Dick Move, TSA (R.I.P. Rand’s laptop)

Posted on
Feb 16, 2011
Posted in: Air Travel, Dick Move

The backspace key is now removable.

I’d like to take a few moments to remember, with extreme fondness, Rand’s dear departed laptop.

It traveled with us across the globe. It never made weird sounds, it was quick to start up, and had a battery life that was unusually long. It was lightweight and kept my lap warm on cold winter nights when I sat on the couch browsing the internet.

It was a good laptop, and it left us too soon.

It met its end last Friday, at the hands of a TSA agent in San Diego airport. They were sending everyone through the back-scatter machines, and Rand and I opted out, as we usually do. TSA kept us waiting longer than usual for our pat-downs. A line formed behind us of other opt-outs, but they soon decided to simply go through the back-scatter machines – a TSA tactic that I’m familiar with. Inconvenience anyone who expresses dissent to the point that they’ll fall back into line. It worked with basically everyone except Rand and me.

For those of you unfamiliar with the opt-out process, TSA will make you stand aside until they locate an agent to physically pat you down. This usually takes a while, during which the agents will roll their eyes at you and otherwise express disdain (at least, in my experience). Once they find an agent, they walk you through to a screening area where you will be pat down. They remove all of your things from the x-ray conveyor belt, and carry them over to the where you are being screened. During this time, you are unable to touch any of your items – only the TSA can do so, because once you have opted out, you start to lose your rights and are treated like a criminal.

Actually, once you enter security screening, you lose your rights and are treated like a criminal, but I digress.

I was being patted down by an agent whose name tag read “Jones.” I opt out a lot, so the pat-down for me is not a big deal, usually. But Agent Jones seemed to be in a bad mood – whether situational or dispositional, I can’t say. But she seemed incredibly angry. She was brusque with her description of the pat-down. I replied yes to all her questions, and then she started the process.

Like I said, I get patted-down, a lot. I’m used to it. It’s not that big a deal. Until that day. Agent Jones did not have a delicate touch. She rammed her hand into my crotch three times during my pat-down. It was more than incidental touching, and I was wearing thin jeans. It was shocking to say the least.

When my pat-down was over, I was allowed to gather my things. I did so, and noticed Rand was sitting a little ways away. He was in a chair, looking uncomfortable. A TSA agent was hovering over him. Rand has his laptop turned on, and the agent was peering down at the screen.

I wanted to go over and ask what the hell was going on (since when is TSA allowed to search the content on our laptops, too?) but knowing that was a bad idea, I just stood where I was until the agent told Rand he could put his things away, and left. I walked up and asked Rand what was going on.

“He dropped my laptop.”

Boy, did he. As I noted before, once you opt-out, or are selected for additional screening, you can’t touch your own possessions. TSA has to move them. Rand offered to help with his stuff, because there was a lot of it, but the agent insisted he could carry it all. He couldn’t. He dropped Rand’s laptop, cracking the plastic case, knocking off keys, and irreparably damaging the screen and it.

Look! You can now see inside. Which is not good.

He told Rand to turn it on to see if it was damaged.

“And you did?” I asked, mortified.

“He told me to,” Rand explained. “I had to do what he said.”

The agent – in a position of total power in this situation – made Rand check for damages while he hovered over his shoulder. The thing could have erupted into a puff of smoke when Rand hit the “on” button and I’m sure he would have said it was fine.

Note to TSA: No one will honestly tell you when you’ve broken their stuff because THEY ARE AFRAID OF YOU. YOU CAN LOCK THEM UP.

So Rand’s laptop turned on. Which, as those of you who’ve ever used a computer know, means nothing. It’s like saying a car works because when you turn the key, the ignition starts. There are, of course, a million other things that are required to get a car to actually drive. Much like a computer. Turning it on? That’s one thing. Getting it to work? That’s another.

I wanted to do something – get the agent’s name, or something, but he had already booked it to the other side of security, where we couldn’t reach him. I ended up telling another agent what had happened, and she called over a supervisor.

It got worse from there. The supervisor refused to give us the agent’s name (which, I’ve since discovered, it incredibly useful when filing a claim with the TSA. No name? No claim). Instead, he told us we could claim online, then demanded to see Rand’s identification, which he took and photocopied.

