Monday, November 15, 2010

John Tyner and the TSA

While perusing the news this morning with my cup of tea, I fell upon the story of one John Tyner, an ordinary 31-year-old man in San Diego. He planned to go hunting with his father-in-law, and was flying to meet him.

John prefers not to go through the invasive body scanning machines at airport security. These machines are not metal detectors.  They basically see through one's clothing and submit the traveler to a total strip search. The screen is viewed by a TSA agent in another room, who the traveler doesn't see. The traveler's face is obscured, but all else is shown.

John found that rather offensive. He checked and thought he'd picked an airport without such machines.

He was wrong. He asked not to go through the machine, when he was randomly selected to do so. That's fine, they said.  Then we'll have to pat you down.

No problem, John said.

And we'll have to do a groin search too, they added.

I don't think so, John replied.

And thus started all his trouble.

You can read all about it, and listen to the audio from his cell phone which recorded it all, on his blog post.

John bought a ticket.
John refused invasive security screenings.
John was told he could not fly.
John happily agreed to leave.
TSA escorted him out of security.
He got his ticket refunded (Yay for American Airlines!! They know who butters their bread!)
The TSA told him that if he left the airport, he'd be subject to a civil law suit and a $10,000 fine.
To avoid the suit and fine, he'd have to go back through the same screening he'd just refused.

??? Does this sound like a really bad Twilight Zone episode?  Can you say CIRCULAR PLOT?

I am no conspiracy theorist.  I've never been to a Tea Party event. I don't think the US gov't blew up the towers, or assassinated Kennedy. And I do think we walked on the moon.  But man -- I gotta say, this stuff is ludicrous. I didn't like flying before.  I hated flying to England 2 years ago, and I was nervous flying to Iowa recently. This is the nail in the coffin.  I don't want to experience what John Tyner did, and there's no guarantee that I won't, if I try to fly.

What do we do about airport security, in this era of terrorists?  First, I think it's doubtful that the terrorists will use the exact same methods again.  So, if we devote all our time and energies to combating airline bombings, we'll probably be two steps behind them;  they'll be on to the next method (Ft. Hood? Times Square?), and we'll be tied up in useless regulation.

Second, if our nation were truly secure in its borders, screenings like this on domestic flights would be unnecessary. You may well disagree with me, but I think it's ludicrous for the federal gov't to treat us, its citizens, as criminals, while knowingly allowing non-citizen criminals to remain in the land. And I'm not just referring to our Mexican border.  I'm more concerned with known Muslim extremists who are in this country, recruiting ex-cons as they are released from prison, and training them. Why does our gov't tolerate such things?

And then they treat John Tyner like a criminal. 


  1. But how does the TSA know he's not an illegal criminal? How would your family feel if you had been on that plane and he had blown it up because of lax security? We cannot take chances and those of us who agree to the needs of safety first and just don't want to go flying through the air without a plane after the explosion...go TSA!

  2. They might have the right to allow a screening.. but when will it stop... any public event, any travel, body cavities, strip searches, etc... How far will they go?

    It is when we allow this intrusions into our lives... changing our lives ... that we are no longer a free country and the criminal element has won.

  3. Well, Anon #1, you do have a good point -- namely, that we need good security, and should expect it when we fly. My problem is not so much with all the screens (although I won't do them). It's that they should be voluntary, for flying. If you want to fly, you have to do them. They should not arbitrarily choose 1 out of 10 people to do them. All or none. If they're so good, use them all the time.

    My big problem with this story is that, when John agreed happily to leave, and not to fly, they still insisted on either 1) forcing him through the very screening he refused, or 2) filing a suit and fining him $10,000.

    That's absolutely ludicrous. If the guy has agreed NOT TO FLY, then no screening is necessary, period. He's free to leave. He's shown NO indication of criminal status, more than anyone else in the airport. He is being submitted to things that nobody else is, for absolutely no reason.

    So, it's really the lawsuit/fining that bother me. They seem unreasonable.

    Soon, I'm afraid that this kind of invasive security will be required in order to enter football stadiums, shopping malls, Walmart .... is that so bizarre to imagine?


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