Government Sexual Molestation in Airports Over the Top

Airport ScannerAirport Personnel Touching Genitals and Breasts of Passengers

After the initial hysterical airport security response to the 9/11 attacks—inane measures included posting 19-year-old National Guardsmen with automatic weapons at crowded airports and the temporary discontinuation of electronic tickets—lasting security augmentation entailed hardening of aircraft cockpit doors and beefing up passenger screenings. The latter has continued after each subsequent foiled terrorist plot and has now reached absurd proportions.

After the failure of the shoe bomber, passengers were required to begin disrobing when going through airport security. After the thwarted attempt to assemble a liquid bomb on an aircraft, we were limited to three ounces of liquid per bottle. After the underwear bomber, some passengers are now subjected to pornographic scans of our bodies, which shows genitals, breasts, etc on airport security monitors.

And after the latest attempt to put bombs in airplane cargo compartments, we are now subjected to sexual molestation and assault if anyone but the government was doing it—that is, aggressive pat-downs by airport security personnel that include actually touching passenger’s genitals and breasts.

The public, sold on the irrational post-9/11 dread of being killed by a terrorist (the actual chance of the average American being killed by an international terrorist is a minuscule one in 80,000), has grumbled and tolerated most of these airport “security” augmentations. Yet outrageous fondling by government employees has caused a rising tide of public outrage and may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back when it comes to airport security.

For example, the Washington Post quoted one traveler, Marc Moniz of Poway, California, as complaining about such molestation, “It’s very intrusive and very insane. I wouldn’t let anyone touch my daughter like that. We’re not common criminals.”

And the government has no probable cause to believe all travelers are criminal terrorists, making any airport security measure that searches every traveler a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. That amendment requires the government to have probable cause that a crime has been committed before a search is conducted.

Also, the aforementioned piling on of airport security procedures after each stymied attack should raise questions about the latest unconstitutional fad. After all, each attack was foiled prior to the institution of the added security measure, and the government is always guarding against yesterday’s threat, as the nimble terrorists try to outmaneuver huge and ponderous government bureaucracies. In fact, government officials often institute security measures merely to “reassure the public”—read: pretend to be doing something about a perceived problem.

But the government response to the recent attempt at cargo bombing should cause the public to be even more suspicious of government actions. After all, what do aggressive pat-downs of passengers have to do with the threat of bombs being put in cargo compartments? The government is using the time-honored bureaucratic tradition of using a crisis to get public acceptance for some unrelated governmental policy preference—remember the invasion of Iraq after the 9/11 attacks? Moreover, these new aggressive pat-downs are more helpful in uncovering knives and other hand-held weapons of lesser threat than they are of detecting chemical explosives.

Another bizarre security addition that I have recently experienced is the plastic cage. Last week I was flying and was randomly selected for the dreaded “secondary screening” (it sounds ancillary but is just annoying). The security woman put me in the cage (fortunately it had air holes), locked it, and told me that I wasn’t getting out until she swabbed my hands (presumably for potential chemical residues from bomb making).

Ivan ElandTo show how much overkill the government has perpetrated on the traveling public in passenger security lines, let’s do a thought experiment. After 9/11, even if the government had instituted no added security measures, flying would have been much safer. Why? Because previously, passengers and crews were instructed to cooperate with any aircraft hijacker because most people on the plane usually lived through such experiences. During and after the 9/11 attacks, however, this paradigm changed abruptly as air travelers became surly when envisioning everyone dying and also killing people on the ground. Such enraged travelers likely foiled the attack with the fourth plane on 9/11, and passengers or crew did not sit idly by during the shoe and underwear bombing attempts.

Thus, with now vigilant and aggressive travelers as the first line of defense, intrusive government passenger screening—previously annoying and now dehumanizing—is hardly vital for air security.

Ivan Eland

This article first appeared in The Independent Institute and is republished with permission.


  1. Agreed says

    I agree with the author. Airport security is absurd nowdays. I’m not going to get humiliated in the name of security. Security is so over the top now not just in airports. But everywhere, in the streets, in the schools, in the airports. And this is why everyone hates authority, because they don’t care about our privacy.

  2. sajx says

    mr joe markowitz
    i dont know whether nudity is pornography but whether the writer of this article should fly or not –its his choice and the govt officers should give us the option of leaving the airport. people have to travel to meet their family members around the world and these sick officers stand in our way to strip and molest passengers. the truth is that it is the people who are sick and sex starved predators who want a job at the airport. and people like you fail to see how they traumatise us all in the name of security checks.

  3. in_awe says

    This TSA policy make be the start of an awakening in this country about how our liberties and privacy are being taken away in many small ways by government fiat.

    Recently the US Supreme Court ruled that police use of infrared scanners on residences is prohibited under the Constitution’s protection of privacy and freedom from unwarranted searches. Those scanners were used in pre felony-raid preparations to ascertain the location of individuals in the building. The individuals appeared as varied colored Gumby like blobs on the police screens.

    The airport scanners are precise enough to show droplets of sweat or water on the person’s body. Yet THESE individuals are not suspected of committing a felony, let alone subject to a warrant authorizing a search and physical assault.

    Airports in the Netherlands use scanners that show Gumby-like images that do not invade a person’s right to privacy, but because they are based on a technology that uses radio waves to detect the presence of chemicals used in making weapons and bombs they actually yield the desired outcomes.

    The Secretary of Transportation musing on how the technology exists to jam cell phones in cars and how the government is reviewing requiring the implementation of those devices. This just the latest example of proposed government intervention into our daily lives – all in the name of keeping us safe. The FDA looking at banning enhanced energy drinks. NYC banning types of fat and salt. There are plenty more, if you are just aware of what is happening in the world of regulatory action.

  4. says

    Nudity is not the same as pornography. And touching someone’s private parts is not necessarily a sexual assault. Let’s call things what they are and let’s not add to the hysteria.

    And if you don’t want to be scanned or touched, don’t fly. Burning all that jet fuel is not good for us anyway. That’s the thing we should be most concerned about.

    • Rebeca says

      You’re right about one thing nudity is not the same on pornography,but touching someone against their will is by definition sexual assult. No hysteria needed. By any definition relating to people and touching sexual areas on the human body, molaestation is touching someone “innapropriately” against their will. Also not everyone has the option to choose whether to fly or not. As far as business and government issues some (not all) must do what their superior tells them to do. Also, yes, burning jet fuel should be what we are more focussed about not primitive ways of security. Why are they using machines that show your nudity when there are comon ex-rays that should be able to see anything while still being humble. Let’s do this lets put up ex-rays that everyone have to walk through to physically get on a plane, and then we find an alternative fuel source.

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