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TSA and Piercings

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Your questions and comments on the incident in Lubbock, Texas have not gone unnoticed. Yesterday, as soon as TSA became aware of the situation, people in our Security Operations office looked into it. They interviewed the four Security Officers who at one point or another, screened or spoke to the passenger - two men and two women (if a passenger requests private screening, they must get an officer of the same sex to screen them there). TSA has also been in touch with the passenger’s lawyer on several occasions.

The bottom line: the security officers followed the procedures for when someone alarms the metal detector and did nothing wrong. But, after looking at the procedure the officers followed, it was determined that the procedures should be modified. An official statement has been posted on our website here .

Lynn

TSA EoS Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

When will the officers involved be fired for mistreating and humiliating this poor woman?

How many TSOs have EVER been fired for mistreating citizens?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Any while you geniuses are at it, how about explaining how ANY object small enough to be contained in a NIPPLE PIERCING could possibly be a danger to a plane -- not that you'll do this, because you're all a pack of liars and cowards.

Submitted by Dunstan on

Hopefully, Lynn, It won't continue to take a CNN news report to get you to address issues. At least you are responding, however. That, IMHO is a positive sign.

Submitted by Anonymous on

How many times has a retailer fired some one for mistreating or humiliating some one? Understand that they were following the procedures.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The procedures are idiotic. Piercings can't hurt anybody, and anyone who's not an idiot knows that.

Submitted by Anonymous on

anonymous @ 5:55 PM

How many times has a retailer fired someone for mistreating or humiliating someone? Having worked in retail in the past, including in a management capacity, I can tell you it happens every day. That's because retailers are accountable to their customers. The TSA is accountable to nobody, and it shows in their behavior.

Submitted by Anonymous on

It's good that at least there's an acknowledgement that the rule, as-is, should be change. The obvious question comes to mind, of course, does this apply only to women? There's men and women walking around with piercings in their genitalia and other tissues where impromptu removal might be painful and/or humiliating. Will the revision cover these folks too?

Submitted by Dunstan on

"How many times has a retailer fired some one for mistreating or humiliating some one? Understand that they were following the procedures."

Sexual harassment is certainly grounds for termination at a large number of companies. I guess we will find out when all the negotiations are concluded. Certainly it won't play out in this blog.

Submitted by Nohwhere Man on

If it has been me...

First, I have approximately 10 piercings, including nipple and navel. I have never had the walk-through magnetometer complain about them. I have had a couple of wands pick them up, maybe 30%*. At those times, the TSO/screener took a look and properly determined that they are not a threat. The confirmed fact that a TSO could even consider such a small piece of metal to be a threat suggests that the TSOs present and their supervisor really don't understand how to evaluate threat levels. If the jewelry would have been allowed in a carry-on bag, it certainly should be allowed to be on a person.

*this makes me mistrust the calibration of wands in general.

Second, for a TSO to even suggest that the passenger remove a body piercing says that the do not understand the methods and requirements to do so. In many cases, the wearer can't remove the jewelry themselves, due to the lack of proper tools and conditions or the need for another party to perform the task (most head piercings are in this category). What the TSO effectively did was to require the passenger to open a wound in their body under completely non-sterile conditions. That in itself should be cause for severe discipline.

Third...
In the future TSA will inform passengers that they have the option to resolve the alarm through a visual inspection of the article in lieu of removing the item in question.

Why wasn't this done directly and why wasn't this seemingly obvious policy already in place (to visually inspect)?

Given that many TSOs may not have been exposed to "alternative lifestyles" and that the traveling population, perforce, is mobile, suggests that the TSA needs to be much better in educating TSOs in professionally dealing with unfamiliar conditions, such as a pierced nipple.

Submitted by Anonymous on

This is what happens when you give people authority they aren't worth of.