“Just so we aren’t ambushed,” he explained (the irony of his statement did not resonate with him).

We stood there, waiting for the guy to come back with Rand’s I.D. The trip through security had taken us more than half an hour, and we were on the verge of missing our flight. He eventually brought back the I.D., but by that time, we were more than sufficiently intimidated.

After all, TSA had Rand’s name. They had our address. They had breathed down Rand’s neck while they made him open up his laptop. They kept us waiting while THEY PHOTOCOPIED HIS I.D. And this, mind you, was before we had even brought up the issue of a claim.

We left security feeling miserable. As we did so, I noticed that the metal detector had been opened up, and they were now sending people through there.


We eventually boarded our flight (after a two-hour delay due to a malfunctioning gauge on the plane), but what had happened in security messed with my brain more than I thought it would. I felt sick. I kept thinking about the agent hovering over Rand, as he tried to get his computer to turn on. I’d never seen my husband look intimidated, ever, until that moment.

I may have cried.

Dick Move, TSA. Dick Move.

Now, we’re back at home, and Rand, in his ever-present quest to atone for sins that are not his, has been trying to cheer me up. We’re not really sure what to do now. He needs a new laptop for work, obviously, as the one TSA dropped is in no shape for use, much less travel. We could file an appeal, but that’s a lengthy process that requires you to have the agent’s name, which the supervisor refused to give us (though I did get the supervisor’s name – it’s Zaitz, for what it’s worth). And given how much we were intimidated before filing a claim, lord knows what it would be like afterward. Rand is praying that he’s not on a list already. Given how much we fly, we can’t afford to be flagged by TSA for being problematic.

So I suppose we just have to take the loss on a computer that cost us over a grand and was in perfect condition until last weekend. Besides, even if we do file, the TSA is the one who reviews our claim, and it seems unlikely that they wouldn’t find in their own favor. The conflict of interest there is so absurd, I have trouble wrapping my head around it.

As for our laptop, R.I.P., little buddy. You deserved a better end than the one you received. You were destroyed without so much as even an apology from the TSA agent. I understand that doing so would have been akin to declaring culpability, but at some point, we have to stop being bureaucratic tools and start acting like people again.

But that’s unlikely to happen at a security checkpoint.

Leave a Comment

  • yea — this whole airport security thing is completely and totally out of control. Hell, I am all for having the old security back and run the incredibly tiny risk of some sort of terrorist attack. Hell, driving to go get a burger is far, far, far more risky than any sort of damn terrorist plane attack. Suckage on the computer — keep fighting it.

    • Everywhereist

      Thanks, Michael. I think the funny thing about the scanners is that no one seems to realize that every terrorist attempt that’s been thwarted thus far has been because of prior investigative intelligence (well before someone gets to the gate) or passengers fighting back.

      TSA’s methods are totally ineffectual in that respect.

  • By not complaining, you are letting down your fellow travellers. And you are giving in to the police state that the USA is becoming. Please complain, long and loud.

    • Everywhereist

      Cliff, I suspect you are right. But damn, the TSA does NOT make it easy to do so. I guess that’s the point, isn’t it?

      • Sean

        I would have asked them to call the cops, and had a police report created. The way I look at this is the same as if you went into a store and smashed one of their displays. They would make you pay for it, and if you refused they would call the cops.

        • Peter

          The police wouldn’t have taken a report since the action wasn’t criminal. It is a civil suit between you and the TSA. Which makes me think, if TSA refuses to pay for the damage, could you sue for damages? I’m not sure what the exact limits are for small claims but that would be even better if it covered the cost of the laptop.

        • DaveR

          “The police wouldn’t have taken a report since the action wasn’t criminal.” How do you know it wasn’t criminal? The agent could have acted maliciously and with intent and then feigned “concern”. You should call the police now. File a police report naming the supervisor as an acomplice after the fact.

          • Everywhereist

            Unfortunately, I’m not sure how the logistics of that would work. Calling the San Diego P.D. and filing a report via phone? Is that really how to go about this?

  • That is a big steaming pile of bullshit. File that claim! If nothing else, you will have a month’s worth of blog posts about it.

    • Everywhereist

      Oooh, you know me well, sir. You know me well.

