Women Jailed for Yelling at TSA

Should a woman have been arrested for yelling and swearing at a government employee?

While I have no respect for the organization or those who work in it, I am not one who would ever cuss out a Transportation Security Agency (TSA) clerk and cannot condone such action. I try to treat others the way I want to be treated and fail to recognize any constructive reason to curse out a poor addlebrained soul who is is "privileged" to work for second most hated government agency in America (behind the Internal Revenue Service).

Andrea Fornella Abbott, A 41-year mother on her way to Baltimore from Nashville wanted no part of the TSA security theatre and made her wishes known...loudly and clearly. TSA wanted to run her young daughter through a full body scanner and after the mother refused, making a reasonable argument that the TSA had no business seeing naked pictures of her daughter, became belligerent when the TSA told her they would have to pat down her daughter.

Yelling that her little girl shouldn't have her "crotch grabbed," Abbott made quite a scene, loudly cussing out TSA employees before being arrested by Nashville police and booked on disorderly conduct charges. She even pulled out her mobile phone to film the incident, but was quickly forced ot put it away by the TSA. Abbott is now out on bail, but should she have been arrested in the first place?

Simple answer: no.

While the first amendment does not affirm an unlimited right of free speech, the spirit of the amendment protects the right of citizens to express their grievances against the government. While Abbott should have been more tactful, I do not see how her actions could be construed as disorderly conduct. There has been no indication thus far that she touched any of the officers or that she inhibited others from passing through the security checkpoint.

To me, the TSA in this case seems like George Wallace releasing dogs on a non-violent protester. Surely, a woman has a right to express concern over her Hobson's choice of enduring TSA abuse and degradation or not traveling.

And once again we see the TSA doing their best to prohibit passengers from filming TSA checkpoints. The TSA ought to be ashamed of itself for this latest embarrassing story.


jacob July 14, 2011 at 11:25 pm

"I have no respect for the organization or those who work in it"

wow... when people make statements like that about the front line employees, it really cheapens your underlying argument and makes it hard to have a rational discussion

and for the other side,


Jacob, you need to explain why my statement about respect "cheapens" my underlying point. While you are at it, justify the use of full body scanners or "enahnced" pat downs as a primary screening mechanism from a Fourth Amendment perspective.

Respect is earned and an organization that engages in the underhanded tactics the TSA engages in deserves no repsect. The front line employees are an equal disgrace, working for an organization that treats every traveler as guilty until proven innocent. Like the many good Nazi clerks, the excuse that they are just doing their job does not hold water.

Last, Fish's argument is weak. I read his post last week and his line of reasoning is essentially because kids have been used in the past, they should be groped or strip searched. Sorry, I just don't buy it. Why do so many Americans live in fear and why are many so quick to sacrafice liberty for the illusion of security?

TJ July 15, 2011 at 05:40 am

watch out, or they put you on the no-fly list! :)

Shuji July 15, 2011 at 12:11 pm

A brief story related to the TSA: I had the pleasure of meeting Colin Powell a few years ago and he told me a story about how he was the person that actually created the TSA while serving as Secretary of State. After his time as Sec State, he became a regular citizen and had to fly commercial for the first time. During security, obviously not recognized by anyone, he was taken aside and patted down by TSA agents. I'm paraphrasing here, but he basically said, "Of course this happens to me the very first time I fly. Karma for creating this thing."

mike July 15, 2011 at 04:15 pm

The TSA by not wanting their pics taken are acting alot like an aboriginal tribe who believes a camera will swipe them of their souls! lol :)

Absolutely wrong, Matt. You weren't there, and you don't know the details.
Equating the TSA to the Nazis is horrific, and completely wrong. Nothing grounds that statement. Nothing.
Respect is not earned Matt - it is given freely, and only taken away when necessary. Taking it away from minimum-wage earners who have no actual intent of causing you any harm is insane. Consider the German language (and many other languages) - do you wait for someone to earn your respect before you use the Sie form?

Nor were you there, Hunter.

And you can posit that equating the TSA to Nazis is horrific, but I am sure after eight months in Germany you've met more than a few senior citizens who worked for the Nazi war machine--I know I have. These are good people who may not have meant any harm personally, but the fact is they worked for a machine that was evil. And by treating Americans as guilty until proven innocent, the TSA is evil as well.

