13 November 2010

TSA encounter at SAN

[These events took place roughly between 5:30 and 6:30 AM, November 13th in Terminal 2 of the San Diego International Airport. I'm writing this approximately 2 1/2 hours after the events transpired, and they are correct to the best of my recollection. I will admit to being particularly fuzzy on the exact order of events when dealing with the agents after getting my ticket refunded; however, all of the events described did occur.

I had my phone recording audio and video of much of these events. It can be viewed below.

Please spread this story as far and wide as possible. I will make no claims to copyright or otherwise.]

This morning, I tried to fly out of San Diego International Airport but was refused by the TSA. I had been somewhat prepared for this eventuality. I have been reading about the millimeter wave and backscatter x-ray machines and the possible harm to health as well as the vivid pictures they create of people's naked bodies. Not wanting to go through them, I had done my  research on the TSA's website prior to traveling to see if SAN had them. From all indications, they did not. When I arrived at the security line, I found that the TSA's website was out of date. SAN does in fact utilize backscatter x-ray machines.

I made my way through the line toward the first line of "defense": the TSA ID checker. This agent looked over my boarding pass, looked over my ID, looked at me and then back at my ID. After that, he waved me through. SAN is still operating metal detectors, so I walked over to one of the lines for them. After removing my shoes and making my way toward the metal detector, the person in front of me in line was pulled out to go through the backscatter machine. After asking what it was and being told, he opted out. This left the machine free, and before I could go through the metal detector, I was pulled out of line to go through the backscatter machine. When asked, I half-chuckled and said, "I don't think so." At this point, I was informed that I would be subject to a pat down, and I waited for another agent.

A male agent (it was a female who had directed me to the backscatter machine in the first place), came and waited for me to get my bags and then directed me over to the far corner of the area for screening. After setting my things on a table, he turned to me and began to explain that he was going to do a "standard" pat down. (I thought to myself, "great, not one of those gropings like I've been reading about".) After he described, the pat down, I realized that he intended to touch my groin. After he finished his description but before he started the pat down, I looked him straight in the eye and said, "if you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested." He, a bit taken aback, informed me that he would have to involve his supervisor because of my comment.

We both stood there for no more than probably two minutes before a female TSA agent (apparently, the supervisor) arrived. She described to me that because I had opted out of the backscatter screening, I would now be patted down, and that involved running hands up the inside of my legs until they felt my groin. I stated that I would not allow myself to be subject to a molestation as a condition of getting on my flight. The supervisor informed me that it was a standard administrative security check and that they were authorized to do it. I repeated that I felt what they were doing was a sexual assault, and that if they were anyone but the government, the act would be illegal. I believe that I was then informed that if I did not submit to the inspection, I would not be getting on my flight. I again stated that I thought the search was illegal. I told her that I would be willing to submit to a walk through the metal detector as over 80% of the rest of the people were doing, but I would not be groped. The supervisor, then offered to go get her supervisor.

I took a seat in a tiny metal chair next to the table with my belongings and waited. While waiting, I asked the original agent (who was supposed to do the pat down) if he had many people opt out to which he replied, none (or almost none, I don't remember exactly). He said that I gave up a lot of rights when I bought my ticket. I replied that the government took them away after September 11th. There was silence until the next supervisor arrived. A few minutes later, the female agent/supervisor arrived with a man in a suit (not a uniform). He gave me a business card identifying him as David Silva, Transportation Security Manager, San Diego International Airport. At this point, more TSA agents as well as what I assume was a local police officer arrived on the scene and surrounded the area where I was being detained. The female supervisor explained the situation to Mr. Silva. After some quick back and forth (that I didn't understand/hear), I could overhear Mr. Silva say something to the effect of, "then escort him from the airport." I again offered to submit to the metal detector, and my father-in-law, who was near by also tried to plead for some reasonableness on the TSA's part.

The female supervisor took my ID at this point and began taking some kind of report with which I cooperated. Once she had finished, I asked if I could put my shoes back on. I was allowed to put my shoes back on and gather my belongs. I asked, "are we done here" (it was clear at this point that I was going to be escorted out), and the local police officer said, "follow me". I followed him around the side of the screening area and back out to the ticketing area. I said apologized to him for the hassle, to which he replied that it was not a problem.

