TSA Watch: Why underwear protests really embarrass you

I‘ve been covering the TSA for more than a decade, and as you can imagine, I’ve seen the agency do some strange things. I wrote about a few recent incidents last week.

But that’s nothing compared with the behavior of the TSA protesters.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes the only way to stand up to outrageous behavior that violates your constitutional rights is to be outrageous. And truth be told, I agree with these protesters more often than not.

It’s just that their tactics are, um, a little odd.

Exhibit A: last week’s demonstration at the Manchester, N.H., airport. The characters in this video (above) who call themselves Kelly Voluntaryist and Derrick J. Freeman (their real names? Who knows!).

It’s not that they’re handing out leaflets to protest the TSA’s scans, pat-downs and other procedures that “strip” us of our rights. It’s not even that they’re doing it in their underwear. No, it’s that they’re here in February.

Have you ever taken a walk in your underwear during a New England winter? (I haven’t, but it must be c-o-l-d.)

Briefs and bikinis have a long tradition, when it comes to TSA protests.

Corinne Theile, a.k.a. Bikini Girl, made headlines in 2010 when she stripped down to a bikini to protest the TSA’s invasive new searches. Last Thanksgiving, she returned to the skies.

Theile says she refuses to use the TSA’s body scanners, which she believes are dangerous. And she’s reluctant to undergo the alternative, which is a pat-down, because they are often performed incorrectly by TSA officers. She prefers to reduce the amount of clothing she wears through a checkpoint — ergo the bikini.

Late last year, when she resumed her scantily-clad demonstration, she had worn her swimsuit on 7 flights over the past 12 months to protest the TSA’s screening methods.

If you’re wondering — does anyone get into trouble for this? — then meet Morris Malakoff, who showed up in his tightly whities for a flight from Seattle last fall.

“It got me a $500 fine plus the cost of an attorney and eating the ticket,” he told me. “I now fly from Vancouver or take train to Portland and fly out.”

How about Aaron Tobey, a University of Cincinnati student who removed his shirt before walking through an airport checkpoint a few years ago? He had an abbreviated version of the Fourth Amendment written on his chest. He was briefly detained and later sued the TSA.

When TSA began installing the full-body scanners and forcing travelers to choose between a pat-down and a scan (ah, Thanksgiving 2010 — who can forget that?) it brought out quite a few underwear protesters, actually.

Jason Rockwood showed up at the security checkpoint at LaGuardia Airport in New York dressed only in undershirt, boxer shorts, and slip-on shoes. Not as impressive as the ladies of late, but he had intended to dress only in plastic, and that would have been something.

“At the end of the day I don’t think it’s a very dignified process to go through the procedures that [the TSA is] using,” Rockwood told a New York FOX affiliate, “and so I’m dressing this way to be undignified on behalf of all the people that are submitting to these rules.”

One blog even suggested that men wear kilts through the screening area. But then, who owns a kilt?

Tammy Banovac had a few issues, too. She was briefly stopped from flying when TSA agents discovered an unspecified problem near her, uh, bottom.

I know what you’re thinking: Has anyone taken all their clothes off to protest the TSA? I haven’t heard of any such action, although it was briefly being contemplated.

Most of the passengers reacting to these protests seem embarrassed. They smile awkwardly and they look away. Many of them, I’m sure, have nightmares about showing up to the airport in their underwear (“Oops, I knew I forgot something!”) so these actions hit a nerve.

But I think they’re really embarrassed that these demonstrations are necessary in the first place. If the TSA wasn’t microwaving and massaging air travelers, then none of this would be necessary. At some level, maybe they feel responsible.

Maybe they should. After all, many of them voted for the Congress that created the TSA 10 years ago, and few of them now are willing to stand up to the agency and its police-state tactics. It’s the passengers who do nothing that should be most upset about the protesters who bare almost everything to show that airport security has gone too far.

That’s certainly how I feel when I see someone standing on their principles in their underwear. I cringe.

I wonder: Is this the only way to get the TSA’s attention? Could the more modestly-dressed passengers who agree with the protests have done anything in the last decade to keep this from happening?

What could I have done?

And then I remember that there was, and there still is, something I can do. We have a presidential election in a few months. And I can take action that’s more effective than any underwear protest: I can vote.

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

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.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at Sodexoinsights.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at Travelexinsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Insuremyrentalcar.com

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by G1G.com

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at  Mediacomcable.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit  Virtuoso.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

VisitorsCoverage is one of the world’s most trusted providers of travel insurance for millions of global travelers in over 175 countries. Working with top-rated travel insurance partner providers, VisitorsCoverage’s award-winning search, compare and purchase technology simplifies the travel insurance process and finds the best deals for the coverage you need to explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at VisitorsCoverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. Elliott.org readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by TravelInsurance.com

TravelInsurance.com makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at  TravelInsurance.com.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on  Squaremouth.com to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International, SinglesCruise.com, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.