  • I’d file a claim. And if you get flagged as being a troublemaker afterwards, you’ll confirm that TSA just have petty power trips and are not doing their proper job of keeping people like us safe.

    You know what slays me? TSA aren’t the first line of defense against terrorism at airports, they’re supposed to be the LAST line of defense against terrorism. If the entire US Intelligence network – CIA, NSA, FBI, Military intelligence, billions of dollars of sophisticated reconnaissance satellites, spy planes, undercover James Bond agents risking their lives by infiltrating terrorist cells, millions of dollars in bounties offered for information on terrorist activity– If ALL THAT fails to stop a terror plot at a US airport, then we know that TSA is there to protect us. When they’re not dropping laptops and then scurrying away anyway.

    Makes you feel real safe, doesn’t it?

    • Everywhereist

      “Scurrying” is a great word. Must use it more. It brings to mind rodentia.

  • What assholes! If I was in your position, I’d file the claim. They’re using intimidation and hiding behind their code of security to treat people like cattle without any human warmth or decency. Your sense of humor and irony in your writing is very strong, and shows you’re not bitterly ranting, you have a legitimate claim. Definitely follow up.

    • Everywhereist

      Thanks, Patricia. That means a lot. I think I will follow up on this.

  • Lindsey

    I can’t believe you let them intimidate you like that. You didn’t strike me as the type to be so intimidated. You should have not left there without that agents name. They have to give you that. By letting them intimidate you like that, they have won, and we will never get our freedoms and rights back by backing down. File that claim and fight it tooth and nail. If somebody broke $1000 of something of mine, you better believe all hell would break loose. You were in the right, they were in the wrong. Please, for all of our sakes, fight this.

    • Everywhereist


      I appreciate the sentiment and the support, but in our defense, when they’re TSA security, and they can LOCK YOU UP for no reason whatsoever, you can damn well believe that I won’t be putting up a stink. Plus, we were about to miss our (ultimately delayed) flight. It sucks that people are intimidated by the TSA, but looking at the legacy that they have with abusing power, it’s not surprising.

      • Thomas

        No, the TSA cannot lock you up. That is nonsense. The police can though.

      • james

        Although I agree with what your saying about the excesses being done by many a alpha bet soup agency these day’s. Ulimately everone’s attitude must change. We all will die some day, no getting around it..no matter what language you speak. So the more pressing matter of life should be “How do you wish to live your life?” On your knees in chains… or standing and free. Our safty is a matter for “all” of us to take seriously…mutually. Merrill vs Federal Crop Insurance is a high court case that say’s
        “We as people have the responsiblity to know when the agents of the government are “within” the boundries of their capacities when ever we deal with them…..AND THE RESPONSIBLIY TO KEEP THEM THERE!
        It has never been over ruled. So for your saftey an that of your future children and grand children.
        What are you willing to to do for our mutual saftey. FILE THE COMPLAINT!

  • Unbelievable. I agree completely with Patricia. File a claim and push the issue. We all need to do so when our rights are violated. If nobody takes a stand this will never change.

  • File the claim, and then submit your story to Christopher Elliott at NGT. Get the rest of the travel community ticked off enough about it so we’re all steaming mad. Things aren’t going to change unless we do something about it … and this is the catalyst that can start that string of events.

  • Maybe I am aging. But it is unlike my elders before who would sweetly speak of times when soda was a nickel and neighbors relaxed on the porch. I recall my days gone by with fondness too, but somehow this is much, much different. I am saddened by what we have allowed to happen to this once great & free nation. Content to sip my latte and make my mortgage, my eyes were distracted by my life. I was unaware that thieves and wolves were devouring our freedoms under the disguise of protecting us.

    I must now choose to either allow these beasts to peer and/or fondle my daughters and my wife if we fly. These rabid dogs are closer to mercenaries than guardians. Driven by ego & paychecks with no regard for our property, our privacies and freedoms. This is the sum of the Great Experiment in self government?

    I say kick back. Even if it is just a laptop. All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men (and women) to do nothing. Rand might end up on a list….it might be the “Do Not Mess With List”.

    • Everywhereist

      Damn … that was rather beautiful.

