How many times have you been awkwardly patted down by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents during security screening? It’s embarrassing, invasive, and uncomfortable, but has become a commonplace part of the security screening process.
Now, we’re learning that if you’re an attractive man flying through Denver International Airport, you may have been the target of sexual assault by a duo of TSA agents.
Apparently, two agents set up a nasty scheme where the male screener would give a signal to a female employee when a male passenger arrived that he thought was attractive. The female agent would then falsely enter the sex of the passenger as female so that the machine would register an anomaly and trigger the pat down. The male agent would then pat down the male passenger’s private parts using his palms (which is forbidden by TSA rules).
A tipster brought the scheme to the attention of the TSA back in November, but it wasn’t until March that the Denver police got involved.
The two deviant agents are gone but because no victims have come forward, there will be no criminal charges against them according to a report by NBC News.
If only we could be assured that the extent of this behavior is limited to these to agents, but as we saw with the IRS scandal, a couple of agents are sometimes scapegoated for wider systemic problems.
Time captures experiences of a former TSA agent:
Over the course of my six years with the TSA, the leveraging of rules and surveillance tools to abuse passengers was a daily checkpoint occurrence. Has the TSA screener searching your luggage suddenly decided to share with you the finer points of official bag-search procedure just as your final boarding call is being announced? There’s a good chance that he or she just doesn’t like you. Or in some cases, as we’ve seen, it may be that the screener finds you attractive and wants to use the TSA rules as an excuse to get his or her hands on you.
Amid all the jokes in comment sections, it’s easy to forget that the groping of these dozen or more male passengers by two conspiring TSA screeners is sexual assault, plain and simple. And while it’s easy to focus all the blame on the two unsavory screeners who are now no longer with the agency, perhaps the bigger issue here is a systemic one: There are far too many federal hands on people’s private parts in airports.
What most people don’t realize is that the full-body scanners the two agents used to assault those passengers — the scanners that millions of people pass through each day — are practically useless. The TSA, in its rush to replace the controversial “nude” radiation scanners that they phased out in 2013, swapped out one poorly functioning line of machines for another. The current millimeter wave scanners, with their outrageous false-positive rates, regularly cause unnecessary pat-downs: The agent running his or her hands over you after you pass through the scanner is almost never doing it for a good reason.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of the sexual assault of male passengers at Denver International via full-body scanners is that the victims will likely never even know they were assaulted, since so many passengers have their private parts fondled when passing through the scanners, anyway. It’s difficult to tell where airport security ends and sexual assault begins these days. Pat-downs of people’s sensitive areas should be much rarer than they are at the airport.
The actions of these agents is far worse than private citizens doing the same thing. Not only are we paying the salaries of these agents, we are putting our trust in their policies and actions –assuming that they are only doing what is absolutely necessary with minimal intent for harm.
Groping male passengers and no doubt female passengers and children is a horrendous breach of our trust in those charged with ensuring of security and safety. What happens when the violators are our protectors? Who do we turn to then?
The TSA deserves blame here. While they didn’t hire these agents knowing they would behave this way, they are responsible for oversight measures to ensure that agents aren’t “going rogue” on passengers. Why hadn’t this behavior been noticed by the TSA before tipsters caught wind? And why wasn’t it until March before this case was investigated – by Denver police? How many victims ran through the hands of these agents?
At the end of the day, while we may be a little safer from bombings and terrorist plots in the air, we’re still not safe and that’s a problem.