Friday, November 19, 2010


One woman is comparing her experience at Lambert Airport to a sexual assault.

Business traveler, Penny Moroney, was flying home from St. Louis to Chicago. Like all other airline passengers, she had to go through security first. When the metal in her artificial knees set off the detectors, she had to undergo more screening. When Moroney asked if she could go through a body scanner, she was told none were available.

A pat down was the only alternative.

Moroney explains “Her gloved hands touched my breasts...went between them. Then she went into the top of my slacks, inserted her hands between my underwear and my skin... then put her hands up on outside of slacks, and patted my genitals.”

“I was shaking and crying when I left that room” Moroney says. “Under any other circumstance, if a person touched me like that without my permission, it would be considered criminal sexual assault.”
When I got on the plane all I wanted to do was sob," says traveler Ella Swift.

Swift was one of an increasing number of passengers Transportation Security Administration officers are thoroughly searching by hand. They call it an "enhanced pat-down."

Swift says they told her she was singled out because she was wearing a skirt. She says the search earlier this month was very rough and left her in tears.

"The female officer ran her hand up the inside of my leg to my groin and she did it so hard and so rough she lifted me off my heels," she says. "I think I yelped. I was in pain for about an hour afterwards. It just felt excessive and unnecessary."

And this:

Special recommendations for Muslim women who wear hijab:

  • If you are selected for secondary screening after you go through the metal detector and it does not go off, and "sss" is not written on your boarding pass, ask the TSA officer if the reason you are being selected is because of your head scarf.
  • In this situation, you may be asked to submit to a pat-down or to go through a full body scanner. If you are selected for the scanner, you may ask to go through a pat-down instead.
  • Before you are patted down, you should remind the TSA officer that they are only supposed to pat down the area in question, in this scenario, your head and neck. They SHOULD NOT subject you to a full-body or partial-body pat-down.
  • You may ask to be taken to a private room for the pat-down procedure.
  • Instead of the pat-down, you can always request to pat down your own scarf, including head and neck area, and have the officers perform a chemical swipe of your hands.
  • If you encounter any issues, ask to speak to a supervisor immediately. They are there to assist you.

That last, of course, is from CAIR; reportedly Janet Napolitano is already considering whether or not Muslim women ought to be exempt from full-body scans and groping, though apparently all non-Muslim women ought to be willing to put up with being ogled and/or fondled, because, hey, they knew what they were doing when they bought a plane ticket...

Totally unacceptable.

If you fly out of town for Thanksgiving vacation next week, be sure to let us know at And Sometimes Tea if you encounter any of the aggressive/invasive screening procedures.


Kindred Spirit said...

Since women wearing the hijab aeem to have been exempted from molestation by the TSA I suggest that all females who face the Hobson's choice of scanner or patdown dress in the hijab until this country comes to its senses. If I were flying--and I don't plan to do so any time in the near future because of the TSA power play--I would put on the hijab in a heartbeat. And I'm Catholic. If you can't beat them, you can use their own ridiculous rules against them.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

This might be a good time to push for rapid development of a high speed rail system. If hordes of travellers decide to stop flying until this rudeness is cancelled, Amtrak won't be able to handle the overflow, much less Greyhound.

I know that railroads have their own vulnerabilities. But you can't hijack a train and fly it into a building. You aren't irretrievably up in the air if something happens. And the more different options we have, the better.

First, if one goes down, we have an alternative. Second, if I don't like the way I'm treated on one, I need alternatives if I'm going to choose not to fly.

Build the high speed rail network now!

P.S. My sister came out on a flight from NY this morning. Because she was wearing a skirt, they did the kind of intrusive search described here, just in case she was hiding weapons or explosives. Apparently wearing pants doesn't incur quite the same response, but she had a business meeting earlier than she expected to be able to check into her hotel room.

bearing said...

I'm beginning to think the solution is to wear a hijab on your head, and no pants.

All joking aside:

Maybe we could get the bishops to weigh in on how incredibly dehumanizing this process is, how it's not good for anybody to look at nudie pics and/or feel people up all day. Is it really a good idea for Catholic men and women to be monitoring one of these scanners?

Red Cardigan said...

Siarlys: that's terrible. Can we raise some outrage about skirt-wearing women being profiled--when nobody else is being profiled?

Bearing: LMNEHO (Laughing My Non-Existent Hijab Off)! :)

Anonymous said...

I think this is plainly demoralizing and, not quite the thing traveling companions should be witness in a public facility. I only wear skirts, and if my teen-age son knew about this humiliation, I'm sure we would have been not traveled anywhere at all when invited to Europe a couple years ago.