Submitted by Anonymous on

That is just disgusting. I could understand having a female TSO verify that they were just piercings but making her remove them??? Why??? I hope she sues and wins. It's time for TSA to stop trampling on our civil rights. I actually spoke with a TSA employee today about this issue and they said if you want to fly, take the piercing out. What's next, take off the underwire bra or you can't get on the plane? Where does it stop?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Am I the only one who thinks it is completely ridiculous that the TSA is going to do visual inspections of peoples nipples? What about genital piercings? What if the metal were under the skin?

I gotta tell ya, there is no way in hell I'm gonna show you guys my nipples. It just isn't going to happen. At least, not unless you buy me a drink first ...

Submitted by Anonymous on

Screeners on this blog often express their tremendous commitment to keeping people safe from terrorists. What I haven't seen is the same commitment to respecting people's dignity, property, and time.

You say you want to keep me from dying but then you yell at me, humiliate me, and leave my bags unlocked.

How can you possibly care about my life if you don't care about me?

Submitted by Anonymous on

In this case, I blame the screeners.

Screeners need to be people capable and empowered to make common sense decisions and be held responsible for them. Anybody can blindly follow rules.

Submitted by Anonymous on
When will the officers involved be fired for mistreating and humiliating this poor woman?

Good question. What action is being taken against these screeners?
Submitted by Anonymous on

Have you considered the possibility that there are just too many rules and too many passengers to execute effectively at checkpoints?

It's basically a McDonald's burger assembly line at this point.

It's time to rethink the process.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Please do not take the traveling public and professionals as idiots and give us a bogus nondescript excuse. There are forks and knives on aircraft that serve meals if only on international flights and in First Class cabins. And these screeners were worried about nipple piercings? Oh! Did I mention sissors are allowed on planes? What is it that the TSOs do not understand about the rules and procedures they must operate under? How many screeners can reply to items found in the TSA Regulations Part 1500? When I travel, I carry a copy.

While we are at it. Please answer the question as the why TSOs are rarely terminated, if at all, if they are found to be mistreating citizens? These screeners involved in the incident should be terminated. If I acted similarly in my capacity, I would be told to pack my belongings and be terminated on the spot.

By the way, the TSA's "Official Statement" is a copout, because they had to change their stance concerning the matter. Moreover, it suggests the procedures need to be changed? Obsolutely! How much more clearer can it be to realize that many TSA regulations and rules are disrespectful.

Maybe one of these days things will change and there will be a new TSA director who actually knows something and how to treat people with respect and dignity.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What if she had blasting caps in her bra? What if she was part of a covert test at the airport and they just took her word they were piercings? They would have failed another one of those tests you guys like to bash them for failing.

Would you rather have the option of removing your stuff in private or would you like to have to bare your body to strangers?

I guess I am the smart one. I take my peircings off beofre I fly.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Well I would love to believe every women or man who claims to have body piercings in a sensitive area, however as a traveler and someone who has worked with people her whole life I can tell you that I could fill a few books with the bizarre things I have seen removed from bra's. How about liquid make up (witnessed by my husband at a checkpoint - she held up the lane for 20 minutes), money, knives, cigarettes (hidden from her husband), drugs, food, an orchid (oh yes) just to name a few. I say cudo's to Lubbock for doing an outstanding job. Let's face it, women are mules and their undergarments a fortress for any item they feel they have a need to conceal. As far as humiliation, she wasn't too humiliated when she got the piercings, why should she be humiliated to remove them "in private". I firmly believe she would have been just as humiliated to show them to the officers.
As for items small enough to do harm, well guns and knives aren't the big threat anymore, just watch the news. CNN does report on other weapons, or query the internet, it will tell you everything you never needed to know. As for me I prefer to fly safe in the knowledge that someone chose to ask that one extra question, took that additional step in the process (however wrong you may feel it is), and didn't take for granted that she was telling the truth. Also, I believe this same issue has been addressed in the past and TSA was told not to touch or look in those areas. How then do you resolve this? Just take everyone at their word?
Good job Lubbock

Submitted by Anonymous on

The piercing incident unfortunately exemplifies two persistent problems that are at the core of what's fundamentally wrong with the TSA.

