Why Did I Have To Go To Pravda To Get My Op-Ed About TSA Rape Published?
I don't understand it. I went to countless mainstream news outlets in America and every one of them refused to publish this -- my op-ed on our eroding civil liberties and what we need to do to stand up for them.
Media outlets that refused to publish this piece include the LA Times, The New York Times, Reuters, CNN.com, The Huffington Post, AOL, The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo.com, MSNBC.com, and The Washington Post.
Apparently, only the Russian media cares about discussing civil liberties in America. The Russian newspaper Pravda published the piece about an hour after I sent it to them. (My next try was going to be North Korea, but the furor there following Kim Jun Il's death made that seem like kind of a bad idea.)
The entire piece is published here, on Pravda's website. An excerpt:
STANDING UP FOR OUR ERODING CIVIL LIBERTIES
by syndicated columnist Amy Alkon
This country's Founding Fathers were a bunch of obnoxious jerks -- and I mean that in the most reverent way. These were men who were fiercely opposed to blind obedience to authority, and who laid their lives on the line to flip it the bird. Oh, how disappointingly -- and dangerously -- far we've fallen. Our Constitutional rights are increasingly being eroded -- at TSA checkpoints, at police stops where citizens are arrested for videotaping, and elsewhere -- and so many Americans are just sitting there blinking like livestock.
At the airport this past March, I wasn't one of those people, and that sometimes comes with a price. In my case, $500,000. That's what a TSA agent's lawyer is demanding from me for "defaming" her client by saying she sexually violated me during the pat-down, and then for "libeling" her when I blogged about it. Marc J. Randazza, the First Amendment lawyer defending me, called her case "meritless," but this woman's notion that I should fund her existence for the rest of her life because I stood up for my Constitutional rights is beyond disgusting.
On March 31, 2011, I was flying out of LAX to attend a psychology conference in New York. When I reached the TSA checkpoint in the United terminal, I found that I had no choice but to get the pat-down. Tears welled up in my eyes -- for how we've allowed the Constitution to be ripped up at the airport door and because I was powerless to stop a total stranger from running her hands over the most private parts of my body as a condition of normal, ordinary business travel.
I can hold back the tears...hang tough...but as I was made to "assume the position" on a rubber mat like a common criminal, I thought fast. I decided that these TSA "officers" earning a living violating our Fourth Amendment rights, and searching us without probable cause, do not deserve my quiet compliance. I let the tears come. In fact, I sobbed my guts out as the agent groped me. And then it happened: She stuck the side of her latex-gloved hand into my vulva. Four times. Twice from the front and twice from the back, with the only barrier being the fabric of my pants. I was shocked -- utterly unprepared for how she got the side of her hand up there.. It was government-administered sexual assault -- an action that, in the workplace, would be considered sexual harassment, and elsewhere would be considered a serious crime.
Powerless to stop her, but not to vigorously protest what she did to me, as I left the checkpoint, I yelled, "YOU RAPED ME." I later blogged about it, naming her name, and urging others to post the names of TSA agents who search them (even when done according to TSA procedure), explaining, "It's got to become very uncomfortable to be one of those who earns a living by 'just following orders.'"
Some believe I'm wrong to suggest such things -- particularly those who believe the TSA is keeping us safer. Unfortunately, it is not. Security expert Bruce Schneier calls the TSA's efforts "security theater," noting all the dangerous items they miss, and observing that during the agency's multi-billion-dollar history, they have yet to thwart a single attempted terrorist attack.
If the TSA's actual mission were its stated one -- protecting the Nation's transportation's systems... -- checkpoints wouldn't be staffed by low-wage, unskilled workers, they wouldn't be searching everyone, and they certainly wouldn't be waiting until terrorists get to the airport to try to root them out. Meaningful measures to thwart terrorist acts require highly trained law enforcement officers using targeted intelligence to identify suspects long before they launch their plot.
The TSA's main accomplishment seems to be obedience training for the American public -- priming us to be docile (and even polite) when ordered to give up our civil liberties. Not only does the TSA violate our Fourth Amendment rights, they've posted signs that effectively eradicate our First Amendment right to speak out about it. One such sign, in Denver International Airport, offers the vague warning that "verbal abuse" of agents will "not be tolerated." Travelers are left to wonder whether it's "verbal abuse" to inform the TSA agent with his latex-gloved hands on their testicles that this isn't making us safer, or are they only in trouble if they pepper their statement with obscenities? Not surprisingly, few seem willing to speak out and risk arrest... (CONT'D)
Please click on "CONT'D" to read the rest of the piece -- including my call to American women to do as I did at TSA checkpoints, and not be quietly compliant in the face of our Fourth Amendment rights being violated.
The initial story, with the TSA agent's lawyer's demand for $500,000 and a muzzling of me, is here, from Mike Masnick at TechDirt: "TSA Agent Threatens Woman With Defamation, Demands $500k For Calling Intrusive Search 'Rape'"
Masnick at TechDirt also posted the response from my wonderful First Amendment lawyer, Marc J. Randazza, who took my case pro bono. I have not heard since from Vicky Roberts, the lawyer for the TSA agent, Thedala Magee. Ken White at Popehat writes more about Roberts and the whole story here. Martin Berg's LA Weekly story about this is here:
Just because she offers advice on manners in the modern world, don't expect blogger/columnist Amy Alkon to stand by quietly if she thinks a government employee is violating her rights at the airport.
"I'm just a normal girl from the Midwest who doesn't believe that she gets to have these rights and then doesn't have to stand up for them when they're violated," Alkon says.
My original blog item on this, "Don't Give The TSA An Easy Time Of Violating Your Rights," is here.
Please link and share this piece widely so Americans will see it and consider standing up for their civil liberties instead of docilely giving them up. And when your civil liberties are yanked from you, please, at the very least, don't go quietly.
UPDATE: For any who question my use of the term "rape," the narrow definition of rape needed to change -- and it did. From the Times-Picayune editorial about "the extremely narrow definition of rape, one that left out many victims and provided a woefully incomplete statistical picture of the crime":
The old definition of rape -- as the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will -- overlooked other forms of rape and the fact that men, too, can be victims. It also failed to take into account victims who are raped while drugged or intoxicated.
The definition is also narrower than what is used by most police departments across the country. The discrepancy means that thousands of sexual assaults committed each year have not been reflected in the federal government's Uniform Crime Report.
The resulting under reporting can lead to fewer resources being committed to catching rapists and helping victims.
The FBI will begin defining rape next spring as "penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.'' That's a much more inclusive -- and accurate -- definition.