Thomas Sawyer is a retired special education teacher. As such he is experienced in explaining things, even to folks who have difficulty understanding. Sadly, TSA agents at Detroit Metropolitan Airport seemed utterly unable to understand Mr. Sawyer's explanation that he is a bladder cancer survivor and wears an ostomy bag to collect his urine. Two male TSA agents roughly man-handled his ostomy pouch, leaving Mr. Sawyer to rush to catch his flight mortally embarrassed, crying and covered in urine. What Sawyer found most disturbing is that the agents quite refused to listen, even as he tried to explain about his ostomy bag and why it should not be roughly handled.
Representative John Mica (R, Florida) rails that the TSA is out of control and is quite failing to listen to the concerns of ordinary travelers. It is hard to disagree with him about this, although it seems clear that Mica is primarily hoping to turn over airport security to the large corporations who have bankrolled his political campaigns. Mica also consistently fails to mention that even if the airport screeners were private contractors rather than TSA employees, they would still be required at this time to use the porno-scanners and conduct the much-criticized sexually abusive pat-downs.
The Los Angeles Times, which has published some of the best reporting on the TSA issue, made clear in this article that TSA chief John Pistole is primarily concerned about the plastic expolosive PETN, which was used both by the "shoe bomber" and by last Christmas's crotch bomber. Pistole is right to be worried about PETN; indeed Al Qaeda has made clear they are determined to use PETN to blow up airplanes. The problem is that not only are the porno scanners and sexual assaults a horrible affront to our civil liberties-- they are also ineffective at detecting PETN. While Pistole's heavy-handed approach may be somewhat understandable, what is incomprehensible is that his boss, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napalitano and her boss, President Barrack Obama seem to be utterly deaf to the protests the TSA's gestapo security tactics have drawn.
The grassroots protesters who organized Opt Out Day on Wednesday November 24th claim that the TSA blinked-- Gizmodo published numerous tweets from travelers who found that the porno scanners were not in use at airports all across the country on the day before Thanksgiving, and even mainstream media outlet NJ.com (a website published by a number of New Jersey newspapers) reported that the porno scanners were not used at Newark airport on that date, although other media continue to report the TSA party line-- that there was no protest and that most all travelers are satisfied with the new security arrangements.
I'm inclined to believe the first hand reports of travelers who say that the porno scanners were not in use and that TSA agents dialed down the sexual abuse to thwart Opt Out Day. But as long as the TSA continues their official policy of treating ordinary travelers like criminals, I will continue to refuse to fly. And I will continue to mourn the loss of my civil liberties, which I fear may be gone forever.