Category Archives: Dehumanization

TSA apologizes for trying to pat down sick toddler in wheelchair

AP | Feb 21, 2013

lucy-smallST. LOUIS The Transportation Security Administration is apologizing after agents at Lambert Airport in St. Louis sought to screen a 3-year-old girl in a wheelchair.

The mother of the child shot video that caused a stir in social media after it was posted online.

The incident happened Feb. 8. The girl and her family were about to fly to Disney World in Orlando, Fla. A TSA agent asked to pat down the 3-year-old and screen her wheelchair. The agent initially told the girl’s mother, Annie Schulte, it was illegal to tape the activity.

On the video, the little girl, Lucy, who has spina bifida, is seen crying.

Agents eventually decided against a pat-down.

The TSA says it regrets the incident and will address concerns with its workers.

TSA Wants to Touch Your Kids

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Majoring in Minors: Turning Our Schools Into Totalitarian Enclaves

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huffingtonpost.com | Feb 2, 2013

by John W. Whitehead

Just as the 9/11 terrorist attacks created a watershed between the freedoms we enjoyed and our awareness of America’s vulnerability to attack, so the spate of school shootings over the past 10-plus years from Columbine to Newtown has drastically altered the way young people are perceived and treated, transforming them from innocent bystanders into both victims and culprits. Consequently, school officials, attempting to both protect and control young people, have adopted draconian zero-tolerance policies, stringent security measures and cutting-edge technologies that have all but transformed the schools into quasi-prisons.

In their zeal to make the schools safer, school officials have succumbed to a near-manic paranoia about anything even remotely connected to guns and violence, such that a child who brings a piece of paper loosely shaped like a gun to school is treated as harshly as the youngster who brings an actual gun. Yet by majoring in minors, as it were, treating all students as suspects and harshly punishing kids for innocent mistakes, the schools are setting themselves and us up for failure — not only by focusing on the wrong individuals and allowing true threats to go undetected but also by treating young people as if they have no rights, thereby laying the groundwork for future generations that are altogether ignorant of their rights as citizens and unprepared to defend them.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the increasingly harsh punishments and investigative tactics being doled out on young people for engaging in childish behavior or for daring to challenge the authority of school officials. Whereas in the past minor behavioral infractions at school such as shooting spitwads may have warranted a trip to the principal’s office, in-school detention or a phone call to one’s parents; today, they are elevated to the level of criminal behavior with all that implies. Consequently, young people are now being forcibly removed by police officers from the classroom, strip searched, arrested, handcuffed, transported in the back of police squad cars, and placed in police holding cells until their frantic parents can get them out. For those unlucky enough to be targeted for such punishment, the experience will stay with them long after they are allowed back at school. In fact, it will stay with them for the rest of their lives in the form of a criminal record.

Consider the case of Wilson Reyes, a seven-year-old elementary school student from the Bronx who got into a scuffle with a classmate over a $5 bill. In response to the incident, school officials called police, who arrested Reyes, transported him to the police station and allegedly handcuffed the child to a wall and interrogated him for ten hours about his behavior and the location of the money. His family is in the midst of pursuing a lawsuit against the police and the city for their egregious behavior.

A North Carolina public school allegedly strip-searched a 10-year-old boy in search of a $20 bill lost by another student, despite the fact that the boy, J.C., twice told school officials he did not have the missing money. The assistant principal, a woman, reportedly ordered the fifth grader to disrobe down to his underwear and subjected him to an aggressive strip-search that included rimming the edge of his underwear. The missing money was later found in the school cafeteria.

And in Chicago, a 15-year-old boy accused by an anonymous tipster of holding drugs was taken to a locker room by two security guards, a Chicago police officer, and a female assistant principal, and made to stand against a wall and drop his pants while one of the security guards inspected his genitals. No drugs were found.

That students as young as seven years old are being strip searched by school officials, over missing money no less, flies in the face of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2009 ruling in Safford Unified. Sch. Dist. v. Redding. Insisting that Arizona school officials violated the Fourth Amendment rights of a 13-year-old girl when they strip-searched her on the suspicion she was hiding ibuprofen in her underwear, the justices declared that educators cannot force children to remove their clothing unless student safety is at risk.

