From: John S. Pistole, TSA Administrator

To: TSA Employees


Happy Friday, TSA Family! Today I'm not coming at you with a bunch of boring rules, like my last memo. No, today I'm here with kudos for our Tip Top TSA Team!

Today the kudos belong to our team members at Dallas Love Field for putting a non-compliant civilian in her place:

Deaton — who has a medical condition — said Transportation Security Administration agents at Dallas Love Field crossed the line after they noticed something hanging from her stomach. She told them it was a gastric tube to flush toxins from her body.

They pulled her aside for a pat-down. Deaton said it happened behind a screen and not in a private room, and away from her luggage. Agents asked to look at the tube.

"When I pulled my shirt out and they catch a glimpse of it, they both go, 'Ugh!'" Deaton said. "I said, 'Thank you for your professionalism.'"

And they said "thanks for shutting up, beeyotch!" BOOM! Amirite?

Anyway, our team members in Dallas handled it exactly right. Here's the thing, friends: and we've been complaining for years, some of the American people have stopped offering us the unquestioning compliance we are entitled to as a result of our official rank. That's because of attitudes creeping back into the American psyche — attitudes like dignity, bodily integrity, the equality of all whether in uniform or not, and individuality. These are not post-9/11 American values. They are 9/10 values. We need to push back, and remind Americans they are a group, not individuals, and need to submit without question or complaint for the good of the whole. As generations of drill sargeants, camp counselors, and nontraditional religious group leaders know, you break down these obstructionist individual values by breaking a person down and building them up again as part of a group.

This civilian in Dallas may call it "humiliation." But remember that the root of "humiliation" is "humility" — the very spirit with which civilians should approach you, the officials assigned to instruct them in their obligations as a member of the traveling public. The sort of tactics used by our Dallas team are exactly the sort that will break down stuck-up individuals and turn them into complaint team members. If you have any doubt, review some of the other techniques that we've used effectively:

Eat their lunch. I mean literally.

–Faced with an uppity woman? A good hard probe will put her in her place.

Take toys from the developmentally handicapped. If they don't know their place, who will?

–A A full pat-down of a child in front of a helpless parent will establish that the state is the REAL parent entitled to obedience.

–People are sensitive about bodily fluids like breast milk. Use that to break them down.

–People are also sensitive about prosthetics. The more private the replaced part, the more sensitive the civilian. Use that. It works. Trust me.

–The gal in Dallas only had a tube, which is of minimal use. Some people have bags. If you have control over their ostomy bags, you have control over them. Watch that only they get doused with bodily fluids, though. Dry cleaning isn't free!

–Not everyone is hard to break down. Some people come pre-broken-down. Watch out for people who may have been crime victims. They make useful object lessons to others.

–Similarly, if you show an elderly veteran who's boss, others will fall in line.

–Some "nontraditional" folks are particularly stubborn about recognizing our authority. Hand them pliers and tell them "lose the hardware, hippie." Puts them in their place every time.

In short: MAKE THEM RESPECT YOU. Remind them where you came from.

Some people — people who aren't quite yet "with the TSA program" — have asked me if it is right to use humiliation as a weapon to make Americans return to post-9/11 unquestioning compliance. "Aren't Americans a free people?" they ask. "Don't they deserve better?"

Look: if they were really a free people, or really deserved better, would they be letting us do this?

Anyway, kudos again to the team at Love Field. Your T-shirts are on the way. Attaboy!

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Ben says

    I know (now) that it is illegal to try and reason with a police officer while they are executing their duties – but it seems like this would help to inhibit some of these egregious cases, if individual's who saw but did not understand the excessive nature of the officer's action, could request an accounting of why the officer was acting as he was.

    I do not think that one should be entitled to interfere with officer but once everything is 'calm', it would seem that being given greater perspective on what was happening would be beneficial.

    I have never witnessed something as patently absurd as this on the occasions that I have flown – but the one time I did ask about (what I perceived at the time) something unfair, I essentially told "Do not become involved, it is not your place."

    So I think that we should be able to have the expectation that if we see someone doing something we do not understand, we should be able to ask them 'why?' without being considered a nuisance or unwelcome interloper.