I made my way over to the American Airlines counter, explained the situation, and asked if my ticket could be refunded. The woman behind the counter furiously typed away for about 30 seconds before letting me know that she would need a supervisor. She went to the other end of the counter. When she returned, she informed me that the ticket was non-refundable, but that she was still trying to find a supervisor. After a few more minutes, she was able to refund my ticket. I told her that I had previously had a bad experience with American Airlines and had sworn never to fly with them again (I rationalized this trip since my father-in-law had paid for the ticket), but that after her helpfulness, I would once again be willing to use their carrier again.

At this point, I thought it was all over. I began to make my way to the stairs to exit the airport, when I was approached by another man in slacks and a sport coat. He was accompanied by the officer that had escorted me to the ticketing area and Mr. Silva. He informed me that I could not leave the airport. He said that once I start the screening in the secure area, I could not leave until it was completed. Having left the area, he stated, I would be subject to a civil suit and a $10,000 fine. I asked him if he was also going to fine the 6 TSA agents and the local police officer who escorted me from the secure area. After all, I did exactly what I was told. He said that they didn't know the rules, and that he would deal with them later. They would not be subject to civil penalties. I then pointed to Mr. Silva and asked if he would be subject to any penalties. He is the agents' supervisor, and he directed them to escort me out. The man informed me that Mr. Silva was new and he would not be subject to penalties, either. He again asserted the necessity that I return to the screening area. When I asked why, he explained that I may have an incendiary device and whether or not that was true needed to be determined. I told him that I would submit to a walk through the metal detector, but that was it; I would not be groped. He told me that their procedures are on their website, and therefore, I was fully informed before I entered the airport; I had implicitly agreed to whatever screening they deemed appropriate. I told him that San Diego was not listed on the TSA's website as an airport using Advanced Imaging Technology, and I believed that I would only be subject to the metal detector. He replied that he was not a webmaster, and I asked then why he was referring me to the TSA's website if he didn't know anything about it. I again refused to re-enter the screening area.

The man asked me to stay put while he walked off to confer with the officer and Mr. Silva. They went about 20 feet away and began talking amongst themselves while I waited. I couldn't over hear anything, but I got the impression that the police officer was recounting his version of the events that had transpired in the screening area (my initial refusal to be patted down). After a few minutes, I asked loudly across the distance if I was free to leave. The man dismissively held up a finger and said, "hold on". I waited. After another minute or so, he returned and asked for my name. I asked why he needed it, and reminded him that the female supervisor/agent had already taken a report. He said that he was trying to be friendly and help me out. I asked to what end. He reminded me that I could be sued civilly and face a $10,000 fine and that my cooperation could help mitigate the penalties I was facing. I replied that he already had my information in the report that was taken and I asked if I was free to leave. I reminded him that he was now illegally detaining me and that I would not be subject to screening as a condition of leaving the airport. He told me that he was only trying to help (I should note that his demeanor never suggested that he was trying to help. I was clearly being interrogated.), and that no one was forcing me to stay. I asked if tried to leave if he would have the officer arrest me. He again said that no one was forcing me to stay. I looked him in the eye, and said, "then I'm leaving". He replied, "then we'll bring a civil suit against you", to which I said, "you bring that suit" and walked out of the airport.

This video starts with my bag and belongings going through the x-ray machine.They're kind of long, and they don't show much, but the audio is really good.


I was in the middle of telling someone that if I was going to be felt up, I wanted it done in public so that everyone could see what it is that the TSA does. Here is the rest of that video.


After I was escorted out to the ticketing area, I went to have my ticket refunded. I didn't have the opportunity or the presence of mind to turn the camera back on until everyone walked away from me.


Related articles:

More about my TSA encounter at SAN
Motivation of my filming of my TSA encounter
What will I say?

5,008 comments:

  1. Rosa Parks would be proud. The time has come for all good men and women to come to the aid of the party of individual liberty. I am proud of you. When and if I ever am forced to subject myself to this tyranny of bureaucratic klepto- sociopaths I am going to dress in little more than a speedo and thongs.

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  2. *clap, clap* Well done! Please keep us updated as to the results of the civil suit forthcoming (if it comes at all).

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  3. Good for you. Can't wait to see the video. If everyone followed your example, the TSA would be forced to stop this illegal, immoral, unconstitutional behavior. We need to start a database of TSA agent names for use in the latter-day Nuremberg trials.

