Erin, a stay-at-home mom and cooking blogger, was sexually assaulted on November 12, 2010 and the police flatly refused to help her. Prior to boarding a flight at the Dayton, Ohio airport Erin was groped by a female TSA agent who touched her buttocks, her breasts and both of her labia. While much attention has recently been directed at John Tyner, whose "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested" video has gone viral, Erin's story is significantly more troubling. Tyner, who refused to allow the TSA agent to give him an "enhanced pat down" is being investigated by the TSA and has been threatened with an $11,000 fine. Erin, however, had no choice but to subject herself to the "enhanced pat down" since none of the new "porno-scanners" which allow security screeners to view naked images of passengers have yet been installed in Dayton. Erin writes eloquently of her experience and makes clear that what she experienced in the Dayton airport was indeed sexual assault. Erin states that her lawyer has confirmed this.
How sad that in responding to an outrageous act by terrorist extremists, we Americans have largely abandoned our civil rights. Not only do we now treat airline passengers like criminals, Erin's experience shows that we now quite literally require ordinary citizens to subject themselves to sexual assault as pre-condition to board an airplane. Perhaps it would be worth it, if the new airport security regime actually made us safer. Many critics, however, charge that it has not. The TSA screening and checkpoints have been derided as "security theater" intended to make naive passengers feel "safer" by the show of force and perceived thoroughness, even though it's not very effective at all in identifying or stopping terrorists. And following Tyner's much publicized refusal to be groped and incidents like Erin's sexual assault, there is growing outrage on all sides of the political spectrum about the TSA's new policies.
Representative John Mica (R, Florida) tells the Washington Examiner that airports have the ability to opt-out of TSA screening and instead hire private contractors to conduct passenger screenings under federal supervision. Mica states that he has sent out letters to more than 150 US airports advising them of this option. Meanwhile, as we head into one of the busiest travel days of the year (Wednesday, November 24th-- the day before Thanksgiving), grass roots protesters are calling for all passengers to "opt out" of the new full body scanners and insist on receiving their "enhanced pat downs" in the public area of the terminal. While some surveys show that some 80% of Americans support the new TSA policies, it has been pointed out that most of those surveyed rarely if ever fly. Personally, I'm glad that I have no plans to fly next week. Who knows, if enough people make enough of a fuss at airports perhaps the TSA will have to stop sexually assaulting passengers.