Article by: Daniel S. Harawa

41 PEPP. L. REV.  1 (2013)


History reveals that the initial steps in the erosion of individual rights are usually excused on the basis of an “emergency” or threat to the public. But the ultimate strength of our constitutional guarantees lies in their unhesitating application in times of crisis and tranquility alike.

—Judge Walter R. Mansfield

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has come under increasing scrutiny since its creation in 2001. In the 112th Congress alone, TSA-related witnesses testified at thirty-eight congressional hearings and provided 425 briefings for members of Congress. As aptly summarized by Charlie Leocha, director of the Consumer Travel Alliance, “[t]o much of the flying public, the TSA is a boogeyman . . . . TSA has become the butt of countless jokes.” And by most accounts, Leocha is right. Criticisms of the TSA and airport security measures have been lobbed from almost every corner imaginable. The attacks have been full-throated, nonpartisan, and increasingly vitriolic. In fact, it has become commonplace to turn on the television or open the newspaper and see the TSA being lambasted in some way, shape, or form.

The stories concerning TSA misconduct have been as shocking as they have numerous. Many of the stories would be comical if they were not true. Here are some highlights. In 2008, in Lubbock, Texas, a woman was forced to remove her nipple piercings in the middle of the airport at the insistence of TSA agents. Again in 2008, a woman’s brassiere underwire set off airport metal detectors, and she was forced to remove her bra for closer inspection. New mother Elizabeth McGarry was forced to taste her own breast milk at JFK Airport to assure TSA agents that the bottles did not contain poisonous liquids. In Lansing, Michigan, TSA agents burst a bladder cancer patient’s urostomy bag during the course of a pat-down, such that the man had to board his flight covered in his own urine.

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