Contact FreedomWorks

111 K Street NE
Suite 600
Washington, DC 20002

  • Toll Free 1.888.564.6273
  • Local 202.783.3870


Get Your Hands Out of My Purse, TSA

I suppose I should preface this by saying that I travel quite regularly. Spending time in airports, dealing with security and all the annoyances that come with modern day air travel are not Johnny-come-to-town occurances for this bright-eyed, redheaded gal. Sadly, I'm used to random bag searches at the TSA screening posts and the occasional blue-gloved molestation all in the name of "safety".

Last week, I was hanging out at the airport waiting to board my flight. Mind you, I was at the gate having already been vetted by the security theater corps at La Guardia earlier. My boarding group was called so I filed into line. As I was about to hand my boarding pass to the gate attendant, a mustached TSA employee reached into my purse. Yes, that's correct -- he reached into my purse. 

My purse was hanging on my shoulder, unzipped as I'd opened it to retrieve my boarding pass. I can only imagine the look I gave Mr. Mustache, but it was enough to result in a rapid withdrawal of his gloved hands from my purse. Furious and likely boring a hole in his skull with what I've been told is a nasty "look" I said, "Are you SERIOUS?!" Quickly scooting along, he said, "Well, it was open." 

I've been through random bag searches at the behest of TSA, nudey scanners and all of that hubub. Usually when they decide to pilfer through your personal effects, they pull you aside, announce they're going to mess up your perfectly packed bag and make you and your OCD watch helplessly as they do. Then they lecture you that the bottle of nail polish you'd thought you lost had managed to sneak through security screenings sans plastic baggy for the last three months and needs to be placed in a baggy -- it's less terroristy that way or something. 

But this unannounced, unprovoked purse picking at the gate was definitely a first for me. I've written about the TSA in the past and I still believe they're an ineffectual waste of my hard earned money. But beyond the fact that we spend entirely too much money for an agency that hasn't foiled the intentions of any bad guys, the privacy issues are what I find most concerning. 

I reject the argument that I have to sacrifice my Fourth Amendment rights every time I step into an airport. In this case, the seeming need for subsequent searches is an indictment of the inefficacy of TSA's initial screening process. Meanwhile, I'm subsidizing unnecessary encroachment on my Fourth Amendment protections that result in senseless purse plundering. Add this to other recent revelations of nefarious government dealings with private citizens and we find ourselves in an America wholely unlike anything any founder would have conceived. 

Jon Kelley's picture
Jon Kelley


People need to bear in mind that, whenever they're about to reach into someone's kit, that they DO NOT KNOW exactly who that kit might belong to...

For instance, the last time someone reached into my "office" (laptop bag, auxiliary pockets & suchlike,) he ended up with a busted elbow and in handcuffs for his trouble (as it happened, I'd caught a dip - and I was to be about his eighth tag for the day. Found him with a batch of wallets, figured out which one was his, then sat him down and set the cuffs under the toe of my boot while I started writing my narrative. First time he moved, I put pressure on the hinge in the cuffs - ended resistance.)

When the TSA searches your personal gear, they are supposed to tell you they are about to do it. Just pawing through your effects like that? Legally, you could have responded to him as you would have to any other pickpocket (and you'd have had witnesses in your favour, I'm sure - because who likes the TSA? - that he had NEVER advised you of his presence or intentions - which would have justified your reaction.

(Frankly, I think it would be amusing to be able to saddle one of them with a busted wing, and have it ruled their fault - if the judge is a frequent flyer, that becomes likely! Ditto the jurors...)