Yesterday, BetaBeat learned that the TSA screener who slipped a note into Feministe blogger Jill Filipovic’s TSA-screened bag—which read “GET YOUR FREAK ON GIRL,” was posted on TwitPic, and promptly went viral—was removed from federal service. Filipovic recently got back to BetaBeat with her response on the matter.
Over email, she noted (emphasis ours):
It’s easy to scape-goat one individual here, but the problem with the note is that it’s representative of the bigger privacy intrusions that the U.S. government, through the TSA and other sources, levels every day. The invasion is inherent to the TSA’s mission, regardless of whether a funny note is left behind — the note only serves to highlight the absurdity of all this security theater.
As much as this is a funny and titillating story, when I put the note on Twitter for what I thought was a relatively limited audience I was hoping it would open up a bigger conversation about privacy rights (or lack thereof) in post-9/11 America. It unfortunately hasn’t done that, and instead has turned into a media circus. I would imagine that the TSA agent in question feels the same way I do at this point: I just want this story to go away.
The note was inappropriate, the agent in question acted unprofessionally when s/he put in in my bag, there should be consequences and I’m glad the TSA takes these things seriously. But I get no satisfaction in hearing that someone may be in danger of losing their job over this. I would much prefer a look at why ‘security’ has been used to justify so many intrusions on our civil liberties, rather than fire a person who made a mistake.
Forbes’ technology-privacy blogger Kashmir Hill weighed in on the story yesterday:
I’m torn on whether this is a fire-able offense. In reaction to 9/11, flying has become an incredibly irritating and invasive exercise. Disrobing. Patdowns. Body scanners. Bags inspected. It’s all the new normal….The note was the officer remarking on something we’re all supposed to pretend doesn’t happen — that the TSA ends up encountering intimate things about us, and that it’s embarrassing. This officer did abuse his or her access to the contents of Filipovic’s bag to make a joke, or to harass her, but the bigger issue is that we regularly have people going through our bags in the first place.