from Fran Tully (email)
(The following letter is a response to a reply I received from the TSA following a formal complaint. It is my wish that this letter will be widely distributed and read by as many people as possible. It may be reprinted, reread, and redistributed in part or in its entirety without further permission.)
Dear Anonymous TSA Contact Center Respondent,
Let me start off by saying that I find it offensive that a formal complaint was responded to by an automated response or a government agent that is too cowardly to even sign their name to their pathetic response. I despise cowardice and it seems that your agency is rife with it.
Secondly, your response to my complaint is the most asinine answer I have ever received from a government agency – and that is really saying something.
The TSA issues directives to agents in the field. The agents unquestioningly enforce whatever policies come out. And then, when (IF) travelers complain, these agents hide behind “the agency” with weak, pathetic comments like, “we don’t agree with everything that the TSA does, but we have to follow the rules”.
So when a traveler like me believes that someone in the field goes too far, as is the case here, and the agent claims that their hands are tied because of new agency policies and directives, we file a formal complaint in hopes that the error is corrected, the value of the property is returned, an apology is issued, and if need be, the security screening agent is disciplined, retrained, or fired.
But now that I have filed a formal complaint, the agencies reply to my formal complaint is that there is nothing that can be done… that “the screening personnel make the FINAL decision on whether to permit items into the STERILE area of the airport”. So who the hell is in charge??? The agency? Or the screening agent? This is typical bureaucratic double talk with a bunch of cowards pointing at the “other guy” and nobody to answer for bad policy.
What a load of horse crap! The TSA is totally out of control, and now you expect me to believe that there is no official directives or policies, and that a traveler HAS NO RECOURSE FOR BAD ENFORCEMENT. We are to believe that there is no governing body to serve as a check and balance on screening personnel? We are to accept that they are infallible and that there is no higher authority to appeal to?
I’m sorry, but as a tax payer and a frequent traveler, that is just not good enough.
The TSA is a tax payer funded program. The TSA ultimately answers to the taxpayers. That means that the TSA had damn well better have some OFFICIAL policies. And when one of those OFFICIAL policies is not clear to an agent, or is abused by an agent, then there needs to be a PERSON (or at the very least a department) who is accountable to the traveler to address their concerns. And if in addressing their concerns, it turns out that the screening personnel made an error that damaged the traveler, that department should make an effort to make them whole again. In America, you cannot create a policy that allows stealing, because it is unlawful to steal. You cannot write policy to make sexual abuse OK, because we have laws against sexual abuse. POLICIES do not trump LAWS. The TSA does not have the right to sexually abuse people or steal their belongings at the sole discretion of security screening personnel!!! There are laws against these things.
IF a department or official agency policy cannot support an agent’s reason for stealing items from passengers with unambiguous agency supported directives and policies, then the TSA is operating a rogue agency that must be nipped in the bud immediately.
We cannot allow a rogue agency, funded with tax dollars, to say that anything that the screening personnel wants to steal, confiscate, or disallow IS at the sole discretion of TSA security personnel. Imagine if there were no laws, but police officers could just make up laws as they go. Who would accept such nonsense?
And yet, this appears to be what this response from the TSA is saying. IF this is the official position of the TSA, than it is urgent that we dismantle this program at once. I will do everything in my power to see that your official response to my legitimate complaint gets the attention that it deserves. I feel that your agency is irresponsible, rogue, out of control, and anathema to the freedoms that this country was founded on.
It seems clear to me that the TSA believes that it is beyond reproach and that it can subject travelers to behavior that would be illegal and jailable if done without a uniform and the threat of the US Government behind it. In most countries, including this one, some of their behavior would justify shooting – if done without the threat and protection of the Federal Government. Now I am obviously not suggesting that anyone shoot TSA agents, but by whose authority are they operating? Who is in a position to give them the authority to violate our rights without recourse or official WRITTEN policy? Why is TSA exempt from the laws of the land? Why does TSA not have to justify the actions of their agents? Why do low-level transportation security agents have carte blanch to make official policy on the fly, when even our police and FBI agents don’t have that authority?
TSA has abused their power and is abusing US citizens. We have been duped into allowing the creation of this rogue agency in the name of greater security. That’s a lie. We don’t have better security, we have NO security. We are virtually guaranteed that our rights will be violated every time we wish to fly. The TSA exists supposedly, because they want to protect us from terrorism.
Here is the definition of terrorism:
1. the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.
2. the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.
3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.
Now to ME, I find someone who threatens to molest me or my children as a threat of violence.
To ME, if someone says “give me your property or I will not let you and your family fly today”, I find that very intimidating, and very threatening.
To ME, if someone says, “if you don’t cooperate with me, I will see that you never fly again… I will see that you are put on the no fly list”, I find that to be extremely coercive, intimidating, and threatening.
But, if someone had a 1” trinket on their keychain with no moving parts, no barrel, no trigger mechanism, I would not be intimidated, fearful, or feel threatened or coerced in any way. (And I don’t believe any rational person on Earth would either)
When a rational person listens to a conversation with a TSA agent over the confiscation of such a trivial item, they shake their head in utter amazement and disbelief. It becomes crystal clear that not only should these people NOT be in charge of our security, but that no private sector company would ever give them carte blanch decision-making authority on any matter greater than what will be served for lunch. Listen to the conversation “TSA takes gun trinket.mp3” (attached).
In a just world, this agency would be dismantled immediately, and anyone who had TSA listed as a prior job would be reflexively disqualified for any private sector employment.
Here is how a rational, logical, non-government employee would have handled the original situation: “I’m sorry we stopped you for that item. Sometimes our screeners feel it is best to err on the side of safety. However, as anyone can plainly see, this is just a trinket and obviously poses no threat, so you are welcome to take it back. Again, accept our apology for detaining you… have a nice day, sir.” – And that is why private sector jobs make a profit, and TSA security screeners don’t. Are they really there for our safety, or are they there to take away our dignity, our trinkets, and our minty fresh breath? You decide.