A Veteran’s Perspective on the TSA after Return from D-Day Celebration in Normandy
Editors Note: We received this personal and compelling letter from Greg Fowl on the morning of Thursday, June 16. Mr. Fowl’s letter is accessible and earnest. Mr. Fowl’s wife delivered this letter personally to the office of several Texas State Senators on this same afternoon.
Canyon Lake, Texas
June 14, 2010
Subject: Encounter in Charlotte Airport with TSA
To whom it may concern:
Last week, I returned from Normandy, France to the US after a trip dedicated to remembering the sacrifices of those men who fought against tyranny and began to take back Europe from the death grip of the Nazis on D-Day, June 6, 1944. My eyes were wet on more than one occasion as I considered all that had taken place there in Normandy. I met several of the men who were part of the invasion force and I had the privilege of discussing their experiences with them.
I re-entered the US through Charlotte, NC where I met my connecting flight back to my home in Texas. I am writing to explain what happened upon my return to the US. However, first I would like to discuss my departure from France. At Charles de Galle airport, Paris, France, I was required to walk through a metal detector before boarding my US Airways flight from Paris to Charlotte. Here is what I was NOT required to do: 1) take off my shoes, 2) remove my belt, 3) be placed in a naked body scanning machine, or 4) be fondled by a member of the French government. On the contrary, I was treated with great respect by the French and I easily passed through security. This is expected because I don’t fit the profile of anyone who has ever committed a terrorist act against the French or anyone else via a commercial airliner.
Now, I would like to discuss what happened when I arrived back in the US. In Charlotte, I passed through immigration and customs where I was actually welcomed home by one of the agents. Anyone who has travelled international knows that you must claim your baggage before passing through US Customs. Since you have had access to your baggage, you are required to go through airport security screening just as if you had arrived at the airport via car, etc., even though you just arrived on another flight.
During my re-entry to the secure area of the terminal, I had to pass through a TSA checkpoint. I was asked to remove my shoes, remove my belt, and to proceed to enter a naked body scanner. I requested to be “patted-down” instead. Therefore, I was directed through the metal detector, which detected no problem, and then I was asked to wait for an agent to “pat me down”. The “pat down agent” was very nice to me and told me exactly what he was going to do. However, this did very little to comfort me nor to dissuade me from the feeling that my Fourth Amendment rights were about to be violated. Without probable cause, the TSA “pat down agent” proceeded to run his hands all over my body, including across my buttocks, in my armpits, up the inside of my legs until he came in contact with my testicles, and then he ran his hands completely around my waist INSIDE OF MY PANTS!
As a honorably discharged and former commissioned officer in the US Air Force, I never dreamed that I would live to see the day that America would become a police state where without probably cause, people like me would be subjected to such an egregious violation of privacy and body. While serving as a Captain in the Air Force, I had access to some of this nation’s most closely held secrets. Now, this same nation treats me like a criminal every time I want to fly from point A to point B. Who would have ever thought it would come to this? And, there are those who without any shame tell me that this is all done for my safety and security. Is this what my fathers died on the beaches of Normandy for? I don’t think so.
I know some will say that the TSA has to treat everyone the same and that they don’t know about my Air Force service, etc. While this explanation may placate some, it does nothing to satisfy me having been physically violated for the crime of wanting to fly to France and back to honor my father’s service during WWII in taking back Europe from the Nazis. If this made any sense, would someone please explain to me how I could be allowed to fly from France back to the US and over US airspace, including the cities of New York and Philadelphia, before landing in Charlotte, without first being subjected to removing my shoes, without first being forced through a naked body scanner, without first removing my belt, and without first having my physical body violated, etc.?
Logic says that if I was a threat, or meant harm to the US, I would have done something on that US Airways flight (a wide body jet) over the Atlantic, or passing over New York City, or Philadelphia. Why would I wait for my connecting flight from Charlotte to Austin, Texas? The French treated me well and with dignity and respect, while asking me to comply with a reasonable level of screening before boarding my flight home. As a US citizen, I had to wait until I had returned to the US to be physically violated. Mind you, I am 54 years old and this is the first time that a man has ever run his hand around the inside of my pants and run his hand up my pant leg into my groin area, pushing my testicles aside as he did so (I apologize for the graphic description and I hope it doesn’t offend anyone, but if it does, please think how much it offends the one who has this actually done to him or her).
We need to restore the liberty that my fathers fought for in Normandy some 67 years ago on D-Day. We need to restore the liberty that I served in the US Air Force to defend. We need to do it now and we need to do it before it is too late. Searching US citizens like I was “searched” is a violation of our rights under the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution and violates our dignity. Such searches without any probable cause must cease immediately.
Thank you for taking time to read this.
Gregory M. Fowl
Editors Note: Do not let this earnest appeal fade in your memory without action! Call the office of Governor Perry and urge him to bring SB29 and HB 41 before the special session (800) 252-9600, (512) 463-2000. Oppose the invasive procedures and dismissal of our Fourth Amendment rights by the TSA. Participate in the legislative process. Voice your opinion to your Representatives. Read of Texas’ current legislative position, and Take Action!