Drew Zahn is a WND news editor who cut his journalist teeth as a member of the award-winning staff of Leadership, Christianity Today's professional journal for church leaders. A former pastor, he is the editor of seven books, including Movie-Based Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching, which sparked his ongoing love affair with film and his weekly WND column, "Popcorn and a (world)view."More ↓Less ↑
“I don’t understand how a sexual assault can be made a condition of my flying,” said 31-year-old John Tyner to a pair of Transportation Security Administration officials insisting on giving him a “groin check” before boarding his plane.
Tyner was scheduled to fly this weekend out of San Diego International Airport when he was pulled from the security line at the metal detectors and told he would be either subjected to one of the TSA’s full-body scanners – which reveal a virtually nude image of passengers – or a full-body “pat-down,” including an inspection of his inner thigh.
Discomforted by the invasive procedures and the thought of a security officer touching his genitals, Tyner made a joke that has since made him an instant Internet folk hero:
“If you touch my junk, I’m gonna have you arrested.”
Tyner’s words have since resonated in dozens of online comments and thousands of views on YouTube, for the comment – and the controversial discussion that followed – was recorded by Tyner’s cell phone.
Though the phone was with his belongings, and thus only caught audio of his confrontation with TSA officials, the camera’s footage is posted on a blog Tyner created detailing the incident and viewable below, with his “touch my junk” comment and ensuing confrontation beginning at roughly the 3:45 mark:
For Tyner, however, his troubles had only begun when he threatened to have the TSA officer arrested.
A female supervisor was called over to handle “issue,” and she promptly explained to Tyner that he had two choices: submit to the groin check or be escorted back out of the airport.
“I don’t understand how a sexual assault can be made a condition of my flying,” Tyner objected.
“This is not considered a sexual assault,” the supervisor said.
Tyner replied, “It would be if you weren’t the government.”
According to Tyner’s account, he was eventually confronted by more senior TSA administrators and one San Diego police officer before being escorted back out of the security area to the ticket counter. To his amazement, American Airlines then refunded the price of his non-refundable ticket.
Before he could leave the airport, however, Tyner says a TSA employee insisted that if he left the airport, he would be subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine.
Nonetheless, Tyner left and then made his story public.
His blog repeats the refrain, “I would not be groped.”
Tyner also told his story to the San Diego Union-Tribune:
“People generally are angry about what is going on,” said Tyner, “but they don’t know how to assert their rights. … There is a general feeling that TSA is ineffective, out of control, over-reaching.”
Though Tyner insists he’s not trying to start a “movement,” he nonetheless told the newspaper, “It’s time to stop treating passengers like criminals and start treating them as assets.”
Earlier this week WND reported as dozens of other airline passengers shared their real-life horror stories of close encounters of the TSA kind, including a 70-year-old whose fudge “contraband” was discovered, a Los Angeles passenger who was “groped” four times and a man who was the target of a TSA screaming fit when he chose to opt-out of the “porno scan.”
Just a day earlier, WND reported on the growing movement by activists and citizens to push back against Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s plans for “enhanced” screening at airport checkpoints.
As WND reported, groups have formed to organize passenger boycotts and prepare protests at airports, calling for a “National Opt-Out Day” on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
The options now are to have a full-body scan that essentially produces a nude image of the passenger or opt out of that procedure and endure a full-hands-on body pat-down that includes private parts.
The procedures have been the focus of warnings even by the networks:
George Donnelly, who with James Babb has launched the “We Won’t Fly” website delivering a message directly to airlines, told WND the customer revolt is taking off faster than he could imagine.
His website says, “We do not consent to strip searches, virtual or otherwise. We do not wish to be guinea pigs for new, and possibly dangerous, technology. We are not criminals. We are your customers. We will not beg the government anymore. We will simply stop flying until the porno-scanners are history.
“We will not be abused simply for the privilege of purchasing your services. We demand the airlines make their maximum lobbying effort in support of our, your customers’, rights and liberties. We are eager to fly again, but only when this invasive threat has been contained.”
There also are dozens of other campaigns and efforts being organized through which passengers are encouraged to resist the TSA policy.