  • Don’t put up with this unconstitutional garbage! Boycott Flying ENTIRELY until sanity returns! Please join us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-Flying/126801010710392

    • canajanz

      For some of us boycotting flying entirely is just not possible.
      As much as I would love to travel by ship I cannot afford the extra 12 weeks required.
      I have arranged our next flights to avoid ALL American airports because of the foolishness we have experiences the last few times.
      On one memorable occasion we flew in at the same time as hurricane Wilma. The aairlines worked very hard to ticket everyone back out ASAP .. a fact which saw us being singled out for secondary (and more!) screening at every stop because we had ‘last minute’ tickets on foreign passports! At our third stop we endured our 7th round of pat downs while one enthusiastic TSA agaent spent a full 5 minutes scanning my young daughters wristwatch, all the time snapping at her to ‘hold her arm out straight’.
      The Agent and the Mouthpiece is another story altogether …….

      • canajanz

        apologies for sticky keys on failing keyboard and for wayward fingers

  • Stacey

    You can definitely file a claim against the TSA in Small Claims court. The Supervisor is responsible as he is responsible for the employees under him. He agreed to this when he took the job. So, I would file it with his name at both the TSA AND Small claims. If he will not give you the name, let him take the blame. He took Rand’s info….

    Oh, and add the court costs into your claim. If you end up on their list, take them back to court. You will be able to show you were able to fly before the issue and only after taking them to court did you end up on their list.

    Much success…and let us know how you proceed.

  • FreeCitizen

    Do more than simply file a claim. File a claim, using the normal channels, and then get yourself ASAP to the ACLU, and get a pitbull who will be willing to represent you against these thugs at the TSA.

    Unless they had reason to suspect you and your companion were terrorists, or deserving of suspicion, they have NO RIGHT BY LAW (U.S. Constitution Bill of Rights, 4th Amendement) to detain you, confiscate your peroperty for any reason, or infringe upon your person (they can’t touch you).

    They also can’t force you to submit to touching or irradiation. And if they threaten you with police and an $11,000 fine, just accept it, get the names of everyone you can including the arresting officer(s), and let them know you’ll be recovering your $11,000 and then some once the case reaches the Courts.

    You have a good case already. Use it, and the power it gives you, however small, to register your disapproval of what the TSA is doing and what they stand for.

    Good luck.

  • Zee

    I know you were shocked with the whole incident…You know what you could have said to Zaitz if you weren’t in a state of shock? “Well I guess I will just use your name on the claim then, as it looks like you much rather take the blame for it.” LOL they would probably have given that persons name to you in a heartbeat. LOL Sucks to have to go through that bull.

    • Everywhereist

      Oh, damn. That would have been EPIC. If only you had been there. 🙂

  • Rebecca

    You miff want to write the FSD and copy the airport director and anyone else you can think of and get a copy of the security tape.

    I am so sorry about your experience. It absolutely sickens me.

    • Everywhereist

      Thanks, Rebecca. A lot of folks have been suggesting getting a copy of the security tape. I’m not sure if that portion of the screening area is recorded though. I would be surprised if they denied dropping it. That’s kind of undisputable. I figure they’ll just say that the laptop wasn’t damaged enough, or not worth anything.

      • Rebecca

        It’s my understanding that these areas are, by TSA’s own requirements/rules, are covered by multiple cameras. The only area that isn’t covered is the “private” screening area, which is how I’ll likely be arrested because there is no way I’m going into a room with TSA officials for any “private” screening with absolutely no surveillance to protect both sides. Anyway, I digress…

        I hope that you and your spouse file the claim; it’s just a matter that none of us can afford to not hold the TSA accountable for their abuses, rule-breaking, etc. I hope you file a claim for the laptop, and a complaint for the unnecessary karate chops by your screener. We must start holding this rogue agency accountable; it’s the only chance we have to see change.

        Again, I’m just so sorry. No one should be treated in this manner, and the lack of responsibility by the TSA is just appalling.

        Good luck, whatever you choose.

  • m@t

    I’m fairly certain all pat down areas are required to have video evidence (no sound though). I’d file a claim with the supervisor’s name on it, and “unidentified TSO” on there as well (be sure to explain why the TSO was unidentified). And as for the security tapes, you need to request a copy ASAP… of all the film in EVERY camera both in AND around that security checkpoint (starting at least two or three hours before you arrived and continuing several hours after you passed through). That much tape will enable you (or your lawyer) to establish their “normal” behavior, as well as show the behavior of the TSO and his supervisor. Request it ASAP because they’re only required to keep the tapes for a few days at most.

