TSA: A tale of sexual assault

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Here's the latest example of an arbitrary, unnecessary and appallingly invasive U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) "patdown." I had the unfortunate experience of enduring such a procedure - which more appropriately can be called a sexual assault - on Nov. 25 at the Norfolk International Airport in Norfolk, Va. I was returning from Norfolk to Washington, D.C.

My passage through the security line checkpoint triggered no alarms. Yet, two TSA agents told me, I had to suffer the mortification and degradation of this "patdown" ostensibly because I was wearing a long skirt.

The search involved highly invasive groping and probing of my private areas. As part of the procedure, which took five to six minutes, the TSA agent reached into my skirt, exploring front to back. I did ask that the search be conducted in a private room and, happily for me, my request was granted - but had I not made such a request, I would have had to undergo the indignity and humiliation of this assault in front of hundreds of holiday travelers.

One of the agents told me that Norfolk International does not have a body-scanning device, so I had no recourse but to submit to this assault.

Nowhere on the TSA website is there any mention of a "patdown" requiring such a highly invasive and violative search. Nowhere on the site is there a citation of any regulation that calls for such a search simply because a passenger is wearing a skirt. Further, it is silent on whether any TSA agent has the right to conduct any such search on a personal whim or because she may choose to interpret existing regulations as she pleases.

I am horrified and disgusted by the experience - a clear example of absolute abuse of absolute power. I feel violated and raped. TSA agents who subject passengers to this odious, invasive and abusive "patdown" - a screamingly laughable euphemism if ever there was one - are operating under the same psychological principle that prompts prison guards to abuse and torture inmates - they do it because they can.

As a white American female over 40, a law-abiding citizen with nary so much as a traffic violation in my history, and an editor of an eminent international science journal, I hardly fit the profile of a terrorist.

This was no reasoned, logical attempt on the agent's part to prevent or preclude an act of terrorism by a passenger. This was pure and unadulterated security theater.

The TSA, a worthless and money-sucking artifact of the George W. Bush administration, must be disbanded, or, at least, stripped of the power it now holds to commit such assaults. The regulations that permit the agency's so-called security procedures must be changed immediately to bar these practices. They are wholly ineffective - not once since their implementation have they actually thwarted a potential act of terrorism - and they violate our personal, constitutional, civil and legal rights. They must end now.

Karen Kaplan is a native of Waterford and a former staff writer for The Day. She now lives in Washington D.C.

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