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Reason Foundation

The TSA's Invasive Search Contest

All it takes to win is the right attitude and a pair of rubber gloves.

A. Barton Hinkle
July 12, 2011


To: All TSA Personnel

From: Paul Witchowski, American Federation of Government Employees General Secretary and Past President and Steward of AFGE Local 277, Barnstable, MA.

Dear Fellow Officers,

Many of you have written to ask me about the status of our Invasive Search Contest. Knowing this is a subject of great interest to all of you and that there has been a lot of rumors and innuendoes going around the "grapevine," I have decided to use this week’s newsletter to fill everybody in on the latest developments.

Ever since New Orleans Transportation Security Officer Thibodeaux Broussard confiscated cans of Play-Doh from 3-year-old Josh Pitney, our TSA rank-and-file have really been "bringing their A game." The name Janice Johnson is well known to all of us by now and needs no introduction. Janice is the Northwest Florida Regional Airport TSA officer who insisted late last month that the 95-year-old mother of Destin resident Jean Weber remove her dirty adult diaper that she was wearing so Janice and her fellow TSA officers could proceed with our Wheelchair-Bound Traveler Protocol (WBTP).

The story of officer Johnson’s dedication and professionalism has garnered a lot of attention with Google showing more than 3 million results if you search for the terms "TSA" and "diaper." As the front-line of defense against terrorism, foreign agents, and leukemia-riddled little old ladies in wheelchairs, TSA officers are usually the "unsung heroes" of homeland security but it is safe to say that is not the case with officer Johnson. We should all give a shout-out to Janice! You go, girl!

Needless to say Janice is now at the top of our Invasive Search Contest Leader Board. But there are several other strong contenders, including Mike Rogan of our Kansas City International Airport team, who gained fame far and wide back in May when he was photographed searching a baby’s diaper. Needless to say, Mike did not find any PETN or other high explosives though we hear he did detect the residue from an organic "stink bomb," ha ha! When you add that diaper search to the one in Florida it is no wonder people are beginning to say the TSA screening procedures are full of you-know-what!

Another strong contender is Becky Wilson of Bedford, Texas, who works at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport and had the privilege of searching former Miss USA pageant winner Susie Castillo. Sort of like the baby at KCI, Miss Castillo also made a "big stink" about how she was treated in late April, claiming she had been "molested." Of course all of us in the national-security field know better, don’t we?

Also in April TSA officer Yolanda Smith, who works at Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, was videotaped frisking six-year-old Anna Drexel. And TSA officers including Joe Dunbar were videotaped last November conducting a partial strip-search of a 10-year-old boy at Salt Lake City International Airport. Situations like these are simply not acceptable and I urge all of our members to contact their union reps to see if something can be done about this outrageous videotaping of TSA officers who are just doing their jobs.

Of course we also need to recognize Philip Davidson, the TSO whose pat-down of bladder-cancer survivor Thomas Sawyer at Detroit Metropolitan Airport in March broke the seal on Sawyer’s urostomy bag, covering him (Sawyer, not officer Davidson) in urine. Finally we have to give some recognition to Officer Donna Baumgartner at the Charlotte Douglas International Airport. Last month officer Baumgartner ordered 32-year flight attendant and breast-cancer survivor Cathy Bossi to take her prosthetic breast out of her bra. That one’s a keeper, folks!

Now maybe you are thinking, "Paul, there is just no way I can hope to win the invasive-search contest after hearing about cases like that." Don’t be too sure! Many of you have probably seen the recent stories about how the Department of Homeland Security says terrorist groups are looking for ways to hide explosive devices inside the human body by using surgical implants.

Just the other day I read a story in The Wall Street Journal about this. It said that implants are very common. And we all know that they are most common in the areas of the breasts, buttocks, and certain other portions of the anatomy. So I would say this means our Invasive Search Contest is still very far from over! With a little imagination, any one of you could be our Grand Prize Winner. All it takes is the right attitude and a pair of rubber gloves.

A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. This article originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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