Going Commando on the TSA: Girl Strips Naked in Security and Records It, Info for True Scotsmen

by Violet Blue on November 22, 2010

Above is a video of a woman who, one day ago got on an international flight from Sea-Tac (Seattle) to Sri Lanka. She is an exhibitionist and an activist. She is still in transit, but before she got on her plane, she stripped down to transparent lingerie and recorded her volatile journey through TSA security. The video came out amazingly well and it is intense to watch. The woman is blogger Furrygirl; she did a blog post about the experience here but her site is currently down until she gets to a location where she can fix it. Meanwhile, you can follow her here on Twitter. She does not get 100% naked, but her outfit is transparent and you can see everything.

Here is a photo of her security outfit, taken in the plane’s bathroom with her phone after she got on her flight:

TSA naked girl  Furrygirl

Meanwhile, Ars Technica has a great article for guys who are thinking about going through security as “true Scotsmen.” Here’s a snip:

(…) “The next time I fly, I’m wearing my trusty kilt,” said one—and we’re assuming that he’s a true Scotsman.

This was an idea too good not to receive wider exposure (no pun intended), and it was naturally soon paired with the idea of a “National Opt-Out Day” to take place this week on November 24, the day before Thanksgiving. The idea is for a mass opt-out of the new AIT body scanners that can see through clothes, with participants choosing instead to have the more invasive pat-down. (…) But other groups are just as interested in humiliating the TSA agents doing an unpleasant job, hence the kilts. James Babb, a cofounder of We Won’t Fly, encourages people to get a pat-down on November 24 and “wear the kilt. Leave your phone on record. You could be the next YouTube star. These (TSA) people need to be humiliated. What they are doing is inexcusable.”

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg had a similar take: “It’s a one-word idea: Kilts. Think about it—if you’re a male, and you want to bollix-up the nonsensical airport security-industrial complex, one way to do so would be to wear a kilt. If nothing else, this will cause TSA employees to throw up their hands in disgust. If you want to go the extra extra mile, I suggest commando-style kilt-wearing. While it is probably illegal to fly without pants, I can’t imagine that it’s illegal to fly without underpants.”

(…read more, arstechnica.com)

Violet Blue

The London Times named Violet Blue "One of the 40 bloggers who really count" and Self Magazine named TinyNibbles one of the “Best Sex Resources for Women.” Blue is an autodidact and pundit on sex and technology, hacking and security, porn for women, privacy and bleeding-edge tech culture. She is a journalist for ZDNet, CBS News, CNET; she's an educator, speaker, crisis counselor, volunteer NGO trainer, and the author and editor of over 40 award-winning books.

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{ 21 comments }

1 Robert of London November 26, 2010 at 9:19 pm

For Vera

I don’t know where you got your quote that an explosive the size of a sugar packet will bring down an airliner, but it is patently just not true. There have been air disasters where a quarter of the cabin roof has been ripped off at high altitude, and the plane still landed (albeit with a stewardess pulled from the plane). You could possibly cause explosive decompression, but except in movies that does not crash jets in itself. Perhaps if you had a small cube right at the flight controls…but if you can get there, you don’t need an explosive. Basically you need to destroy flight controls, power lines, or engines…

As for those faulting the TSA agents themselves, MOST of them started their jobs before this policy was in effect, and many of them have families to support in a land of 10%+ unemployment. When you are trying to keep a roof over your family’s head, matters of larger policy are NOT your first concern. Saying they should rise up and risk their jobs is really a matter of not walking a mile in someone else’s shoes…

I thought the concept of the video was great, but frankly I fear that we risk being hypocrites – so many protesting the screening will ALSO be the first to scream in protest if an airliner goes down, saying the TSA is shite, they should have prevented it, etc. My only criticism is that I wish the US had developed millimeter wave technology rather than backscatter x-ray, as it seems that the radiation dose is lower. Millimeter is what (AFAIK) is being deployed in the EU – similar pictures, less radiation. Of course, merely flying in a high altitude PLANE also gives you a dose, but we somehow neglect that…

2 Marlo Davis November 26, 2010 at 5:57 pm

Violet, the thought of a TSA agent uprising against their superiors gives me serious wood.
Unfortunately, just like the passenger “protest” over the search, there’s too much risk in sticking your neck out. Rocking the boat means you’re they one they shove overboard quickest.