Precedent-setting or not, however, the Court’s ruling has done little to improve conditions for young people who are the unfortunate casualties in the schools’ so-called quest for “student safety.” Indeed, with each school shooting, the climate of intolerance for “unacceptable” behavior such as getting into food fights, playing tag, doodling, hugging, kicking, and throwing temper tantrums only intensifies. And as surveillance cameras, metal detectors, police patrols, zero tolerance policies, lock downs, drug sniffing dogs and strip searches become the norm in elementary, middle and high schools across the nation, the punishments being meted out for childish behavior grow harsher.

Even the most innocuous “infractions” are being shown no leniency, with school officials expelling a 6-year-old girl for bringing a clear plastic toy gun to school, issuing a disciplinary warning to a 5-year-old boy who brought a toy gun built out of LEGOs to class, and pulling out of school a fifth-grade girl who had a “paper” gun with her in class. The six-year-old kindergarten student in South Carolina was classified as such a threat that she’s not even allowed on school grounds. “She cannot even be in my vehicle when I go to pick up my other children,” said the girl’s mom, Angela McKinney.

Nine-year-old Patrick Timoney was sent to the principal’s office and threatened with suspension after school officials discovered that one of his LEGOs was holding a 2-inch toy gun. That particular LEGO, a policeman, was Patrick’s favorite because his father is a retired police officer. David Morales, an 8-year-old Rhode Island student, ran afoul of his school’s zero tolerance policies after he wore a hat to school decorated with an American flag and tiny plastic Army figures in honor of American troops. School officials declared the hat out of bounds because the toy soldiers were carrying miniature guns. A 7-year-old New Jersey boy, described by school officials as “a nice kid” and “a good student,” was reported to the police and charged with possessing an imitation firearm after he brought a toy Nerf-style gun to school. The gun shoots soft ping pong-type balls.

School officials are also exhibiting zero tolerance for the age-old game of cops and robbers, a playground game I played as a child. In a new wrinkle on this old game, however, it’s not the cop who gets the bad guy. Now, the game ends when school officials summon real cops who arrest the kindergartners for engaging in juvenile crime. That happened at a New Jersey school, from which four little boys were suspended for pretending their fingers were guns. Most recently, two children at two different schools in Maryland were suspended in the same month for separate incidents of pretending their fingers were guns. In another instance, officials at a California elementary school called police when a little boy was caught playing cops and robbers at recess. The principal told the child’s parents their child was a terrorist.

Unwittingly, the principal was right on target: These are acts of terrorism, however, the culprits are not overactive schoolchildren. Rather, those guilty of terrorizing young children and parents nationwide are school officials who — in an effort to enforce zero tolerance policies against violence, weapons and drugs — have moved our schools into a lockdown mentality.

Things have gotten so bad that it doesn’t even take a toy gun, pretend or otherwise, to raise the ire of school officials. A high school sophomore was suspended for violating the school’s no-cell-phone policy after he took a call from his father, a master sergeant in the U.S. Army who was serving in Iraq at the time. A 12-year-old New York student was hauled out of school in handcuffs for doodling on her desk with an erasable marker. In Houston, an 8th grader was suspended for wearing rosary beads to school in memory of her grandmother (the school has a zero tolerance policy against the rosary, which the school insists can be interpreted as a sign of gang involvement). And in Oklahoma, school officials suspended a first grader simply for using his hand to simulate a gun.

With the distinctions between student offenses erased, and all offenses expellable, we now find ourselves in the midst of what TIME magazine described as a “national crackdown on Alka-Seltzer.” Indeed, at least 20 children in four states have been suspended from school for possession of the fizzy tablets in violation of zero tolerance drug policies. In some jurisdictions, carrying cough drops, wearing black lipstick or dying your hair blue are actually expellable offenses.

Students have also been penalized for such inane “crimes” as bringing nail clippers to school, using Listerine or Scope, and carrying fold-out combs that resemble switchblades. A 9-year-old boy in Manassas, Va., who gave a Certs breath mint to a classmate, was actually suspended, while a 12-year-old boy who said he brought powdered sugar to school for a science project was charged with a felony for possessing a look-alike drug. Another 12-year-old was handcuffed and jailed after he stomped in a puddle, splashing classmates. After students at a Texas school were assigned to write a “scary” Halloween story, one 13-year-old chose to write about shooting up a school. Although he received a passing grade on the story, school officials reported him to the police, resulting in his spending six days in jail before it was determined that no crime had been committed.