    Lastly, don’t forget, the local police still have jurisdiction in an airport. Therefore, even in the airport, you can still call 911 and file a sexual harassment charge with the local PD for being rammed in the crotch three times… even by a TSO that claimed to be “just doing her job.” In most cities, the local police are required by law to conduct a full investigation into every sexual harassment claim. As a frequent flyer, your myriad other pat downs are evidence that you aren’t out to be a jerk, just to protect yourself from a repeat performance by TSO Jones. Even if you lose the negligence claim (to replace the laptop), the sexual harassment charges against TSO Jones should be enough to steer the TSOs in that airport closer to the straight and narrow.

    (Just be aware that a successful sexual harassment charge would have a high probability of some combination of the following “undesirable” results: having TSO Jones lose her clearance, be fired, placed on a sexual predator list, and/or forever be unable to be rehired in any other federal position.)

  • Lloyd

    I’m extremely sorry you and yours were harassed and subjected to this gestapo style detention. The people who fund the TSA have their own financial axes to grind, and it is people like you and your husband who are being held to the stone. File a claim, use the supervisor, and everyone else you can to recover your lost property costs, replacement value, not actual value, court costs, legal fees and time and trouble damages. Hopefully they will put you on a list to be further harassed, and that will allow you to take up more of their time and money as you file discrimination suits against them. I’m driving 12 hours tomorrow rather than flying an hour because I’m just not up to the stress of air travel and the B.S. one has to endure anymore. Good luck and best wishes.

  • This is ridiculous! The worst part is, you can’t go to the Better Business Bureau and complain as you would with a shady business. The TSA seems to have total power to do as they please. They wouldn’t give you the agent’s name, so you couldn’t file a complaint. Basically, they can get away with anything– unless the infraction is videotaped and becomes a YouTube sensation. I hope they realize the negative PR this is causing on the blogosphere and give you a check to replace the laptop.

  • I’m of two minds in what to say here. So I’ll have to go with what I believe in, and have experienced.

    As someone who’s seen their fair share of security checks I know exactly what you mean, and feel by the intimidation process. It’s practically embroiled into these peoples minds to act like this, and for exactly these end results.

    Believe me when I say it’s a lot worse when it’s not in your own country and there is a language barrier. The way the foreign office works these days there’s every chance you’ll be left to fend for yourself in a foreign jail somewhere. Should this have happened overseas.

    Worse yet is the one dangling notion all these Airport security types have. You are rushed, hassled and don’t want to miss a plane with the rest of your bags.

    However, I am going to presume you are from the U.S.A. (apologies if you are not.) And, as such I do feel you have to stand up for your rights. It’s very easy to right a blog post about this. It’s a lot more important to lodge a complaint.

    Too many people these days will talk the talk about the hassles of this TSA, and other restrictions occurring. Very few people will take it to the next step.

    Yes, it might mean a missed flight. Money wasted. Stress. A night in cell even. And yes it might mean a name on a list. But to let them get away with it is letting down a nation and it’s next generation.

    My vote. It’s your country. Take a stand now, before it’s too late

  • Barbara

    In the middle of the line for security, I envision a flash mob singing a revised version of Handel’s “We, Like Sheep, Have Gone Astray”. (We, like sheep, have given up our rights …)
    And then women refusing to give up their lip gloss if it doesn’t happen to fit into a quart-sized bag. Or men refusing to take off their belts, saving all of us the embarassment of the plumber’s crack.
    Just tonight friends were discussing how submitting to inane TSA requirements is to preventing terrorism as “duck & cover drills” in grade school were to surviving nuclear attacks.
    I’m still not certain of the purpose of this infringement on my person, time, and patience. To ensure employment for those who can’t get decent union jobs since so much manufacturing has been shipped overseas? To recruit citizens into enforcing compliance with government rules & regulations to prepare all of us for fewer liberties?
    I’m sorry for your losses. I’m sorry for all our losses. Fight the brave fight, when and how you can!