3 wryman November 23, 2010 at 9:35 pm

For Anthonya

My concern is not the radiation dosage for myself passing through maybe once or twice a year, but the possible dosages received by the workers if the unit is not installed or maintained correctly. Hospital workers and research scientists have rules to follow when dealing with radioactive sources that were learned from people dying. The powers that be often push ahead and only think of consequences when the lawsuits from cancer victims are filed.

4 Chevy Monster November 23, 2010 at 8:07 pm

That was a crock. 10 minutes of security lighting fixtures? That was stupid.

5 A. Nuran November 23, 2010 at 8:05 pm

Of course, XKCD was weeks ahead of the curve…

http://xkcd.com/779

6 Redme November 23, 2010 at 12:12 pm

She is hot, but does not seem too much Furrygirl.

I could not tell much of anything from the noisy video, but if enough people do this one of those phone video recorders will finally get aimed the right direction. However, I predict that within a week the procedure will be to do a check that phones and cameras are turned off. However, nearly everyone in the airport has a device that records photos and video. TSA does have a literally ridiculous paradox that that they want to see and grope everyone but only with their clothes on.

7 Vera November 23, 2010 at 10:23 am

I understand where a lot of people concerned about the discomfort of the TSA agents are coming from, but I have to point out that while they didn’t create the policy, they are at-will employed by the agency that did and are the public (and quite often only) representatives of that agency to which the public has access. I think it’s possible to go too far, but I think Furrygirl’s protest was perfect. You want to see through my clothes? Here. Take a good look.

Members of the traveling public don’t like this policy, and that seems to be of little concern to the TSA. Perhaps it becoming equally unpleasant for their employees will be more meaningful.

This policy doesn’t make us safer. A dose of explosives the size of a sugar packet is all that’s needed to bring a plane down, and these procedures can’t detect that with any considerable level of accuracy. An agent would never find it, for example, inside someone’s vagina or anus. So we’re left with a policy that doesn’t actually make us safe and invades our bodily privacy for the sake of a little bit of security theatre. That’s unacceptable.

8 Bacchus November 23, 2010 at 1:10 am

I note with interest that TSA screeners all over the country are starting to whinge mightily about how unpleasant their role in all of this is, and how they don’t like it any better than we do, and how they don’t deserve the verbal abuse they are starting to get, wah wah boo hoo.

Of course the point is that if you willingly take the shilling and execute the policy, you don’t get to complain that you’re “just following orders” and it’s not your fault if those orders suck. Your choices are (1) quit, or (2) accept that you’re a fair target for people’s outrage about them.

I haven’t boarded an airplane since 2000; I thought the security theater was too invasive of my civil liberties before 9/11, which makes me some kind of OG freakazoid on this topic — I can’t even calculate the number of road miles I’ve had to drive as a consequence. When Penn Jillette and “Don’t touch my junk” guy were flashing their aluminum EFF “security edition” bill of rights cards at each other on MSNBC the other night, I pulled mine out of my wallet and waved it at the television. My point is, I’m serious about this stuff. And the front line troops who touch your junk and squeeze your urine out of your urostomy bag into your underpants have got to be held just as responsible for what they do as the faceless bureaucrats who blandly assure the nation that our safety demands it.

9 loveofmystery November 23, 2010 at 12:28 am

I was glad to see this story on the Yahoo headlines:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101123/ap_on_re_us/us_airport_security_pat_down

While stressing TSA workers and not getting to the powers that be does make me nervous…the more we can get people reporting the ridiculousness and invasion to our persons the better. The media momentum is building.

Bravo to her for taking a stand and not taking it sitting down.

