Naked airport protester still in hot water with TSA

John Brennan, the man who stripped at Portland International Airport to protest TSA screeners, testifies during his trial last summer.
(Rick Bowmer / AP)

The man who stripped naked at a Portland, Ore., airport last year in protest of what he saw as overly invasive security measures successfully defended himself against a charge of indecent exposure.

But John Brennan hasn’t yet put the incident behind him.

The 50-year-old Portland man will be back before a judge next week to appeal a $1,000 fine from the Transportation Security Administration.

The fine came after a TSA investigation determined Brennan had interfered with the screening process last April at Portland International Airport.


Brennan told the Los Angeles Times that nothing about his behavior was intimidating or threatening.

“I’m very cooperative,” Brennan said of the incident. “I wasn’t threatening. I’m using a normal tone of voice.”

He added: “My reaction is they didn’t know what to do with somebody who was naked.”

He had opted out of the TSA’s full-body image technology screening, undergoing a full hand pat-down instead. He was told he had tested positive on a swab for nitrates, an ingredient associated with explosives.

A frustrated Brennan removed all his clothes on the spot to show he wasn’t carrying explosives, and to make a statement. Security camera video shows a naked Brennan standing motionless in the security area while officials rushed to block off the view with stacks of item containers.

In July, a Multnomah County judge acquitted Brennan of an indecent exposure charge, ruling that Brennan’s actions were a symbolic protest protected by free speech.

Brennan learned of the TSA fine a month later. He said he knew it might be coming, because officials had told him he would be under investigation for interfering with the screening process.

The case made Brennan a local celebrity. He was nicknamed “John Godiva” and “Naked American Hero” and his unclothed image appeared on T-shirts and tote bags.

His life has changed though. Shortly after the incident, Brennan lost his job as a web development manager.

He said he reached a settlement with his former employer in December. But he’s still unemployed, and said the incident has “definitely” affected his job search.

It’s much harder than I thought it would be, just to have all this scrutiny and to have this hanging over my head,” Brennan said.

Even so, Brennan said he’d make the choice to disrobe all over again.

“I know I made the right decision,” Brennan said. “As a citizen and supporter of the U.S. Constitution, that I was doing the right thing.”

If Brennan’s appeal fails, he said, he plans to take the case to a higher federal court where his constitutional defense can be considered.

The TSA declined a request for comment. An emailed statement said the agency does not normally comment on civil penalty cases.

Brennan is accused of violating Title 49 under the Code of Federal Regulations, which states that “no person may interfere with, assault, or intimidate” TSA screeners.


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