These incidents, while appalling, are the byproducts of an age that values security over freedom, where police have relatively limitless powers to search individuals and homes by virtue of their badge, and where the Constitution is increasingly treated as a historic relic rather than a bulwark against government abuses. Where we go from here is anyone’s guess, but the future doesn’t look good from where I’m sitting — not for freedom as we know it, and certainly not for the young people being raised on a diet of abject compliance to police authority, intolerance for minor offenses, overt surveillance and outright totalitarianism.

Israeli Drone Strikes in Gaza in November 2012 Attack: Two-Thirds Killed Were Civilians

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Heron Drone

More Palestinians Killed by Drones Alone in eight DAYS than Israelis Killed by rockets in eight YEARS

opednews.com | Feb 6, 2013

By Ann Wright

Two-thirds of Palestinians killed by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) drones in the November, 2012 attack on Gaza were civilians. 

This statistic means that for the residents of Gaza, the ground-breaking investigation by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights into the civilian impact and human rights implications of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killing is very important.

Data taken from reports of two human rights groups in Gaza documented that, of the 162 Palestinians killed during the eight-day attack, drone strikes killed 36 and injured 100. 24 of the 36 killed in Gaza by Israeli drones were civilians. Drone strikes (72) were 5 percent of the total Israeli military strikes (1,350) but accounted for 23 percent of the deaths in Gaza, a very high percentage of deaths from the number of drone strikes when compared with deaths from strikes of jet warplanes, artillery and naval bombardment.

Memo justifies drone kills even with patchy intelligence

The UN team will investigate drone strikes and their effects on civilians around the world, but primarily the United States and United Kingdom’s drone strikes in Afghanistan, the US drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and the Philippines and Israeli drone strikes in Gaza.

The objective of the UN investigation is “to look at evidence to determine if drone strikes and other forms of remote targeted killing have caused disproportionate civilian casualties and to make recommendations concerning the duty of States to conduct thorough, independent and impartial investigations into such allegations, with a view to securing accountability and reparation where things have gone badly wrong with potentially grave consequences for civilians.” The statistics indicate that Israeli drone strikes did cause disproportionate Palestinian civilian casualties.

The Israeli military publicly identified on its website 1,500 targets in Gaza that it intended to destroy in its mid-November, 2012 military operation (named “Pillar of Clouds”). The targets named on its website were 30 Hamas and Jihad leaders, 19 high-level command centers, 980 underground rocket launchers, 140 smuggling tunnels, 66 tunnels used for “terrorist” actions, 42 Hamas operations rooms and bases and 26 weapons manufacturing and storage facilities.

For many years, both the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and the Al Mazen Centre for Human Rights have had field workers who investigate the frequent, almost daily, Israeli jet plane, drone, helicopter and artillery attacks, naval bombardment attacks and naval firing at Gaza fishermen. The investigators talk with survivors of the attacks and photograph the destruction caused by the attacks and remains of the ordnance found at the attack site.

Following the 14-21 November 2012, eight-day Israeli attack on Gaza, the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights produced a 67-page report titled “Field Report on Israel’s Attacks on Gaza 14-21 November 2012.” The Palestinian Center for Human Rights documented its findings for this period in its “Weekly Report on Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Territories 14-21 November, 2012.”

Both reports provide a region-by-region, day-by-day, attack-by-attack account of individual Israeli military strikes in Gaza. Using information from the reports of both human rights organizations, data documented that the Israeli Defense Forces conducted 72 Israeli drone strikes using 100 missiles during the November 2012 attack on Gaza.

The Al Mezan report documents that at least 162 Palestinians were killed in IDF attacks, including 37 children and 13 women. (Later reports  state that 178 were killed.) Another 1,039 people were injured, including 315 children and 191 women. At least 963 houses were damaged or destroyed, including 92 completely. Of those 92 houses, 52 were directly attacked; including 35 “roof-knocking” attacks to indicate to residents that the house was about to be destroyed by a second attack. Another 179 houses sustained serious damage. Additionally, IDF attacks caused damage to 10 health centers, 35 schools, two universities, 15 NGO offices, 30 mosques, 14 media offices, 92 industrial and commercial facilities, one UNRWA food distribution center, eight government ministry buildings, 14 police/security stations, five banks, 34 vehicles, three youth clubs, three cemeteries, and two bridges.


Scout Drone

Data from the Al Mezan and PCHR reports on IDF drone attacks on Gaza identify that:

Drone strikes killed 36 persons, including 4 children under the age of 16, and wounded 100 persons.

