TSA threatens to fine passenger who refuses full-body scan

Photo of author

By Christopher Elliott

As the TSA’s use of full-body scanners turns into a national debate, it appears the agency is taking a harder line against passengers who resist.

Last week, TSA agents in Florida allegedly handcuffed a passenger to her chair after she refused both a full-body scan and a pat-down. (Surveillance video of the incident called parts of her story into question.)

And yesterday, a traveler at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport who declined the full-body scan and agreed to be frisked, but complained about the invasive procedure, was threatened with a fine.

It happened to Karen Cummings, the same woman who received an enhanced pat-down when it was being tested in Boston this spring.

If the threat against her is part of TSA’s new enhanced pat-down protocol, then this is a troubling shift in policy that is only likely to intensify the discussion about the use of full-body scanners.

Here’s what happened to Cummings after she refused the scan and was patted down.

They called the supervisor over because I complained so much, as I said it was against my rights as an American citizen as it was an unreasonable search.

They told me if I kept it up I would get fined — did you know people could get fined if they obstructed the procedure, which I wasn’t doing.

I told them to go ahead and do it so I could get to my gate, all I was doing was complaining that it was totally against my rights, that no one really knows how safe those machines are, and suggesting rather loudly that more people should object to the whole process because it was ridiculous and didn’t make us any safer.

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Indeed, TSA could fine travelers up to $10,000 for complaining about its new policy.

Fines also may be imposed when passengers attempt to artfully conceal prohibited items or behave in a manner that is so uncooperative and disruptive that it physically interferes with the screening process. Carrying some prohibited items could result in both a civil and criminal enforcement action.

If the threats against Cummings are part of a broader policy of punishing air travelers who disagree with the invasive new pat-downs, then we have truly hit a low point — not just for the TSA, but as a nation. (Here’s how to handle the TSA when you travel.)

These are the actions of a police state, not the land of the free.

Update: Here’s a similar incident that happened yesterday morning, which was recorded by the traveler. Scary stuff.

Photo of author

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

Related Posts