The scan and grope regime is in place and going strong

This entry includes a detailed, step-by-step description of what it is to be groped—or, using the terminology of the TSA, what it is to be “screened,” “felt,” and “brushed.”

Last night, I wrote:

On another subject related to the TSA, what happened with the full body scan and grope regime? I haven’t heard anything about it in months. Did the TSA drop it?

In reply, Evan H. writes:

Regarding the full-body scan and grope: First of all there are full-body scanners, and regular old metal detectors. Now, I regularly fly between JFK and San Francisco International Airport [also known as SFO]. The terminal I use at JFK doesn’t even have the scanners, and there is no groping, since it’s only done if one opts out of the scanner. San Francisco International has both scanners and detectors. Travelers are randomly assigned to one by a TSA agent. The last three times I’ve flown out of San Francisco International, I’ve been assigned to the scanner, and each time I have explicitly opted out of the scanning by saying “I’d like to opt out.” If you do this, the TSA agent in charge of assigning people to scanners/detectors will say into a walkie-talkie something like “we have an opt out, male screener needed at station two.” Then they send you through the regular metal detector, and have you wait in a small holding area on the other side. Eventually a screener will come over, ask why you’ve opted out (for their records, they say; I always reply that I don’t trust the studies that have been done regarding the effects of the radiation from the scanners), and lead you to a screening area. It’s in full view of everything, but they offer you the option of a private screening. Once there, they conduct the screening, which was already discussed in detail when this issue was all over the news. I can fill in the details there, if you like.

LA replies:

So, in at least one major international U.S. airport, and presumably most others, significant numbers of passengers are routinely scanned or groped.

Meaning that the scan and grope regime has been institutionalized, and people are accepting it, and the issue has died. The passenger protests that were happening and that got a lot of media coverage a few months ago when the scan and grope began, have ended.

Meaning that I was wrong when I thought that this was the final straw that would break the current regime of humiliating and degrading ourselves rather than surveilling our enemies.

So this represents a complete surrender and disaster. One more wall against leftist evil has fallen which there was reason to hope just a few months ago would stand.

You’ve been groped the last three times. What does this consist of (if you haven’t already described it)? How do you feel about this?

Evan replies:

“In any case, in at least one major international U.S. airport, significant numbers of passengers are routinely scanned or groped.”

I would estimate, based on my relatively limited observations, that 60 percent of passengers go through the regular metal detectors, 38 percent through the scanner, and two percent are groped. So, yes, a significant number are scanned or groped.

“You’ve been groped the last three times. What does this consist of (if you haven’t already described it)?”

Technical terminology TSA uses for groping: “Screening” is the groping, and the person doing it is called the “screener.” “Feeling” means that touching happens with the screener’s palms facing your body. “Brushing” means that touching happens with the screener’s palms facing away from your body (back of hand touching). “Private area” refers to the buttocks and genitals.

Step 1: You’ve just gone through the metal detector, so you’re not wearing your shoes (thanks to Richard Reid the shoe bomber) or your belt (since it has metal). The screener carries your carry-on luggage, shoes, and belt to the screening area. You aren’t allowed to touch your items until the screening is over. Everything has to be removed from your pockets at this point, including non-metal items such as a wallet or bits of paper.

Step 2: Screener asks if you’ve been screened before. The answer doesn’t seem to matter—every screening has been exactly the same, including a verbal description of any physical contact before it took place.

Step 3: Screener asks you to hold your arms perpendicular to your body, with palms up.

Step 4: Screener feels along each arm, and then says that you can put your arms down.

Step 5: Screener feels the shoulders, back, and legs—the buttocks are skipped.

Step 6: Screener warns that he is going to “brush your private area” and then brushes the buttocks.

Step 7: Screener feels the chest, side of torso, and legs.

Step 8: Screener again warns that he is going to “brush your private area.” He then brushes the inner thigh/groin area, but doesn’t actually make contact with the genitals.