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  4. I've posted your link in various places - GOS, Twitter, FB, and my Wave group. Doing my part to get your story out! I can't believe what you went through.

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  5. Envisioning this has confirmed my conviction to not fly until this is dealt with.
    I refuse to go through the nude scanner and will not be treated like a prisoner before going to jail, in the false hope of safety.

    And what sucks is people at the airport are already caught by the short hairs. They are in a hurry, already paid for a ticket, so are afraid to speak up....I know I would be. When I fly, it is not on a whim and I cannot risk missing my flight.

    TSA is counting on this.

    And no, I never gave up my right to a refuse a stranger touching my genitals when I decided to fly to visit friends.

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  6. I'm proud of your civil 'disobediance' and standing up for your rights. Another case of small people empowered beyond reason and abusing said power, especially since they don't know all the rules and proper procedures. Suggestion to the TSA: hire the Israelis to consult and train your personnel. Admit that some countries are just better at some things than we are. There is a standard of common sense to be applied. I didn't even have this much trouble flying out of the old USSR.

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  7. I love how, in the video, anytime the guy is asked a challenging question he begins to stutter and has trouble putting a sentence together! Bravo sir, you are among my heroes.

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  8. Boycott Flying! Please join us: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-Flying/126801010710392

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  9. Well done! I'm amused by how these troglodytes had to exert themselves, mentally, when faced with your resistance.

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  10. WOW!

    Civil Disobedience Rocks!!

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  11. Bless you for standing up to this bullshit.

    http://flywithdignity.org

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  12. Seems like if you are a terrorist willing to die blowing up a plane, a fine and threat of a civil suit won't be much of a threat to you. So wonder why they have those penalties.... hmmm.

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  13. Thank you Sir for doing what almost all of us want to express to the tsa!
    Your effort is greatly appreciated.
    They cannot file a suit against you!
    That was bravado on their part!

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  14. True patriotism. I appreciate your efforts; we have to make the effort to stop this disease now before it spreads to other aspects of our lives. It won't be pretty when we have to be ogled or groped while going to the DMV to get a drivers license, going to court to pay a ticket, coming back from a weekend trip to Tijuana, or whatever else...

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  15. Thank you so much. You won't be fined nor have a civil suit filed against you. That was nothing more than intimidation on the part of the TSA.

    Pure bluster from the man in the sports coat. The crap about the TSM being "new" is just that, crap. If this person has risen to that level in the TSA, he knows the rules full well and knows that he could not force you to submit to a grope. That would be detention and the cannot detain you.

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  17. I found the link to your story at lewrockwell.com. It's obvious from your voice that you were under a great deal of stress, as I imagine I would be too. Nonetheless, I - we - appreciate your being brave, standing tough, and sharing your experience with the rest of us. I hope many, many more of us are courageous enough to follow your example.

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  18. Bravo sir!

    Let them sue, in fact I sincerely hope they do sue....You should have no trouble raising money via the web to support your defense and their entire porn/molestation machine will come crashing down.

    F you Big Sis.

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  19. Did I at one point hear someone saying the only one that was going to get satisfaction out of this was you?

    HA HA HA HA!!!! You, dear sir, are my hero of the day!

    And if they "bring a case" against you I will be happy to donate some dollars to defray costs.

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  20. Sure TSA mgmt has been debating when they will try to cross the line; your actions will be the next topic.
    Congrats; I changed my airport to Carlsbad to avoid the hassle.

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  21. There is no way these chicken shit bastards will sue...

    One cranky judge could shut them down for good.

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  22. EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) has a pending suit regarding the body scanners:

    http://epic.org/bodyscanner/incident_report/

    The ACLU is also collecting information reports

    https://secure.aclu.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=watchlist_survey&JServSessionIdr011=5itmt3qbe1.app26a

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  23. I wish you would have asked for the man's ID who was going to bring suit as he was blowing smoke big time!

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  24. This is why I refused to fly my daughter to Ga and drove her instead, because of these goons.

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  25. Based upon this and similar videos, I wager it will not be long before it becomes illegal to video or audiotape anywhere near a TSA security screening area or to post any such videos. All in the name of "National Security", of course!

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  26. "He said that I gave up a lot of rights when I bought my ticket. I replied that the government took them away after September 11th."

    Thank you so much for speaking for so many of us.

    Thank you for giving us a great example of what to do when confronted with TSA trampling of our Constitution.