  2. nrasmuss13 says

    There is one root and cause of this behavior; it connects the lowliest TSA "Agent" with the most powerful prosecutors and officials of the land: immunity. So long as those who wield the badge of The State – be they ever so lowly or ever so powerful – are held by our government and permitted – even aided – by our courts to plead immunity to the consequences of their (mis)behavior – immunity, frankly, even to the need to ever step foot in court and explain their actions, this sort of intolerable, abusive behavior will continue.

    Plain and simple.

    And anyway, just who the hell do you think you are to live under the blanket of freedom that they provide, and then question the manner in which they provide it?

  3. says

    Dang, looks like I got off pretty easy after all in last summer's pat-down. The groping was relatively mild, if awfully public, especially since there was really no discernible reason for it in the first place – I was carefully unremarkable, far as I could tell. It didn't seem entirely kosher to me at the time, but it was bloody early in the morning and I was just too groggily undercaffeinated, operating on some level below autopilot; queasy realization didn't fully kick in until I was half-way across the country. Ugh.

    I usually try to be efficient and cheerfully matter-of-fact about the inconveniences of the usual screening process – not a whole lot of point in bitching and moaning about it, I figure. On that occasion… they're lucky I was just too exhausted to process what was going on until it was over and done with, or there would have been fireworks, and righteous indignation, and me missing my flight and joining the list of statistics. It's all in the timing.

    psssst… Ken… typo alert… "sargeant" in 2nd graf after first quoted passage, "complaint" in the one after that

  4. says

    Flying into Sydney last month, my American wife was selected by our equivalent of TSA agents, to be his random carry-on baggage swab test patsy. Flying back up to Brisbane, it was my turn to be randomly selected.

    No poking, prodding or groping took place in either instance. We're fortunate here insofar as the checks to which we submit ourselves haven't yet become publicly humiliating or invasive.

  5. Allen says

    My favorite TSA experience. It was not long after the TSA came into being and they had installed the explosive swipe systems. Now I work with explosives and the residues get everywhere. It's unavoidable and the testing thresholds on the machines are miniscule.

    So, I'm in LAX and they swipe my shoes and the machine goes beep. The TSA employee looks confused and re-runs the test and the machine goes beep again. They then proceeded to "test" the system by pounding on it. After the machine was whacked sufficently I explained that it's probably a true positive due to my work.

    Well, after being wrestled to the ground and sufficently sequestered they allowed me to show them my various licenses from other government agencies, like the BATFE, the California DoJ and whatnot. When I said, "sure you can fingerprint me, I didn't get those licenses without submitting them," at first it seemed to make them suspicious but after the nice fellow from the FBI showed up I was released soon thereafter.

    I've been on a special list since then, and it's always a joy to fly.

  6. Damon says

    Those pieces of shit.

    And just imagine how much they'll tout their necessity in a few decades after they've finally, by pure chance, actually found a criminal. Odds are it'll happen someday, after all. After they've harassed several million more people with colostomy bags or prostheses.

  7. CourtneyLee says

    After following a few of those links, I'm pretty sure my breastmilk curdled.

    The TSA is actually one of the big reasons why my husband and I have decided to drive from Minnesota to southern California in October. We really don't want to explain to our six year old daughter that in order to make sure the airplanes are safe on our trip to see her grandparents, she has to be molested by a minimum-wage McDonalds reject on a power trip.

  8. says

    As far as I'm concerned, the terrorists won. They set out to punish us by drastically altering our way of life for the worse, and they succeeded.

  9. Laura K says

    ARGH Deezard, sorry, did not see you posted that and did not intend to try and steel your thunder.

  10. nlp says

    You forgot the one about dumping the ashes of a recently deceased relative on the floor and then laughing at the passenger frantically trying to collect the pieces.

  11. Anita says

    You know what annoys me? My local news tells me all about what happened on the previous night's "America's Got Talent," "American Idol," and whatever local connection they can find to TV shows airing on their networks, but I haven't heard them report on any of these TSA transgressions. I suppose that the lack of news on the news is a different subject entirely, though.

