TSA Enhanced Pat Downs : The Screeners Point Of View

In the past few weeks since the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) implemented its new “enhanced” pat down procedures there has been considerable backlash from the traveling public. This backlash has been loud and angry … but what is not heard or seen in the media is the quiet resentment of this new policy within the TSA.

A few days ago I contacted 20 TSA Transportation Security Officers (TSO) to ask their opinions of the new “enhanced” pat downs. Of the 20 I reached out to, 17 responded. All 17 who responded are at airports where the new “enhanced” pat down is in place … and the responses were all the same, that front line TSOs do not like the new pat downs and that they do not want to perform them.  I expected most to not like the pat downs … but what I didn’t expect was that all 17 mentioned their morale being broken down.

Each of the 17 TSA TSOs that responded to me detailed their personal discomfort in conducting the new pat downs, with more than one stating that it is likely they are more uncomfortable performing the pat down than passengers are receiving them.

Some comments from these TSOs include:

It is not comfortable to come to work knowing full well that my hands will be feeling another man’s private parts, their butt, their inner thigh. Even worse is having to try and feel inside the flab rolls of obese passengers and we seem to get a lot of obese passengers!”

Do you think I want to go to work and place my hands between women’s legs and touch their breasts for a few hours? For starters, I am attracted to men, not women and if I was attracted to women, it would not be the large number of passengers I handle daily that have a problem understanding what personal hygiene is.”

Yesterday a passenger told me to keep my hands off his penis or he’d scream. Is this how a 40 year old man in business attire acts? He’ll scream? My 3 year old can get away with saying he’ll scream, but a 40 something business man? I am a professional doing my job, whether I agree with this current policy or not, I am doing my job.  I do not want to be here all day touching penises.”

Being a TSO means often being verbally abused, you let the comments roll off and check the next person, however when a woman refuses the scanner then comes to me and tells me that she feels like I am molesting her, that is beyond verbal abuse.  I asked the woman if she thought I like touching other women all day and she told me that I probably did or I wouldn’t be with the TSA. I just want to tell these people that I feel disgusted feeling other peoples private parts, but I cannot because I am a professional.”

I was asked by some guy if I got excited touching scrotums at the airport and if it gave me a power thrill. I felt like vomiting when he asked that. This is not a turn on for me to touch me it is in fact a huge turn off. There is a big difference between how I pat passengers down and a molester molesting people.”

Aside from the issue of TSA TSOs being required to physically touch passengers in places they do not want to be touching them during the ‘enhanced’ pat down, morale is decreasing for front line TSOs, due in part to an increase in verbal abuse.  Each of the 17 TSOs who responded to me detailed a new level of verbal abuse they are experiencing at work.

The TSA has experienced a high level of turn over since its inception, however its turnover rate has decreased recently. With this decrease in morale, caused directly by a change in TSA policy, it is likely to begin experiencing a higher than average turn over again … which will further decrease the effectiveness of airport security.

Some comments from these 17 TSOs include:

Molester, pervert, disgusting, an embarrassment, creep. These are all words I have heard today at work describing me, said in my presence as I patted passengers down. These comments are painful and demoralizing, one day is bad enough, but I have to come back tomorrow, the next day and the day after that to keep hearing these comments. If something doesn’t change in the next two weeks I don’t know how much longer I can withstand this taunting. I go home and I cry. I am serving my country, I should not have to go home and cry after a day of honorably serving my country.

I come to work to do my job. It is not up to me to decide policy, it is up to me to carry out my duties as dictated by the Transportation Security Administration. When a person stands in front of me and calls me a pervert or accuses me of molesting them it is disheartening. People fail to understand that neither of us are happy about the intrusive pat down I am carrying out.  I am polite, I am professional and while someone may not like what I have to carry out, they came to me because they choose not to utilize the alternative and less invasive method of security at my airport.

I served a tour in Afghanistan followed by a tour in Iraq. I have been hardened by war and in the past week I am slowly being broken by the constant diatribe of hateful comments being lobbed at me. While many just see a uniform with gloves feeling them for concealed items I am a person, I am a person who has feelings. I am a person who has served this country. I am a person who wants to continue serving his country. The constant run of hateful comments while I perform my job will break me down faster and harder than anything I encountered while in combat in the Army.

Do people know what a Nazi is? One can’t describe me as a Nazi because I am following a security procedure of designed to find prohibited items on a passenger’s body. A Nazi is someone with hatred and ignorance in their hearts, a person who carried out actions of execution and extermination of those based on their religion, origins or sexual preferences.  I work to make travel safer, even if I do not agree with the current security procedures. Further more, I am Jewish and a TSA Transportation Security Officer, an American Patriot and to call me a Nazi is an offense beyond all other offenses.

