As the United States goes back to normal, following our remembrance of September 11, 2001, one of the most offensive bits of “normal” continues at airports. We, the citizens of the United States, allow the Transportation Security Administration to shame, humiliate, and violate us every single day. (See a photo of the kind of thing I’m talking about here.)
Today I focus on one Thedala Magee, a TSA employee who violated Amy Alkon in an airport. What Thedala Magee did, as described by Alkon, is nothing short of sexual assault. But it was sanctioned and allowed by our government in the name of “safety” at airports.
You may have already heard the story about Thedala Magee’s lawyer, Vicki Roberts, sending a threatening letter to Amy Alkon, demanding $500,000 for publicly saying that Magee raped her.
Before we go further, it seems necessary to define what constitutes rape. I’ve heard too many people say that the extrome groping and fondling done by Magee was not rape. Yes, it was, according to Alkon’s description. This is how Alkon describes the procedure:
Nearing the end of this violation, I sobbed even louder as the woman, FOUR TIMES, stuck the side of her gloved hand INTO my vagina, through my pants. Between my labia. She really got up there. Four times. Back right and left, and front right and left. In my vagina. Between my labia. I was shocked — utterly unprepared for how she got the side of her hand up there. It was government-sanctioned sexual assault.
If you’re not familiar with what rape is, go read here. Read the whole page. Essentially, rape is sexual penetration or touching without consent.
Was it reasonable for Amy Alkon to have to endure this type of procedure, simply because she wanted to fly on an airplane?
I’ve heard plenty of people say that the “enhanced security procedures” are making us safer, and those who don’t like them shouldn’t fly. Is it any wonder that almost every single person I’ve heard make such a comment, almost never flies? Because I fly regularly, I get to see over and over (and regularly get selected to participate) my fellow Americans being groped, fondled, and otherwise violated by these “agents.” And it makes me mad.
You see, we are giving up our liberties. We have rights under the Constitution, and one of them is the right to not be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure. That means that government officials can’t just search our homes, cars, and person any time they’d like. Which is exactly what goes on at the airports.
Oh…. search of your home, car, or person is different if it’s outside an airport, right? I could CHOOSE to not use an airport. So that makes it different? Well you could also CHOOSE to not drive your car or not live in a home, and then I suppose government agents wouldn’t ever be in danger of conducting unreasonable search and seizure? But it is NOT the same. And wanting or needing to travel in order to make a living (yes, many people are required to travel for work) shouldn’t mean that we have to be sexually assaulted by government employees.
And indeed, our laws do give us the RIGHT to fly and to drive on roads:
(a) Sovereignty and Public Right of Transit. – (1) The United States Government has exclusive sovereignty of airspace of the United States.
(2) A citizen of the United States has a public right of transit through the navigable airspace.
Chicago Motor Coach v. Chicago, supra; See: Ligare v. Chicago, 28 N.E. 934; See: Boone v. Clark, 214 S. W. 607:
The use of the roadways for the purpose of travel and transportation is NOT a mere PRIVILEGE, but a “COMMON AND FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT” of which the public and individuals cannot rightfully be deprived.
Obviously the freedom to travel is not much of a freedom if our requires us to submit to invasive and random procedures (which don’t really enhance security) prior to being allowed to travel. That’s not to say that some common-sense security procedures shouldn’t be used. But the procedures need to balanced against the threat and the likelihood that they actually increase security.
And flying on a commercial carrier doesn’t mean that we give up our rights, simply because we “choose” to do so. The contract with the carrier has the following language in it, per our government’s requirements. The airline may refuse to carry a passenger:
“who refuses to permit search of his/her person or property for explosives or a concealed, deadly, or dangerous weapon or article.”
I don’t see anywhere in that sentence where the search needs to include the penetration of the vagina and groping of any other private part. Those who are willing to give up their liberties at any cost (or mainly, just because our government says they should) probably interpret this to mean that this makes it okay for the government and airlines to create any policy or procedure to search for weapons. I disagree.