24 of the 36, or two thirds, of those killed by drone strikes were considered to be civilians.

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One-Child policy enforcers crush baby to death with their vehicle

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For many in China, the story brings back uncomfortable memories of Feng Jiemei, who last June posted gruesome photographs of her lying in a hospital bed next to her 7-month-old force-aborted fetus.

NBC News | Feb 5, 2013

By Ed Flanagan

BEIJING – A 13-month-old child was fatally crushed by a car containing Chinese officials after they went to collect a fine from the parents for breaching the country’s one-child policy, according to Chinese state media.

The incident reportedly occurred Monday in Dongshantou village near Wenzhou city in the eastern province of Zhejiang, after a delegation of 11 officials from the Ruian Town birth control office drove out to get the unspecified fine.

This did not go down well with the father, Chen Liandi, 39, and the conversation got heated.

According to a briefing given by the Ruian Municipal Propaganda Department and reported by state media, the officials convinced Chen’s wife, Li Yuhong, to accompany them back to Ruian to talk over the couple’s options.

The baby was reportedly left in the hands of his father and the group got back into their cars to leave.

What happened next remains unclear – perhaps due to the politically sensitive nature of this story – but the boy was then found crushed underneath a car.

He was rushed to the Third People’s Hospital in Ruian, but could not be saved.

‘You were too careless’
On China’s Twitter-like service, Weibo, users expressed frustration over the vague account given by Ruian officials and demanded more information, but no other Chinese press have printed much beyond the official government account.

For many in China, the story brings back uncomfortable memories of Feng Jiemei, who last June posted gruesome photographs of her lying in a hospital bed next to her 7-month-old aborted fetus.

Feng’s story created a social firestorm for Beijing when word got out that the 22-year-old mother had been forced to have the abortion because she did not have enough money to pay the $6,400 fine for having a second child.

“I told you, $6,400, not even a penny less. I told your dad that and he said he has no money,” a family planning official wrote to Deng in a blunt text message that quickly went viral. “You were too careless, you didn’t think this was a big deal.”

Feng was grabbed from her home and taken to a local hospital in her native Shaanxi province where she was blindfolded, thrown on a bed and forced to a sign a document she couldn’t read. Thirty hours later, her baby girl was aborted.

China has long defended its one-child policy as a way to prevent overpopulation and to help raise living standards across the country.

However, some experts in China and abroad argue that the policy has outlived its usefulness and may instead be a detriment to future growth.

Others in China have pointed out the abuses meted out in cases like Feng Jiemei’s show that it causes more social harm and have called on Beijing to remove it.

Pentagon battles military rape epidemic image problem

pentagon pentagram

cbsnews.com | Jan 27, 2013

(CBS News) NEW YORK – Jennifer Norris has always described herself as a good soldier, a hard worker, and someone who stayed out of trouble.

At 24, the Bethel, Maine, native was looking for a bit more structure in her life while aiming for a graduate degree, so she went to her local military recruiting office and enlisted in the Air Force.

Her dream of serving her country was marred by countless incidents of sexual harassment, three attempted sexual assaults, and one rape.

The most violent attack occurred just weeks after Norris enlisted, when her recruiting officer invited her to what she believed was a party for fellow recruits at his home.

“I was excited to go and meet other new recruits,” Norris said in an interview. “And I showed up at his house, and he proceeded to immediately start pressuring me to want to drink.”

Because she had driven, Norris did not consume any alcohol, but believes he put something in a glass that made her pass out.

“When I woke up, the whole house was dark. Nobody was there, and he picked me up, my basically powerless, lifeless body, and carried me into a bedroom, and he raped me,” Norris said.

She did not file a formal complaint.

“Because I hadn’t even started my career yet. I wasn’t about to go in and say the recruiter just raped me,” Norris said.

Norris went on to become a Technical Sergeant handling satellite communications. But she says she was subjected to repeated sexual advances by another superior officer and was afraid to report it.

“It’s the retaliation,” Norris said. “I was scared to tell the commander, who it seemed like he was best friends with this man.”

Norris points out, once you’ve committed to the military, you can’t just walk away.

“We can’t quit,” she said. “We are basically stuck in the situation unless someone in that chain of command helps us get out of it.”

Former Marine Anu Bhagwati is the executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network, which advocates for civil rights of the 15 percent of U.S. military personnel who are women.

