AFGE on 'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' - TSA Pat-downs



The co-creator of that site, which gives passengers tips on how to travel with dignity joins us later.

The opt-out day‘s organizer‘s goal was to encourage passengers to opt in to the TSA‘s time-consuming enhanced pat downs complete with groin inspection. That would jam checkpoints, force the TSA to reconsider its policy, and so on and so on.

The TSA‘s goal was to prevent the next underwear bomber from taking down a flight. Well, it appears that getting home to grandma is more pressing than protesting the TSA. Despite the calls for opt-out day, no serious disruptions were reported at the major airports on the busiest travel day of the year.


Joining me now: president of the American Federation of Government Employees, a union that protects TSA officers, John Gage; and the co-creator of wewontfly.com, James Babb.

Gentlemen, thank you for both joining us.

JAMES BABB, WEWONTFLY.COM: Thank you.

JOHN GAGE, PRESIDENT, TSA UNION: You‘re welcome.

HAYES: All right. James, how do you feel that national opt-out day go? Do you feel it was a success?

BABB: Absolutely. For three weeks, we‘ve been recommending to travelers to avoid the airports today. Avoid the radiation nude photography, and also to avoid the enhanced pat down, which most people would consider to be a sexual assault. So, we‘ve recommending that travelers opt out of both those things and find another way to travel.

From what I‘ve heard, the airports have been very quiet today. The AAA has announced that a record number of travelers are traveling by car. It‘s up to 94 percent, which is a significant increase over last year.

So, it seems to me that a lot of people have said, no, we will not be abused for the privilege of purchasing air travel.

HAYES: John, I wonder how you have from your perch as the president of the union kind of how you understand this backlash that‘s developed. Were you in a position in which the Department of Homeland Security came to you and your members knew these new policies would be coming out? Do you have a position as union president whether they‘re a good idea or not?

GAGE: Well, obviously, the transportation security officers knew the new policy was coming out. They had been trained on it. But, you know, anyone who, you know, intentionally wants to delay or disrupt air security, that‘s the craziest idea in the world. There‘s going to be technological advances, evolution of technology, metal scanners just don‘t make it any more. And I think most people will be very realistic about this thing, and they are going to be giving thanks that our—the flying public is secure.

And I do want to say this—that I think the flying public really owes a lot of thank you and appreciation to the transportation security officers. They put up with a lot of abuse this week. I think they handled it very professionally, very courteously, and the flying public simply ignored this opt out.

HAYES: James, do you think—one of the things that I read about what you guys were organizing was sort of was wondering if the actions that you were advocating was going to end up bringing the brunt to bear on the people implementing the policy as opposed to the people that crafted it, do you make a distinction in your mind between those two?


BABB: Well, first I‘d like to clarify that our goal was never to bring any type of chaos or delay to any traveler. This has been an educational campaign to let people know about the dangers and policies that have been in place.

We‘re talking about detailed scans that are so detailed they can supposedly tell if a man is circumcised or not, or if a woman is menstruating. And we‘re talking about pat downs where they are putting hands between legs, pressing against genitals, putting hands between buttocks, feeling around breasts.

The American public has definitely said that this is unacceptable. The new Zogby poll says 61 percent of travelers are against it and 48 percent are saying this is seriously affecting their travel plans.

So, I think this is something that we really need to understand that what we‘re talking about is not a minor infraction on privacy. We‘re talking about some very, very, serious issues. And I am sensitive that TSA employees maybe haven‘t received very much respect. I think they—every person deserves respect.

But I think that many TSA people are questioning the assignments that they‘ve been given. To their credit, they seem to have been on their best behavior today.

HAYES: John, you sound like you want to respond to that.

GAGE: Yes, Chris. You know, people have to realize that there are individuals out there who want to take our airplanes down.

Now, to say—you know, I hear this strong criticism, but very weak alternatives and very weak solutions. The people at TSA are dedicated public servants and are experts in the security field. And when they‘re putting up this new technology, I think you can believe them that it‘s necessary, and it works.

So, to say that these—this security is evasive—well, maybe it is. But it also is what we have to do if we‘re going to have air security. And I just don‘t think the flying public—and I fly a lot, I just don‘t think they care about this. I think they‘ll get used to the rules. Perhaps, it could have been communicated a little better to the flying public. But I think now it‘s been very—it‘s been communicated pretty strongly through all the press on this thing.

And, you know, it—go through security as today showed, people went through very smartly, very quickly. And it‘s only people who won‘t go through the new imaging unit—

HAYES: John, I‘m going to have to cut you off there, I‘m sorry.

We‘re out of time here.

John Gage, James Babb—thank you so much for your time tonight. I really appreciate it.

BABB: Thank you.

GAGE: Thank you.


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