  • Seconding almost everything people have already written. No, the TSA will never admit fault — they don’t, they never do, just wander over to their bullshit blog sometime to see “Blogger Bob” and the other TSA cowards have to say — but file a claim anyway. They’ll toss it in their circular file, but at least you’ll have a record. Also go to the ACLU — they have a special page set up for these complaints. Also EPIC (I think someone above already mentioned that.) Also post to as many travel blogs, especially Christopher Elliott’s, as you can find.

    As for getting a lawyer, yeah, yeah, yeah, but lawsuits are costly. Why should you have to incur not only the cost of your (deliberately) destroyed laptop, but also a civil lawsuit? As many litigators have advised, for all things in life, “stay out of court.”

    As a journalist, I’ve been compiling my own list of TSA abuses — the document on my computer now stands at 34 pages — of just headlines and links! — and counting. I’m adding yours to the list. There are obviously many more incidents out there that we never find out about, that never get reported. So multiply this abuse a hundred- or thousand-fold. And keep adding to it with each passing day.

    I’ve tried to raise the alarms about this for a few years now at Cogitamus (click my name above). But it gets wearying. So much apathy, so much willful ignorance. And yes, I’ve stopped flying entirely. It’s a big sacrifice for me, as I adore travel. And I know that not everyone can make that decision; some people have to fly for work. Luckily, I can take the train for business trips — my most recent one required an 11-hour ride each way. Much longer than a one-hour flight, yes, but at least I didn’t have to be abused (for now anyway — Napolitano and Pistole are bringing their show to all transportation hubs sooner or later).

    In addition to the link above, here’s another entry where I wrote about TSA abuse (won’t add more here, too many links):


  • I am shocked, but not surprised. I am sorry to hear about the ordeal you and Rand had to go through. Flying used to be a pleasant experience, but now it is only an experience, for bad or worse.

  • I want to know what kind of problems a computer could still have even if it powers up and everything works? CD player maybe, but thats it. This

    • Everywhereist

      Hi Kyle –

      I never said that everything worked. The keys are coming off, the casing is cracked, the screen is now messed up (not sure what’s going on – I think something cracked inside it. It won’t light properly), and there are some internal problems (the wifi seems dead, even though it works on our other computers in the house – so it’s not the signal) and it isn’t functioning properly.

    • 3v

      A dropped laptop can have broken pieces of plastic and metal loose inside it, shorting and damaging the motherboard. It could turn on and work fine for a while, and then one of those metal bits could shift and fry the motherboard. Also, physical shock damage to a hard drive does not always manifest immediately. It could work normally for a few days or weeks before developing Click of Death. Cracked casing can allow moisture and debris inside to places that are normally safe from those things, causing serious problems even months later.

  • Margaret

    Take your own video next time, too. The TSA treats opt outs like ignorant fools for being scared of their magic machines, not like political protesters seeking to protect and defend everyone’s Constitutional rights. I know I must sound like a douche, but it is important to me. I’m flying to SD in a month, I will opt out, I will take video, and I will look for that supervisor and tell him I read about him destroying a citizens property and violating their rights, and he should look forward to getting sued.


    • Everywhereist

      Whoo-hoo! I can feel your passion, Margaret! Go for it! And yes, I need one of those little recorders. Definitely.

  • Paul Turner

    I’m sorry for your loss on several levels and understand the reluctance to follow through with a complaint, but at some point we have to stand for what is right and now is that time. Your experience will encourage others to come forward and also stand.

  • rdm

    Personally, I am too intimidated to fly.

    I applaud your courage.

    • Everywhereist

      Thanks, but I really don’t this constitutes as courage (technically, it’s whining.) It’s just what everyone has to do to get from point A to point B nowadays.

  • Becca

    Did “Jones” happen to be a slim, shorter, caucasian woman with shortish curly hair? If so, I have encountered this particular TSA agent MULTIPLE times in the Southwest security lines in SD, and she is nothing short of brusque, rude, and generally unpleasant. I always wish I could avoid her, but somehow she’s always doing my security scan. Blah.

    • Everywhereist

      Nope. She was built like a line-backer.

  • Sounds like they’re deliberately trying prevent you from filing a claim. Good. Sue them! This is pretty much exactly what it means to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    As for the computer itself, backup the data if you haven’t already. A drop like that usually doesn’t do the hard drive any favors. Sounds like the damage to the screen casing took out the backlight and the wifi antenna, too.

