TSA agent threatens blogger with lawsuit for writing about traumatizing search.
We have all heard horror stories about TSA searches: Cancer survivors told to remove prosthetic devices; toddlers forced to undergo aggressive patdowns, and grandmothers arrested for carrying apple sauce.
As reported at TechDirt, TSA agents have sunk to a new low. A TSA agent has threatened to sue a blogger for writing about a particularly invasive and aggressive “pat-down.”
The female blogger, Amy Alkon aka The Advice Goddess, graphically described the traumatizing experience on her blog:
I sobbed even louder as the woman, FOUR TIMES, stuck the side of her gloved hand INTO my vagina, through my pants. Between my labia. She really got up there. Four times. Back right and left, and front right and left. In my vagina. Between my labia. I was shocked — utterly unprepared for how she got the side of her hand up there. It was government-sanctioned sexual assault. Upon leaving, still sobbing, I yelled to the woman, “YOU RAPED ME.” And I took her name to see if I could file sexual assault charges on my return. This woman, and all of those who support this system deserve no less than this sort of unpleasant experience, and from all of us.
That TSA agent, Thedala Magee, has now threatened to sued Ms. Alkon for $500,000 for blogging about it.
The search sounds absolutely awful. I would have reacted the same way. And I would have felt violated and assaulted. And so would many others.
But Ms. Magee seems to take exception to Ms. Alkon using the word “raped” when reacting to the search. Here’s the deal, if some stranger sticks their fingers in your vagina or ass, you get to use the word “raped” to describe how it made you feel.
Lots of people who have been subjected to aggressive pat-downs describe their experience in a similar way.
Take, for example, Whil Weaton’s (Stand by Me and Star Trek star) account of being subjected to an invasive search by the TSA —
I further believe that when I choose to fly, I should not be forced to choose between submitting myself to a virtually-nude scan (and exposing myself to uncertain health risks due to radiation exposure)1, or enduring an aggressive, invasive patdown where a stranger puts his hands in my pants, and makes any contact at all with my genitals.
When I left the security screening yesterday, I didn’t feel safe. I felt violated, humiliated, assaulted, and angry. I felt like I never wanted to fly again. I was so furious and upset, my hands shook for quite some time after the ordeal was over. I felt sick to my stomach for hours.
This is wrong. Nobody should have to feel this way, just so we can get on an airplane. We have fundamental human and constitutional rights in America, and among those rights is a reasonable expectation of personal privacy, and freedom from unreasonable searches.
There is nothing exceptional or surprising about Ms. Alkon’s response to having a stranger feel her up. When Ms. Alkon blogged about her experience, she was exercising her rights as a citizen of of the United States and a member of the media to report and comment.
And this speech could not be more important. As Ken at Popehat said,
The only way we’re going to get change is through action — through calling out wrong when we see it. Amy was wronged. She called it out. We should support her.
And if Thedala Magee and other TSA employees don’t like it, I suggest they go pursue a job that doesn’t involve sexual assault.
And yet, now Ms. Alkon is facing a $500,000 lawsuit for writing about what happened to her.
Something is terribly wrong with that. Some people get upset about the deficit or the stock market, but this is the kind of thing that make me furious. It is outrageous that Ms. Magee could violate Ms. Alkon, then sue Ms. Alkon for talking about it. Both Ms. Magee and her attorney, Vicki Roberts, seem to be suffering some kind of shared psychosis, the lawsuit has no basis.
Your client aggressively pushed her fingers into my client’s vulva. I am certain that she did not expect to find a bomb there. She did this to humiliate my client, to punish her for exercising her rights, and to send a message to others who might do the same. It was absolutely a sexual assault, perpetrated in order to exercise power over the victim. We agree with Ms. Alkon’s characterization of this crime as “rape,” and so would any reasonable juror.
The TSA agent and her attorney have no idea what they have just gotten themselves into.
But here is the bad news. There is only one Marc Randazza. And he can’t go around defending every blogger that faces a SLAPP suit (lawsuits filed against critics to intimidate them from discussing their views).
Hopefully, the publicity from this case (and the reality that California’s anti-SLAPP law could result in plaintiffs like Ms. Magee having to pay attorneys fees) will deter others from filing lawsuits against bloggers that speak out.
In the meantime, I’ll be rooting for Randazza and Alkon.