Is TSA Security Patdown Sexual Molestation?

New TSA search is far more physical than previous airport security checks.

ByABC News
November 15, 2010, 3:28 PM

Nov. 15, 2010— -- Just as Americans prepare to head home for Thanksgiving, the government is coming under fire for a new airport security patdown procedure that includes the touching of passengers' inner thighs and women's breasts.

From pilots' unions to viral online protests, Americans are telling the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that the government has gone too far in the name of security, equating the new searches to "sexual molestation" or "sexual assault."

Over the weekend, a 31-year-old software programmer was thrown out of San Diego International Airport after he got into an argument with a TSA screener about the new, more-aggressive patdown.

"If you touch my junk, I'm going to have you arrested," John Tyner told the male screener. Tyner recorded audio of the whole 30-minute incident with the TSA on his cell phone's video camera, a video now with hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube.

"It was probably not the most artful way of expressing my point but I was trying to keep it lighthearted; I did not want a big situation. I said it with a half smile on my face," Tyner told ABC News.

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A supervisor comes over, explains the groin check and tells Tyner, according to the cell-phone recording: "If you're not comfortable with that, we can escort you back out and you don't have to fly today."

Tyner responded "OK, I don't understand how a sexual assault can be made a condition of my flying."

"This is not considered a sexual assault," replied the female supervisor.

"It would be if you were not the government," Tyner said. He then adds: "I'd like only my wife and maybe my doctor to touch me there."

So will he fly again soon?

"I'm not planning on it. You know, I've had some people suggest that I'm probably on a no-fly list now," Tyner said. "But until these machines go away, I wasn't really planning on flying anywhere again anyway."

And it's not just passengers who are upset with the searches. Pilots are speaking out about the searches, with one going so far as to say he felt sexually molested, and vomited in his own driveway while contemplating going back to work, and being subjected to another patdown.

The uproar has been so strong that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and TSA Administrator John Pistole Monday defended the new practices saying such moves are necessary to protect the flying public.