Carroll said...

In the large population of low paid TSA employees there is at least one who is both a pedophile and who has already piped his TSA machine "test" feed into his own private DVR.

While you're contemplating the prospect of the thousands of boys and girls traveling this Thanksgiving becoming this Christmas's pervert stocking stuffer DVD du jour, why not vote on whether this couple should get an abortion?

Tina Hollenbeck said...

I am an evangelical Christian who believes firmly in John 14.6, and I don't plan to fly anytime soon because of this government-sanctioned molestation (the groping) and pornography (the scanner pics). I also won't have my children subjected to such violation so we will stay home unless we can drive or go by bus or train. HOWEVER, if I had to fly, I would not hesitate to go and invest in Muslim garb for my daughters and myself...and I don't think the Lord would have any problem with it because I'd be doing it to protect us from assault. But, too, it is this exemption that is going to cause everything to hit the fan - if, as it seems, it is the very religious group from among whom the terrorists come that are being exempted. Sheesh!

The Sicilian said...

Erin, I was actually going to email you privately regarding my experience at San Diego Airport (Lindbergh Field) because I figured interest in the TSA post was over. Plus, having heard the news about that one passenger who protested the security measures at that airport in particular and was denied his flight, I figured I'd have an experience to report.

However, there really was nothing to see. I was surprised yesterday (11/19) when my experience going through security (at the JetBlue terminal) was no different than it has been in years. As usual, I had to take off my shoes and my jacket and have them, as well as my other belongings, pass through a scanner, as I simply walked through a scanner. I had no pat down, no full-body x-ray, nor was I told I had to do either. In fact, I didn't see anything resembing a full-body scanner, and I saw only one person, a man, have a manual scanner passed over him. That was it. Things might be different when I return through JFK in about a couple of weeks. Hopefully not!

Kindred Spirit said...

Tina Hollenbeck, I agree with your reasoning. The irony of it all is that this beyond-the-pale screening for terrorists began as a reaction to jihad-induced atrocities, but the one exemption to being molested is given to Moslems. May God have mercy on us all.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Last I heard, an exemption for Muslim women was considered, but not implemented. If it is implemented, I support a similar exemption for Roman Catholic women, who are required by their church to be chaste and modest. My sister is a deacon in a Protestant church, so she should qualify for a similar exemption. (Thanks Erin). Orthodox and Conservative Jewish women also... not quite sure about Reformed, but let's include them to be on the safe side.

In fact, I think atheists and pagans are about the only ones who can legitimately be searched. That might increase church attendance for a while... and provoke a lawsuit by the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

But really, this is simply no way to treat a woman, or for that matter, a man. That includes Muslim women. It is not the fault of any particular individual Muslim woman that some man half way around the world who finds his faith in the same scriptures is engaged in acts of terrorism.

LarryD said...

But really, this is simply no way to treat a woman, or for that matter, a man.

Or a child either. Kids have been repeatedly told to not let strangers touch them, and now it's being sanctioned in the presence of their parents. The TSA needs to include some common sense into their policy re: kids. Anyone under 16 must be exempt from the policy.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

For what little it may be worth, I just sent the following message to

I am disturbed to read that our nation’s elected leadership is deferring to “expert” subordinates in the executive branch who assert that subjecting air travellers to two million sexual assaults per day is the best or only way to insure our security.

Connecting the dots with existing intelligence could have stopped the “underwear bomber” ever getting on a plane. TSA is showing itself expert at “fighting the last war.” What happens when a suicide bomber packs explosives into a body cavity?

We elect leaders to take charge and set policy. The experts have their noses to the grindstone, and are in no position to make the best decisions for “We the People.” The president could reset priorities with an executive order, and should do so.

I have also invited discussion at

I remain curious whether the Republican majority in the House of Representatives will uphold the most rigorous security measures as a dubious measure of patriotism, or take the opportunity to pounce on the president for treading on our American liberties. I am certain that the president's hands off deference to TSA is motivated by fear of what the Republicans will say if he is "soft on terrorism."

opey124 said...

My husband flies often and will be this week too. Not sure if he will be subject to pat down or the scan. I wouldn't want either and I had refused a pat down before...not here in Saudi Arabia of all places.

Husband isn't worried with the scans, just me.

LarryD said...

Although if you're carrying an alien inside your stomach like from the movie Alien, at least they'll know before it...well, let's just leave it at that, okay?