The first problem is inconsistency and arbitrariness. To their credit, the TSA's management apparently already had a published policy in place allowing for pat-downs or private inspection of "sensitive" piercings. And the woman apparently had repeatedly passed through security checkpoints with the piercings and never "alarmed" or encountered any difficulty. But the TSOs in Lubbock apparently took it upon themselves to "interpret" the published policy in their own arbitrary fashion, to insist on removal of the piercings when the TSA imposes no such requirement.

The second problem is contempt and insensitivity to the public they're supposed to be serving-- a complaint frequently levied on the TSA. In this case, I would probably add layers of ignorance and prejudice. Texas being "the buckle of the Bible Belt," the Lubbock TSOs perhaps asserted their personal beliefs that someone with a nipple piercing is "perverted" or "sinful" and therefore deserves to be publicly humiliated. I don't know if that was actually the case, but whatever the actual reason the TSOs were certainly unprofessional in their behavior and abusive of their authority.

It is significant that the carefully-crafted TSA statement defends the officers and even commends them as "acting to protect the passengers and crews of the flights departing Lubbock that day." It was indeed entirely justified and proper in the name of Security. Yes, you're doing a heck of a job, Brownie! The procedures just need a little tweaking, and all will be well.

I think we can be certain that the Officers will not be disciplined in any way for their unprofessional arrogance, and definitely not for their arbitrary "interpretation" of TSA policy. The tone of the release almost suggests that the whole thing is really the passenger's fault for wearing those nasty piercings in the first place. And it's certainly her fault for all that unwarranted whining and complaining about it that unfairly puts the TSA in a bad light. It's always the passenger's fault.

Submitted by Anonymous on

One of the most bone-headed acts of all time! TSA must be very proud of those alert screeners. They obviously neede 121 hours training instead of just 120.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"The bottom line: the security officers followed the procedures for when someone alarms the metal detector and did nothing wrong."

If nothing was done wrong, why are they reviewing and revising procedures? Don't these screeners have any common sense? But lets face it, this incident took place to humiliate the individual. For that matter and that condition alone, these screeners should be terminated immediately.
Then again, when screeners are hired with dreadlock hair and an unprofessional appearance....
I will leave it at that.

Submitted by Anonymous on

At this point, I think the fact that no one has blown up a plane in America lately is due to sheer dumb luck. The idiocy displayed by your organization is staggering.

In the private sector, a company that operated like you guys would be eliminated by natural selection in no time.

The bad PR, test failures, employee mistakes, cost overruns, ridiculously complicated procedures, and lack of evidence of success would sink you so fast.

Thank goodness for a bureaucracy willing to overlook it all. Bless you lads for saving me from the nipple rings!

Submitted by Anonymous on

"The bottom line: the security officers followed the procedures for when someone alarms the metal detector and did nothing wrong."

Here's *our* bottom line (us, the American people): We don't buy these cop-outs anymore. They were just following the procedure? Come on, pull the other one.

I really had high hopes that this blog would be something other than spin control. So far, no such luck.

Submitted by Anonymous on

What a shame. Your organization responded with corporate speak. What 'procedures' were properly followed. Seriously. Spell them out. What IS the procedure for body jewelry? My guess is that there is NOT one. My guess is that the rule is that the item which causes the alarm must be removed. THAT is likely the 'procedure' that was followed.

TSA has removed any and all humanity from your screners. Do you REALLY think, as an organization, you 'did the right thing' here? If you don't then SAY SO. Don't give us the typical lawyer driven inanity. You'd generate ALOT more respect if you'd call a spade a spade, when its a spade right in front of you. And I refer to the garden tool here in case you feel the need to reject the post.

You REPRESENT THE US GOVERNMENT. That is ME, along wit 299,999,999 other people who find this type of action despicable.

Submitted by StephenD on

The male officers sniggering outside the curtain amply reflects the seriousness with which they take protecting the travelling public from harm.

