TSA Groping: In Texas, It’s Official Oppression

Posted on 17 May 2011 by

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The headline in The SunTexas becomes first state to ban ‘intrusive’ TSA security pat downs – was premature, but the Texas house has passed House Bill 1937, which makes pat-downs by TSA officers at airport check-points a crime.

The bill, sponsored by Representative David Simpson (R, District 7) seeks to expand the definition of official oppression.

Quoth the bill, which is entitled, “Relating to prosecution and punishment for the offense of official oppression by the intrusive touching of persons seeking access to public buildings and transportation; providing penalties,” Section 22.011 of the Texas Penal Code would be amended, adding language that states that a person commits the offense of official oppression if that person:

…as part of a search performed to grant access to a publicly accessible building or form of transportation, intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly: (A) searches another person without probable cause to believe the person committed an offense; and (B) touches the anus, sexual organ, or breasts of the other person, including touching through clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person.

In the analysis section of the bill, Simpson writes that

C.S.H.B. 1937 amends the Penal Code to expand the conditions that constitute the offense of official oppression to include the following conduct committed by a public servant while acting under color of the person’s office or employment without probable cause to believe the other person committed an offense: performing a search for the purpose of granting access to a publicly accessible building or form of transportation and intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly touching the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of the other person, including touching through clothing, or touching the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person. The bill defines “public servant” for purposes of that conduct to mean an officer, employee, or agent of the United States; a branch, department, or agency of the United States; or another person acting under contract with a branch, department, or agency of the United States for the purpose of providing a security or law enforcement service and any other person acting under color of federal law. The bill establishes a defense to prosecution for the offense of official oppression involving the previously described conduct for such a public servant who performed the search pursuant to and consistent with an explicit and applicable grant of federal statutory authority that is consistent with the United States Constitution.

On Simpson’s blog today, he writes,

I am grateful to report that my bill to stop the TSA from groping travelers without probable cause was passed unanimously by the House last week on second and third reading. Ninety-four other Representatives supported the bill as coauthors. It is now in the Senate where Senator Dan Patrick is sponsoring the bill.

My Dumb Mistake

Now, I’ve spent a lot of wind trashing the TSA over the years, and believe that the TSA is more bloat and bother than security, but when I see something that is good I should mention it at least as vociferously.

Last week in Chicago I was in plain clothes but armed with a concealed handgun, and I was running late for a flight. In the taxi to the airport I realized that I had forgotten to unload and pack my gun, so when I got to O’Hare, I asked the driver (he’d picked me up at Chicago Police Headquarters and already knew my fellow passengers and I were police) to wait a minute, and ensuring it was always pointed in a safe direction in case I did something else stupid, like pull the trigger – which I didn’t – I carefully and safely unloaded the gun.

Then I packed the ammunition in a box, packed the gun in a locked briefcase as required for travel, and walked in to the check-in counter and checked in the weapon.

When I was ready to walk through the check point, a TSA officer approached me. Discreetly, calmly, courteously and professionally she asked me whether I was armed. I said no, but that I had just checked a weapon. I showed her my credentials and my baggage tag. She told me that she had observed me entering and noticed that I was carrying, partly concealed, an empty leather holster with my bag, so she had watched me throughout my check-in process.

Her demeanor was professional, helpful, courteous but deliberate, and I applauded her diligence, professionalism, dedication and observational skills (I’m used to carrying concealed and have never been spotted before). Above all, I really liked her friendliness. She is an outstanding officer and I hope she advances at TSA. I took the time to fill in the TSA Compliment Form about the officer (interesting note: the paper “compliment form” that I was handed in the airport has a big section detailing how to get financial reimbursement for stuff destroyed by TSA.

So see? See? It’s not all complaining.