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Why Am I Being Profiled By TSA?

Ladies and gentlemen, I come to you as one of the very few US citizens to be a constant target of profiling at the airports.

Yep, it is true. The WASP-y, 30-something white guy in a suit is clearly a threat to national security. I know because every single time I go through TSA security, I am profiled. Why you ask? Because I have sleep apnea and must use a CPAP machine in order to get a good nights sleep. I have to carry the CPAP machine onto the plane, and 9 times out of 10 the machine is pulled for “extra screening.”

cpap.jpg

I believe I did read in The 9/11 Commission Report the massive Islamic conspiracy to use CPAP machines in order to make sure the pilots weren’t snoring before they slit their throats.

Ah, but I digress. Last week I had perhaps the worst week of air travel I have ever had. Now granted, I did have to fly from Charlotte to Chicago to Dallas to Denver in two days for separate meetings. And I have accepted my profiling by TSA agents for almost a year now…. I accept it and I’m used to it. But I cannot accept degrading treatment by TSA screeners as happened to me in Denver last Thursday. The following email (which is self-explanatory) was sent to the TSA Customer Service Director for the Denver area.

From: Bruce Carroll
To: bob.kapp@dhs.gov
Subject: Incident at Denver TSA Checkpoint this morning

Date: Thu, 14 Sep 2006 11:56AM.

Mr. Kapp: I was given your contact information from TSA Supervisor Mike Torrez at the Denver South TSA checkpoint. I told Mr. Torrez that I would like to file a formal written complaint against one of the screeners who treated me extremely poorly this morning at Denver International Airport. Mr. Torrez refused to provide me with the name of the screener who had caused the incident and instead suggested I contact you, which I am now doing. I am also copying the relevant staff officials on the US House Committee on Homeland Security that oversees the Department of Homeland Securty. Additionally, I am copying my own US Congresswoman Sue Myrick.

I want to first make you understand that I completely support the efforts and hard work of the folks at TSA. I am a regular business traveler who flies at least twice every week and have for the past three years. I also have a unique perspective as one of my best friends was on American Flight 77 on 9/11/2001. So I have been known to remind my fellow travelers who are moaning about a mere 5 minute wait in line about what is at stake and the perspective they should have when my friend was killed.

However, I do expect to be treated like a human being and with respect as an American citizen by TSA agents especially when I am trying to do my part in our War on Terror. This morning I arrived a few minutes behind (but not too late) for my flight at Denver. The TSA lines were short and there weren’t many people in the airport at all, so I anticipated a relatively quick process. I have sleep apnea and carry a CPAP breathing machine with me and have come to expect it will be pulled for the swab test. This morning, things went from bad to worse very quickly.

The TSA screener at the X-ray machine pulled it and I identified myself as the owner. She said “It has to be tested separately and that may take a few minutes.” She then placed it on the ground next to her chair and never called for any assistance. After a couple of minutes had passed I asked when it would be swabbed. She said she didn’t know and *then* called someone to do a bag check. The TSA agent that picked up my CPAP machine began to wait for me to put on shoes, etc…. I said in a very nice and calm voice that I was running late and to please screen it while I was getting my shoes on and getting my briefcase together. It was at that point that her pace became noticeably slower. She sauntered from machine to machine and it appeared that either every machine was being used or they were broken.

After I had gathered my things, I began following behind her to the last two machines she tried out. I was standing behind one of those nylon-rope lines while she swabbed my CPAP machine. BEFORE the results were even complete, she turned to her TSA associate and in a very loud and obnoxious voice said, “I sure hope I don’t have to chase down that guy to give him this thing.” Since I was well within earshot, I calmly responded, “Don’t worry I was chasing after you so I’m right here. I am in a kind of hurry.”

She turned around and snapped at me in a very condescending and hostile voice , “Well, you should expect that the machine would be checked we check them everywhere so you should have gotten here earlier.”

She then lifted the machine next to her, but behind the nylon-rope line and made some statement to the effect of “Do you want this back or not.” It was at that point that I got angry. I said, “yes I do and I don’t expect to be treated like this. I am a taxpayer and frequent traveler and I pay your salary.” I admit that was a knee-jerk comment, but I would also point out that it is true. She laughed at me and said “you don’t pay my salary” and then she continued snapping at me inappropriately, dismissed me with her hand and the comment “whatever”, and called her first line supervisor over.

