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TSA agent: 'We laugh at your nude images, dear passengers'

Published time: December 26, 2012 19:22
Edited time: December 26, 2012 23:22
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents screen passangers at airport (AFP Photo / Kevork Djansezian)

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents screen passangers at airport (AFP Photo / Kevork Djansezian)

If you were ever hesitant to walk through TSA’s nude scanners at an airport, you had good reason: A former TSA employee has revealed that fellow officers frequently laugh at the sight of passengers’ naked bodies.

The former Transportation Security Administration agent exposed the disturbing behavior on his blog, Taking Sense Away, after a reader asked him what goes in in the agency’s private rooms. The agent, who responds to questions anonymously, said he never heard of anything illegal or inappropriate going on in private screening rooms, but often witnessed agents acting improperly in the image operator (IO) rooms, which is where TSA agents review nude X-ray images.

No surveillance cameras or recording devices are placed in these rooms, making it impossible for private conversations between the officers to be exposed.

“I witnessed light sexual play among officers, a lot of e-cigarette vaping, and a whole lot of officers laughing and clowning in regard to some of your nude images, dear passengers,” the former agent wrote. “Things like this are what happens (at the very least) when you put people who are fresh out of high school or a GED program … with minimal training and even less professionalism, into the position of being in charge of analyzing nude images of people in a hermetically sealed room.”

The blogger explained that TSA rules permit officers from entering or leaving the IO rooms without notifying the other officers on duty, since the agency guarantees that an officer will never encounter a passenger that he has just seen naked. But the former agent claims he witnessed this rule being violated.

“Just use your imagination on the stories among TSA officers of what has gone on in the IO room,” the blogger wrote.

Earlier this year, a woman filed a complaint against the TSA, claiming she was forced to pass through the nude body scanner three times so the agents could repeatedly see her naked. Passenger Ellen Terrell told CBS 11 News that she was told by an agent that she has “such a cute figure”, then singled out for a ‘random’ body scan. She was asked to pass through the nude scanner three times and heard the agent talk to the back room employees over a microphone.

“Guys, it is not blurry, I’m letting her go,” she heard the agents tell the back room employees. “Come on out.”

Texas State Representative Lon Burnam told CBS that this was a case of sexual harassment.

“I think it’s sexual harassment if you’re run through here a third or fourth time. And this is not the first time I have heard about it,” he said.

Ultimately, the former TSA employee-turned blogger believes the nude X-ray body scanners were a waste of taxpayer dollars. The TSA is gradually removing the machines from airport, claiming they are “more privacy intrusive and continue to be surrounded by health questions,” according to Jay Stanley, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Taking Sense Away blogger referred to these scanners as ‘useless’ and argued that there should be no back rooms at all.

TSA officers should never have been viewing nude, radiation-rendered images of passengers in those private rooms, period,” he wrote. “The entire thing was, as usual, a hare-brained, tax payer money-wasting, disaster of an idea.”

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