A nice story about a citizen politely standing up for their rights

airport security by glenmcbethlaw

Matt Kernan Stands His Ground
[Via Daring Fireball]

After returning to the U.S. from a flight to Europe, Matt Kernan was asked by TSA to go through a new backscatter machine. He declined, and declined to be groped as well. This is his story. Keep in mind that he wasn’t trying to get on a plane — he’d just gotten off one and was simply trying to go home.


This was after he cleared customs. Apparently exiting Customs in Cincinnati puts you in a sterile area of the airport. So TSA was there to screen him. But he refused to be screened by the backscatter and refused to be patted down. Since he had been selected for the backscatter, policy prevented them from letting him go through the metal detector. But they could not send him back the way he came.

Wonderful Catch-22. The TSA staff did not know what to do. Policy told them that the only choice was to refuse him into the sterile area but he could not leave the airport otherwise. They did not have the authority to arrest him, – only the police could do that, but he made sure he did nothing to tick the police off.

Be polite and stand your ground. Most of the time people put up with this crap because they do not have the time. The TSA uses our time obligations against us.

Here he did have the time. He was polite but firm regarding his rights. The officials usually rely on people not knowing their rights or doing something that lets them intimidate (such as not following an officer’s instructions). in the end, they actually did what should have been done to begin with –and I bet that it is now part of the standard procedure there if the case comes up again.

It does demonstrate that we do still have these rights, but it takes a lot of courage and, especially a lot of time, to exercise them. By the end of it, the police were on his side. They hate unreasonableness from any direction. It makes their job so much harder.