  12. En Passant says

    From the link on the Dallas Love Field incident:

    Her medical condition requires her to eat only soft foods. She claims that when agents checked her luggage, they threw out her containers filled with applesauce and pudding. She told them it was her food, and asked for a supervisor.

    According to Deaton, the supervisor grabbed the food from the trash, screened it out of her sight, and gave it back.

    "What did they do to check it? It was out of my sight," she said. "I'm not eating this."

    Consider the TSA's policy, illustrated here:

    TSA droid: "Supervisor, I've just confiscated some stuff that looks like food, but it could be dangerous explosives. What should I do with it?"

    TSA super: "Just toss it in the trash."

    How any American with two neurons to rub together could fail to see that TSA, from the top on the day it was born, was at best intended to be a security theatre troupe is beyond my comprehension.

  13. Noah Callaway says

    "Look: if they were really a free people, or really deserved better, would they be letting us do this?"

    That is the most painful question in the post.

  14. says

    This is terrifying…do they do this to everyone? Why would anyone want to fly in the US if this is "standard procedure"?

  15. bja009 says

    I just flew through Love yesterday (day trip to Dallas, ugh).
    When I opted out, they did their damnedest to make me a) an object of ridicule for holding up the process by exercising my right to a pat-down and b) spent the entire pat-down trying to convince me that the whole charade is utterly necessary for our safety. The guy even tried to convince me that without the scanners, there would be an epidemic of people smuggling ceramic knives onto planes and stabbing people. When I asked him how many such incidents occurred in the magnetometer-only days, he asked me what a magnetometer was. Plus he was utterly unfamiliar with the 1st and 4th amendments, so that was a fun conversation.
    Man I hate the TSA.

  16. Jess says

    I'm taking bets on how soon this story intersects the Aurora tradgedy and we start to see TSA pat downs at the movie theater.

  17. deezerd says

    @LauraK – Hey, the more the merrier. That's one worth sharing far and wide, as far as I'm concerned. After all, I think we Popehat readers can all agree that being a pain in the ass to a TSA agent is something to be encouraged. ;)

  18. Jess says

    One of my favorite write ups on the TSA here I love Marc’s take on this. As bad as the TSA is, the hundreds of thousands of sheeple make it possible for them to exist and do what they do.

    @En Passant – point well made. If her food was truly potential bomb material it shouldn’t be thrown into a trash bin in close proximity to the passengers the TSA are supposedly trying to protect.

    @nrasmuss13 – qualified immunity is only part of the problem with the TSA. The other issue that has to be addressed is the under the table handshake deals around Federal funding. The porno scanners were designed, built, and purchased BEFORE the underwear bomber incident. Follow the money.

    @Laura K, Tsarina and other women. I've come up with a process around screening that has thus far protected my dignity. I make sure to arrive early because I know I will refuse the scanners every time. I also have a micro recorder that I wear on a string around my neck so I can audio record if needed. I make sure to wear a bra with a bit but not too much padding, pants, and a really large maxi pad (whether it is that time of the month or not) so no one gets all touchy feely with me. So far no one has crossed the line in the pat down, discovered the pad, or worse yet made some ridiculous comment asking me to remove it. To which I would reply with appropriate horrified indignation and request the attendance of a LEO. The LEO’s I’ve encountered thus far are far less tolerant of TSA irrational BS when it comes to screening. TSA counts on our fear of them keeping us from our flight or having us arrested. TSA cannot strip search you or arrest you despite what they say. They have to call a LEO for that. But they will threaten, knowing that most travelers have no idea about their scope of power and won't question their demands. I’m always unfailingly polite but firm in dealing with the TSA. I know what I will and will not allow and I’m always prepared not to fly that day if I run into an issue. Thankfully so far I haven’t had to make that decision.

    The unfortunate reality now is that if I can drive to the location in 5 hours or less I don’t bother to get on a plane anymore. It’s simply not worth the hassle or the invasion of my privacy.

  19. AlphaCentauri says

    I'd like to see everyone the size of "Funnyjunk's Mom" wear thong bikinis/speedos and strip down that far before going through screening. To save the TSA agents the need to touch them.