And lest you should think that these incidents in airports are few and far between, take a look at this story about a woman whose shirt was pulled down, exposing her breasts to everyone at the security checkpoint. If that was you, would you care that it happens “infrequently”??? I think not.
Heck, the ACLU even has a web page where they excerpt the more than 1,000 complaints they’ve gotten about TSA procedures. Would you want this to be you?
The TSA agent used her hands to feel under and between my breasts. She then rammed her hand up into my crotch until it jammed into my pubic bone…. I was touched in the pubic region in between my labia…. She then moved her hand across my pubic region and down the inner part of my upper thigh to the floor. She repeated this procedure on the other side. I was shocked and broke into tears.
How about this?
The TSA agent squeezes my thighs and runs his hand up until they touched my testicles on both of my legs. This was done in full view of everyone in line. This was very uncomfortable, humiliating and seemed very unnecessary. If given the choice, I will do everything in my power to drive rather than take any commercial flights if this is the new standard of TSA screening…. I do not feel safer. I feel violated…
Maybe you prefer this?
The pat down was so invasive that the woman doing it stuck her thumb through my jeans into my vagina, significantly more than simple resistance. She cupped each of my breasts, and ran her hand inside the waistband of my jeans…. I am upset, humilated, degraded and feel abused and criminal, when I am guilty of nothing.
I was the only female in a crowd of men. Even though I was not next in line, I was called over to the body scanner. As I got closer to the scanner, I could clearly hear him say “got a cute one, some DD’s.” … I was appalled and decided at that point to “opt out” of the scanner…. I was then put through the pat down procedure which I only can only describe as sexual assault.
Thankfully, there are people like Amy Alkon who are willing to speak out in the name of LIBERTY. Amy Alkon boldly wrote about her experience on her Advice Goddess Blog. And in response, the TSA hired a lawyer to threaten Amy. “Attorney” Vicki Roberts threatened Alkon with legal action, demanding a retraction and the payment of $500,000 to Thedala Magee:
This office has been retained by Thedala Magee, the TSA officer against whom you ranted on March 31, 2011 and again on May 11, 2011 at Los Angeles International Airport and whom you subsequently defamed on your blog, advicegoddess.com. At all times my client followed proper procedure in connection with your screening at LAX. Notwithstanding that proper procedure, you falsely accused my client of rape, which is actionable. Your statements orally and in writing constitute slander and libel (defamation), and trade disparagement. They also constitue tortuous infliction of emotional distress.
In your blog of April 26, 2011 you admit to having yelled at my client, “You raped me” on March 31, 2011 for all within earshot and you have continued to compound your torts against my client by repeating this along with a detailed description of what you claim my client did to you, including the statement that my client inserted her fingers into your vagina.
These outbursts in public and writings on the internet have subject my client to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, and have injured her in her reputation and her occupation. Furthermore, as a result of your actions, my client has suffered and continues to suffer damages including but not limited to severe emotional distress, fear, difficulties performing her duties, and other problems as a proximate result of your tortuous actions.
Demand is hereby made for you to forthwith cease and desist and to remove the offensive false statements against my client, to retract your false statements, and to issue a written apology to my client. Rape is a very serious charge. Not only does your statement insult the true victims of sexual assault and not only does it undermine the experience of victimization of sexual assault survivors, but falsely accusing someone of a crime is actionable and constitutes slander per se. California Civil Code Section 46; Kelly v. General Telephone Co. (1982) 136 Cal. App. 3D 278.
We are amenable to resolving this matter without the need for litigation. In that regard, in addition to removing the offending statements and refraining from continued statements of the same or similar nature against my client, and a written apology, demand is herewith made for settlement purposes only and inadmissible under Evidence Code section 1152 in the sum of $500,000. This offer shall expire seven days from the date hereof.
And isn’t it interesting that Vicki Roberts Esq. never denies that Thedala Magee did exactly what Alkon says she did? Roberts only claims that it was “proper procedure.”
