FREE SPEECH ZONE | TSA targets elderly for “special fondling”


Open Letter to the Metropolitan Airports Commission  and The Transport Security Commission  

December 6, 2010

One of the pleasures of flying today, especially if you depart from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, is that you can have your testicles massaged before you embark. Perhaps not everyone can enjoy this pleasure. I may be one of the privileged few. You see, I am a seventy-three-year old retired professor from the University of Minnesota, who had a hip replacement operation in April and who had a nasty fall in an ice storm about two weeks ago. I can barely lift one arm and am still suffering from torn tissues in my good hip. This is perhaps why I was one of the chosen few to have my entire body patted down twice on Friday morning, December 3.

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The first pat-down by Mr. Warren Gillett, dressed like a parade policeman, was clumsy but gentle. He had trouble putting on his rubber gloves, and though I told him that I had a hip operation, he paid no attention but patted his hands over my body and touched his gloves to a tiny tab that he ran through a small contraption. To my surprise, the contraption told him that I was loaded with something suspicious, and I was to be given a second fondling in a small room. Though I protested because I did not want to be privileged, Mr. Gillett called his supervisor Mr. Tom Morehead, also dressed in a snappy blue uniform. In an official civil tone, Mr. Morehead told me that he regretted the privileging, but he and Mr. Gillett were ordered to follow new regulations. The bar of civil protection had been raised even though there were no new signs of danger, and they were to follow orders. Inside a spare room, I again protested and asked them to consider my hip operation and requested to speak to their supervisor. In rushed Mr. Curtis Carlson, who told me rules were rules. He never asked who I was, what kind of operation I had, and how many times I had flown without the special fondling. So, anxious about catching my flight — I was already somewhat late — I asked for his name and the name of his two cohorts and I agreed to the special fondling of my testicles. Of course, nothing could be discovered by simply patting them, and nothing could be observed by patting my operated hip.

As I reassembled my clothes and small carry-on, I sat down next to another elderly gentleman who had enjoyed the same delightful pleasure I had just experienced. He shook his head and told me that they never asked about his hip operation and shook his head in disgust. “What a pleasure!” he said to me. “They’re all perverts.”

On Sunday morning, December 5, I went through the small scanning machine at LaGuardia Airport in New York on my return to Minneapolis, and I was asked to undergo a public pat-down. The well-dressed officer took me aside and described how he would fondle me. Since I knew the drill, I complied and told him about my operation. “Don’t worry,” he said and proceeded to feel me up. I was wearing the exact same clothes that I had worn in Minneapolis, but this time, the result was negative and I was not selected for special fondling of my testicles. “You’re free to go,” the officer said, and  moved on to my gate wondering why there was a such a discrepancy in treatment between New York and Minneapolis.

As you undoubtedly know, there are hundreds of people with metal rods or devices in their bodies. We all set off alarms that call for special treatment when we go through scanners at airports. Some of us receive a standard pat-down. Some of us receive the special fondling. Neither treatment will really prevent any of us from smuggling anything we want or carrying anything we want through your controls if we were truly terrorists. Instead you want to terrify with your inane but humiliating treatment conducted by automatons. For those of us who must constantly endure your fondling when we fly, wouldn’t it be more humane to keep a list with information about regular travelers who are loaded with metal rods or other devices in their bodies? Wouldn’t it be more humane to examine the exact places that set off alarms and to use the list that has information about the travelers to do a short respectful control? Or, are you really worried by elderly retired professors and their like? Are you repaying us for the great damage that we have done to your children by teaching them about the humanities and critical thinking at the fair University of Minnesota?

 Sincerely yours,

 Jack Zipes

 Professor Emeritus

 Unmivesrity of Minnesota