TSA: Carcinogenic Petting Zoo

By Katie Kieffer


Image credit: “366 • 62 • Flying home” by Pragmagraphr on Flickr via Creative Commons.

The TSA is effectively an unconstitutional, carcinogenic petting zoo. Deep down, we all feel that the airport security system is an FDA-approved rubdown and radiation parlor. But we are busy, rushing to catch flights, and we tell ourselves it is for our “safety.” So, like sheep, we comply.


The TSA security process is in violation of the law of the land, specifically the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Let’s be honest, when I “opt” for a pat-down over a blast of cancer-inducing radiation, it is not a choice—it is a preference for the lesser of two fixed evils. A pat-down is a clear violation of my “person;” there is no probable cause warranting random government agents to feel me up for weapons.

The pat-down system also violates my right to be secure in my “papers and effects.” Every time I get a pat-down, my personal property is subject to theft. The TSA pat-down process does nothing to prevent an unconscionable person (going through the scanner) from taking advantage of the fact that I’m helplessly standing behind waiting for a pat-down—unable to monitor my luggage.

Because, here is what normally happens: I inform the TSA agent, “I’m opting out.” The agent then calls for a “female assist” and asks me to step aside. I wait (occasionally up to 10 minutes) for a pat-down. Meanwhile my luggage—including my purse, iPhone, MacBook Pro and other valuables—travel the conveyer belt and idle on the other side of the X-ray machine where anyone could easily walk off with them.


On a recent flight out of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, a female TSA agent (who was openly annoyed at the prospect of doing her job and giving me a pat-down while oddly assuming that I yearned for her to touch me) said: “Well, if you ask for one, we have to give you one. So, are you just doing this for the free massage we give you?” I wanted to respond: “No way, pervert.” But, since I wanted to make my flight, I replied: “No. I just don’t want the radiation.”

3,778 service calls were made between May of 2010 and May of 2011 to address mechanical issues in backscatter X-ray machines, according to a TSA report.

The New York Times writes: “The machines move a focused beam of high-intensity radiation very quickly across the body, and David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center, says he worries about mechanical malfunctions that could cause the beam to stop in one place for even a few seconds, resulting in greater radiation exposure.” The Times reports further: “A recent study reported that radiation from the machines can reach organs through the skin. In another report, researchers estimated that 1 billion X-ray backscatter scans per year could lead to perhaps 100 radiation-induced cancers in the future.”

Many independent researchers concur that the safety and radiation levels are still unknown because the TSA has actively kept its research in the dark and has redacted public reports.

The next time you fly, opt for the pat-down as a form of healthy protest. For now, it’s better than getting cancer from supposedly “fail-safe” body scanners. And if enough Americans congest airport traffic by choosing pat-downs, perhaps the TSA will eliminate its unconstitutional rubdown and radiation parlor.

Petting Zoo

Pat-downs do not keep us safe. They merely serve to treat Americans like animals. I may have long hair but I’m not a fuzzy tarantula or a furry bunny rabbit. I wear earrings in my ears, not bombs. Yet every time I get a pat-down, it starts with a TSA agent tugging down on my hair with clingy plastic gloves.

Last September, a Dallas woman named Isis Brantley (wearing a large afro hairstyle) cleared the checkpoint at Atlanta’s international airport as she had for the previous 20 years. Brantley had made it to the escalator when two TSA officers changed their minds and decided she was a terror suspect—perhaps imagining she used her hair to disguise a diminutive flamethrower.  The agents chased her down the escalator shouting: “Stop—the lady with the hair, you!” They began parting through her hair on-the-spot without offering her a private screening area.

The TSA treats humans far worse than animals. For, petting zoo owners do not grope their cows, de-shoe their ponies and pluck their chickens before letting them into the barn. We are rational beings, not sheeple, and our bodies are our private property. It is time we speak up against the unconstitutional, carcinogenic petting zoo known as the TSA.

To bring Katie to speak at your college campus or professional event, please complete this form to inquire about booking a speech.

Book Katie to speak Join e-List Purchase a book


  1. Witzend says:

    The TSA has been the bane of my existence for years. My wife and I now take the train whenever we can, if we have the time. The sad thing is, I love flying! But the whole airport experience is such a bummer, as are the teeny tiny seats (and lack of personal space) on the planes that all that joy is gone.
    But that's what liberals are best at: taking the joy out of living. Sigh.

  2. Marie Frances says:

    How about the
    airlines handling their own security?

    It would go a lot faster and would have to be more efficient.

  3. Kris says:

    Amazing. How did we let things get so bad? Well, there's always hope as long as we speak up!

  4. Lodzia says:

    Hey Katie, I am not sure how this could all come to a stop. However, I have basically avoided flying just because of it. It is a pain. However, I think that until the airlines insist on stopping this nonsense it will
    continue until the they go bankrupt. It has to be such a delay for those who must travel all the time. Yet, what good is the TSA? What terrorist have they stopped? I guess it has stopped folks who don't want the agents to check their junk.

Choose your avatar

Please choose an avatar by clicking above. If an avatar is not selected, the bottom-right default icon will be chosen.

Custom avatar

* Use Arrow Keys to Navigate Comment Box *
** Your email address will not be published **

Thanks for visiting! Please know that your comments are your sole opinion and they are not endorsed by Katie or even if they are posted. Please remember you are a visitor on this site and your commenting and posting privileges may be revoked if you fail to comply with the Terms of Use.