‘Get your freak on’ and other (non-Halloween) TSA frights

Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger

“Get your freak on girl.” That phrase written by a Transportation Security Administration baggage screener might get the worker fired.

It all started last week when Jill Filipovic, lawyer and Feministe blogger, tweeted a picture of the TSA note she found in her luggage after the officer saw a vibrator among the contents in her checked bag. The TSA deemed the note “highly inappropriate and unprofessional” and, after an investigation, started the process of firing the employee.

[Corrected at 2:40 p.m. Oct. 31: The TSA’s blog says it has “initiated action to remove the individual from federal service.” A prior version of this post said the employee had been fired.]


The event comes after a loaded .38-caliber handgun fell out of a checked bag at LAX on Oct. 23. (Gun owners are supposed to declare their firearms in checked luggage and never leave them loaded.) Why didn’t TSA workers find it?

They weren’t looking for it. The TSA says its job is to detect explosives in checked bags, not loaded guns. It does, however, pounce on any gun, knife, nail clipper, etc., in carry-on luggage and likes to run a list of all the confiscated items found each week on its blog.

These events might make for a good bloopers video to be shown at the annual TSA holiday party if it weren’t for one salient point: The fallout from securing a nation from terrorism while respecting individual privacy rights isn’t funny.

Nor was the story of two TSA workers at LAX arrested on suspicion of stealing from passenger luggage in June. Nor was the story of the 28 TSA workers in Hawaii who were cited for improperly screening bags for explosives, also in June.

Now it’s time to say the obvious: These actions represent a small minority of TSA officers, the majority of whom dutifully and professionally perform their jobs at airports around the nation.

Which brings me back to Filipovic. She says in a blog post last Wednesday that she’s appalled by the media circus over this event and didn’t want the TSA worker fired.

“It’s easy to scapegoat one individual here but the problem with the note is that it’s representative of the bigger privacy intrusions that the U.S. government, through the TSA and other sources, levels every day. The invasion is inherent to the TSA’s mission, regardless of whether a funny note is left behind — the note only serves to highlight the absurdity of all this security theater.”

Mission impossible for the TSA? Whatever, but the hundreds of thousands of us who travel each day have to face these issues head on -- funny or not.