Remember that behavior like that of Thedala Magee is often justified and/or downplayed. Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice said it well:
Will the government come to Thedala Magee’s aid, to compensate for her lawyer’s horribly bad judgment in turning her client into an object of perpetual ridicule on the internet? The TSA’s routine response to allegations of improper sexual touching is that the agents are just doing their job, following procedure. Which raises the question, is it the TSA’s procedure to have agents insert a hand in a woman’s vagina during a routine enhanced pat down?
I can’t imagine anyone at the TSA will take the position that its agents should insert their hands, or fingers, or penises, or tongues, into the vaginas, anuses, breasts or mouths of airline travelers. I can imagine that there will be vague excuses to explain that these things don’t actually happen, and that their agents merely come near those parts of bodies over which Registries are made. The concern that TSA agents not be in fear of touching too closely, or sickly, presents a problem for both the TSA and those touched.
But when a person, regardless of whether they wear a uniform or think the government will cover their naughty conduct, violates the body of a person, there are no vague words that make it acceptable. Not even a TSA agent is entitled to be a sexual predator under cover of the government. This might all have been forgotten had Vicki Roberts, the Hollywood ingenue, not had too much time and too little prescience on her hands. Her ill-advised demand has opened the door to a vast array of scrutiny.
Amy Alkon did the right thing by hiring attorney Marc Randazza, a take-no-shit kind of First Amendment lawyer, to represent her. (I actually live to read Marc’s letters on behalf of his clients.)
My client entered Terminal Six at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and exercised her right to opt out of the TSA’s body scan. Your client, in apparent retaliation for my client’s refusal to blindly submit to the TSA’s authority, jammed her fingers in
between my client’s labia — not once, not twice, but four times. My client characterized Ms. Magee’s actions as “rape.” As a result, your client seems to believe that she is entitled to $500,000.
Ms. Magee may plead “I was just doing my job,” but that defense is both unpersuasive and insulting. When it comes to the erosion of liberty, one is part of the solution or part of the problem. Ms. Magee is not just part of the problem. She is, rather, a necessary component of it. As Dennis Prager wrote, “More harm was done in the 20th century by faceless bureaucrats than tyrant dictators.” Furthermore, no matter what one’s job, every person has the freedom and the obligation to act with conscience. Ms. Magee decided to do the opposite, and actually abused her position. If the cost is mere criticism, Ms. Magee should consider herself to be fortunate.
We are confident that when this country regains its sanity, people like Ms. Magee will be seen for what they are – traitors to our Constitution and the American way of life.
Read page two of the letter for a wonder description of how we’re not safer with these procedures, we just have fewer liberties.
The letter continues:
After Ms. Alkon refused to allow her Fourth Amendment rights to be yanked away without protest, she refused to remain silent when Ms. Magee sexually assaulted her, jamming the side of her hand between Ms. Alkon’s labia four times. And why should Ms. Alkon remain silent? Because your client felt that Ms. Alkon should learn a lesson about respecting authority? If so, she is wrong. And if your client thinks that she should now win the lottery to the tune of $500,000 because she wants to punish a patriotic American for exercising her First Amendment rights, she should think again.
We all know full well that Ms. Magee suffered no legal harm from Ms. Alkon’s statements; rather, Ms. Magee is lashing out at Ms. Alkon because Ms. Alkon’s statements come too close to the truth. Factually, Ms. Magee’s actions were rape. “Sexual violence includes rape, defined as physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration – even if slight – of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.”2
Figuratively, the TSA has been raping this country for years – raping it of its Fourth Amendment protections, raping it of its personal dignity – and now your client is trying to rape Ms. Alkon of her First Amendment rights. If your client feels any discomfort as a result of Ms. Alkon’s statements, she should quit her job and find respectable work. If she elects to be a TSA agent, earning a living by violating Americans’ constitutional rights daily, nobody is under any obligation to show her respect. In fact, we believe that it is every American’s patriotic duty to treat TSA agents with the utmost disrespect. The agency’s reign is no more legitimate than a foreign occupation, and even treating TSA agents with common courtesy enables their abuses to continue.
