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Ten Things You Should Say to the TSA Employees Who Want to Touch You

This week the Transportation Security Administration announced that travelers who don't want strangers to see their naked form in a full-body scanner and also don't want a stranger groping them will not be fined $11,000 for their refusal to cooperate. (If you decline the searches and then bolt for the terminal, you will still be fined.)

But that hasn't stopped thousands of outraged travelers from expressing their displeasure and others from promising to cause long delays on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

And so, for the civil dissidents exercising their right to not be groped, we offer a short list of things you might want to say to the TSA employee about to lay hands on you.

Now, it should be noted here that the vast majority of TSA employees are good, hard-working, honest people trying to feed their families. Many are retired military personnel who certainly aren't looking forward to touching your privates through a latex glove.

But violating someone's civil liberties, even if it's in the course of an otherwise earnest job, is still a federal offense. Assault, even if it's done by someone in uniform (especially then), is still a crime.

Many people will argue that flying commercially in this country is a choice, a privilege and not a right. But of course, taxpayers aren't offered a choice when it comes to paying for this government agency and the government employees violating their privacy.

The ACLU has a list of options and suggestions for travelers that includes asking to be patted down in a private area and asking for a receipt for any electronics TSA employees may take from you.

Here are a few other things you might want to say to your special agent when the time is right:

1) "Do you know which STDs can get through latex?"
It couldn't hurt to remind your new friend what kind of new lifelong diseases might accidentally jump from one person to another with such close contact. Other alternatives might include: "Can you check me for lumps while you're at it?" and "Does that smell funny to you?"

2) "Can you at least buy me dinner or drinks first?"
This is one of the oldest jokes in the book, but it always means the same thing: Someone feels violated and is politely looking for acknowledgment or compensation.

3) "Can my friend watch?"
According to TSA policy, if you elect the enhanced pat down, you can have a witness with you. Even better if your friend can videotape the whole thing so everyone can remember that special encounter.

4) "You can see me; when I can see you."
Is the TSA employee willing to strip down to nothing but underwear -- or better yet, nothing at all -- to perform these searches? Why not? Because that could be awkward and embarrassing? Because it might even leave someone feeling a little violated?

5) "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
The TSA employee shouldn't be willing to touch you in any way that he or she wouldn't feel comfortable being touched by you. It's more than the "Golden Rule"; it's the basic tenet around which we form laws in this society.

6) "Are you going to touch my genitals?"
The TSA regulations say enhanced pat downs will include the "upper thigh" area. It's fair to ask the strangers in uniform if, when they grope you before your trip home for the holidays, they intend to touch your "junk." No matter how they answer, it might be a good time to remind them of number five. "If you touch mine, I'm damned sure gonna touch yours." 

7) "If you assault me, I'm going to press charges."
If someone commits a crime while employed by someone else -- even the federal government -- the act is still a crime. If someone touches you against your will, it's an assault and the offender should be arrested. Remind them of how A Few Good Men ended: with two guys who acted under orders going to prison because they should have known better.

8) "Can I have my rights back?"
This serves no greater purpose than to remind you and the people around you exactly what is going on here. The government is suspending your Fourth Amendment rights, at least temporarily, in the name of safety. Even the people who have no problem with that still need to hear it from time to time. Perhaps the worst consequence of this new policy is the social training, the insistence that individuals "shut up and fall in line" without even asking the authority figures basic questions. Magicians and liberty advocates Penn and Teller even offer a small metal copy of the Bill of Rights that you can carry with you, so there comes a point in the security line where you can ask them to literally return your rights.

9) "Is this making us safer?"
This is the ultimate question. Even if you accept the premise that these procedures protect us from hidden bombs -- and many don't accept that at all, calling the current approach "security theater" -- this is most certainly not making us safer in general. In fact, it's actual guarantees that some people will be assaulted by employees of the United States government. And consider this: A recent National Security Council study estimates that you are eight times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a terrorist.

10) "What would be too far?"

This question is more for the scan and pat down supporters and for the millions of passive people who aren't bothered at all by this. It's not even meant to convince as much as it's simple curiosity. If subjecting the American people to virtual strip searches and mild sexual assaults isn't offensive, what would be? What if, for the sake of security, every traveler had to walk bare naked down a hallway full of cameras? What if, in the name of searching for bombs, security agents want to penetrate you, your spouse, and your children? Would that be too far?

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Michael J. Mooney

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