DC Trawler

Amy Alkon threatened with $500,000 lawsuit by TSA agent

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I alluded to this yesterday, but it deserves its own post. Techdirt is reporting about my friend Amy’s horrific TSA experience earlier this year, and what’s happened since (note that it gets a bit graphic):

Amy Alkon is an advice columnist and blogger who is just one of many people who has had a horrifying and traumatizing experience going through airport security lately. After being pulled aside for an “enhanced” search, she found the process to be so invasive and so in violation of her own rights that she was left sobbing. She wrote about the experience on her blog, noting that she didn’t think the search was just “invasive” in the emotional sense, but flat out physically invasive:

Nearing the end of this violation, 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.

After investigating whether or not she could file sexual assault charges, and being told that this was probably a non-starter, she instead wrote about the experience, and named the TSA agent who she dealt with: Thedala Magee. Alkon felt that if people can’t stop these kinds of searches, they should at least be able to name the TSA agents who are doing them.

Magee responded by lawyering up and threatening Alkon with defamation and asking for $500,000 and the removal of the blog post.

I’m really torn on this. I can accept that most TSA agents are trying to do a difficult, thankless job as best they can. But this is just infuriating. What excuse could you possibly have for (allegedly) groping someone like this? And rather than try to smooth things over, you sue her for complaining? You couldn’t make up a more perfect example of the stereotypical “no accountability” attitude of government employees if you tried.

This is a big mistake, and somebody at the TSA needs to deal with it ASAP. Maybe they haven’t noticed, but they’re not the most popular bunch anyway, and this cannot help.

I felt fairly lucky this weekend, taking my first plane trip in almost 2 years. The security gate was the part I was dreading the most, but it turned out to be only mildly annoying. Probably the best I could expect. It’s unfortunate that a few bad TSA agents have to make things tougher for the rest of them.

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Jim Treacher