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Updated: TSA agent touches a nerve (and a vagina, allegedly) at SoCal airport; video goes viral

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Update (May 30, 2013, 11:42 a.m.):  Lorie Dankers, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman and public affairs manager for the TSA, responded to KPCC's request for comment with the following prepared statement below. 

In its response, the Transportation Security Administration says "social sensitivities" have been exploited by terrorists, and defends the professionalism and procedure demonstrated by agents in the controversial pat-down video. The organization also reinforces its "primary focus" of  preventing explosives from being carried onto airplanes. 

To ensure the highest levels of transportation security, passengers who opt out of screening using Advanced Imaging Technology will receive a thorough pat-down to prevent the transportation of any prohibited items. It is the passenger's choice to either walk through the screening equipment or receive a secondary screening using a pat-down.

In review of the closed-circuit video, it is abundantly clear that the two TSA officers conducting the pat-down carried out their responsibilities in a professional and polite manner and according to procedure, offering the passengers the opportunity to have the pat-down conducted in a private setting and taking time to explain each step along the way.
                
TSA's primary focus is to prevent individuals from bringing explosives on board airplanes. Terrorists have proven that they will exploit any presumed vulnerability, especially in areas where social sensitivities prevail.  As a case in point, in 2009 a terrorist was caught attempting to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear.

Previously: Footage of a TSA pat-down video has gone viral after a handsy SoCal agent touches a nerve and, allegedly, a vagina, at San Diego International Airport.

A video titled "TSA Agent Touches my Vagina at San Diego International Airport" was posted to the YouTube account of user Ashley Jessica on May 26 with a link to what she calls "TSA related activism," and the following brief description of the recent incident:

This is what happened to my mom and I on our way home from San Diego to Toronto

L.A. Weekly reports that "privacy proponent " Jessica says she "tries to film each encounter with the TSA both to protest its procedures and to help to protect her rights." On the day in question, "Jessica filmed her mother being patted down, then, apparently, they switched roles and her mom taped her."

Despite much explanation from the TSA agent -- including the caveat that all touching would be done with the back of the hand (does that make it better?) -- Jessica was still visibly upset when the agent made contact with her privates.

Jessica (seen/heard in video): 

  • "You just touched my boob."
  • "I would rather you not touch my breasts in any capacity."
  • "She just touched my vagina."
  • "Seriously. That's not my upper thigh."
  • "Can you just do what you did to her and not touch my private parts?"

Agents (seen/heard in video):

  • "I'll be using the back of my hand."
  • "Hey. What did I just say about the commentary?!"
  • "I want to make sure you're comfortable with that. ... Otherwise I can stop."
  • "Unfortunately we are going to have to stop the screening process because that is a necessary part of the pat-down. It is up to you if you want to continue, and you can fly."

Meanwhile, the L.A. Times reports Wednesday that the Transportation Security Administration found a record 65 firearms on U.S. airport passengers last week — 54 were loaded, 19 had rounds chambered. They also found stun guns, concealed razor blades, inert grenades and other prohibited items in carry-on luggage at checkpoints.

On its blog, the TSA details each seizure, some with photos and stories (i.e.: the passenger with a loaded .22 caliber inside his boot and strapped to a prosthetic leg), while others are just plugged into a chart listing Date, Airport, Caliber, Loaded and Round Chambered.

A call to TSA was not immediately returned.

POLL: Does Ashley Jessica's TSA video show a violation or an overreaction?

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