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  27. Bravo! I bet they don't bother with the lawsuit. If they do, set up a fund and I'll contribute to your defense.

    This isn't about our safety. This is about getting us used to complete invasion of our privacy and lives.

    If we don't stop this, what do you suppose they'll do next?

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  28. THANK YOU

    The TSA is out of control and we need to reign them in. You now have a "choice" of being photographed naked or molested if you want to fly. It's absurd.

    I can only bet members of Congress don't fly commercially with their families.

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  29. Buddy, you are a hero! You have hopefully started a trend. The US Government are the REAL terrorists! If they sue you, you WILL win

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  30. Praise God for your courage and willingness to take a stand. Thank you.
    And I'm impressed that American refunded you.

    - Sarah

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  31. Well done John! Thank you.

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  32. If this actually comes to a suit please make it known on Reddit. The community is up in arms about the TSAs conduct of late. Between the two odd million of us we have a lot of experience, contacts, and pocket change we occasionally throw towards worthy causes. We'll be happy to help you in any way we can.

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  33. Good job my friend, good job!

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  34. It's not like they cup your balls and wiggle your dick around in their fingers. Calling it molestation is retarded. Some lady had her boob squeezed and now everyone is throwing a fit about this.

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  35. All process employed by government is commercial . . . there is a provision for remedy in the Uniform Commercial Code at page 1 section 308 aka UCC 1-308 for your reservation of rights which is to the exclusion of "Civil" process FRCP Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which is another term for Admiralty and mercantile law. This reservation demands an Article III Section 2 recognition of "Due Process". . . not the diminished privelege of "Procedural Due Process" arising under the Administrative Procedures Act." A duly crafted Affidavit asserting this right under these circumstances and presented to TSA at the point of boarding . . . should become be most interesting

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  36. Good job! I hope more people are inspired by your story and do exactly the same thing. We need to put a quick and decisive end to the TSA's disregard for traveler's rights and dignity. The nude-o-scope and feel-ups do exactly nothing to enhance security, and everything to accomplish the terrorists' mission: Many of us are now afraid to fly. Not because of terrorists, but because of our own government.

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  37. Bravo! Thank you so very much for the sacrifice you made and thank your family for supporting your decision not to fly that day. I may very well have to make the same choice on a $25k vacay scheduled next month... I sure hope my hubby would be so supportive. ;o)

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  38. Totally support your actions. The people that I scorn are the sheep that allow this to happen without protest. You will not be subjected to any legal action, particularly a civil suit. That was clear intimidation and I would suggest having an attorney look at it. If this happens to anyone in the future, simply start saying that you are not a Muslim and therefore there is no reason to suspect you of doing anything illegal.

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  39. Where did you find the info on whether or not SAN had body scanners on the TSA website? Might be helpful to have a screen shot of that if they haven't changed it yet.

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  40. THANK YOU!! if everyone did this they would have no choice but to stop molesting innocent people. If I ever fly I am going to opt out of the porno-scanner and if they try to grope me I WILL REFUSE as well.

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  41. Don't wait for them, file your own criminal complaint against everyone involved in this fracas, including the whole chain of command up to the president. The charge is conspiracy to deprive you of your civil rights under color of authority, and it carries a penalty of a decade in federal prison. If your local prosecutor won't enter the charges, go to the press and demand that he do his duty.

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  42. If you had stayed in the screening area when the TSA was trying to shoo you out they would have arrested you and probably beaten you up to teach you a lesson. You follow their instructions and you're subject to a civil suit. But at least we know we're free.

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  43. You are a fucking hero.

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  44. Great job, sir. I hate that you couldn't fly, but your stand (and record of it) will be another piece of ammunition against these goons. The TSA/DHS need to be neutered- they do nothing to increase safety, but do condition us to accept the gradual erosion of our rights by an overbearing government. Bravo!

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  45. You should take this to the ACLU. It's one thing for TSA to figure out how to deal with your refusal to submit to enhanced pat-down. But this is the second time I've seen where the individual faces additional detention when trying to leave the airport. That's unlawful arrest

    And I agree. The "advanced imaging technology" or enhanced pat down both equate to unreasonable search under the Fourth Amendment. Thanks for taking a stand.

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  46. Hoping your next flight blows up, idiot.

