Little can surprise me in terms of the TSA’s waste, incompetence and sheer indignity, but this story may mark a new low.

It’s about Evelyn Harris, a 65-year-old retiree who was flying out of Washington, D.C., this past January when she committed the terrible terrorism crime known as wearing a pantyliner.

Harris went through the body scanner and thought she was free to proceed to her flight. A TSA agent thought otherwise.

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“I started to ask if I had done something wrong or if this was ‘random,’ but before I could get a second word out, the TSA agent yelled at me,” Harris told The Washington Post in an interview. “She grabbed my throat hard, causing me to choke and cough. She yelled at me for coughing.”

“She then put her hands inside my bra and panties and groped my private parts with the front, not the back, of her gloved hand. Afterward, I worried that I may have been infected if she had groped someone else without changing gloves,” Harris added. “Her attitude was so threatening and hostile, that I was afraid to look at her face and name plate.”

After her ordeal, Harris filed a complaint. As the Post details, her concerns didn’t receive much sympathy from the TSA:

[T]he pat-down was legit, the investigator said. Intimate apparel has been a source of concern ever since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried to bring down a plane on Christmas Day 2009 by detonating a bomb hidden in his underwear.

The investigator told Harris, she said, that “his own wife carried a panty liner with her and put it on after security, as this is something that could trigger a search.” Indeed, turns out all sorts of feminine hygiene products could be grounds for a search, according to the TSA.

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It’s that last bit which really gets me: This is a government agency which says that basic hygiene products are all the excuse it needs to permit agents to stick their hands inside your underwear, in public, without a warrant or, it seems, much in the way of a warning. Ladies, just plan your hygiene needs around the TSA’s preferences if you don’t want to be molested.

Tales of TSA misconduct are a dime a dozen, but this is the first I recall seeing the agency affirm this level of groping is standard procedure. Anyway, here’s yet another reminder that the TSA still sucks and we’ve become way too complacent about it.

The TSA says it’s allowed to investigate inside your underwear and you should just accept it AP Photo/John Bazemore
Bonnie Kristian is a columnist at Rare, weekend editor at The Week, and a fellow at Defense Priorities. You can find more of her work at or follow her on Twitter @bonniekristian
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