He had a lot of attitude from the start, told me it was all my fault for obviously being late and refused to enter into a dialogue with me when I asked to file a complaint. Instead, he passed me off to Supervisor Mike Torrez. Mr. Torrez was initially polite and I told him that I am tired of being treated like a second-class citizen because my breathing problems require me to carry a machine. I told him I am probably one of the FEW people in the entire nation that is overtly “profiled” due to the machine, but that I put up with it. But I further told him I will not put up with being treated with such disrespect and dismissiveness from a TSA agent who began the confrontation with her initial comment before the swab test had been completed.

He gave me his card and I ran to my gate in Concourse B. I missed my flight, so returned to the checkpoint to ask Mr. Torrez how I file a formal written complaint against the TSA agent who was so rude. He was quite curt this time, blamed me entirely for missing my flight and shoved your card in my hand.

I am completely disturbed by this incident and would like to file a formal complaint. I would also like to know how this TSA agent will be reprimanded and coached to work with the public better. I am a patient man and it takes a lot to make me this angry. But I expect to be treated with respect, especially when I am a big supporter of the mission of TSA and the Department of Homeland Security.

I look forward to a prompt reply of this inquiry.

To date, I have not yet received a reply…. I’ve waited long enough.

-Bruce (GayPatriot)

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29 Comments

  1. (No snark this time… I promise.)

    Have you contacted your member of Congress and/or your Senators? You might be surprised at what that can accomplish. Without going into too much detail: my partner once had a serious problem with the Federal bureaucracy, and a letter to one of our Senators was all it took to resolve it.

    It’s certainly worth a try.

    Comment by vaara — September 22, 2006 @ 5:48 pm - September 22, 2006

  2. I too have sleep apnea, but haven’t flown yet with my machine yet. You may want to try posting on cpamtalk.com and see if anyone else has had the same problem. There may be more power if others have had the same problem and are willing to complain too.

    Liz

    Comment by Liz — September 22, 2006 @ 6:56 pm - September 22, 2006

  3. Go figure….

    An older gay couple…friends of mine…spend two-months each winter on the Big Island (must be nice). This last winter they hit the jackpot; they both go the “special attention” of TSA every leg of the trip there and back–Newark to LA, LA to Oahu, Oahu to Hilo; and back.. Why do two 55+ WASPy gay men need to be searched and questioned SIX times in one round-trip? One’s a doctor who collects antique farm equipment, and the other’s a retired schoolteacher who cooks and gardens….they sound real dangerous to me!

    Comment by Ted B. (Charging Rhino) — September 22, 2006 @ 7:01 pm - September 22, 2006

  4. It’s hard to tell from your timeline here but it doesn’t sound like any more than 5 to 10 minutes was taken for the check of your machine. You still missed your flight? Goodness, you must cut it close. You could have easily had the same delay in a longer than usual line.

    My partner and I had occasion to cross the US-Canada border twice last Monday. First was from St. Stephen NB into Calais ME. Even though we had passports we were taken into the office where we had to fill out customs forms and answer questions as to when we became naturalized citizens and how we came to know each other. A few hours later into our drive down the coast, we decided to visit FDR’s summer home on Campobello Island which is actually in New Brunswick. This time, on our return, we once again were taken into the office, subjected to more questioning and required to empty and turn out our pockets. I’d be tempted to consider that my partner’s brown color might be involved except my experience crossing by myself has run the gamut from the perfunctory “citizenship?” (Detroit tunnel) to extended wait while a dog sniffed around my rental car (Port Huron MI). It’s basically unpredictable but the whole process has made travel much less enjoyable.

    Comment by Ian — September 22, 2006 @ 8:12 pm - September 22, 2006

  5. Bruce,

    Have you checked into this new system for identifying frequent business travelers. Sounds like you could benefit from it.

    Comment by John in IL — September 22, 2006 @ 9:52 pm - September 22, 2006

  6. I have thought for some time that those of us who fly frequently and can prove we aren’t terrorists should be given TSA photo ID cards that let us bypass airport hassles. I’m tired of taking my shoes off, etc., to get on a plane!

    Comment by Trace Phelps — September 22, 2006 @ 9:53 pm - September 22, 2006

  7. Bruce, my sympathies. It’s bad enough that TSA screeners check out screaming kids, grandmas, Gulf War veterans (you know, all the segments of our population that would just love to fly planes into towers) and let the more sinister elements of our population (legal or otherwise) board the planes without a backwards glance, but Miss Thang’s attitude and that of her supervisor just takes the cake.

    I would have snapped the bitch, said something about her momma and then I’d probably been frog-marched out of the airport.

    You have the patience of a saint. I hope your issue gets resolved and fast. Plus, any supervisor who would not have been cooperative and given their subordinate’s name to you is just as guilty as the agent.

    Keep us posted.