Step 9: Screener places his thumbs inside of the top of your pants, but outside your underwear, and goes around your entire body at waist level. Not sure what they’re looking for here.

Step 10: Screener runs his gloves through a machine, presumably to check for explosives. If that passes, they say “thank you” and it’s over. Re-shod yourself, re-attach belt, collect belongings, and make way to terminal.

“How do you feel about this?”

I don’t like it. The best solution would be not to travel via airplane, but that’s not a viable option for me at this point. Given the choice between scanning and groping, I choose the groping for two reasons. For one, I really don’t trust the studies that have been done regarding the radiation exposure. More importantly though, I do it as a minor act of civil disobedience. The whole process takes about 3-4 minutes, compared to the 6 seconds for the scanner, so if everyone opted for the groping, the system would break down. I also happen to be a healthy mid-20s white man, so the physical mechanics of the groping probably have less of an effect on me than they would on virtually any other demographic (the effect on one’s dignity is the same regardless of race, sex, or age, of course). I’m not sure what would happen if I didn’t consent to the physical contact required by the groping—perhaps one of your readers can help? My guess is that I would be asked to leave the airport and not get a refund on my ticket.

LA replies:

Thank you very much for this detailed account.

One thing at the moment stands out:

Step 8: Screener again warns that he is going to “brush your private area”. He then brushes the inner thigh/groin area, but doesn’t actually make contact with the genitals.”

But of course the entire supposed purpose of the disgusting exercise is to make sure that people aren’t doing an Abdul Mutallab and hiding explosives inside their undershorts. And how can the screeners determine from touch that explosives are not inside a passenger’s undershorts without pressing their hands against his undershorts and thus pressing against his genitals?

Evan replies:
That’s where the whole enterprise falls apart. I don’t know why I’ve been spared that indignity—perhaps their procedures explicitly disallow it. It’s also possible that I’ve simply benefited from the natural aversion to touching someone there. You’re right though that it defeats the purpose of the grope if they don’t go “all the way.” Maybe their goal is to make the process so uncomfortable, without actually committing a crime (like sexual assault, or whatever it would be called), that the average traveler simply gives up and goes through the scanner.

- end of initial entry -

Richard W. writes:

“On another subject related to the TSA, what happened with the full body scan and grope regime? I haven’t heard anything about it in months. Did the TSA drop it?”

No, it has not been dropped.

I flew home from San Diego and they have the full body scanners. I noticed the odd directions: “Remove your watches and belts.” I fly all the time, so this is definitely a weird request. Normally the TSA doesn’t care about these things if they are not heavy enough to set off the metal detectors. Something like a swatch has about as much metal in it as three or four pennies, so you don’t need to take it off for the “normal” TSA metal detectors.

But apparently the full body scanners don’t like these items. As it happened I was wearing an old pair of army fatigues. Fatigues are not tailored like pants, them come in five sizes: S, M, L, XL and XXL. I’m a pretty big fellow and so I buy XL, but the waist on them is still 3 inches larger than any pair of jeans I would buy.

Now, unfortunately the full body scanner requires you to “assume the position”: that is, hands above your shoulders, palms forward and empty. Given I could see this I chose not to take off my belt. Given the waist of the fatigues they would definitely fall down when I assumed the position.

So I go through the scanner, and step out and a TSA agent says: “because you did not take your belt off I am going to have to search you.” OK, fine. He asks me to take my belt off, and (given that I’m not going to have to hold my hands above my head now) I comply. The “agent” looks like a gay guy to me. He’s very slight of build, and has a wispy way of talking. He is wearing blue plastic gloves of some sort. After looking at my belt to make sure it does not contain some sort of Ninja killing device, he turns to me. He takes his gloved hand and places it inside both the waistband of my fatigues, and the waistband of my boxer shorts. He runs his hand from the front of my left hip all the way around behind, and starts again below the small of my back.