There are multiple sides to every story, and I think the point of view of those on the front lines of the TSA, those required to carry on the policy and procedures created by the TSA, are an import part of this story. I think those organizing efforts to change the TSA’s policy should also consider the impact to the TSA TSOs.

Rather than dehumanize the TSA TSOs, work with them, understand their views and opinions and work together to change the current TSA policies.

Happy Flying!


  1. […] Flying with Fish has a piece on the abuse the TSA officers are having to endure.  While I understand his goal is to tell all sides of the story I have zero sympathy for someone who will blithely follow an illegal order.  You’re not allowed to do it in combat, police aren’t allowed to physically molest you without probable cause, and even then, it has to be done very carefully. […]

  2. […] that problems are plaguing this agency. I do, however, feel some sympathy with the officers. Several have expressed discomfort with the laws they are required to follow… and the subsequent lashing of tongues they are […]

  3. […] In late October 2010, the TSA again changed policy. The AIT remained optional, but the standard pat-down was replaced with a more thorough enhanced pat-down. And if a person opts out, the TSA agent shouts, “Opt Out! Opt Out!” The point of this is to put additional pressure on people to use the AIT instead of getting the enhanced pat-down. After all, the TSA agents don’t really like the enhanced pat-down either. (For first-hand accounts of TSA agents, look here.) […]

  4. […] As anyone who has watched the news during the past week knows, the TSA has implemented new search procedures. Of these methods, the AIT machines (which come in two flavors) and the enhanced pat down, have been causing a great deal of controversy. […]

  5. […] TSA Enhanced Pat Downs : The Screeners Point Of View In all the hoopla surrounding pat-downs and body scanners, no one has heard from the average TSA employee, the one who has their hands between your breasts or on your thighs. They are getting yelled at by irate passengers while they have to get up close and personal with dozens of people a day. Here are their stories. […]

  6. […] to stop the anus-bomber threat.  Apparently the directive to feel up passengers has already upset actual TSA screeners; that’s part of the point.  Indignity is the short-term goal.  Dignity plus safety is the […]


  1. I love the “4th Amendment” rage so many people feel.

    That amendment was written in Colonial times. Long before the sophistication of air travel. Long before the notion of taking one of those planes and blowing it up came about.

    You are flying in a vessell provided to you by a private company that so many expect to be safe guarded by our government (simply because that’s a way in and out of the country) and some want to complain that this is a huge violation of their rights.

    Your right to avoid an illegal search and siezure? Police can pat you down. For what? Because you were driving erratically? They have every right to do that for THEIR safety. Why is it such an exception to expect the TSA to enforce something similar.

    Flying is not required. You choose to fly. Some destinations are a bit far to drive, but you could do it. Others aren’t possible to reach. So find a private pilot who won’t pat you down. Oh, you want the benefits of the mass transit system without any of the inconveniences.

    Find an alternative.

    The article however was about the agents who do not enjoy the task at hand. They’d prefer a better method, but since people question the body scanners, whether it’s those touting safety issues or others who are embarassed by them, there isn’t a perfect method. I’m sure if they knew of a better way to do this they would. The point was that they are not perverts, not wackos and they are doing a part of a job they do not enjoy, but don’t see a clear alternative to making things safe.

    Does it make it safe? Well, again, if it’s that simple to come up with a better method then do it. Quit complaining about it.

    And quite equating them to being a Nazi. Every feeble minded argument on the internet winds up with a Nazi comparison. That goes about as far as “I was just doing my job” and ends there. The difference being the TSA agent does not LIKE that aspect of the job, but feels it’s the best alternative to SAFETY. They’re not studying the 4th amendment and chuckling at how they, in your eyes, get to violate it. They’re not selecting everyone they don’t like based on their religion, gender, race, political affiliation and sending them off to the death jet. They’re simply patting down passengers to help ensure nothing is being smuggled on the plane. If nothing ever was then we wouldn’t have a problem, would we? And when the next flight goes BOOM, brace yourselves for the outcry of additional security. These guys are stuck in the middle and can’t win. Until we get a better system in place they’re just doing the best job they can and your discomfort for a few moments is good enough for me because I’d rather know that we’re reasonably sure passengers aren’t armed or carrying anything that will blow the plane I’m in out of the sky. At least the checking will help deter some of that….

  2. A few days ago I contacted 20 TSA Transportation Security Officers (TSO) to ask their opinions of the new “enhanced” pat downs. Of the 20 I reached out to, 17 responded. All 17 who responded are at airports where the new “enhanced” pat down is in place … and the responses were all the same, that front line TSOs do not like the new pat downs and that they do not want to perform them.