Shameful behaviour, and the "They were following the rules" excuse given on this site is an excuse not considered worthy since the Nuremberg Trials.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Have you considered the possibility that there are just too many rules and too many passengers to execute effectively at checkpoints?

It's basically a McDonald's burger assembly line at this point."

Don't tell my Field Spaniel that. He starts barking as soon as we get to the drive through order point. But I digress.

I make jewelry for a living. Until there are confirmed reports of exploding piercing jewelry that could damage an aircraft, I really have to agree that this was totally off base. Humiliating, totally uncalled for, and with the male TSO's present and laughing, justifiably sexual harassment. These are metal objects that in no way have a volume of 100 ml, the only threat they pose is to the TSA's image.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I can see it now -- someone has a titanium knee and TSA saws off their leg before allowing them to fly.

Bunch of rent-a-cops is all you are.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Are you telling us that none of your four highly trained, dedicated screeners had either the common sense or the discretion to simply LOOK at the source of the alarm on the woman's chest, even after she offered, to determine it wasn't a weapon? What kind of idiot show are running? Trust you? Oh,yeah!

Submitted by Trollkiller on
Anonymous said...
Any while you geniuses are at it, how about explaining how ANY object small enough to be contained in a NIPPLE PIERCING could possibly be a danger to a plane -- not that you'll do this, because you're all a pack of liars and cowards.

Here you go Swiss Mini Revolver comes in at a hefty 2.2 inches. Photo

Now do I really have to explain how a live fire revolver could be harmful?

Anonymous said...
When will the officers involved be fired for mistreating and humiliating this poor woman?

Poor woman my Aunt Fanny. How was this woman mistreated? The woman TOLD the TSO the alarm was caused by a nipple ring. So what.

Should the TSOs just believe that is the truth? Of course they can't, so they told her to remove the jewelry so they could wand her again.

I am sorry that the woman left her jewelry in for so long that it adhered to her skin. That is not the TSO's problem.

The only other alternatives are to be felt up, and we see all the people bitching about that on this blog, or to have the woman flash her boobs like she is at Mardi Gras instead of the airport. Do the TSOs need to keep a box of beads handy now?

Anonymous said...
The procedures are idiotic. Piercings can't hurt anybody, and anyone who's not an idiot knows that.

Now you expect the TSOs to have x-ray vision? Until she removed the piercing the TSOs could not be certain what it was.

It just blows me away that people are bitching that the TSA did not fondle or make a woman flash her boobs.
Submitted by Trollkiller on
Anonymous said...
When will the officers involved be fired for mistreating and humiliating this poor woman?

Good question. What action is being taken against these screeners?

None because the screeners did their job in the manner they were trained.

I have seen no evidence the screeners acted unprofessional.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Another home run, eh guys? You are a tragic combination of tyranny and incompetence.

The funny thing is, people are predisposed to respect those who keep us safe (firemen, soldiers, etc...) I wonder why it is that no one respects the TSA?

Submitted by Kelly B Broomf... on

I find it unconscionable that not one of these four screeners had the capacity to stop for one second and think to themselves, "hey, this is obviously a woman with piercings...is this REALLY what I am supposed to be on the alert for?"

Should any employee of the TSA demand to see or touch my wife's breasts, I'll be turning around on the spot, and going straight to my lawyer's office to begin lawsuit proceedings.

And further, what possible good was removing the rings themselves? What if it was a surgical implant? Are you going to ask me to remove the screws from my collar bone?

It's time this farce was ended. We need accountable, intelligent, thinking human beings manning these checkpoints, or we should just scrap the whole process and start over. Security Theatre has one-upped itself, if it wasn't so disgusting, it would be amusing.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Please consider adding some wording to your policy regarding use of common sense and individual judgment. The problem the TSA has at this level is that every rule is treated as if written in stone. Incidents like this regularly occur which defy the written letter of the regulations, so that the intent of each rule is no longer even considered.

