TSA: Looking Up Their Skirts for All The Wrong Reasons
July 22, 2016 (Fault Lines) — It seems the TSA just can’t catch a break, as it’s in the news again after the arrest of one of its agents:
A 29-year-old Tukwila man has been arrested on suspicion of taking photos from underneath female passengers’ skirts at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport where he worked as a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent.
There had previously been complaints before they finally caught him in the act.
After authorities received reports of the man’s alleged behavior, a TSA special agent and Port of Seattle police began monitoring him, according to the probable-cause statement outlining the police case against the suspect.
The TSA agent followed the suspect on Tuesday as he left a security checkpoint for a break at 11:15 a.m., according to the police record.
The suspect then allegedly “hurriedly walked over to the baggage claim escalator and positioned himself behind a woman” in a skirt and turned his phone on to record, the statement says.
They apparently didn’t receive just one report, but rather “reports” in the plural, and yet they still just monitored the guy to see if he’d criminally invade the privacy of another innocent woman before they finally did something. That woman probably would’ve appreciated not being the victim of a voyeur. But then again, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the TSA might not hold her privacy in high esteem.
The other thing that should come as no surprise to anyone is that people willing to work for the TSA are almost certainly more likely to be peeping Toms than your average citizen. It a tough job, and the agency overall suffers from both low morale and a high turnover rate. Plenty of decent people work there, of course, but it’s the sort of occupation that has a real risk of drawing people who are there for the wrong reasons, whether they’re petty tyrants infatuated with having a little power over others, or perverts who like to take photos up unsuspecting women’s skirts.
I’d like to think that police departments turn away recruits who show up to training with a stack of Soldier of Fortune magazines and won’t stop asking about when they get to crack some heads. I’d also like to think the TSA would try to avoid hiring agents when there’s even the slightest indication they’re abusing their position and the immense power they have to invade other people’s privacy.
In both instances, unfortunately, those people are probably going to slip through the cracks from time to time. Also in both instance, it seems they tend to give the potential offenders way more of the benefit of the doubt than they probably deserve. In that agent’s case, it meant waiting for him to commit the crime again before doing something about it.
The TSA issued a classic government agency response in light of the arrest:
TSA reports it has removed him from screening duties and placed him on indefinite suspension without pay.
“TSA does not tolerate illegal, unethical or immoral conduct,” TSA said in a statement. “When an investigation finds that misconduct has occurred, the appropriate action is taken.”
It’s arguable that the TSA does, in fact, not tolerate illegal conduct. Overall, it isn’t a criminal enterprise, and although plenty of its agents break the law now and again, so do a sizable number of people in every business. Whether or not it actually does not tolerate unethical or immoral conduct is questionable at best.
What the TSA does may be authorized by law, but it isn’t clearly ethical or moral if you look at it from an objective right versus wrong perspective. It’s a big, bloated and ineffective government agency whose primary purpose seems to be the security theatre of staring at our naked bodies, fondling our genitals, and rifling through our personal belongings whenever we want to travel someplace by airplane. None of those things are even close to okay alone. Instead, it’s our firm belief that these things make us safer that justifies the TSA’s existence in the first place. That’s really the only reason why anything the TSA does is any more acceptable than what its now-arrested agent from Sea-Tac did.
It’s even harder to see the distinction when you consider the sorts of things other people at the TSA are up to. Not even taking into account specific misbehavior, the long lines that wreak havoc on people’s schedules and cause a huge negative economic effect are bad enough. They’re just the beginning.
Remember the TSA worker who beat up a co-worker with a baton because the co-worker made fun of his little penis after seeing it during a training exercise? Or the recent St. Jude’s brain tumor patient they bloodied and bruised? It’s no surprise some think the agency must go. It’s a disaster, a pricey and inconvenient security theatre production so ineffective that Homeland Security agents posing as passengers got weapons past TSA agents in 67 out of 70 tests, a 95 percent failure rate.
There’s a lot of legitimacy that comes from being a government agency, and as a result, they get away with things that individuals never could. However, there should come a point where we should ask ourselves if the presumption of lawfulness of the activities of an agency like the TSA, which is duly created by the legislature, but whose actions would, under any other circumstances, be totally unacceptable coming from any private individual or entity, is still deserved.
Looking at its dreadful track record and the significant negative effect impact it has even when it’s operating more or less as it should, it’s all but impossible to make an argument that what the TSA is doing is ethical or moral on any grounds except for the fact it’s doing what it’s supposed to do. That’s hardly persuasive. What the TSA really should’ve said is that it doesn’t tolerate unethical or immoral conduct except for the unethical or immoral conduct that serves as its basis for existing in the first place.
We live in a funny world. The agent who quietly walks behind a woman on a baggage claim escalator, surreptitiously recording her in a way that only interfered with her day to the extent she eventually realized it was happening, gets removed from duty, suspended without pay, arrested, charged, and ultimately jailed in lieu of a $7,500 bond. His co-workers, who leer at the unclothed bodies of people forced to display them, fondle the genitals of those who refuse, and then inspect the most intimate possessions of others while abysmally failing to make anyone even the slightest bit safer, are just doing their jobs. They’re not going anywhere.
It wasn’t the voyeurism or general misbehavior of that agent that actually got him into trouble. It was the fact it was extracurricular.