    Regards,
    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — September 22, 2006 @ 10:05 pm - September 22, 2006

  8. #6: “can prove we aren’t terrorists”

    And how would you prove that?

    #7: “I would have snapped the bitch, said something about her momma”

    Yeah, I’ll bet you would.

    Comment by Ian — September 22, 2006 @ 10:15 pm - September 22, 2006

  9. I was wondering how long it would take before ian/raj/chavez was going to make a snide, self-serving remark.

    Eight comments down – now that must be some sort of personal best, isn’t it, sweetie!

    SNAP! You are dismissed. Go play with keogh/lester sockpuppet.

    Regards,
    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — September 22, 2006 @ 10:29 pm - September 22, 2006

  10. This might be a dumb question, as I don’t fly a lot, but would putting it in a suitcase and checking the bag at the ticket counter make it any easier?

    Or you could always just do what my Dad does and that’s snore as loud as a chainsaw, lol. He has sleep apnea too, but has rebuffed any suggestion of a breathing machine. Of course, that’s probabaly not healthy.

    Comment by Chase — September 22, 2006 @ 10:31 pm - September 22, 2006

  11. Do my eyes deceive me? complaints coming from the people who said that they would put up with a little inconvenience to remain free? tsk tsk tsk. You’re pretty high and mighty about saying what everyone should do to support our government for the war on terror, but the moment you’re inconvenienced, you start whining because “well, that shouldn’t include me personally because….” and “why are they profiling me”

    It’s pretty clear that this seems to have happened to you a few times, so you should be going extra early to the airport. I too travel frequently, but have worked my travel hours so I get there extra early to be prepared for longer lines as well as possible screening. I’ve always followed the rules and changes (ie no liquids from a few weeks ago) so I consider myself lucky that I haven’t been pulled for extra screening, but I always consider it a possibility.

    Also, why should you be surprised at this kind of treatment? These TSA agents probably make less money than the janitors in the same airport. Truth is, we’re doing this security on the cheap and your situation just goes to show that we get the service we pay for.

    And as for the “frequent traveler card”: Talk about a boneheaded scheme that will do nothing to enhance security. It’s simply a way for some security card company to make big bucks from the priviliged who can afford to pay to give a false sense of security while making things more convenient. How long will it be before scammers of all kinds find a way to counterfeit the ID system (to say nothing of terrorists who might try something). I think back to the situation in NYC 3 years ago: City councilman James Davis used his bypass privilige to bring a man into city hall. He didn’t know it, but that acquaintance had already plotted his murder and killed him a few minutes later in the council chamber. If only security screenings had applied equally to everyone, this henious crime woulnd’t have happened.

    Comment by Kevin — September 23, 2006 @ 5:40 am - September 23, 2006

  12. I can probably understand why you have not received a response to your email. It was not succinct enough. I’m sure that Bob.Kapp @ HeimatSicherheitsAmt receives more than a few emails a day, and he does not want to take the time to read through the email equivalent of War & Peace to try to figure out what you want.

    What you apparently want is to reduce your problem of getting through airline security with your sleep-apnea apparatus in a minimum amount of time. What you want to know is why the Denver airport did not allow you to get through in a minimum amount of time, and what you might do in the future to get you through in a minimum amount of time. You could have put it that way in three sentences, and have ignored the other issues in your email to Bob.Kapp. If you had done so, you might have received a response by now.

    Regarding the other issues, if you really do want to file a complaint against the other TSA people at Denver whom you believe did not treat you appropriately (which may, or may not, be a waste of time), you might be well advised to do so in a separate email.

    What is it that you really want? To get yourself through airport security in a minimum amount of time? Or to obtain some revenge at the particular individuals at Denver that you believe dissed you?

    Just to let you know, we returned to Bahston from the Munich Airport last Sunday. We had to pass through not just one, but also two security checkpoints. The second security checkpoint was only for people on planes traveling to the US, and after we passed through the second checkpoint, we were essentially in a cattle pen. We asked the check-in agent if the second checkpoint was also required for travelers going to other destinations, and she replied, no, it was just for you–isn’t your government wonderful.

    The point should be clear, DP, it is your government that is mandating these procedures. As I have said many times before, but which some of you wish to ignore, be careful of what you wish for, because it might come back to bite you.

    Comment by raj — September 23, 2006 @ 9:39 am - September 23, 2006

  13. Uh, why are you whining about getting “profiled” at airports? You’re carrying around a big machine that obviously should be looked at. I’m sorry if a TSA agent was rude to you, but is that really the worse thing in the world that could happen? FYI, your privilage of flying hassle-free does not trump the rest of our right to fly safely. And I’m sure even you would agree that there are other, more important things that the Dept. of Homeland Security should be focusing their attention on than responding to customer service complaints, as if they were K-mart.