In a court of law, intent is always considered paramount. Why cannot TSA employees treat it with the same level of respect?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Having experienced a frighting and humilitating episode with Denver TSA agent , I'm not surprised by the actions in Lubbock.

After finishing a work assignment early, I switched my flight to a different airline so that I had a one way ticket and no checked baggage which singled me out for special screening. My husband and boss went through security ahead me. My husband was treated rudely by the female agent at the station but was brusquely allowed to proceed.

I was subjected to the male agent handling my dirty laundry and making vaguely lewd comments. I was too frightened to object since he held my immediate travel future solely in his power and my husband was on the other side of the metal detectors and out of sight.

A little power can be a scary thing in ignorant hands. I sincerely hope Ms. Hamlin is given her apology and somebody is punished in a way that sinks in for humiliating someone who is in fact, their customer.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You know, I'm no fan of the ACLU, but I do hope this woman uses them, to sue the crap out you guys.

This, indeed proves my point, that Federalizing Airport Security, was the WORST thing that happened after 9/11. I can take the Patriot Act (as long as it has a sunset on it) and all the rest of the crap these morons (both sides of the isle) did, but this takes the cake.

I am soooo happy to be a tax payer, when I read stories like this. Great Job.God I looooooooooooove Beaurocrats.

Submitted by Anonymous on

And Kelly B. "accountable, intelligent, thinking human beings" doesn't jive with Government Bureaucrats.

As President Reagan said..."The ten most terrifying words in the English language are, 'Hi, I'm from the government and I'm here to help." Think TSA next time you think of these great words.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The problem with the TSA being a government agency is that there is inherently a CYA that will encompass all of your activities. God knows a TSA employee wouldn't want to be the one who let someone through who ultimately became the next 9/11 hijacker. These are real issues, and we all understand that you're dealing with this pressure.

However, there really has to be some leeway to deal with the typical outliers that occur everyday. There has to be some lesson in reasonableness given to TSA screeners. Why, for example, couldn't a supervisor get called over, who could have made a judgement call? We need to give TSA screeners and supervisors the leeway to make judgement calls on the field.

Truly, stopping someone for a nipple piercing is just terrible and sad.

Think of how ludicrous this whole thing is. It makes a mockery out of what is really important, stopping bad guys, i.e. people with guns, knives, bombs.

I urge you to reconsider your training regimen -- give field employees some ability to make reasonable judgement calls. There is absolutely no reason, none at all, that this woman should have been put through what she went through.

Submitted by Anonymous on
When will the officers involved be fired for mistreating and humiliating this poor woman?

Good question. What action is being taken against these screeners?

None because the screeners did their job in the manner they were trained.

I have seen no evidence the screeners acted unprofessional.

Ah, the good old "I was only following orders" defense.
Submitted by Anonymous on

How was the officer supposed to know exactly what the metal detector was alarming on? Was she supposed to take the word of the passenger? Like someone wouldn't lie about what they may be hiding. Its not about whether a nipple piercing could be dangerous, there was an alarm in an area that there shouldn't have been and the officer did her job to ensure, by TSA's procedure, that it wasn't something hidden that could cause harm to the other passengers on the flight.

Submitted by JJ on

It all sounds OUTRAGEOUS! Stop and think about security for a minute.

The security peeps have to verify what in fact caused the alarm.

People use decoys all the time....oh officer it's just my nipple rings...she then shows that she is wearing nipple rings, and the officer lets her through.

So what happens when, in addition to the nipple rings, she also has other things stuffed in her bra?

People don't get upset when they have to remove a watch and then go through the metal detector a second time.

This is the same kind of scenario. Remove the suspected item and check for an alarm a second time. If no alarm then it was in fact the nipple rings that caused the alarm.

I'm not saying that they handled this situation professionally. I'm just saying that there is sound reasoning behind making a person remove a suspect item and then re-screening.

Plain and simple they can't just take her word for it that it was only her nipple rings that caused the alarm. They have to ensure that it was not something else that she could be concealing.