  3. Hey Fsh et al:

    Alot of responders are missing three points!

    1. almost every complaint about TSA has to do with the remarks or behavior of the TSA officer.

    2. the majority of the people that get “pat down” are the disabled. so i guess the remark about this being a priveledge means that the disabled cant fly.

    3. because of the threats and bully tactics used by the TSA, few people complain.

    your recommendations about our senators are comicable. there happens to be ONE senator in the nation who cares about passenger rights. he is not mine, unfortunately. so what do you recommend?

  4. After having read this posting, I have no pity for the TSA employees at all.

    If they truly suffer, they have the option of quitting. Apparently they prefer to sell their soul for money.

    What is most disgusting is that the TSA employees earn their money at the expense, yes over the backs of, the travelers. They get paid for abusing others.

    Choosing such a profession is immoral and can indeed be compared to what the Nazis did.

    As to the one Jewish TSA guy feeling offended when being called a TSA Nazi, he has no right to be offended. He pretends that there were no Jewish collaborators in WWII, but there were and they were the worst. If anything, no Jew should ever choose a TSA job.

    It astounds me that none of these TSA interviewees shows any honest shame (which would only happen if they were forced to do their job). They merely complain about ‘getting caught’ abusing others and not liking that and they seem to want travelers to pretend that they are not abusing the passengers. The TSA-ers would love the travelers to pretend, so lie, that the TSA-ers do some kind of honorable job

    This is a typical reaction of abusers. They need their victims to be cooperative. Worse, abusers like the TSA-ers have a need to play being the victim and making the passengers the victimizers, as can be seen in the above ‘blame the passengers’ content.

  5. I’m wondering if anything has changed from the TSA agent perspective. Steven, have you followed up with any of these agents? Have their attitudes changed? Have they seen any changes in the public’s perception of the TSA?

  6. We go the doctor and let them inspect every part of us– to prevent and treat illness. Not always comfortable but necessary. This is no different. It helps ensure our safety. Nightclubs require pat downs to ensure safety. Get over it, your inability to see the bigger picture doesn’t give you the right to hinder my safety while flying. Stay home if you can’t grasp the necessity of this.

  7. Shame on you america for allowing your government through TSA to humilate..strip you of your God given dignity and for allowing your children to be violated. This isn’t about security..this is about your government showing it’s utter contempt for you as an american citizen. Parent’s tell their children never allow ANYONE to touch them between their leg’s yet stand by while government agent’s do exactly that! Our children are traumtized by this.We are being terrorised at the airport just as much as a terrorist attack on our shores. When i think of tsa i conjure up these images: women removing nipple ring’s with plyer’s, cancer survivor’s drenched in their urine,protective underwear removed, women’s top’s pulled down exposing breast’s to the jeer’s of tsa agent’s, crippled child with leg braces made to remove them and forced to walk through security although crippled and in wheelchair,passenger’s threatened.shouted at,laughed at,punished, plane ticket’s shredded ,nursing women who refused her breast milk to go through radiation ‘punished’ and placed in glass waiting room for 45 min.missing her flight..women flying with eldery mom arrested over ‘applesauce'(for her mom) little girl’s spreadlegged while tsa ‘touches her gentialia’ not once but 4 times.women lifted off her heel’s via her vagina..passenger’s complaining of pain after patdown..men’s gentialia ‘rubbed..grabbed..sqeezed.women’s and little girl’s gential’s fingered inside their panties..agent’s finger’s intruding between labia.men’s anus intruded by agent’s finger’s..women’s breast’s twisted..tsa agent’s mocking..scolding.passenger’s..increasing thief of laptop’s..cell phones..money.jewerally.ipad’s.. America each day bring’s a new atrocity by tsa. If it’s obscene.traumatizing.belittling.tsa is behind it. To those tsa agent’s in here defending themselves.shame on you..you have lost your discernment in what is evil and what is good

  8. I have to be specially screened due to hip replacements. I was screened recently in Lexington, KY and the TSA screener really was agressive. He really went up my pant leg tocuhing my private parts with force. It was excessive and something that I had never ever been patted down as such. I was patted down in two other airports and never received the aggressive treatment in Lexington. I am a 50 yo professional man and have never been subjected to this treatment. It was above and beyond and I feel violated! This would be consider sexual assualt by any other standards. Others have been thorough but not as invasive. Perhaps they need more training in Lexington. My wife took a picture as she was appalled and we plan to inform the TSA!

  9. Let’s be clear – you never forfeit your rights just by buying a ticket or entering a security check point. That’s why they call them rights. Look up inalienable-see what it means.

