TSA is now the Belly-Button Police

Following on the heels of our story about an LAX TSA agent reportedly berating a 15 year old girl for wearing clothing that the agent deemed too provocative, a friend contacted me about a similar TSA incident that happened to her last year.

Casey Taylor, someone I’ve known for years, tells me that last year at a major American airport she was scolded by a female TSA agent because Casey’s belly button inadvertently showed while she was putting her belt back on after passing through the X-ray machine.

I was once chastised by a female muslim TSA agent (mentioned only to indicate she was fully covered, including wearing a head covering), for my stomach showing when I was putting my belt back on. I was taken aback and angry at the inappropriateness, and the judgment — and for god’s sake, I was just putting my belt back on!

I left Casey’s mention of the agent’s Islamic dress in because it potentially goes to agent’s motivation, i.e., a TSA agent imposing their conservative religious views on a passenger.  And that’s just as relevant in this case as it would be if a religious right TSA agent chastised someone for violating their biblical views (and you know we’d be all over them if they did).

I asked Casey at which airport, and when, this happened.  She said it was definitely last year, but doesn’t recall which airport, though it was definitely a major American city.  More from Casey:

She gave me a judge-y look and then said something along the lines of “cover up,” and pointed at my waist where I was re-dressing myself after un-belting for the X-ray thing. I asked her to repeat it, and she did (vs. backing down from it). It was exceptionally strange and disconcerting. I didn’t respond because I was in shock about what had just happened, and couldn’t think of what to do in the moment.

If we can see your belly button, the terrorists win. (Belly button via Shutterstock)

If we can see your belly button, the terrorists win. (Belly button via Shutterstock)

Mind you, the only reason Casey wasn’t “covered up”  is because TSA made her take her belt off.

The TSA is a huge organization – one report said there were 58,000 employees – and personally, I’ve had really good experiences with the TSA when I fly.  They’re nothing but courteous with me, especially when I fly with my dog (and only people traveling alone with a baby can fully appreciate just how nerve-wracking it is to go through airport security with a wriggling dog).  And, in my experience, the TSA is far better than the crew we had working airport security before.

But as I noted in the other post, they’re in a position of power, and are a quasi-police entity, so it’s important that abuses be highlighted and corrected.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • The TSA is an out-of-control, criminal agency that abuses people with impunity. Its gang of goons and thugs has never thwarted a potential attack in its multi-billion-dollar history — and never will.

    It exists only to placate the fearful and credulous, who believe The Terrorists Are Everywhere!(TM), that Something Is Being Done. It’s obedience training. And the United Sheeple of America are falling right into line.

  • Yep

  • Gary Harmer

    Welcome back to the Dark Ages! I love this country…but the people (and paid groups, etc.) who run this ONCE GREAT country need to have their worthless asses kicked. The good ole’ USA is now a freaking 3rd world country thanks to the likes of the bushies…cheneys….kochs…and all the rest of these punk bastards! If a revolution is the only way…then let’s get it on.

  • Only very long brown shirts that cover your belly button :)

  • Lalock

    Since when does America have a dress code? It’s ridiculous that these security theater performers now fancy themselves the guardians of good taste.

  • dcinsider

    That’s such an excellent point John. You need to make a flight and someone in authority does something totally inappropriate. If you ask to speak to her supervisor, forget that flight. If you ask for her name, again forget that flight. If you try to call TSA and complain, you probably get the “if we don’t have her name, we cannot file a complaint” line. Even if you said, “hey, she was working at Gate X, in Terminal Y, at DCA, and she is the only observant Muslim on the crew.”

    How frustrating.

  • Tim

    I am a fit, 41 year old male. I wear my jeans on my hips, as one would expect for a man my age. However, TSA personnel in Phoenix and Salt Lake City tell me I need to “pull up” my pants when I am in the body scanner. They say I shouldn’t be showing any part of my torso when I put my arms over my head for the scan…difficult to do unless I wear overly long shirts that do not fit. I’m not sure who the TSA is trying to protect by having me hike up my trousers, especially given the invasive and revealing results produced by the scan. I’m always left shaking my head when it happens.

  • nicho

    You’re right, of course. We have become totally infantilized in the face of petty authority — which is one of the goals and hallmarks or fascism.

  • TheOriginalLiz

    it sounds like the brown shirts are ramping up quite nicely…

  • Naja pallida

    Goes well with the report last year of TSA agents laughing at people going through the body scanners. Or the TSA agent that spilled cremated remains and then laughed about it. Among countless other incidents with medical devices, amputees, children… and the incidents of theft from people’s luggage. There is a deep seeded resentment of travelers within the TSA, and it is obviously born of the “anybody getting on an airplane should be assumed to be a terrorist until proven otherwise” mentality. But it seems to be growing ever more petty. I guess I might get snarky and angry too if I was paid to essentially do little more than intimidate people.

  • It’s really amazing what happens in those powerless situations. The combination of shock and helplessness is often overpowering. Not to mention coming from another generation where I associate such thuggery with tyrannical governments. I was treated better in the old communist East European countries than a few years ago at the Denver. airport. They were going through a phase of singling out women and the elderly, who they figured out would be submissive. I have grey hair, walk with a cane and wore a three piece suit. They riffled through my small carry-on and found an old family Bible that a cousin had given me. The roughed it about and tore the old Victorian paper cover on it, took my cane, my glasses were on the belt and I stumbled and fell into an agent. It was a nightmare. I will not fly again.

  • But I can totally imagine being in that position and just being so flummoxed, while knowing that anything you say or do and TSA can just kick you off your flight.

  • nicho

    Good thing it wasn’t me. She would have seen more than my belly button.

  • A security agent who asks people to partially disrobe as part of the screening process has no business saying anything critical to a passenger who then inadvertently flashes some body part the friggin’ prudes find objectionable.

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