The Invisible War – Official Trailer

“There’s very few deterrents within the military to predators, to commanders who are negligent. In the civilian world, you have more access to redress as a victim,” Bhagwati said. “In the civilian world, you can use the civil court system to sue your employer for damages. That is the biggest deterrent to discrimination and harassment in the workplace in the United States of America. That is not available to U.S. service members, and it’s a crying shame. ”

According to the Air Force’s own figures, there were more than 790 cases of sexual assault and harassment by service members reported last year, up from 614 the year before.

In 2011, there were also 883 reports of sexual assault and harassment in the Navy and Marines and 1,695 cases in the Army.

Most cases involved one service member allegedly attacking another, usually a woman.

Air Force calls number of sex assaults “appalling”
Air Force officials find porn, beer bong in base sweeps
Air Force responds to sex scandal with policy changes: Lawmaker

Despite more than 3,000 reports of sexual misconduct for the third year in a row, only one in four attacks is reported. The Defense Department estimates the actual number of incidents is around 19,000 a year.

Norris told her story to the House Armed Services Committee last Wednesday, calling the “thousands and thousands of male and female survivors” victims of “the military’s sexual assault epidemic.”

Forty percent of female victims identify a perpetrator was of higher rank, and 23 percent say it was someone in their chain of command, Norris told the committee.

At that hearing, General Mark Welsh, the Air Force Chief of Staff, told members of Congress: “The Air Force goal for sexual assault is not to lower the number. The goal is zero.”

Welsh announced that he was designating 60 Air Force attorneys to handle these complaints and was stationing one victims’ advocate at every base.

In a written statement to CBS News, the Air Force added: “Sexual assault is a crime and it violates our core values. Every allegation will be thoroughly investigated and commanders will consider the full range of disciplinary and administrative measures to include courts-martial while protecting the Constitutional rights of the accused.”

In 2004, the Pentagon established Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office to combat sexual assault in the military, but the number of annual incidents keeps climbing.

“Congress continues to hold hearings, and nothing changes,” said California Congresswoman Jackie Speier, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

Speier has proposed legislation to take sexual assault investigations out of the military chain of command and have cases reviewed by independent panels comprised of civilians and military experts.

Speier said, “The victims often times are treated like they are pariahs, and they are ostracized, they are marginalized and over the course of very few months, often times they are diagnosed with what’s called a personality disorder and involuntarily discharged from the military.”

That’s what happened to Jennifer Norris, and after her 14 year Air Force career ended sooner than planned, she considered suicide.

 

“We had a gun,” Norris said of her and her husband, Lee. “I wanted to use it, but my husband stopped me.”

 

Norris’ attackers were never punished, and all were eventually honorably discharged with full benefits, she said.

Norris now works with Protect Our Defenders on behalf of service members victimized by sexual assault and harassment, and for a military rape crisis center.

She doesn’t have children, but does not believe she would encourage a daughter to pursue a military career.

“Not in this lifetime,” Norris said. “My daughter would not join the military, knowing what I know.”

GAO questions TSA using dogs to screen passengers

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Katie, a bomb-sniffing dog, watches travelers go through the TSA security checkpoint.(Photo: Alex Brandon, AP)

The report raises questions about TSA training of the dog-sniffing teams.

USA TODAY | Jan 31, 2013

by Bart Jansen

WASHINGTON — Federal auditors are raising questions about Transportation Security Administration plans to deploy bomb-sniffing dogs to screen passengers — in addition to cargo — in airports.

The TSA plans to field 120 canine teams at airports nationwide to sniff for explosives on passengers by the end of the year.

The TSA has tested canine teams in closed areas of airports in Miami last June and in Oklahoma City in August. Another test is scheduled in February at Washington’s Dulles airport. In recent months, TSA has experimented with screening passengers at airports in Tampa and Indianapolis.

But a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released Thursday says that canine teams repeatedly fail to meet a requirement to get for four hours of training every four weeks. And GAO says that after short-notice tests of the teams, TSA doesn’t keep track of where dogs were most effective or with which types of explosives.

“TSA has not deployed passenger-screening canines — trained to identify and track explosives odor on a person — consistent with its risk-based approach, and did not determine (the canine) teams’ effectiveness prior to deployment,” the GAO concludes.

The TSA says that beyond its ongoing testing and evaluation, it will update its website that monitors the program in March to better track the passenger screening by dogs in the same way it does for cargo.