10 Aaron November 22, 2010 at 10:05 pm

The catch with the No Blasters post is that he was ENTERING the country, having already cleared customs. He wasn’t trying to fly anywhere. That’s a wholly different legal matter than trying to board a plane, for which there is well-established case law that you give up all sorts of rights.

The TSA quickly realized that their re-entry screening policy would not hold up in court, and undoubtedly a lawyer on the other end of one of those phone calls advised the field supervisor to do anything possible to avoid ending up in court.

Getting a court to declare the opt-out pat down as unconstitutional before BOARDING a plane is an entirely different matter, and probably an impossible one. For that reason, the solution most likely to get results is, in fact, to disrupt travel by slowing down the checkpoints. The patdowns are absurd and don’t increase security. The screeners know this. They’re demoralized. They will start leaving their jobs soon. Once TSA management sees a spike in screener turnover, they’ll realize it as well.

So yes, national opt out day is a major inconvenience to others. Standing up for what’s right often is. To paraphrase the LA Times: Shut up and let them protest.

11 David November 22, 2010 at 9:41 pm

That man (from the No Blasters! blog) is my hero! And double bonus points to him for being lucky enough to get two intervening police officers who weren’t bullies themselves. They did an exceptional job themselves.

(Way, way off topic, but something that’s bothering me: Lilly, why should it matter whether or not there are young kids nearby when the lady walked through security mostly naked? It’s not like she was fornicating in the backscatter machine. Good god, are people actually arguing that we should be forced to be seen naked, but be protected from ever having to see people naked? I think the priorities there are a little mixed up!)

12 violet November 22, 2010 at 8:12 pm

@JimH – wow, you’re not kidding about the LA Times trying to play it down. It’s the strangest thing, they’re running these pieces that are just bizarre, like this – the headline is “TSA aims to ease passengers’ worries” and the summary makes it sound like the TSA is backing down… (“Most people won’t be subjected to full-body scans or pat-downs at airport security, the government says in an effort to counter widely circulated Internet videos of screenings gone wrong.”) Which is why I clicked it. But then you read the article and that’s not what’s happening at all:

http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-tsa-pat-downs-20101123,0,3483810.story

Just, wow. I saw the article (it’s an hour old) and thought it was in reaction to this – a new blog post by a man whose experience basically got the TSA and the police to admit (and he recorded it) that what is going on with TSA security is essentially *unconstitutional* – this post, I think, is the true show-stopper:

http://noblasters.com/post/1650102322/my-tsa-encounter

13 tinpdx November 22, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Excellent responses to an absurd, demeaning and cruel attempt at security. Major props to Furrygirl for this. I glad the level of screening of passengers is getting attention.

The TSA’s obsession with scanning passengers fits nicely with the adage that generals are always prepared to fight the last war. We’ve chosen to screening systems that are both impersonal and invasive. If we want to actually screen for threats security needs to be personal.

14 Lilly November 22, 2010 at 6:08 pm

I just think that there has to be a better way to make our voices heard than this whole theatrics with making the TSA’s job even harder. Because ya know what it actually does?

Holds shit up every traveler behind you.

Seriously. FG took off all her clothes, without seeming regard for any young kids that might be nearby and without regard for the delays it would cause those in line behind her – because everybody has to go through the metal detector. You can hear them on the tape having to back up the conveyor belt and telling her in a very irritated tone to put her clothing back on.

Also from what I’m reading, encouraging people to try and take video of their plots will only end up getting them arrested. That doesn’t end up changing things, in the end.

15 Michaelk42 November 22, 2010 at 4:58 pm

@AnthonyA

For some people it might be over radiation. But that’s not really my concern.

My concern is security theater that violates us as citizens while making us no safer… never mind the Chertoff/Rapiscan connection/corruption.