    And by the way, she was right. You should have gotten to the airport earlier.

    Comment by bloaner — September 23, 2006 @ 3:33 pm - September 23, 2006

  14. chase I am guessing the cpap machine doesn’t get checked, because if the suitcase got lost, it could be several days or not at all, before it was returned, and it is needed medical equipment.

    We rarely fly-too expensive for a family of six, but when we do fly, all of my husbands asthma medications go on the flight with us, just in case our luggage goes somewhere else.

    Comment by just me — September 23, 2006 @ 4:06 pm - September 23, 2006

  15. look i am no fan of the TSA at times i think they are the most inept individuals that the govment could fine, but I am a fan of treating people with respect and simple human courtesies. your email was on point. more people should be doing exactly what you did – i know i have – but we should be fair and when we can point out people for providing excellent service.

    as to to the comment above about freq travellers proving they are not terrorists get out of security free card, a suicide bomber is a normal person until that first suicide bombing

    Comment by ralph — September 24, 2006 @ 2:00 am - September 24, 2006

  16. #15 ralph — September 24, 2006 @ 2:00 am – September 24, 2006

    look i am no fan of the TSA at times i think they are the most inept individuals that the govment could fine, but I am a fan of treating people with respect and simple human courtesies. your email was on point.

    Two points. One, the TSA probably does not pay very well for its inspectors, and, at an airport like Denver, they are probably overloaded.

    Two, I have learned over many years to discount a report from one side of a two-sided story. Not to necessarily disbelieve it, but to discount it. Memories are, after all, faulty.

    Re-reading the post, DP writes that I have to carry the CPAP machine onto the plane, and 9 times out of 10 the machine is pulled for “extra screening.”

    It seems to me that, if, in DP’s experience 9 times out of 10, the machine is pulled for extra screening, DP should have been prepared for the likelihood that it would have been pulled for extra screening this time, and have arrived at the airport early enough to allow for the extra screening. Considering that he apparently did not, it is his fault that he missed his flight, not the TSA official’s.

    I’ve carried things through security check that I knew were likely to need extra screening, and I tell them up front “extra screening.” And I’ve been handled very efficiently and never missed a flight. If DP flies as often as he suggests, he should know the protocol. And, so, I don’t really have much sympathy for him.

    Comment by raj — September 24, 2006 @ 7:38 am - September 24, 2006

  17. Who is DP?

    Regards,
    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — September 25, 2006 @ 2:09 pm - September 25, 2006

  18. I also have sleep apnea, and will be traveling the first time with my CPAP machine. I’ve been assured that I should have no problem, but I’ve had my doubts. GP’s story confirms my doubts. I’ve also been given different opinions as to whether I should carry it on, or wrap it in towels in my suitcase.

    As for TSA agents, luckily I only had one bad incident, and it was at National Airport. The agent was nasty and foul to both my partner and me. If he held any other position, I would have verbally ripped him a new a&*%&*^ right there. But I wanted to get on my flight and not get blacklisted. It still angers me that this guy got away with this without having his face bashed in (yes, I was that angry about it).

    On the topic of sleep apnea, I recommend that anyone who snores regularly to get it checked. If unchecked, it can lead to serious health issues, such as heart disease, let alone the damage that interrupted sleep causes.

    Comment by Pat — September 25, 2006 @ 5:32 pm - September 25, 2006

  19. Pat, I feel for you, hon. We all have those days.

    Regards,
    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — September 25, 2006 @ 11:35 pm - September 25, 2006

  20. Screening is not profiling.

    “I pay your salary”? And you still want good service.

    Sorry, but all machines are examined at airports…even if you are a white guy. Sucks, huh?

    Comment by jimmy — September 26, 2006 @ 1:18 am - September 26, 2006

  21. Sorry, but all machines are examined at airports…even if you are a white guy. Sucks, huh?

    True. When I used to carry a laptop computer with me, it was screened separately every time. Now, I just carry the requisite disks–in my hand luggage.

    I suspect, but cannot prove, that GP was unnecessarily antagonistic towards the (likely underpaid) TSA inspector because he had arrived at the airport a bit too late for a comfortable inspection to enable him to catch his flight, and the inspector reacted to his antagonisms accordingly.

    Comment by raj — September 26, 2006 @ 11:00 am - September 26, 2006

  22. Looks like Eva Braun finally did a spell-check.

    Regards,
    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — September 26, 2006 @ 1:24 pm - September 26, 2006

  23. #22 Peter Hughes — September 26, 2006 @ 1:24 pm – September 26, 2006

    Better watch yourself, boi. The next time I catch you with a misspelling, I’ll nail you on it.

