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December 29, 2002

A TSA Response

We're back from the wedding, having successfully reduced the number of Ngnat's maiden aunts by one. More about that later. TSA spokesman Brian Doyle sent me an e-mail addressing the questions I sent the TSA regarding the Nick Monahan account of abuse at the Portland airport.

Here's his response;

Dear Mr. Bigwig*,

You raise a number of questions which I hope I can clarify for you.

Our screeners, as you may be aware go through an extensive training program of over 100 hours. They are trained in not only the security aspects of their job but in customer service. Including, training in various ethnic and cultural differences which may appear different to the average public. TSA is dedicated to world class security and world class customer service.

TSA treats pregnant individuals no differently than non-pregnant individuals. It is standard operating procedure to have a female wand a female passenger. As for touching a woman's breast, If the hand wand signals an alarm over the breast area, the screener must resolve the alarm. Typically, it is an under wire bra. The screener uses the back of her fingers to the under wire portion of the bra to resolve the alarm. It is TSA procedure to have a private screening option available at each airport, and if a person is required to take off clothing, they are escorted to a private area at their request.

The video of the checkpoint in question is maintained by the Port of Portland and the resident Port of Portland police. They do not destroy images, but it records over itself every three to seven days, depending on the image rate.

Matters of discipline are privacy act protected, and disclosure of an employees disciplinary record, absent litigation, could result in a cause of action by the employee against the Government. However, if it was found that an employee knowingly lied or falsified information, discipline could be imposed.

Regarding Mr. Monahan's allegations. TSA has no comment on any of Mr. Monahan's allegations. It is against policy to comment on any litigation or pending litigation.

Sincerely,
Brian J. Doyle
TSA Public Affairs

Initial Notes: Including, training in various ethnic and cultural differences which may appear different to the average public. - I so don't want people treated differently based on their ethnicity or culture, unless their ethnicity or culture gets them more attention from security than they would otherwise receive.

It is TSA procedure to have a private screening option available at each airport, and if a person is required to take off clothing, they are escorted to a private area at their request.

So it appears that the TSA will consent to a private search, but only at the request of the detainee. I wonder if they advise a person of that alternative before the search begins? My guess is no. Just as an aside, in a more innocent time when the sainted wife and I were married, her underwire bra set off the alarm at the courthouse, but once the wand search narrowed the search down to the boobal areas, the elderly and by now rather embarrassed guard asked her if she was wearing an underwire bra, and that was that.

The video of the checkpoint in question is maintained by the Port of Portland and the resident Port of Portland police. They do not destroy images, but it records over itself every three to seven days, depending on the image rate.

Every time I ask about the videotape, the Port of Portland sends me to the TSA and the TSA sends me back to Portland. My guess is that they realize their policy is weak on this point, and are eager to move me along. I don't mind that, particularly, it's the nature of bureaucracy. What does bother me is that any suspicious person who arrives via the Port of Portland will have all evidence of his arrival wiped out after at most a week. That seems like far too short a time, especially now that digital storage media is so cheap.

*No, he didn't call me bigwig

Update: One more thought, before moving on tonight. It is against policy to comment on any litigation or pending litigation. - I may be misinterpreting this, and if so maybe one of the law bloggers can help me out, but doesn't "pending litigation" cover an awfully wide area? If "litigation" means that someone is suing you, does "pending litigation" mean that someone might be thinking of suing you, or that you suspect someone might be thinking of suing you? If so, does saying "It is against policy to comment on any litigation or pending litigation." mean that you'll never have anything to say, no matter what the subject, ever? And this is a stated policy of a Federal Department? When did Omerta become official government policy?

Posted by Bigwig at December 29, 2002 03:33 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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