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Texas Bill would make TSA pat-downs a Felony

The Texas Legislature is taking up consideration of a bill that would make it illegal for security officers to intentionally touch a person’s genitalia, even through layers of clothing. Violations of the new law, if implemented, would be felonies. The only exemption to the law would be if the security officer could prove he or she had probable cause to believe the person was carrying something of an illegal nature.

The bill is sponsored by State Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview who says the current body searches by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel remove people’s dignity from them. Simpson maintains that current searches by TSA personnel at airports nationwide constitute a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches.

The news of this bill’s introduction into the Texas legislature comes on the heels of the news that the former 2003 Miss USA, Susie Castillo, claims she was “molested” in April, 2009 during a pat-down by a TSA officer. To date there has been no official response to the announcement of the bill by the TSA or by any official within the Obama Administration. Nicholas Kimball, a spokesman for the TSA, said that the agency does not comment on pending legislation. “We wish we lived in a world where security procedures weren’t necessary, but that simply isn’t the case,” Kimball said. “We know that terrorists continue trying to manipulate societal norms to evade detection and the measures in place are the best tools currently available to mitigate risk. As we explore ways to improve our approach and become more risk-based and intelligence-driven, we welcome travelers’ feedback and appreciate their understanding.”

Simpson’s bill has now been approved in committee and is awaiting debate by the full House. In addition to Simpson, the bill has attracted 70 co-sponsors, who represent more than 90 percent of the votes required to pass the bill in the Texas House of Representatives. According to Simpson, if the bill becomes law, the only way a TSA agent could avoid prosecution would be if a traveler gives written consent to the pat-down after being fully informed of the extent of the procedure.

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