First of all, Ms. Magee did rape my client. Your client aggressively pushed her fingers into my client’s vulva. I am certain that she did not expect to find a bomb there. She did this to humiliate my client, to punish her for exercising her rights, and to send a message to others who might do the same. It was absolutely a sexual assault, perpetrated in order to exercise power over the victim. We agree with Ms. Alkon’s characterization of this crime as “rape,” and so would any reasonable juror.
No free woman should endure what your client did to Ms. Alkon. Fortunately, Ms. Alkon is capable of recognizing injustice, and for the good of us all, she had the courage to speak out on this matter of public concern of the highest order. After Magee’s assault on Ms. Alkon’s vagina and dignity, Ms. Alkon exercised her First Amendment right to recount this incident to others in person and through her blog. This was not only her right — it was her responsibility.
Your client also seems to have been persuaded that Ms. Alkon’s statements constitute “intentional infliction of emotional distress” (“IIED”). Any emotional harm suffered by Magee is a self-inflicted wound, and likely a broader consequence of working for the TSA. A TSA agent threatening to sue a citizen for IIED is one of the most ironic events I can imagine. Perhaps if you are looking for similarly situated clients, you could find surviving members of the Montgomery, Alabama police department to sue civil rights marchers for the stress that they forced them to endure when they got all uppity and made the police attack them with fire hoses. I am certain that Zacharias Moussaoui feels a bit hurt about how people talk about him. Finally, I bet you could sue Trey Parker and Matthew Stone, the creators of South Park, on behalf of Sadaam Hussein’s estate.
That leaves us, then, with the issue of whether it was extreme and outrageous for the word “rape” to come out of Ms. Alkon’s mouth after your client forced her hand into Ms. Alkon’s vagina – not once, nor even twice, but four times. Any reaction to this treatment cannot credibly be regarded as too extreme or outrageous. We believe that Ms. Alkon was within her rights to act violently in self-defense. Instead, she defended herself with mere words. Her reaction to Ms. Magee’s crime is so tame on the scale of legally and morally justified responses that Ms. Magee should be thankful that words of protest are all she received. We must all “tolerate insulting, and even outrageous, speech in order to provide adequate ‘breathing space’ to the freedoms protected by the First Amendment.” Snyder v. Phelps, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S. Ct. 1207, 1219 (2011), citing Boos v. Barry, 485 U.S. 312, 322 (1988). There is no competing requirement that we tolerate being sexually
abused as retaliation for believing in the Fourth Amendment.
If the Fourth Amendment is to survive the lingering hysteria fostered by those who use fear as a political weapon, then we need people like Ms. Alkon to speak out. The once-raging fire of American liberty is virtually extinguished — in no small part because of the complicity of thousands of footsoldiers of tyranny like Ms. Magee and the millions of Americans who think that these intrusions should be suffered in silence. If it were not for brave people like Ms. Alkon, tending delicate candles of liberty, the light of freedom would already have died out.
Ms. Magee is the latest in a long and disturbing lineage of TSA agents who have gone too far in sexually assaulting and abusing citizens and punishing them for daring to assert their rights. But, humiliating and sexually violating Ms. Alkon were not enough for Ms. Magee. Your client now trains her sights on the First Amendment. This threat of frivolous litigation is so disgusting, so unsupportable, and so frivolous that we cannot help but mock it. While every client deserves representation, sometimes counsel’s job is to inform their client that they have no claim. That should have been your role in this matter.
Ms. Magee will not dim the light from Ms. Alkon’s candle of liberty. Our greatest hope is that its light will shine upon you, and you will do your ethical duty of advising Ms. Magee that her case is meritless. Should you fail to do so, or if she should fail to heed that advice, we are prepared to vigorously defend Ms. Alkon’s First Amendment rights.
What’s the solution to the problem of TSA violating our liberties? We need to speak out. We need to not just take this kind of stuff. We need to hold onto our liberties by loudly shaming those who would take them from us.
We need to change the law, so that TSA starts using common sense procedures that balance the need for safety, true results in keeping us safer, and allowing us to keep our personal liberties.