TSA Pat-Down Like Sexual Assault: Passenger | NBC 7 San Diego

TSA Pat-Down Like Sexual Assault: Passenger

View Comments ()



    An Oceanside man recorded a confrontation he had with an agent at Lindbergh Field on Saturday regarding the TSA's new enhanced pat-down searches at airports. Now, the TSA said it has opened an investigation into the incident.

    With his recent upload of YouTube video and blog posts, John Tyner of Oceanside has tapped into a growing anti-full body scanner tide popping up across the U.S.  His story has gone viral and the confrontation he documents as happening in San Diego's airport over the weekend is now making national news.

    Tyner said he arrived at the airport around 5 a.m. to travel to Rapid City, SD with his brother-in-law and father-in-law and stood in line for the metal detector at the security checkpoint.

    Because no one was in the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machine, Tyner said he was pulled out of the metal detector line and told by TSA agents that he needed to go through the new machine that scans a passenger's body image.

    Once he opted out of the AIT machine, Tyner said TSA agents told him he must submit to the pat-down.

    He says he wasn't comfortable with the procedure that he compared to a sexual assault.

    On the video, an agent can be heard explaining the new procedure.

    “Someone is going to pat you down, and they will be raising their hand up your inner thigh until they reach the bottom of your torso. If you're not comfortable with that, we can escort you out and you don’t have to fly today,” the agent said to Tyner.

    Tyner questioned the procedure, “I don't understand how a sexual assault be made a condition of my flying.”

    “It's not considered a sexual assault,” the TSA agent said.

    “It would be if you weren't the government,” Tyner told her.

    Tyner refused to fly and when he tried to leave says he was threatened with legal action from a TSA supervisor.

    “I wasn't comfortable with the gentleman touching my groin,” Tyner told NBCSanDiego. “I'm not going through those machines and I'm certainly not going to let my wife or child go through them or be groped by a TSA agent.”

    By Monday afternoon, a TSA spokesperson said the agency had opened an investigation into Saturday's incident and hinted that there may be some civil penalties issued against Tyner.

    Michael Aguilar, federal security director at Lindbergh Field, said he is proud of the security officers who treated Tyner with what he called the utmost respect.

    Aguilar said Tyner's refusal to undergo the screening may have been pre-planned. If so, the penalty could reach $11,000.

    Tyner said he did not go to the airport with the intent to cause a scene.

    “I didn’t set out on this whole thing to make waves. I took the video of it to protect myself,” he said in an interview with NBC News Monday morning.

    When questioned why the camera was rolling when he entered the security checkpoint, Tyner said, “I didn’t go in to challenge the system. I did go in prepared to if I had to."

    Tyner said his initial concerns were that the images from the AIT machine would violate his privacy.

    "The jury still seems to be out on how safe that is," Tyner said of the AIT machine. "I just didn't feel that some TSA agent looking at me naked should be a prerequisite of me getting on a flight."

    In light of recent Al-Qaeda threats, TSA agents have gotten more aggressive with pat-down searches for passengers who opt out of those full body scans.

    Officers are now sliding the front of their hands inside passengers’ legs and across their chests.

    The agency has previously released a statement saying the new security procedures are necessary.

    The reaction on the NBCSanDiego Facebook page is split. There are those supporting Tyner like Steve Martin, "If I am going to get felt up, I prefer to choose who does it," he posted. However, some believe it's what should be expected in order to keep the skies secure.  "This is how I feel, if you don't like the new rules than don't fly," posted Facebook user Hoffman Shannon.

    One @NBCSanDiego follower on Twitter said she had a similar experience when she went through the new TSA procedure. ""I totally felt abused when I had to do this," Mbusy posted on Twitter.

    Tyner said American Airlines refunded the cost of his ticket. 

    Let us know what you think. Comment below, send us your thoughts via Twitter @nbcsandiego or add your comment to our Facebook page.