- - Thursday, April 16, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

When the Transportation Security Administration installed full-body scanners several years ago the ACLU, privacy advocates and many passengers sounded warnings that this invited sexual harassment, voyeurism and maybe even sexual adventuring. The government routinely dismissed the complaints as “unfounded” and even “paranoid.” Would your government do anything like that? “Full-body pat-downs” followed for passengers who raised an alarm going through the scanners.

It turns out that the scanners are notoriously prone to error and manipulation by agents operating them, and the skeptics were right. This was revealed when two TSA airport screeners in Denver, both women, were fired for sexual assaults on passengers they “found attractive.”

The two screeners figured out a scheme that enabled them to fondle at will the gentleman parts of targeted male passengers. One agent set the scanner on “female” when the targeted man started through the scanner, which triggered an alarm when the machine saw that there were no lady parts on the screen. The agent’s partner took the passenger aside for a more thorough pat-down, all no doubt in good but not-so-clean fun.

No one seems to know how long this little game went on, but TSA was tipped in November, and did not notify Denver police, who are responsible for investigating complaints and making arrests if arrests are justified. Instead, TSA monitored its own, and two months ago an agent watched another groping of a passenger. The passenger was neither identified nor stopped, but the incident resulted in the investigation that caught the two randy screeners.

Without revealing the names of the two women, TSA notified the police, but the cops could do nothing because there were no identifiable victims. Had the police been notified earlier, they could have set up a sting and arrested the guilty women on the spot. The screeners would have been subject to serious jail time, though a real and thorough investigation would likely have raised a public outcry. This is exactly what the critics and skeptics of the TSA warned would happen.



TSA contented itself with telling the traveling public that all incidents of employee misconduct are investigated and guilty parties are disciplined or dismissed. There is so far no explanation of why it took so long to stop the monkey business at Denver International Airport, or why the internal investigation by the agency was conducted. Internal investigations often guarantee that successful prosecutions won’t proceed. Maybe the incident would “go away.”

The chances of this incident “going away” vanished this week, when several men, learning of the incident, called TSA, the Denver cops and prosecutors to say they were examined by the “very thorough screeners.” The women now face arrest and perhaps a request to answer questions by congressional overseers under oath.

Most airline passengers will never suffer such harassment, because most TSA agents are polite, efficient and all business, as they should be. This is no more than every passenger, male and female, deserves. Airline passengers have given up much of their privacy, perhaps more than is rightly called for, all in good faith. Good faith works both ways, and an example of appropriate punishment — and not “appropriate” as defined by the bureaucracy — is right and necessary.

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