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  47. give me a break. times have changed, security is a bitch, deal with it. TSA has better things to do that look at your "nude" screening image or play with your tiny dick. just shut up and do what you gotta do to get through the line. id be pissed if i was your father in law who paid for the ticket and then your smart ass know it all bullshit got you escorted out of the airport, and now he will probably have to deal with the legal consequences of you being a brat. boarding an airplane is a privilege , not a right, your not standing up for anything important, youre just being a douche

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  48. Here is the T-shirt I'll be wearing when the TSA tries to molest me: http://www.cafepress.com/PithyQuotes

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  49. Bra-freekin'-vo!!!

    I love how the comments against you are the most intelligent. (sarcasm intended!)

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  50. I love that the people who are leaving insults aren't brave enough to leave their names. I'm not terribly surprised at the cowardice, I just find it to be a shame. I also think it's rather pathetic that the poster above feels the need to degenerate into such childish insults. Frankly, it really diminishes any point s/he may have been trying to make.

    John, you know you and I don't usually agree on many issues, but I can't commend your actions this morning enough.

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  51. Thanks very much for standing up to these goons.

    We've probably already lost, but maybe some of the security state can be rolled back a little. If it can't be rolled back, at least people should know where they stand.

    Remember, it's not just denial of dignity, it's right to earn a living, right to own property, right to assemble, right to travel.

    Many of these rights have already been eroded beyond recognition.

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  52. Brilliant! Well done, sir. Thank you for striking a blow for liberty.

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  53. You are the man. I've told innumerable people that this is an unacceptable intrusion on our rights for no gain whatsoever, and that by acceding to these unlawful searches they are undermining my rights. So it's not just a matter of our fellow citizens feeling it's ok to do to them, it's a matter of them throwing away *my* rights, which is very personal to me and I find entirely selfish and reprehensible.

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  54. You are a true American hero! Thank you!

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  55. Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both -- Benjamin Franklin

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  56. I HATE these faggots that say this or that is a "privilege" WHAT!!!! EVERYTHING is a right, as long as what you are doing is not illegal! Duh!!! There is no such things as a government "privilege". We are supposed to be free to move about and conduct ourselves WITHOUT the threat of being searched or impeded in any way. The fact that there are security procedures is fine, but the argument here is whether it is reasonable or unreasonable. I think rubbing the hands on your balls is definitely unreasonable. I also think that taking naked pictures of people (and their kids) is incredible illegal. Plus, this is all total BS anyway! These terrorists can easily shove a sack of whatever inside their anus! That will NOT show up. A highly motivated individual can easily defeat these procedures. You stupid sheep are giving away your human dignity and your privacy for some total BS sense of security. Think about this! We can't pour water on some bastard terrorists face or deface his religious sensibilities, but a TSA goon can rub his hand on my daughter's (or my) genitals. WHAT THE F!!!! Come on America!!!! We are better than this! Stop being such pussies and man up! Stop being scared!!! You are letting these dumb-ass terrorists win. Just be vigilant and beat them to death if they try anything. That is the best deterrent - getting literally beat to death by passengers on an airplane when you try something.

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  57. Bravo for standing up to these thugs!

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  58. Good for you, well done standing up to the creeping erosion of rights.

    Good to know that their are some sane and courageous Americans in your country still.

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  59. To quote a worn out Sean Hannity sound bite (typically reserved for statists NOT great Americans);
    YOU ARE A GREAT AMERICAN SIR!
    Please keep us posted on further activity concerning this matter.
    I am a 49 year old US Military and war Veteran and I Salute You!

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  60. Bravo good sir!. I barely have money but if you are hit with said suit I will do what I can to help. Even if its a buck.

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  61. An heroic deed! Good for you. The man threatened you. It is worrying you. It is harming your sleep and well-being. Such threats are against law. Bring a civil suit against that man. You have a tort action here.

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  62. I'm betting that the people who are insulting you and saying that it was wrong of you to stand up for your rights are Teabaggers who insist that they're for small government and upholding the Constitution.

    I guess they've never actually read the thing.

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  63. @Anonymous 2:26 pm: Oh, look, the sheep have arrived to bleat their uninformed opinions. Great. Let me ask you this: You aren't doing anything illegal in your home, right? So you won't mind if I come to your home, search it and frisk you? You know, for safety?

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  64. Forgive my ignorance, but it seems pretty excessive to face arrest and a possible fine to avoid having your junk touched for a fraction of a second.

    Now, I don't subscribe to what the