Submitted by Anonymous on

If you cannot even teach your officers common sense, how are they supposed to protect us from the adaptive, evolving terrorist threat that your website says it is the TSA's mission to guard against?

Submitted by Anonymous on

OBVIOUSLY the screeners did, in fact do something horribly, stupidly, wrong. But it says something about the core problems at TSA. TSA administrators seem to think that the rules are what will keep us safe, not the people on the ground. Granted, its easier to pass a bunch of mindless rules in response to the threat du jour, but what will actually keep us safe is a force of intelligent, vigilant screeners looking out for our safety, not a bunch of mindless automatons playing a game of "gotcha" with passengers over perfume, toothpaste and nipple rings.

The screeners in this instance obviously had a number of options for determining whether the woman was carrying a handgrenade or a small piercing in her bra. Excercising even a little common sense would have resolved the matter in under a minute. I am concerned that such a dismal display of competence means we are not safe in these poeple's hands.

And the fact that TSA defends incompetence as "the right thing to do" gives us little hope for any real change.

Submitted by Abelard on

And the face-saving P.R. from the TSA continues.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Trollkiller, When you find a 2.2" mini pistol in a bra or pushed through a nipple, then confiscate it and charge the wearer, but when you are told that what is causing an alarm is a piercing, you should just have a person of the appropriate sex LOOK at it to verify the truth. Wand her without the bra, perhaps,to also verify the source of the alarm. The fact that neither of these non-painful and non-threatening procedures occurred to your bullying screeners is the reason we are so disgusted and angry about this incident. Why don't you get it?

Submitted by Trollkiller on
Anonymous said...
"The bottom line: the security officers followed the procedures for when someone alarms the metal detector and did nothing wrong."

If nothing was done wrong, why are they reviewing and revising procedures? Don't these screeners have any common sense? But lets face it, this incident took place to humiliate the individual. For that matter and that condition alone, these screeners should be terminated immediately.
Then again, when screeners are hired with dreadlock hair and an unprofessional appearance....
I will leave it at that.


Just because nothing was done wrong does not mean there is not room for improvement. Damn we bitch if the TSA doesn't take a concern seriously and then we bitch when they do.

The screeners may have common sense. The common sense to know that asking a passenger or allowing a passenger to show them her nipples would get them FIRED. Following procedure as it is laid out by the higher ups won't.

People pull your head out of your collective asses before you suffocate. The screeners followed the procedure for resolving an alarm with an UNKOWN cause. I am sure that no one at the TSA thinks you can hijack a plane with nipple rings.

Damn it, you guys are making me defend the beast.

If you or Gloria Allnoise want to "defend the civil rights" of Americans subject to the TSA, then start harping about old people that are made to stand while their wheel chairs are screened. Start harping about children being frisked out of the view of their parents. Start harping about the preferential treatment some religious sects are given at the screening.

But damn it stop harping because someone did not want to see this broad's boobs.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Will the nipple ring be included in the weekly list of dangerous items TSA has "saved" us from?

Submitted by Trollkiller on
Anonymous said...

Ah, the good old "I was only following orders" defense.

The only time a "I was only following orders" defense is a problem is when you are doing something that is morally wrong or illegal. These screeners did neither.

If they had smacked this woman around or yanked her jewelry out by force, you would have a point. As it is you have no point.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Trollkiller, The defense also applies when you've done something really stupid, as in this instance.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The security officers did nothing wrong?! Making a woman remove a nipple ring with a pair of pliers while male officers snicker in the background is OK with the TSA?! How horrific!! I hope Mandi Hamlin sues the TSA and wins big! She has been humiliated, mistreated, and sexually harassed by an out- of-control government agency, and I hope a court will put the TSA in its proper place. The lack of sensitivity, intelligence, and good judgment shown by TSA staff is a crime; if an employee in any other industry treated people like the TSA folks do, they would be fired instantly.

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