Texan State Representative David Simpson (R-Longview) has taken an interesting stance on the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) ‘enhanced pat downs’ and has recently introduced Texas House Bill 1937 that would make it a criminal offense for TSA Transportation Security Officers (TSO), or anyone for that matter, to touch a person’s genitals, or breasts, during a security pat down without probable cause.
Rep. Simpson’s Chief of Staff, Kathi Seay, stated “In the state of Texas, there is a limit of what we think is reasonable to go, and that limit is when you begin to touch the private parts of individuals as they try to travel,” however Rep. Simpson’s Office goes onto say House Bill 1937 would not challenge any Federal Laws, which is confounding.
On the surface, Rep. Simpson’s Bill is a champion for the people in standing up to the TSA, but in reality Bill 1937 puts TSA TSO’s at odds with the Federally mandated policy and procedure they are required to adhere to.
Should Rep. Simpson’s House Bill 1937 be passed in Texas, under the new law TSA TSOs would face being arrested and charged criminally if the TSO cannot prove probable cause for he enhanced pat downs. Rep. Simpson’s bill would define probable cause as someone setting off a metal detector or having a ‘blip’ show up on the screen as they pass through an Advanced Imaging Technology scanner or a prohibited item being visible to the TSO. Texas House Bill 1937 would not allow for enhanced pat downs for passengers who ‘opt out’ of Advancing Imaging Scanners according to Kathi Seay, Rep. Simpson’s Chief of Staff.
What would Texas House Bill 1937 potentially mean for TSA TSOs in Texas? It would require TSOs to choose between carrying out their duties, as required by the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration … facing being fired or other ramifications … or potentially face being arrested on criminal charges for carrying out the duties of their job. The end result for TSA TSOs is a no win situation.
Should TSA TSOs be placed in the position House Bill 2937 could put them in, they may miss prohibited items, or weapons, rather than have to potentially deal with being arrested. The scope of probably cause can be broad, but not under the present definition offered by Rep. Simpson’s office.
While Rep. Simpson argues there is no legal statute for the TSA to have its TSOs touch a passengers “genitals, anus and breasts” while carrying out an enhanced pat down … and presently the TSA has been unable to produce its statutory legal standing in what is carried out during an enhanced pat down … there is one looming question. This question is “Why go after the Transportation Security Officers instead of the Transportation Security Administration?”
There are many issues with the TSA’s policy, procedure and effectiveness, but these issues all stem from those in charge of creating policy and procedure, not those tasked with executing it day in and day out at the airport. The TSA’s issues are systemic to an agency that has virtually no oversight and is reactive rather than proactive.
The TSA needs to change, and Rep. Simpson, as an elected legislator in Texas is in a position to help make those changes by putting political pressure on Texas’ Federal legislators to effect a change in the agency. Implementing a law that impacts one state, not a nation, that impacts the front line and puts them a position of fear creates further gaps in the agency’s consistency and ability to provide effective aviation security.
The TSA’s Transportation Security Officers are an easy target … those seeking to make changes to the TSA and its policy and procedure for passenger screening need to set their sights on the hard targets, not the easy targets.