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"Michigan lawmaker wants to criminalize 'intrusive' searches by airport screeners"

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Lawmaker wants to criminalize 'intrusive' searches by airport screeners
By Charles Crumm
The Mount Clemens (MI) Daily Tribune

An Oakland County lawmaker is taking aim at the Transportation Security
Administration and how its agents perform airport passenger security checks.

State Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, wants to make it a misdemeanor
for any TSA employee to "conduct an intrusive, personal search on citizens
without reasonable cause."

The legislation introduced Thursday by McMillin was referred to the state
House Judiciary Committee.

McMillin referenced a recent incident at Detroit Metropolitan Airport "where
a 29-year-old special needs passenger was subject to an allegedly intrusive

"The federal government is not God," McMillin said Friday. "It doesn't get
to decide what it can do to our citizens. This is one law that needs to be
in place."

McMillin's bill says TSA screeners "shall not intentionally touch the
clothed or unclothed breast, genitalia, buttocks or anus of that other
individual except upon reasonable cause to believe that the individual may
be concealing an item that is prohibited on that public property or on that
mode of public transportation."

Under McMillin's bill, a first offense could draw a penalty of up to 93 days
in jail, a $500 fine, or both.

McMillin said he patterned the bill after similar legislation in Texas. In
Texas, the state House approved it but the state Senate rejected it after
the U.S. Attorney's Office wrote that such a law would conflict with federal
law and criminalize searches required under federal regulations, and that
TSA would likely be required to cancel flights if it couldn't ensure the
safety of passengers and crew.

The TSA was formed after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 to
"strengthen the security of the nation's transportation systems while
ensuring the freedom of movement for people and commerce," the TSA website

But the federal agency has been criticized for its pat-down searches, chosen
by travelers who are uncomfortable with TSA's use of advanced imaging
technology to screen passengers.

"My wife just traveled with our kids," McMillin said. "We had to make the
decision. We were nervous about them groping our children.

"I think there is an interest in the state in standing up for our citizens,"
he said. "As we keep hearing about the problems throughout the nation, it's
a good safeguard."

TSA screeners are most visible in commercial airports like Detroit
Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Romulus and Bishop Airport in Flint.

At general aviation airports like Oakland County International Airport in
Waterford Township, the TSA has no screeners, said J. David VanderVeen,
Oakland County's director of central services, which oversees the airport.

VanderVeen most recently was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to the Michigan
Aeronautics Commission.

"I'm not sure the state Legislature can preempt federal rules," VanderVeen
said of McMillin's legislation.

Most flights in and out of the local county airport are smaller private,
corporate or charter flights.

"We've had some contacts with TSA, but they're not stationed on the
airport," he said. "Our contact has been along the lines of security, the
cameras and fences, and meeting the current federal standards."

U.S. Customs and border patrol agents screen incoming international flights,
he said.

"General aviation has an advantage in that the pilot knows the manifest, he
knows everyone on the airplane," VanderVeen said.

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