16 JimH November 22, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Saw a comment that “this is all over nothing.” I have to disagree. The supposed health risks are interesting and if there is a clear risk they are another reason to oppose this new measure. However, the bigger issue for me is the demeaning and dehumanization of us all that is the biggest issue. This new process systematically treats all of us as criminals worthy of invasive searching. It does not increase our safety or security. It started as a CYA move that has turned into a power struggle between the bureaucracy and the people.

Notice that a large number of institutions invested in the status quo are telling us to “shut up” and comply: the LA Times, the President, the TSA and more. They have invested a lot in making sure we all know who’s in charge here. If we keep resisting, I expect an escalation in the measures to enforce compliance.

17 violet November 22, 2010 at 3:51 pm

I agree about the Ars article — I posted it with the full-on feeling of discomfort about the encouragement of humiliating TSA agents. LOTS of problems around that: besides the potential to misplace eye-for-an-eye behavior, it’s not going to make then any more sympathetic to do the right thing when it’s called for. But I wanted you all to see it and tell me what you think.

IMO, one of the “right things” I think TSA agents should do is stand up about this situation to their bosses. I’ll bet TSA agents can think of better ways to do this kind of security, as they see it spoofed every day, and would be delighted to come up with a much less hostile situation for everyone. I get the sense that it is not the workers who made these rules, but higher-ups who do not actually work all day in the front lines; the agents are, in fact, miserable.

18 Marlo Davis November 22, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Furry Girl is a whipsmart, sharp woman. I appreciate her take on the experience.

I realize the Ars article is trying to be funny, but I’m a bit disappointed in the idea of making the TSA agents uncomfortable without doing something that effects the higher ups on the chain of command. You’re picking on the grunts without holding the people who gave them the command accountable. The suit and ties at the TSA couldn’t care less if a few of their agents had to grope people’s “junk”.
Dr. Sheila Addison wrote an outstanding piece on this whole bit of security theater. It serves to how I feel about this whole mess.
http://www.canow.org/canoworg/2010/11/civil-liberties-now-with-more-privileged-people.html

19 AnthonyA November 22, 2010 at 3:39 pm

What a kerfluffle over nothing, just because the scary word “radiation” is used.

If Johns Hopkins can be believed in their 2010 report on the TSA website[1], one exposure, to the traveller, is 0.0155 μSv. This compares to the allowable dose of 0.10 μSv, and a dose of 30 – 9000 μSv for a dental X-ray photograph [sources and intensities vary]. Natural background radiation varies, but is typically around 2400 μSv / year.[2]

What FurryGirl’s video does well document is not the search, but rather the noise environment in the security area of the airport. The noise level is far too high, and the conversational noise, and especially that of the baby crying, is going to cause documentable physicological reactions – lessening the effectiveness of the screening personnel, and raising hormone levels (including and esp. adrenaline ) and tempers to breaking points.

My experience with airports is that noise is a far, far worse problem than getting a pat down or a full-body scan with either X-ray or milimeter wave screening devices, and is far more inimical to your health.

Get the facts and get over it, people. The TSA personnel are trying to do a job, just like everyone else, and they certainly aren’t getting any jollies from it. Insisting on pat-downs is just going to slow everything down, and quite frankly, were I travelling on the ‘opt-out’ day, I would insist that those willing to go through the scanner get boarded and seated first, then anyone else can get screened and may board their flight – or miss it, and take the bus.

[1] http://www.tsa.gov/assets/pdf/jh_apl_v2.pdf
[2] http://stacks.iop.org/JRP/28/i=2/a=R02/pdf

20 Mary Mactavish November 22, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I really wish the video were better. It’s got some important information, and her move was bold, but it’s mostly ceiling and crying baby, and I’m not sure how useful the whole thing is. I really wish the camera had worked out better. (I felt bad for the baby, what a frustrating, uncomfortable experience air travel is for them.)

21 Jay November 22, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Props for Furry girl, but what about this guy…one Sam Wolanyk.

http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/tsa-airport-screeners-gone-wild-san-diego-again

He ended up being paraded through the airport in his underwear, charged with “failure to comply”, the fascists as well arrested a woman who filmed the incident.

Jay

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