    Comment by raj — September 28, 2006 @ 6:05 am - September 28, 2006

  24. #23 Eva Braun

    There is no such word in the English language as “boi.” So don’t even think you can criticize other people’s spelling while misspelling words yourself.

    Comment by Attmay — September 28, 2006 @ 9:25 am - September 28, 2006

  25. #24 Attmay — September 28, 2006 @ 9:25 am – September 28, 2006

    There is no such word in the English language as “boi.”

    This is a joke, right?

    Why don’t you tell that to Boi from Troy, GP’s political soulmate?

    Comment by raj — September 28, 2006 @ 5:20 pm - September 28, 2006

  26. Some people are so full of themselves. No wonder they have to hide behind so many aliases before they get kicked off of blogs.

    (Spell check provided by Microsoft, Inc.)

    Regards,
    Peter H.

    Comment by Peter Hughes — September 29, 2006 @ 10:45 am - September 29, 2006

  27. As a libertarian (lower case intended) I’m bothered to see this.

    To those of you who would try to put it back upon this man, make it somehow his fault that he was intentionally stalled by a snail-slow employee, spoken to rudely and treated badly by that PUBLIC SERVANT, I can only wish you the same experience, so you’ll know not to be “sunty” (french phoetic, you figure it out) to other citizens in the future.

    There are exponentially more people than terrorists. Moreover, to put it bluntly, all this TSA BS is just a dog & pony show to make the public FEEL more secure. A terrorist would have NO problem getting on the plane ,or using any number of common items as a weapon (including his own hands & feet, etc.)

    ALL of our shoes are taken on and off millions of times a day because ONE nutcase had something in his shoes. Shall we start requiring rectal exams too? Hard plastic edged weapons could be cased and held up there to get past the scans and metal detectors. How much extra time should we allow for that spot-check?

    We are not being terrorized. We are terrorizing ourselves… and I am amongst those unwilling to allow this moronic fear-based thinking to continue to shackle us in our own home. While we must suffer it, the very least they can do is to stop pushing their weight around unnecessarily. It is abundantly clear from my own experiences at the airport that the first thing they’re told is that they work for Homeland Security , so they’re above such petty pleasantries as civility and the concept of public servant decorum. If you don’t believe, try challenging a small shred of their authority, no matter how justly. You’ll find yourself being put through a slew of stupid human tricks. The worst of it is that this is NOT to ensure safety of passengers, but to push their weight around. How am I so sure? Because it’s counter-productive. The terrorist is not going to draw attention onto himself by objecting to ANYTHING that TSA does. He’s going to be quiet and demur, discrete and in obtrusive as possible. Their reactions, then, are simply a power-trip on an innocent American citizen who is about to have his life messed with, perhaps miss his flight, for the sake of their egos.

    I’ve seen TSA employees in other places before. Some of them used to be asking “Would you like fries with that.” Some worked for the post office, which is where they developed that “devil may care” saunter, while wallowing about through thick air on the way to the package 8 feet away.

    I applaud you for speaking out on this, while casting a disparaging gaze upon those who would make it your fault.

    Finally, for the record, we DO pay their salaries, both as taxpaying citizens, and as airline customers. We’re paying about $10 per flight to be harassed like that. Think about it.

    I’d put the CPAP in checked baggage, but then again, I’m just now getting around to looking for one, so I have no idea how much better I’ll feel when I get a full night’s sleep.

    JT

    Comment by JT — March 8, 2007 @ 12:44 pm - March 8, 2007

  28. I say, fill all the seats in airplanes with pig blood, and hang little hoses that mist pigs blood in every jetway at every airport that everyone has to walk through to get onto a plane.

    Comment by Vince P — March 8, 2007 @ 1:10 pm - March 8, 2007

  29. Hey, get real! NOBODY should be treated like a sub human for any reason. I’m real sorry if you’re not making a ton of dough looking at peoples suitcases, but that is not my problem, it’s yours. Don’t put your crap on me, I’ve got enough of my own! Like everywhere else, there are good and bad tsa agents, and just like everywhere else, the bad, rude, sadistic, obnoxious ones should be disciplined. If I ever treated anyone the way some of these agents treat people, I would be out of a job so quickly…
    As far as the letter not being succinct, that doesn’t make it any less valid. I’m real sorry if the TSA manager has to spend 5 minutes reading it, but that is his job.

    Comment by herb fellows — April 29, 2007 @ 11:59 pm - April 29, 2007

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