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TSA: Carcinogenic Petting Zoo

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
The TSA is effectively an unconstitutional, carcinogenic petting zoo. Deep down, we all feel that the airport security system is an FDA-approved rubdown and radiation parlor. But we are busy, rushing to catch flights, and we tell ourselves it is for our “safety.” So, like sheep, we comply.


The TSA security process is in violation of the law of the land, specifically the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Let’s be honest, when I “opt” for a pat-down over a blast of cancer-inducing radiation, it is not a choice—it is a preference for the lesser of two fixed evils. A pat- down is a clear violation of my “person;” there is no probable cause warranting random government agents to feel me up for weapons.

The pat-down system also violates my right to be secure in my “papers and effects.” Every time I get a pat-down, my personal property is subject to theft. The TSA pat-down process does nothing to prevent an unconscionable person (going through the scanner) from taking advantage of the fact that I’m helplessly standing behind waiting for a pat-down—unable to monitor my luggage.

Because, here is what normally happens: I inform the TSA agent, “I’m opting out.” The agent then calls for a “female assist” and asks me to step aside. I wait (occasionally up to 10 minutes) for a pat-down. Meanwhile my luggage—including my purse, iPhone, MacBook Pro and other valuables—travel the conveyer belt and idle on the other side of the X-ray machine where anyone could easily walk off with them.


On a recent flight out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, a female TSA agent (who was openly annoyed at the prospect of doing her job and giving me a pat-down while oddly assuming that I yearned for her to touch me) said: “Well, if you ask for one, we have to give you one. So, are you just doing this for the free massage we give you?” I wanted to respond: “No way, pervert.” But, since I wanted to make my flight, I replied: “No. I just don’t want the radiation.”

3,778 service calls were made between May of 2010 and May of 2011 to address mechanical issues in backscatter X-ray machines, according to a TSA report.

The New York Times writes: “The machines move a focused beam of high-intensity radiation very quickly across the body, and David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center, says he worries about mechanical malfunctions that could cause the beam to stop in one place for even a few seconds, resulting in greater radiation exposure.” The Times reports further: “A recent study reported that radiation from the machines can reach organs through the skin. In another report, researchers estimated that 1 billion X-ray backscatter scans per year could lead to perhaps 100 radiation-induced cancers in the future.”

Many independent researchers concur that the safety and radiation levels are still unknown because the TSA has actively kept its research in the dark and has redacted public reports.

The next time you fly, opt for the pat-down as a form of healthy protest. For now, it’s better than getting cancer from supposedly “fail-safe” body scanners. And if enough Americans congest airport traffic by choosing pat-downs, perhaps the TSA will eliminate its unconstitutional rubdown and radiation parlor.

Petting Zoo

Pat-downs do not keep us safe. They merely serve to treat Americans like animals. I may have long hair but I’m not a fuzzy tarantula or a furry bunny rabbit. I wear earrings in my ears, not bombs. Yet every time I get a pat-down, it starts with a TSA agent tugging down on my hair with clingy plastic gloves.

Last September, a Dallas woman named Isis Brantley (wearing a large afro hairstyle) cleared the checkpoint at Atlanta’s international airport as she had for the previous 20 years. Brantley had made it to the escalator when two TSA officers changed their minds and decided she was a terror suspect—perhaps imagining she used her hair to disguise a diminutive flamethrower. The agents chased her down the escalator shouting: “Stop—the lady with the hair, you!” They began parting through her hair on-the-spot without offering her a private screening area.

The TSA treats humans far worse than animals. For, petting zoo owners do not grope their cows, de-shoe their ponies and pluck their chickens before letting them into the barn. We are rational beings, not sheeple, and our bodies are our private property. It is time we speak up against the unconstitutional, carcinogenic petting zoo known as the TSA.

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