Texas bill could outlaw "unreasonable" TSA pat-downs




Posted on May 13, 2011 at 6:08 PM

Travel stories are not what they used to be, and few get more personal than the ones with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). In Texas, they are hitting close to home.

State Representative David Simpson (R) Longview said that protecting his 16-year-old daughter is just one of the reasons he introduced House Bill 1937.

“We’re saying it’s unreasonable to touch someone’s private parts as a condition to travel without probable cause,” Rep. Simpson said.

The controversial new measure is headed to the Senate after passing in the House.  If the bill becomes law, it would be a Class A misdemeanor in Texas if a security officer intentionally touched a person’s private parts—even on top of clothing.

The language of the proposed law is clear. It includes “anus, a sexual organ, buttocks, or breast.”  It moves into Fourth Amendment territory by also including touching that is “in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person.”

Because the TSA’s security measures are not the result of law, but of a TSA policy, Rep. Simpson believes the state law will override TSA policy.

“We don’t know of any federal statute that requires them to touch in our private parts,” Rep. Simpson said.  “We put that as a defense in the bill.”

Passengers, in the meantime, are divided on whether the bill is a good idea.

“They shouldn’t criminalize them for doing their job,” said passenger Kathy Ramstetter.

“I think there should be a boundary on what they can do and how they frisk people,” said passenger Sarina Thompson.

It comes at a time when the TSA is under scrutiny.  This week a photograph surfaced of federal officials frisking a baby.  The TSA spokesperson insisted its workers were just doing their jobs.

Click here to read the full text of the bill.

Do you think TSA employees should be criminalized for touching a person's private parts? Join the discussion on our Facebook page, The KVUE Insider.

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