to forward this story. Tell your family. Tell your friends. Tell your politicians. This is not a conservative or liberal issue. This is an American issue. TSA agents discriminated against me based on my constitutional freedom of speech. If I cannot voice my disagreement with the government, where do we toe the line? Is this a civil rights violation?
While it might not matter now, it will matter when it’s your voice.
*Click here to contact TSA.
** Click here and inform yourself. It’s time to disband DHS!
*** For the record, since this post and my complaint to TSA will get me put on a watch list, I love my country. I believe in limited government and personal freedom. I would do anything in my power to prevent a terrorist, (foreign, domestic or government appointed) from harming the country our founding fathers built.