When his fingers pass my right hip bone I have had enough. I shout, in my loudest (and I played tenor sax for 30 years, my LOUD voice has a lot of air behind it) voice: HEY! THATS IT!!! … Quickly, almost within the sound of the echo of my shout he says, “You’re done.” And that’s it.

I was angry at myself for my soft response. I really felt I should have decked the little fu**er when I shouted. A simple hard push (I weigh 245 pounds and am 6’1”) would have put him on his ass. Which is exactly where he belonged. Alternately, stripping nude would have been less invasive and obnoxious.

I am NOT comfortable letting gay men touch my body at waist level, and will not permit it. So, lesson learned.

Anyway, I can assure you that Scan and Grope is still in effect in the USA.

James P. writes:

“What happened with the full body scan and grope regime? I haven’t heard anything about it in months. Did the TSA drop it?”

I don’t think so, since there was an article in the Washington Post yesterday about the need for female TSA officers to do the groping of female travelers.

I’m flying out of Dulles this morning, and I’ll let you know if I get groped. =)

Lydia McGrew writes:

You asked what’s going on with the TSA regime. I don’t travel much so cannot say how often they are using the scanners. It seems improbable to me that they aren’t using them at all even in the name of lulling the masses, but that’s conjecture. My conjecture is that in practice they are using the machines and grope-searches less often than they originally were in order to get people to say that “all that” is exaggeration. More experienced travelers will have at least anecdotal evidence to support or undermine this. Notice how their backing off even somewhat helps to prevent any actual congressional action that might rein them in. However, in legal terms, the TSA is working hard to fix its most extreme authority in place. Here is a link to a lawsuit that is going forward against the TSA right now in which the DHS has recently made an oral argument to the effect that it has the legal authority to strip search every air traveler. Even the suing group is, as far as I can tell, claiming only that DHS must have a period of public comment on new practices before implementing them. It appears that any attempt to get the most extreme suspicionless searches ruled out as inherently unconstitutional is so doomed to failure that it isn’t being tried. The Fourth Amendment is dead.

Richard P. writes:

I traveled via Seattle-Tacoma airport in Seattle last weekend. They had the scanner in place, and every passenger was directed to go through it. The regular metal detector was roped off. There was a fairly long line that day, and I believe I was the only person who opted out of the scan and chose the pat down. I didn’t see any other passengers who bypassed the scanner.

Ed S. writes:

Scan and grope looks to be here to stay—well, until they decide to get more invasive.

By and large, people are definitely accepting the scan and grope procedure as commonplace—without complaint. My wife and I flew out of Seattle-Tacoma last weekend. And, in the 15 minutes that we were going through security, as near as we could tell, we were the only two that opted out—something everyone in earshot was aware of. (at which time I also insisted that the turban on the man in the line behind me be removed and searched.) The wife got a public pat down (which won’t happen again), and I belligerently demanded a private pat down—both to waste time, and to express my disapproval of the recently legalized fondling. I was whisked into a little room with clouded windows as a male TSA agent carried in my belongings. But since my pat down was in private, another male agent (that took forever to locate) had to witness the groping.. In all, from metal detector to shoes back on, it took about15 minutes. If only a small fraction of the travelers would demand private pat downs, airline travel would grind to an immediate halt.

April 2

James P. writes:

No scan and grope at Dulles, but they were doing scan and grope at O’Hare. Particularly idiotic, they made me take my wallet out of my pocket for the scan, and then after I stepped out of the scanner another TSA lackey insisted on looking through my wallet. If wallets are “interesting”, why not have me keep it in my pcoket in the scanner? What could you possibly hide in a wallet that would endanger an aircraft?

Another TSA person at the gate checked IDs to make sure they matched the name on the boarding pass. Um, you guys already did this once up front—why the admission that those guys are incompetent? What malign purpose could someone achieve by swapping boarding passes after going through security?

I suggest we’re not seeing any more stories about scan and grope because the sheep-like American people have gotten over their initial indignation and accepted it.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 01, 2011 10:29 AM | Send

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