  • Fred Fnord

    Here’s what you need to do: first file a claim through normal channels.

    If it is denied, especially if it is denied because you do not have the name of the person who dropped it, you need to contact the Office of the Ombudsman at the TSA. I have actually heard mildly positive things about it.

    From the TSA website:
    To contact the Ombudsman, phone 1-571-227-2383 or 1-877-266-2837 toll-free.

    E-mail: TSA.Ombudsman@dhs.gov

    You have to contact the Ombudsman *after* you’ve gone through regular channels, but at that point they are allowed to help you, and may well be able to resolve the situation. I know one person (friend of a friend) who had a musical instrument (an unusual sort of accordion) mistaken for some kind of bomb or weapon. She was forced to partially disassemble it (despite not being competent to do so) and then it was dropped by the TSA employee and the pieces scattered and several damaged. Her claim was denied for some totally nonsensical (false) reason, she went through the ombudsman, and eventually they had her send it back to the maker and paid the repair bill for it. She is not on any no-fly lists or anything like that.

    • Everywhereist

      Wow, Fred – thank you. This is sincerely very helpful. I’ll file a claim through normal channels (first, I need to get “an expert” to assess cost of repairs, which is ridiculous) and if that doesn’t work, I’ll try and escalate things to the Ombudsman.

  • noonespecial

    Please file a complaint with the Office of Inspector General of DHS


    It works, it really, truly does work.

  • Dan

    They broke your computer and YOU were intimidated? One of those peons breaks my computer and I’ll show you intimidated. I’m raging so hard they can hear it all the way across the airport. I will abuse the lord’s name in new and exciting ways and I’ll give that asshole a piece of my mind for half an hour and I’ll not use the same abuse twice in a row.

    Intimidated? Because he’s looming over me? Because he’s a goddamn goat who broke my computer?

    Seriously, they break your computer and YOU are intimidated?

    • Everywhereist

      Yes. I was intimidated by a person in a position of virtually unlimited power who could have detained me for days on end and denied me my rights, including those outlined under due process, which doesn’t apply when we’re talking about the TSA. Yup. Intimidated. Crazy, huh?

  • I have to vote with the majority here…..PLEASE file that claim, and consider a police report as well. AND I think you should send a letter, with a copy of everything else, to your local Congressperson and Senator, asking that they get involved in supporting a passenger’s right to NOT be mistreated by the TSA under any circumstance, without a better method of redress than the existing ineffective “claims process”. The ONLY way things will get better is if enough voices join in unison demanding change.

  • Beau

    I’m disappointed you aren’t taking action. Please do something, don’t let this go on.

    • Everywhereist

      Beau – I’m on it. I may be lazy, but I’m noble, too.

  • When my watch was lifted at the security checkpoint in Houtson, I filed a complaint. As for the whole TSA issue, I concur with whatever wit calls it “security theater.” Claire at http://www.travel-babel.com.

    • Everywhereist

      Claire – they took your watch? How on earth did that happen? That sucks!

  • I meant Houston! Sorry.

  • Susan

    Please do file a claim, and cc: copies to your Congressional representative’s office (call first to see who there exactly should receive it). Also, call the police department in that jurisdiction and ask if you can file a complaint, make a claim in small claims court, or whatever. But no matter what, please, don’t just drop this. I’m sorry, I know it’s inconvenient, but it’s in the nature of thrilling heroics that they’re foisted upon us.

    • Everywhereist

      That last line brought such a smile to my face, lady. You don’t even know. 🙂

  • Cindy

    Looks like I will fly out of Orange County of Ontario. I am so frustrated that the scanners have not been properly tested. Imagine if a device manufacturer behaved like the government with these scanners.

  • God, what a horrible story. And, I’m so glad we don’t yet have the climate of fear in Europe that permits things like this to happen.

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  • jb

    Sue them in civil court, small claims. This will continue until we all stand up!

  • Stacey

    Obama could issue an executive order to stop the patdowns and x-rays in a heartbeat. It is apparent he is trying to kill the airline industry, along with any civil liberties we used to take for granted. Do you see the the loser Republicans or Democrats trying to stop this tyranny. NOOOO. Well, Ron Paul is.