“TSA has developed a risk-based deployment methodology that it continues to evaluate and modify, as needed,” Jim Crumpacker, director of the agency’s liaison with GAO, wrote in reply to the report. “TSA will deploy future teams to the highest-priority airports as identified by both operational and risk-based analysis.”

The TSA effort is called the National Canine Program, which began in 1972 after a bomb threat on a plane. The program now has 762 teams of dogs and officers. The program is growing: Funding doubled to $101 million in the past three years, and there are plans for 921 teams.

Officers go through a 10- or 12-week training course at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas or at Auburn University’s Canine Detection Training Center in Alabama. The dogs include German shepherds, Belgian Malinoises, Vizslas and other types of dogs with good noses for the work.

Dogs began screening aviation cargo in January 2008, and there are now 120 TSA teams doing that. Hundreds of other dogs work with local law-enforcement officers patrolling airport, bus and ferry terminals. By the end of the year, TSA plans to have 120 teams of its inspectors paired with dogs to search for explosives on passengers in airports.

TSA Administrator John Pistole explained in a December presentation that the dogs are part of a program called “managed inclusion,” where passengers can qualify for expedited screening called Precheck if the dogs approve. On the day before Thanksgiving in Indianapolis, Pistole said 31% of the passengers were able to go through Precheck leaving on their shoes and jackets, and leaving laptops in their bags, rather than the typical 5%.

“We can make sure that TSA Precheck lanes are being fully utilized during the checkpoint hours because frankly most of them are not being fully utilized during the checkpoint hours,” Pistole said.

But the GAO says seven unnamed airport operators have declined dog-sniffing teams for passengers because of concerns about how they would deal with suicide bombers.

If TSA received a specific threat against an airport, the agency says it would deploy the teams despite the opposition. But in general, TSA is trying to work cooperatively with local authorities.

GAO also visited two “high-risk” airports with TSA canine teams used for cargo screening or training because TSA hadn’t reached an agreement with law-enforcement officers about how to respond if the dogs found a bomb.

TSA inspectors don’t carry weapons, although local law-enforcement officers do. An unidentified group of law-enforcement officers recommended that TSA dog teams be accompanied by law enforcement officers, GAO says.

The cost to TSA for a canine team with a law-enforcement handler is $53,000 and a TSA handler is $164,000, according to GAO.

Becoming a victim of TSA’s goons

TSA child pat-down molestation

While flying on a plane going west
My luggage lock was supposedly the best
It met all of TSA’s requirements and rules
But still they broke it looking for liquids and tools

[May be sung to the tune of Bob Dylan’s Dream (1963), or not]

smmercury.com | Jan 30, 2013

by Lamar Hankins

Last summer, I bought new luggage that came with a Travel Sentry Lock for a trip on JetBlue, traveling from Austin to California to take our grand daughter to Disneyland.  The lock on my luggage was missing when I retrieved the bag in Long Beach.  Inside was a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Notice of Baggage Inspection, the TSA stamp on the notice so light that it is nearly impossible to read.  It appears to provide the date followed by “BW18105,” but I have no idea whether this code has any significance.

My luggage, bought three days before our trip, is a Kirkland Signature 26″ Spinner Bag with TSAOO2 stamped on its TSA-approved lock.  The lock had three cylinders, with a key hole for use by TSA.  As explained in the instructions that came with the lock, the purpose is to allow access by TSA without damaging the lock.  Nevertheless, my lock was missing when my bag arrived in Long Beach.  My wife’s identical bag and lock arrived unscathed, but it had not been inspected by TSA.

I am aware that TSA is given the job of inspecting luggage using standards not generally known to the public.  That awareness does not lessen the feelings I have had, every time my luggage has been inspected (this makes three times), that my privacy has been violated – my underwear has been rifled; my prescription drugs have been viewed; and my other possessions have been molested.  When a lock made to TSA’s specifications goes missing after an inspection, I have feelings that my government has violated my person and possessions.  The least TSA could do is replace the lock, though I am sure that would take an act of Congress for an item worth no more than $15.

I am a law-abiding senior citizen.  I don’t deserve to have my property violated and destroyed by TSA, though I know that TSA will blame the conveyor belts and take no responsibility for its actions.  But the loss of my $15 lock is insignificant when compared to TSA’s other common offenses.