    If you have a ticket, you have a contractual right to board your flight. The airline and the TSA can do a reasonable search, but not an unreasonable search. TSA will never get in trouble for acting with reasonable cause. They will be rightly criticised for insisting on touching someone when they knew from the start had neither weapon or explosive, but molested anyway, just because it some pervert bureaucarat wrote up a procedure to punish those who rejected his $ 150,000 scanner.

    Some people say, if you don’t like it, don’t fly. Why should I and every other ticketed passenger or person who wants to fly give up our right to fly? I have a better idea. Let’s change the law, so that the pat down is a felony; and those who perform it, or order others to do so, go to jail and are put on the sex offender list.

    There is no security at airports today-none. Going through ‘security’ today involves the risk of being robbed, assaulted, arrested, jailed, fined, tased, put on the no fly or selectee list, all at the whim of the very people who are supposed to keep you safe. Worried about terrorism? Then consider this: TSA is an equal oportunity employer, and does not discriminate based on religion or anytbing else.

    While I liked this story, there are many other stories where a flyer’s expression of disgust or frustration with senseless procedures have provoked dire punishments. TSA has recourse against flyers, we have none against them, and they know it. This needs to change.

  10. […] accepted standards of being an American. You are not alone. In the classic blog post over at boardingarea.com, Steven Frischling, who curiously (and with ample reason to have a different POV) remains at least […]


  12. Chosen profession eh? Yeah, maybe for the guys that signed up after 9/11, but what about all the poor college grads who’ve recently hired in? All the youth whose only other option is working at friggin’ Target for $8 an hour? Let me tell you, alot of those “Nazi grunts” you are yelling at are these people and that percentage is growing faster than you’d believe. Some of us are just trying to make it in the shitty shell of America that you Swine created. Get over yourselves. Crybabies.

  13. These people are molestors perverts and low lifes and they should be spit on. How could someone knowingly sit there and violate the rights of countless Americans. I don’t care if they have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.. So what your a murderer too and the reason these terrorist are over here in the first place?

  14. One thing that people seem to be forgetting is that they are doing their JOB!! How would you like it if someone didn’t like what you were doing at your job and told you to just quit. With the economy the way it is, and as few jobs there are out there right now you should be ashamed to tell someone to quit their job. If you don’t like the pat-downs don’t fly!! They made these wonderful things called cars that actually get you from point A to point B.

  15. Insult, demean, humiliate, and berate the TSO mercenary scum! Make the job as popular as working as a nazi concentration camp guard. DECIMATE their moral! Make them be ashamed to look at themselves in the mirror. Make them see the light, and to resign and become converts who see the evil, and who once again adhere to the rule of law. Make them feel like Megan’s Law registered sex offenders! THAT’s how to get rid of this dangerous agency, one miserable, rotten employee at a time.

  16. I have to make money somehow. While I don’t enjoy groping you people, I need to do what is required of me or I’ll lose my job and wind up poor and unemployed again. For me, this is merely a temporary living hell until I find a new job.

  17. Two sides to every story.

    Passengers who openly display their contempt or humiliation to the screeners groping them are ‘breaking down’ the screeners.

    Screeners who use punitive gropes and threats of invasive gropes to try to bully pax who do not use the scanner – what are they doing? What is their justification for using punitive gropes on folks capable of using the WTMD but physically incapable of ‘assuming and holding the position’ necessary for a clean scan? (hint: John McCain is one of them).

    Passengers who opt out of the scanners or who are physically incapable of assuming and holding the position are told if they don’t like being subjected to an intrusive and even punitive grope every time they fly, they should find an alternate form of transportation.

    Screeners who dislike the part of their job that requires them to grope pax – why shouldn’t they find an alternate form of employment?

    Interesting that so many of the screeners quoted refer to touching genitals and breasts. TSA HQ and TSOs who post on other bulletin boards insist that except in the case of a ‘resolution patdown’, genitals and breast are NOT touched. If there are screeners who are groping genitals and breasts, they are doing so because they choose to do so or because they are not following their own SOP.

  18. Thanks for another informative site. The place else may just I get that type of information written in such an ideal method? I have a challenge that I am just now operating on, and I have been on the glance out for such information.

  19. Greetings! I’ve been following your web site for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Humble Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the great work!

  20. TSA screeners can refuse this duty, and they have the right to do so. Nor can TSA lawfully retaliate. They cannot require someone to touch another persons intimate areas; this is sexual assault of the passenger and sexual harassment of the employee.

  21. A week after you crying babies get your way and the TSA stops “molesting” you, a plane will be blown up in the sky, a couple hundred people will die, and all of you whiners will be jumping down these peoples throats for allowing it to happen.

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