Once Again, The TSA Is Here To “Protect” You

Tabitha Hale, who works at Freedomworks and blogs at Red State recounts her encounter with the Transportation Security Administration yesterday:

Yesterday, I arrived at the airport to head from Houston, TX (IAH) back to Washington, DC (DCA). I am a frequent flyer – I know how the system works. I took off my boots and glasses, pulled my laptop out and went to walk through the metal detector. Naturally, I’d been selected to go through the scanner.

I always opt out of the scanners. It’s sort of a form of civil protest for me. It slows the process down. They get cranky. And I always do it publicly because I want everyone to see what the pat down is actually like. I also feel like they’ll be less invasive if people are watching.

I happened to be wearing a sleeveless cotton dress, a lightweight cardigan, and tights. I stepped aside for the invasion and they ask me to spread my legs.

She started by asking me to take my cardigan off. I said I’d rather not. She seemed put out, but didn’t make me remove it and began the pat down from behind. She made me lift up my cardigan to check my back, went into my sleeves, and touched every inch of my hair.

Then she got to my waist band. I had on black tights under my dress, which I’m certain is not uncommon. She asked me to lift my dress so she could check the waistband of my tights.

I felt my stomach drop. I said “I’m not lifting my dress for you. No way.” She was obviously irritated with me now and said that she would take me to the private screening area if I would like.

I said “No, absolutely not. If you can’t do this in front of everyone, you should not be doing this to me.”

She then called a manager over. The manager approached me and explained what they were going to do and that if I failed to comply, they would escort me from the airport. I told her I saw no reason that they should have to lift my dress to clear me to get on a plane. I would have, however, allowed them to escort me out of the airport before they got me to lift my skirt and stick their hands down my tights. I was bracing myself to spend another night in Texas.

She sensed the rebellion in me, and it was almost like they were punishing me for not just lifting my dress and making their lives easier. She checked every inch of my neckline, sticking her fingers between my breasts because she needed to “clear” the (very slight) ruffle.

Then they cleared the waistband of my tights through my dress, then made me put one leg forward at a time so they could get better “definition of my thigh.” She then proceded to pat down every inch of me, all the way up to my crotch. And yes, she used that word. Twice.


The pat down in Houston yesterday was so vigorous I had to readjust my clothes when she was finished. Even my bra straps had been pulled down my shoulders in the process. I felt completely violated, and immediately called a friend to recap, and took to Twitter to draw as much attention to the incident as I could.

Here’s the thing. If anyone else had done this to me, I would have decked them and likely filed charges. The fact that the person has on a TSA uniform is supposed to make it okay? It isn’t. Why should any person be subjected to this to get on an airplane? We’re supposed to subject ourselves to inappropriate touch for the sake of “safety”?

That’s a question we’ve been asking for about a year now, of course, and we’re likely to hear about this in the news more now that we’re approaching the holiday travel season once again. Will anything be done? It should be, but I doubt that it will. Subjecting travelers to this kind of nonsense strikes me as fundamentally absurd, this kind of humiliating treatment does nothing to promote safety and merely serves as security theater, not to mention a non-too-subtle message from the government about who’s really in charge.

At some point one would think that people would get outraged enough about this to convince Congress to do something about it, but then i think that every time I hear one of these stories. I doubt it will happen this time, either.

FILED UNDER: National Security, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Rob in CT says:

    I’m at the point where I don’t even want to go anywhere that requires a flight. Fortunately, I hardly ever travel for work. That leaves vacations, but with a 2-year old I’ve already got a decent excuse to limit things to car-trips.

    At some point I hope the public realizes that a good chunk of our fellow Americans lots their freaking minds on 9/11/01, and there must be pushback against the security state. I think, eventually, it will happen. We’ve been through periods of hysteria before. The sad part is that it might be a while before the tide turns.