Last year, we frequently read about the new TSA x-ray machines that show body parts.  To avoid exposing your body to TSA meant that you didn’t fly or you subjected yourself to genital groping by a TSA employee.  Last week, TSA announced that it was discontinuing use of these revealing machines in favor of machines that indicate suspicious areas on a diagram of a human body.  I learned first hand, however, on a flight to Oregon last fall, that these machines can’t distinguish fatty tissue from bomb-making material.  I’m usually good-humored about my fat, but I don’t like it when government employees think it is funny, which is how a TSA employee reacted to the extra adipose tissue under my arm pit.

But many travelers endure real humiliation: strip searches, breast massages, genital gropes, an accusation that a woman had a penis, exposing a 17-year old girl’s bra by pulling her top down, and other humiliating experiences, at times in front of dozens of onlookers, such as in this report:

“Mother is 89 years old, has terminal cancer, weighs 67 pounds, has a colostomy bag and English paperwork from (the) Japanese Government stating so. She speaks no English. They herded everyone through the new machine. Then they select Mother as well as Mrs. EX for extra pat down. Why? No one knows. They get separated, Mother understands nothing. Mrs. EX is not allowed to translate or assist. They call for a Chinese speaking screener, which of course is totally unhelpful. They touch this 89 year old Great Grandmother everywhere. Imagine how that feels for a Japanese citizen! The same with my wife. My goodness, these two little Japanese ladies are going home to Japan, for crying out loud. Incidentally, now they have no view of their belongings in the tray. After ten minutes of touching, groping and needless questioning, they are on their own to look for their belongings. Mrs. EX had two trays, one had her Rolex wristwatch inside. Now there is only one tray and the watch is missing! No help, no assistance, nothing. On top of it, now they have to rush to board. The two ladies are completely upset, crying.”

In a report dated December, 2010, I found this account of an incident at the Austin airport:

“When a computer malfunction caused the lines at the airport to back up and many missed their flights,  Claire Hirschkind, age 56 was one of the first to the security checkpoint.  She said that she could not go through the backscatter machine because she wears a pace maker.  TSA officials told her that she would have to get a ‘pat down’ and she agreed so long as her breasts were not touched.  TSA officers said that they would touch her breasts and when Hirschkind refused to comply she was arrested.  She says that the police pushed her to the ground, handcuffed her and then dragged her across the airport ground while she cried.”

In September, 2011, a Santa Monica, CA, woman wrote about her TSA search experience on her blog:

“Nearing the end of this violation, I sobbed even louder as the woman, FOUR TIMES, stuck the side of her gloved hand INTO my vagina, through my pants. Between my labia. She really got up there. Four times. Back right and left, and front right and left. In my vagina. Between my labia. I was shocked — utterly unprepared for how she got the side of her hand up there. It was government-sanctioned sexual assault. . . . Upon leaving, still sobbing, I yelled to the woman, ‘YOU RAPED ME.’ And I took her name to see if I could file sexual assault charges on my return. This woman, and all of those who support this system deserve no less than this sort of unpleasant experience, and from all of us.”

The TSA employee hired a lawyer and threatened to sue the blog writer for $500,000, claiming defamation.  It seems that publicly reporting TSA’s abuse leads only to more problems for a citizen.  Although an almost endless stream of TSA abuse reports can be found with a web search, few elected officials have publicly voiced their opposition to this abuse.

For all of this abuse and more, I am ashamed of my government.  It appears that the terrorists did in fact win by causing our government to resort to totalitarian measures, the least of which involve the destruction of my property.  When a government agency engages in sexual assault and emotional abuse at its whim, it engages in an “egregious abuse of power,” as described by a 58-year old woman who endured an invasive body search in Birmingham, Alabama, last November.  And TSA takes no responsibility for its actions.  It even says so on its Notice of Bag Inspection and on the TSA website.  It has become a government agency that behaves no better than King George’s appointees to the colonies 250 years ago.

TSA’s behavior reflects the attitude of a despotic government, which already has access to my emails, my phone records, my phone conversations, and my financial transactions.  After writing about this publicly, I could well be placed on some special TSA list that will assure heightened scrutiny and harassment whenever I fly (which, fortunately, is seldom).

This is not the America that was falsely described to me in public school.  It is not the land of the free, because we have no recourse for such treatment.  It is the land of goons – those hired to terrorize or harm others – who, at their whim, abuse powerless citizens.