December 3, 2010
The American Civil Liberties Union announced today that it is still receiving high volumes of complaints about the new airport screening procedures, and that some travelers say they have not filed official complaints with the TSA because they are fearful of being placed on a government watch list.
Last week the ACLU revealed that it had received over 900 complaints about the naked body scanners and the new pat down measures being implemented by the TSA.
That number swelled to over 1000 before November was through, according to the privacy watchdog.
“These complaints came from men, women and children who reported feeling humiliated and traumatized by these searches, and, in some cases, comparing their psychological impact to sexual assaults.” the ACLU website noted.
Meanwhile, TSA head John Pistole says there were only 49 complaints from travelers over the Thanksgiving weekend, a figure that prompted the TSA to suggest that Americans were largely unconcerned with the new procedures, and were even appreciative of them.
The ACLU disputes this notion, however:
“The low number of complaints received by the TSA is not an endorsement of the security procedures, but rather a result of real or perceived problems with the TSA’s complaint system.” notes Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project.
“As the abundant complaints received by the ACLU illustrate, Americans do not want to be forced to choose between letting government agents touch their bodies or take naked pictures of them.” Stanley added.
The ACLU press release notes that the real reasons people have not filed official complaints with the government is because they believed they would either be totally ignored, or worse still, that their act of defiance would land them on a terror watch list.
“Some complainants reported that they had not filed a complaint with the TSA because they were afraid of being put on a watch list or otherwise retaliated against by the government. ” the ACLU press release notes.
“Large numbers of innocent Americans have been caught up by the government’s out-of-control watch list system.” it continues.
The concern is completely vindicated, following the leaking of a reported TSA memo that was circulated at the height of last month’s opt out controversy which “officially addresses those who are opposed to, or engaged in the disruption of the implementation of the enhanced airport screening procedures as ‘domestic extremists’.”
In response to the story, former Congressman Bob Barr filed a Freedom of Information Act request which demanded to know if the TSA had categorized those leading the charge against invasive security measures, namely Matt Drudge, Alex Jones, and John Tyner, via the websites drudgereport.com and prisonplanet.com, as “domestic extremists”.
The Department of Homeland Security has a history of engaging in such activity, and of course, it is well documented that there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of entirely innocent Americans on the so called “no fly” list.
“The government should heed the very real complaints of countless Americans who object to the invasive new procedures and develop security measures that are safe, effective and respect civil liberties.” the ACLU’s Jay Stanley said.
“We must strive to be safe without abandoning our most sacred freedoms.” the senior analyst added.
According to the ACLU, recurring themes in the hundreds of reports they have received include:
• The searches are extremely invasive
• Many travelers are reporting intense feelings of violation and humiliation
• Some report being physically hurt by the searches
• Some feel their searches are punitive
• Reports of gawking by agents
• Reports of seemingly unnecessary repeated touching of intimate areas
• Many vow not to fly any more
• Any traveler may be forced to undergo one of these searches
This is the new America. The public fearing that they will be placed on a government database of subversives if they dare speak out over being zapped with ionizing radiation, photographed naked and aggressively groped by government agents, all in the name of protecting their liberties.
The only way such outright abuse of power will be halted is if the majority of Americans say no. A government watch list comprised of hundreds of million people is useless anyway. If the American people continue to hold their tongues, this tyranny will quickly expand beyond the airports and into everyday life.
Other ways to complain
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Survey on the Spot is a third-party survey company that conducts feedback surveys for the TSA. Access the survey online or through an iPhone app. To submit a complaint, search for “TSA” in the text block. You will then select the TSA location closest to you. You will be asked, among other things, to:
• Rate the thoroughness of the passenger screening you received.
• Rate your confidence in the TSA’s ability to keep air travel secure.
• Be asked whether body-scan technology be used in passenger screening.
At the end of the survey, you will have a chance to submit a free text complaint. Note: It is unclear whether these responses are compiled with other complaints, so it is important that you fill out the TSA-designed complaint as well.
My TSA is an iPhone app produced by the Transportation Security Administration. Select “About” in the upper right-hand corner, then select “Provide Feedback to TSA.” You’ll be able to submit a free text complaint of up to 4,000 characters.
When you are at the airport, you have a right to complain to a supervisor at the security screening area. If you don’t want to speak to someone while going through security, you may also complain to one of the airport’s Customer Service Managers.
You can also submit a written complaint to:
Transportation Security Administration
Office of Civil Rights and Liberties (TSA-6)
External Compliance Division
601 S. 12th Street
Arlington, VA 20598
You may also submit a complaint to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
Department of Homeland Security
Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
Review and Compliance
245 Murray Lane, SW
Building 410, Mail Stop #0190
Washington, DC 20528
Toll Free: 1-866-644-8360
Toll Free TTY: 1-866-644-8361
The Electronic Privacy Information Center is collecting incident reports about passenger experiences during airport security screening through an online form.
Let EFF Know
If you submitted a complaint to the TSA, the EFF asks that you forward a copy to to TSAComplaints@eff.org.
When you submit complaints to EFF, its lawyers will compare them to complaints EFF receives through Freedom of Information Act requests. The EFF states that it will not use a copy of your complaint for any other purpose without your prior permission. However, if you wish to allow the EFF to use your complaint for advocacy and public discussion purposes, you can give them permission when you submit the complaint.