  • freebird

    I agree with your first instincts.
    To fight the power is futile and will result in loss of serenity and also will cost more money,and as you say, you could make a list that would give you further hassle down the line.

    The armchair warriors talk big, but in your position would fold in a heart beat.

    At least you got it out on the net.(and out of detainment)

    Use a cheaper computer or a thumb drive when you fly.
    Encrypt the shit out of it so as to further frustrate PTB.(TSO)

  • The_Rev

    I’m militantly incapable of keeping my mouth shut when someone is a Public Idiot and/or Abusive. . . and I look forward to their becoming violent – it gives me the perfect opportunity to let my Dark Side off it’s leash. . . something that doesn’t happen nearly often enough.

    There are a couple of TSA screeners who’d be nursing broken bones if they tried to pull that crap with me. . . and I just can’t understand why they don’t get jacked every frakking day.

    I suggest breaking any part of them that touches your body. . . eventually nobody will want to play out their psychopathic fantasies for fear of being irreparably damaged.

  • Fisher1949

    File a claim with TSA noting date, time and checkpoint. Include the lane if you know. Include any names that you have. Make a copy (screen shot) of the claim and send a copy to your Congressman and Senators. You should also mail copies to TSA Oversight Committee members (Jason Chaffetz Chair) and Homeland Security Senate Committee (Joe Liebermann Chair). You cannot email these folks unless you are in their distrcit.

    Follow up with a call to your Congressman and Senators local offices.

  • ijeannie

    The TSA are criminals. @james_monaghan @tsa Because the TSA is a lie! It is all a scam. They are criminals http://www.prisonplanet.com/tsa-workers-admit-to-stealing-huge-amounts-of-cash-from-passengers.html

  • Mrs.Fisher


    Here they claim to have a ridiculously low rate of complaints about their Transportation Molestation Stations from actual travelers.
    Also, TSA can’t search laptop contents.

  • Jordan Muela

    This made me really angry. I appreciate the fact that you opt out. I do too and I think it is important.

    I can’t believe how normal people, when put into the roles of guard and civilian will immediately start acting horribly. Makes me think of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment

    Thanks for writing about this. Keep us posted if there are any developments with the TSA.

    • Everywhereist

      Thanks, Jordan. And props to you for mentioning the Stanford Prison Experiment. That definitely has come to mind a lot recently.

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  • andrewa JHB South Africa

    Hmmm Im not sure who is in power in the US right now but surely the answer is to print up about a million bumper stickers that say

    insert whichever political group promises to get rid of the TSA

  • Annie

    I feel like the only person who is going to disagree with this, but it has to be done. While it was totally out of order for that TSA to drop your laptop after your husband even asked if he could help, the overlying issue is about airport security. Contrary to what everyone is saying in the comments, airport security is NOT out of control.

    Everyone should grasp the fact that airport security guards aren’t just there for a laugh, they’re there to keep you safe. They don’t have any secondary agendas. Why opt out at all? No one’s getting their thrills from seeing you naked- know why? Because they’re NOT seeing you naked in those full-body scanners. All they see is a blurry body-like shape, which they focus in on if and ONLY if something dangerous is on your body. Unless you have something to hide, there is no reason to opt out.

    And the whole super vigorous patting down is just because you refuse to go through a perfectly reasonable scanner. It honestly irks me when people complain about security measures, because it’s 100 percent worth it. You have no IDEA the kind of people they catch there. And I’m not an airport security agent or anything, though it might sound like it. I’m a teenage premed student and I think people’s lives are more important that people who complain about patdowns. Just saying.

    Not aiming this at the blog owner but at those in the comments complaining about security. Just my two cents.

    • da

      Annie, what color is the sky in your fantasy world? the TSA is a bullying, incoherent, abusive, bureaucratic nightmare which does nothing to keep you safe. it is pure security theatre, and the mere fact that these folks (and many others) are so intimidated by their actions is proof enough that something is VERY wrong. this was once a free country, but the last 12 years have been a disaster for liberty. we were once guaranteed of being treated as innocent until proven guilty, but now we are treated as guilty in numerous ways. this has to stop, and the Constitution needs to be adhered to.

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