Supreme Court May Decide If You Can Sue When a TSA Screener Karate Chops Your Groin

While the TSA generally argues that ‘it’s not sexual assault when the government does it’ in the case of Linlor v. Polson they took the argument even further.

  • TSA has argued that they are the only ones who get to review conduct by their employees, and they get to decide what evidence is permitted for the purposes of that review.

  • And that you cannot sue their employees directly no matter how extreme the violation of rights

The US Supreme Court could decide if there’s any limit to TSA authority because of a cert petition recently filed.

An airline captain presented himself for screening at Washington Dulles. Since he also works on the side – as many pilots do – he had security cards with him for his other job. In this case though it was access cards for classified government systems, which the captain isn’t allowed to let out of his sight. The captain’s case now rests with the Supreme Court, his having filed a cert petition with the court in late February with the government’s response initially due at the end of March.

A TSA screener wanted to take those cards and examine them. The captain explained the cards could be examined, but not taken from view. After all, it’s important that the cards aren’t copied. The screener wasn’t happy with this, but a supervisor agreed.

After the disagreement the screener insisted on a manual pat down of the captain. He insisted the captain spread his legs farther apart than TSA procedure dictates. And then he karate chopped the captain in the groin. Here’s how the cert petition to the US Supreme Court describes it,

While ostensibly searching (“clearing”) petitioner’s legs, despite petitioner being cooperative, compliant, non-custodial, and with no distracting or existing exigent circumstances, respondent karate-chopped petitioner’s testicles with allegedly unreasonable and excessive force.

Petitioner doubled-over in pain, immediately stepped back off the floormat, and asked why respondent had struck him. Respondent laughed in response.

…Respondent stated that his striking of petitioner was intentional,” and that he (respondent) could not be prosecuted.

The captain performed a ‘citizens arrest’ and requested airport police take custody of the screener. They refused.

The TSA has sought to serve as sole adjudicator in complaints filed against screenings,

TSA is the fox guarding the henhouse of evidence, and TSA’s invidious foisting of this malicious “kill shot” permanent order is designed and drafted to appear reasonable, but intended to actually foreclose all future lawsuits against TSA if TSA curiously decides to re categorize any critical evidence as SSI if their attempts to have cases dismissed on other grounds, fail.

In fact the TSA’s rules are “designed to encourage violation” of law. In this case the agency simply designated evidence against its screener as ‘sensitive security information’ so that it could not be seen or used. TSA also admitted editing the video of the incident and refused to disclose their own excessive force standards.

The story gets even crazier. According to the petition, the TSA bonused the screener for kicking the captain in the groin.

Moreover, TSA has provided documents in-the-record attesting that they pay TSA screeners a $250 cash bonus bounty as a direct result of abusing passengers. FSD Johnson specifically wrote a congratulatory note to respondent Polson, congratulating him on his “excellent performance” after hitting petitioner with alleged excessive force in violation of all mandatory precedent guidance, and in Polson refusing to simply apologize while Polson and TSA FSD Johnson both attested that respondent Polson’s striking of petitioner’s genitals was intentional.”

Surely we now delegate too much power to the government in the name of security, and that makes us less secure in our persons. Most issues reaching the Supreme Court do not get adjudicated there.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Us: The TSA and their security theater are out of control. It’s almost as if these screeners think they have diplomatic immunity for assaulting the general public. Could it possibly get any worse or have even less oversight?
    TSA: Hold my beer…

  2. @Gary – I normally think that your intense dislike of the TSA is overblown, but in this case the TSA is providing fodder that it should be disbanded. Sadly, most TSA agents are actually decent people.

  3. The captain is perfectly able to file his lawsuit. Apparently the Supreme Court must decide if he has a valid cause of action that entitles him to any relief. Anyone can sue for anything.

  4. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. No idea if the Supremes can do anything about the idiotic laws Congress wrote allowing this but I certainly hope so. Thank you for highlighting this.

  5. Similar incident happened to me at JFK. I went straight to airport police to file a report. They would not take it saying there was no evidence of an assault. I followed up with a complaint to TSA demanding a video of the incident. Not surprisingly they would not provide it. TSA and Govt completely out of control.

  6. @Rjb, wonder if you could file a ‘friend of the court’ brief in support of the plaintiff.

  7. Essentially you are at the TSA mercy so we as the flying public must think of ourselves as traveling prisoners and obey the authorities in charge
    To disobey or not let them do as they wish carries risks until something may actually change
    Pre check has certainly made it better than it was typically

  8. In retrospect, the best (for the airline captain and not for the attorneys) is a variation of HUCA (hang up, call again on the phone). In other words, go to another checkpoint. I know that is acting weak but at least you wouldn’t be hand raped.

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