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Oct 28 2011

How Creepy is the TSA?

As someone who flies a lot, this story is incredibly disturbing. A TSA agent inspected a woman’s luggage, found a sex toy and left a note for her in the suitcase about it.

“Just unpacked my suitcase and found this note from TSA,” tweets writer and attorney Jill Filipovic of Feministe. “Guess they discovered a ‘personal item’ in my bag. Wow.”

It was a standard-issue “we rummaged through your checked luggage” Transportation Security Administration Notice of Inspection (NOI), but with these handwritten words in pen overlaid: “GET YOUR FREAK ON GIRL.”

TSA needs to find out which employee did this and fire them immediately. Given they know where and when it occurred and the handwriting is on the note, it shouldn’t be difficult to identify them.

Update: And in fact, they’ve been identified. Internally. And TSA says they’ve been disciplined, but they won’t say who it is or what the discipline was. Balko reacts:

This is pretty much par for the course at the agency. They never release the names of employees who violate policy, harass travelers, or, while they’re doing all that, let bombs and guns slip through screening during competency tests. I guess it’s good to know that while the agency is busy feeling us up, scanning or bodies, and digging through our bags, they do at least take someone’s privacy seriously.

17 comments

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  1. 1
    speedwell

    The Consumerist blog has information that the agent will be fired, if that’s what “removed from federal service” means:

    http://consumerist.com/2011/10/tsa-reportedly-firing-agent-who-wrote-get-your-freak-on-note.html

  2. 2
    Abby Normal

    I’m told I sometimes have trouble understanding boundaries. So it’s probably just me. But I thought the note was cute and funny. I mean, I know it was unprofessional and I’m not saying other reactions are in any way wrong. But had it been me I’d have wanted to know who the agent was so I could write them a thank-you note for making me smile.

  3. 3
    speedwell

    Yeah, it’s how you take it, I guess. I probably wouldn’t be offended if a TSA agent found a deck of Tarot cards in my luggage and wrote “Namaste” or “Blessed Be” on the card (despite the fact that I’m neither Hindu nor Wiccan). I would be offended if they found a bottle of diabetes medication and wrote some well-meaning medical advice on the card. I would totally be offended if they saw the size tags on some of my clothes and gave me the website of a weight loss program. THIS case is even more personal and intimate than THAT.

  4. 4
    Eamon Knight

    Improper behaviour, no question. But just for discussion: does the creep factor diminish if the agent turns out to be a woman?

  5. 5
    Aquaria

    Sheesh. I guess I’m so paranoid that I wouldn’t dream of packing sex toys, expensive jewelry, my diary or any book that could be misconstrued in any way, just to keep the TSA creeps from touching my stuff any more than necessary.

    Although I did pack a gory John Sandford novel for my flight home. Anybody who took a peek at that deserved the nightmares they’d get from it.

  6. 6
    jamessweet

    Although it’s difficult for me to pass on an opportunity to bash the TSA, I don’t understand what the problem is here from an organizational standpoint. Sounds like the TSA took prompt and appropriate action. I see absolutely no reason to make the name of the employee public, and in fact I see some good reasons not to.

    This is one individual employee who engaged in an action that was unacceptable (though not necessarily mean-spirited — as Abby Normal points out, some people might find the note cute. That of course is not the point: Telling a dirty joke in the workplace would be analogous, where it could be meant totally innocently, and some of the audience might even appreciate it, but it’s still unacceptable). As soon as it was brought to the attention of the TSA, they identified the individual responsible, and took what they felt was appropriate disciplinary action (sounds like dismissal, which is pretty much the maximum possible penalty for something like this… I’m not sure what you would prosecute for if you tried to bring the law into it). What more do you want from them? Tar and feather the individual responsible?

  7. 7
    bananacat

    And this is why, when I moved yesterday, I packed all my important stuff in my own car (I didn’t have to fly but this is related). All my important documents, medical records, diary, credit card statements, sex toys, computers, and cameras came along with me. I just didn’t want to risk getting that mover that would go through my stuff.

  8. 8
    davem

    Going through personal stuff like this is no better than a burglar rifling through your personal stuff in drawers at home. The only difference is that one action is sanctioned by the state. Both are offensive.

  9. 9
    Aquaria

    Improper behaviour, no question. But just for discussion: does the creep factor diminish if the agent turns out to be a woman?

    Not for me.

    I’d have to throw that toy away, because it would be tainted, no matter how many times I washed it. I don’t care if the guy was wearing gloves. His gloved hands were touching other people’s stuff and then touched my stuff–everything would have to be washed or dry cleaned as soon as I got to my destination. Hence why I never pack more than a carryon. I learned how to pack from a flight attendant, so one roller bag is all I need.

  10. 10
    slc1

    Re Aquaria @ #5

    If Ms. Aquaria finds Mr. Sandford’s novels to be gory, she should try the novels of Lee Child. Jack Reacher piles up the bodies a lot higher then does Lucas Davenport. Actually, they are both fine writers in that particular genre.

  11. 11
  12. 12
    Aquaria

    If Ms. Aquaria finds Mr. Sandford’s novels to be gory, she should try the novels of Lee Child. Jack Reacher piles up the bodies a lot higher then does Lucas Davenport. Actually, they are both fine writers in that particular genre.

    I’ve read both series, and it’s not what Reacher or Davenport does that’s creepy to me. Rather, it’s the villains in Sandford’s books (who are almost always YOWZA! freaky) and what they do to people.

  13. 13
    Abby Normal

    Telling a dirty joke in the workplace would be analogous, where it could be meant totally innocently, and some of the audience might even appreciate it, but it’s still unacceptable

    I struggle with that too, knowing which jokes are dirty and which ones are acceptable. It’s gotten me in trouble with HR in the past. I’ve tried not joking around at all. But then I got negative remarks in my performance evaluations for being stand-offish and disengaged from the team. I don’t understand how other people do it. Whatever sense it is that lets people see the line, mine’s defective.

  14. 14
    Abby Normal

    Come to think of it, my off-color sense of humor has gotten me in trouble with the TSA a few times too.

  15. 15
    Raging Bee

    But the TSA people who use porno-scans to see through your clothes (over the Internet from remote locations like their houses) are totally innocent, and do so with never a dirty thought entering their minds, no invasion of privacy there, nosireebob. How can you possibly question the integrity of the people who are trying to keep us safe? You must be a fat socialist poopyhead.

  16. 16
    Eamon Knight

    I have neither told nor heard a sexually-themed joke at work in at least 15 years. In fact, in a work group consisting of about half women and several cultures, I can’t imagine such a thing being done (certainly I’m too chicken to be the one testing the limits). I don’t even (audibly) cuss more than the occasional “Oh, hell”.

    I didn’t know that “dirty joker” and “standoffish” were the only options.

  17. 17
    Abby Normal

    I didn’t know that “dirty joker” and “standoffish” were the only options.

    That’s exactly why I mentioned it, because most people who have a normal, intuitive understanding of these social taboos have trouble understanding when other people don’t. If one thinks that sexual jokes and cussing are the only such taboos, they probably haven’t given much thought to the topic. Why should they. They understand the limits without thinking. By talking about the issue I hope to provoke more thought and hopefully more empathy for those who struggle to understand the bounds of appropriateness.

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