I'm glad to see these people finally having to pay someone, but $2,350 is not enough for this.
The 24-year-old plaintiff alleged that at the Corpus Christi airport in May 2008, she was selected for an enhanced pat-down, sufficiently enhanced in her case that the agent pulled her "blouse completely down, exposing Plaintiff's breasts to everyone in the area." Her attorney has said that she did not allege this was intentional, but obviously it was at least negligent, and she did allege that TSA employees then "joked and laughed about the incident" to the point that she left the security line for a while. Still hoping to travel to her destination, she later went back to the checkpoint, where a male TSA worker then told her he wished he had been there at the time. "[I'll] just have to watch the video," he allegedly told her.
The government refused to provide any details of the settlement, but as FindLaw reported today, The Smoking Gun was able to get a copy through a FOIA request. As in most settlements, the defendant did not admit any wrongdoing, but a TSA spokesperson said that no agent has been fired or even disciplined as a result of the incident. "We regret that the passenger had an unpleasant experience," the spokesperson said, using the passive voice, as spokespeople do, to make it sound as if the unpleasant experience just happened.
This may or may not be the first time the TSA has had to pay up, but hopefully it won't be the last.
Coincidentally, or not, not too long ago the feds sent some agents to the Texas legislature to pressure it to drop a bill intended to limit intrusive TSA searches. According to this report (via Boing Boing), the sponsor of HB 1937 withdrew it after the goons visited and said, gosh, it would be too bad if the law passed, because DHS might have to close down all the airports in Texas while it challenged the law. That is, rather than wait to see if the bill passed and then ask for a stay while it was challenged in court, DHS threatened to shut down a large part of a state's economy if it didn't do what it wanted.
If I recall correctly, al Qaeda has measured its success partly by its ability to harm the U.S. economy through increased security costs, travel restrictions, and so forth. Seems a little ironic that the agency that's supposed to protect us from them has threatened to use a similar strategy.
It may very well be true that this state law would have been preempted by federal law anyway, but there is a legal procedure for making those determinations. It may also be true that at least some of the people pushing the bill are supporters of bogus state "nullification" theories (although the bill passed the Texas House unanimously). None of that excuses the threat. Obviously, DHS does not want the public attention that would be involved in a court challenge, let alone to take the chance it might lose, but that's the way things work here, or at least the way they used to work.
I guess this isn't very funny, so to make up for that, here's a picture of zoo workers in China conducting a tiger-escape drill in which they hunt down a guy in a bad tiger suit. (Bonus picture at this link of them carrying him away on a stretcher as a real tiger watches in puzzlement.)
I feel better now, at least.