And respect is most certainly earned. When I was in the USAF I always respected the rank on someone's shoulder, but they had to earn my respect personally. Addressing someone as Sie instead of du is quite different than respecting the job someone chooses to do.

And where's Jacob? No response to my question?

jacob July 17, 2011 at 10:43 pm

i thought your question was rhetorical. its been a lot of travel for me recently, and i'm like 7 time zones off, so excuse me if i ramble...

"Why do so many Americans live in fear and why are many so quick to sacrafice liberty for the illusion of security?"

I don't live in fear, but you'd admit the point that we need security at airports. To me, body scanners aren't a sacrifice of liberty. I'd rather have that then Isreali style intergregations. as to "justifing the use of full body scanners or "enahnced" pat downs as a primary screening mechanism from a Fourth Amendment perspective," i'll let the court do that.

regarding the original statement i made, i think it cheapens the argument because it places blame on front line employees who had no say in the law or the requirements of their job. to me it comes off as petty, and distracts from the other legal points you make.

but thats just my opinion. i can see that you are passionate about this issue, so i'll just say, that i enjoy your blog, and look forward to reading more in the future!

Michael July 18, 2011 at 12:55 am

I don't see why repeatedly yelling and cursing in public wouldn't normally be considered disorderly conduct, even if she was in the right.

@Jacob: Thanks for your response--you know my viewpoint so I won't repeat it again, but I would think long hard and about why a virtual strip to travel internally in the United States search does not constitute a violation of your liberty and also why the front line employees should be given a free pass simply because they simply implement rather than author such detrimental public policy.

@Michael: As I stated, the woman's behavior sickens me, but I would label it political speech, which enjoys enhanced First Amendment protection.

Absolute garbage, Matt. People doing security checks that you and many others don't like is nothing like throwing a race into the oven. You're right - I wasn't there - but I also didn't offer an opinion on it. You have said that she shouldn't have been arrested when you have no concrete facts, nor the judgment of the officers involved. Your opinion on treating Americans - and others - as guilty until proven innocent - is simply misguided. Regardless of your respect claim, the issue was getting the job done, not the earning of your respect. Your hard-on for the TSA is wearing thin.

@Hunter: It seems to me you have offered an opinion on the issue...

Of course the systematic elimination of a race is much different than groping passengers, but my point was not to argue that one is worse than the other, but rather to point out that the foot soldiers in both instances cannot be simply excused for doing their jobs. Both the Third Reich and the DHS took a statute granting them authority and woefully twisted it to suit their needs with the complicit approval of a naive populace. In both cases, the top brass likely thought they were doing what was best for the country, but as was the case in Nazi Germany, time will demonstrate that the TSA's vision is flawed, counterproductive, corrupt, and unconstitutional.

I read multiple newspaper stories on the incident. By all accounts, she was verbally abusive but did not touch anyone nor cause anyone else harm, except for those that had to hear the filth spewing from her mouth. If she was muzzled just to shut her up, I have a problem with it because she was expressing political speech.

You're going to have clarify your guilty until proven innocent statement--innocent until proven guilty is a hallmark of the American experiment.

Getting the job done at the cost of the Constitution in not acceptable. I hope you realize I have a great deal of contempt for a mother who would use bad language in front of her daughter, but as societal mores decline I cannot see any justification in arresting her for protesting the strip search of her daughter.

Charles Darouche July 19, 2011 at 10:58 am

Matthew, are you serious or just being idiotic to create discussion. Seriously, comparing TSA employees to NAZIs and you actually stated that" you are not arguing one is worse than the other", really, you have a choice of flying, I don't beleive those poor souls in NAZI Germany had a choice..Burning people in ovens vs. being patted down at an airport...C'mon stop smoking your crack in your parents basement reading other blogs and think for yourself..what an idiot..

Charles, I would advise you to read up on your history before commenting here again. First, your inference based on my Nazi parallels above is incorrect. Read my last comment again--I wasn't saying that the TSA is on equal moral footing to the Nazis. Second, in many instances those "poor souls" in Nazi Germany most certainly had a choice when it became clear in the late 1930's what exactly the Nazi government was doing.

Your statement about crack smoking and reading other blogs rather than thinking critically is quite puzzling and perhaps a bit too introspective. No one is telling me what to think...

And the "you have a choice of flying" comment doesn't work here. Sorry, I can't walk to Germany.

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