  2. anjin-san says:

    Seems like just yesterday conservatives were cheering at the top of their lungs as a vast homeland security apparatus was created under the leadership of a Republican administration.
    “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to worry about” we were told, over and over.

    Liberals that questioned the whole thing were called traitors.

  3. Liberty60 says:


    Why does Tabitha Hale hate America?

    Does Tabitha Hale want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud over New York?

    If Tabitha Hale doesn’t lift her skirt, the terrorists win.

    Why does Tabitha Hale love the Tally-tally-tally ban from Ubecki-becki-becki stan?

    I would suggest that Tabitha Hale put on her big girl panties and adopt the Churchillean resolve of real Americans who want to KEEP AMERICA SAFE! and stop undermining the COMMANDER IN CHIEF! during a TIME OF WAR!

  4. Jay says:

    @anjin-san: Patriot bandwagon. This nonsense is officially mainstream now. Dems and Repubs have validated the Patriot Act and the other aspects of the security state. Your comments were true years ago when this started, but not since.

  5. Jeremy says:


    A) People can change their minds in 10 years, you know.

    B) I don’t think anyone expected anything like this.

    C) Did Tabitha Hale specifically come out and cheer DHS?

    D) I doubt all Republicans and conservatives jumped onboard the DHS bandwagon. Most, yes, and that was shameful, but I doubt all of them.

    Let’s not crucify Ms. Hale over this, and instead, let’s get everyone onboard “Get rid of the bloody thing” train.

  6. Jay says:

    @Jay: note “patriot bandwagon” was meant to be erased, sorry

  7. Bill Fisher says:

    TSA is nothing more than a jobs program creating an illusion of airline security. After tens of billions of dollars over ten years they can’t cite one success. Still almost 60% of the freight in the cargo hold of airliners is unchecked, half of that from foreign shippers. Despite their negligence they continue to confiscate passenger property that their website says is allowed and sexually assault innocent children and grandmothers.

    There have been 55 confirmed security failures by TSA so far his year. Add to that there have been 59 TSA screeners arrested for serious crimes since January, including murder. Of these, ten have been charged with sex crimes involving children and four for smuggling contraband through security. TSA can’t prevent crime within their own ranks, yet we’re supposed to trust these deviants with airport security

    This is not only a national disgrace but also very dangerous, since these employees become vulnerable to extortion and bribery by terrorist groups, placing passengers at great risk. It is disgusting that so many people have accepted having TSA fondle their privates and those of their children as a routine part of flying. No civilized person can possibly believe this is acceptable or necessary.

    This agency is a sick joke that employs misfits who enjoy harassing and abusing people. If it wasn’t for TSA hiring them these perverse jobs most of them would be in prison where they belong.

    Pistole and Napolitano need to be prosecuted for this assault on our freedom and TSA replaced with something that actually works.

  8. Bill Fisher says:

    @Liberty60: @Liberty60:
    I’ve seen this comment elsewhere. Clearly you’re a true TSA troll.

    Why do you hate our liberties?

  9. matt says:

    @Jeremy: I saw a quite a few people who expected it to get like this (me included). Personally I expect it to get far worse as the TSA expands to bus stations, train stations and subways. Eventually this treatment will be considered par for the course for “normals” to get into government buildings. It’ll probably even expand to the point where they setup “security” check points on major interstates in order to inspect car drivers. Once this kind of thing starts to creep it doesn’t stop easily..

    I wasn’t aware of a single conservative who talked out against this aside from Ron Paul. The patriot act and such actually put me on Paul’s side which quite frankly freaked me out for a few years..

  10. matt says:

    @Bill Fisher: I’m pretty sure he’s mocking the mentality that supports this kind of invasive and ineffective “security”…

  11. anjin-san says:

    I don’t think anyone expected anything like this

    Surely you jest. Quite a few people expected things just like this. I was one of them. We were very vocal about our concerns. And conservatives debated the issue by asking us why do you hate America and why do you want the terrorists to win?