A couple years ago, we wrote about a guy named John Brennan (who, we’re pretty damn sure is not the John Brennan who is now director of the CIA) who decided to strip naked at a TSA screening area in an airport to protest the screening process.
By Mike Masnick @ Tech Dirt
As we noted, a federal judge acquitted Brennan on First Amendment grounds, noting that he was engaged in a public protest, and that the nudity was a form of protected expression, not subject to indecent exposure laws.
No matter, apparently, for the TSA, who just went ahead and fined Brennan anyway claiming Brennan “interfered with screening personnel in the performance of their duties” (a violation of this rather broad law). As Lowering the Bar notes, this charge is bogus — and is basically the same thing as when police arrest people filming them under similar charges:
[The TSA] fined him $1,000 for doing this, claiming he had “interfered” with screening operations when he took off all his clothes. As I discussed here, and then again here, that’s the same bullshit argument police use when they arrest people for filming them—we had to come over there and stop you from doing something you’re constitutionally entitled to do, and so you “interfered” with us. But that logic makes perfect sense to the TSA, and in particular to the administrative-law judge (a TSA employee) who upheld the penalty (reduced to $500) in April. Brennan appealed.
You’ll never guess what happened next — or, wait, actually you will:
Because this is an agency proceeding, the initial appeal is still within the agency, in this case to the deputy administrator. And as I mentioned above, because I didn’t want you to be on pins and needles wondering what happened, he affirmed the ruling. The final order (PDF via PapersPlease.org) is again based entirely on the “no, you interfered with us” argument (about which I feel as described above). This also has the benefit (for the TSA) of making the law irrelevant. In fact, the deputy administrator says in his opinion, “I agree with TSA”—of which he is the deputy administrator—”that Respondent’s arguments regarding the legality of the nudity are not relevant.” Well, that’s handy.
Handy indeed to be able to ignore a federal court saying that the activity was constitutionally-protected free speech.
Oh, and it gets more ridiculous. Apparently, the TSA review of the matter said the fine is appropriate because the whole three minutes that things were delayed was horrible for TSA efficiency:
By the way, he admits in his opinion that the checkpoint was closed “for approximately three minutes” as a result of the incident, yet affirms the finding that because of this, the agents “were not able to conduct screening in an efficient manner on other passengers present at the checkpoint.” So the TSA is claiming here, with a straight face, not only that it screens passengers “in an efficient manner” to begin with but that it is so efficient that punishment is justified if you delay it by three minutes.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been pointlessly delayed by much more than three minutes by the TSA approximately EVERY TIME I HAVE FLOWN DURING THE PAST DECADE, so I would describe that claim as farcical.
I’m still wondering how any of this is making us safer. I’m guessing I’ll have to keep waiting on that one…