Is it ever worth questioning officialdom?
After all, officialdom always seems to have an excess of "dom" and the power of the official to make that "dom" (which might seem really, really dumb) painful for the questioner.
Such might be the plight of software engineer John Tyner, who, the TSA has announced, is to be investigated for his behavior while going through airport security.
Tyner was flying out of San Diego last Friday and took exception to the idea of the new full-body scanners, which are capable of capturing whether you are hiding explosives in your underwear, or, indeed, whether there is nothing explosive in your underwear at all.
Tyner took exception to having his the whole of his manhood being photographed and sent, as the TSA claims, to a remote technician, who, undoubtedly, utters not one titter in executing his duties.
Tyner was therefore told he would have to go through a manual inspection, not unlike that when your local garage mechanic touches your engine to see why it's spluttering.
Being a man of technological bent, Tyner decided to film this experience on his cell phone. His demeanor seemed reasonably relaxed as he chatted with the TSA operative. He seemed unfazed when asked whether he had "external or internal implants."
However, it was when he was informed that he would be subject to a "groin check" that things turned a little sour. As the operative explained to him where his hands would be going and, indeed, what motion they would be employing, he offered Tyner the option of a private session.
Tyner replied that he was happy to remain in public, but "if you touch my junk I am going to have you arrested."
It's not entirely clear whether Tyner truly thought he could garner the services of a policeman in order to effect the arrest of a TSA operative. TSA operatives tend to act with something of a free hand. So the operative retorted: "Actually, we are going to have a supervisor here because of that statement."
Tyner explained on his blog that he had refused the scanner for health reasons as well as the "vivid" nature of the end product.
He also explained that when the supervisor, a female, arrived: "I stated that I would not allow myself to be subject to a molestation as a condition of getting on my flight."
Tyner wasn't allowed on the flight. He never went pheasant hunting. He was also informed before he finally left the airport that he would be subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine.
Now, however, SignOnSanDiego reports that he was given inaccurate information. It quotes Michael J. Aguilar of the TSA's San Diego chapter as saying there may be a prosecution and fines of up to $11,000. Aguilar also reportedly believes Tyner may have acted with aforethought.
"I don't know that it was an actual set up," he said. "But we are concerned that this passenger did have his recording prior to entering the checkpoint so there is some concern that it was an intentional behavior on his part."
Tyner explained on his blog and in subsequent interviews that he had checked on the TSA Web site, which told him that full-body scanners were not in use at San Diego airport. He said he turned on his cell phone camera as a precaution because he felt uneasy.
He has posted the full 30 minutes of his videos on YouTube and now must wait to see just how much further the TSA will go with their intrusion into his life.
The TSA operative did tell Tyner that his pat-down was normal procedure. For myself, as I have traveled the world, I must admit that my own junk has occasionally been grazed by security officers.
There are many who believe that TSA screening exists to create the illusion of safety, when, in fact, none can truly be offered.
Patrick Smith, for example, a pilot and Salon.com blogger, describes the TSA policies in a touchingly vehement way: "Somebody, somewhere, needs to shake us from this stupor of blind policy and blind obedience. I'm beginning to wonder if this isn't some test--a test of just how stupid Americans are. If TSA said that from now on we had to hop on one foot while humming 'God Bless America,' would we do that too?"
Well, would you do that? Would you sing? Just to, you know, feel safe?