  20. Kelly says

    On an amusing note: The man who holds the apparent world record for being (how do I say it without being offensive to anyone?) well hung? was stopped by the TSA who didn't believe he didn't have 'anything in his pocket'. Apparently, he was amused by the whole thing though. I have a feeling those particular TSA agents are going to be a bit more cautious in the future.

  21. desconhecido says

    Yeah, I read about the guy with the world's largest. Apparently, it wasn't even angry.

  22. Kelly says

    it wasn't even angry he? Nope, from what I saw he was amused by it all and just shrugged it off. Perhaps whomever gave him that world record award should give him a card to show the TSA?

    Also, on the note of crappy things done by the TSA… did you know that the Indianapolis TSA agents think that anyone with a tattoo must be sent through the naked scanner (meh, it is what I call them)… It was a good thing that I was hours earlier than I needed to be for that flight since I had an international connection. I was more worried about my earrings (since I have seven) and the toe rings… but it was my tattoos that sent me through the humiliating scanner. I actually stopped and nearly refused. The 'it is because you have tattoos' threw me off enough to finally consent and get it over with.

  23. Jess says

    Kelly, naked scanner/porno scanner – both are accurate descriptions. The level of detail they show is far greater than the public has necessarily been led to believe. It's precisely the tactics you describe that cause most people to throw their hands up in frustration and give in. I respect your choice as it is yours to make but I do wish you had refused. The more people who refuse the more likely they will eventually give up using them.

  24. Kelly says

    If I hadn't skipped the coffee to get to the airport by o'dark thirty I would have refused. I wanted to so bad, but I was on my way to a professional conference and had so many connections to make that I bit back my usual sarcastic retort (which likely would have had me in handcuffs) and went with it. I did snark at the TSA idiots something like 'you could have picked someone with a better body to see naked'. The guy just rolled his eyes, but the older gentleman behind me laughed loudly.

  25. says

    My body art doesn't stop a the neck. When I try to tell the TSA tools that we might as well go straight to the pat-down they act like I am trying to pull a fast one.

    The fact that I am getting "The long scan", also know as "the twice over" every time, just gets me twice the dose of unneeded radiation before I end up in the grope-room, is injury on top of insult.

    Though if the gropers were a little hotter I wouldn't mind so much… /evil leer…

    The real thing that isn't getting proper press coverage is that the -manufacturers- of the devices have -always- said that the machines are -not- safe for regular use and were -only- intended for specialty second tier screenings. At the recommended usage rate, Chicago O'Hare airport should have two to maybe four of the machines total.

  26. says

    @Kelly — Wooooosh…. "wasn't even angry" is guy slang for "not erect, or even tumescent" e.g. "not exited at all"….

    desconhecido's trigger word was "it". He didn't say "he wasn't even angry", he said "it wasn't even angry"… /doh.

    Men are such boys

    [with no apology to Family Guy at all….]

    *titter* *titter* … peins! …

  27. says

    @Robert White: I think you're on to something there. Volunteer for the pat-down. Act like you really, really, really enjoy it. Ask them to go "a little to the left."

  28. Kelly says

    @ Robert White: I know about the radiation, it sucks. :( I also had a good laugh at the 'it' vs 'he' since I have a rather guttermind. I am so trying the 'why not just pat me down' comment next time. *evil laughter* I may actually skip the pat down and naked scanner if I do that!

  29. Gal says

    There's a comedian called Ahmed Ahmed, he has a pretty good bit about airport security. "Security has gotten so bad I just show up in a G-string."

  30. Gal says

    "Enhanced pat downs" are supposed to be administered by members of the same sex, right? So who's job is it to fondle pre-op transsexuals?

  31. says

    I wonder if they make a black ink with enough metal in it to trigger a porno-scanner. Too funny to get a tattoo of a gun in the small of your back were such an ink to exist… 8-)

  32. Kelly says

    I actually want one of those tee-shirts done in invisible ink that shows up on the naked scanner that rants at the TSA. If I travel again anytime soon I will be ordering one. As for tattoo ink, there are invisible ink/glow in the dark inks, but I am not certain of their safety. Those might show up on the naked scanner.