Texas Bill Would Make Invasive Pat-Downs a Felony
FORT WORTH, Texas — A former Miss USA’s claims of being groped during a pat-down at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport could be a felony under a bill gaining momentum in the Texas Legislature.
The bill would make it illegal for a security officer to intentionally touch someone’s private areas — even atop clothing — unless they have probable cause to believe the person is carrying something illegal.
Bill sponsor State Rep. David Simpson says the searches are removing people’s dignity.
Last fall the Transportation Security Administration started a new pat-down procedure.
Susie Castillo, crowned Miss USA in 2003, said she was “molested” during a pat-down last April.
TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball says the agency doesn’t comment on pending legislation. He says current security measures are the best ways to mitigate the risk of terrorism.
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An astounding Department of Justice threat to cancel airline flights to and from Texas, in addition to underhanded lobbying by TSA representatives, has killed efforts in the state to pass HB 1937, a bill that would have made invasive pat downs by TSA agents a felony.
HB 1937, a bill that would have made it “A criminal act for security personnel to touch a person’s private areas without probable cause as a condition of travel or as a condition of entry into a public place,” was headed for an imminent Senate vote in Texas having already passed the House unanimously 138-0, before the federal government stepped in to nix the legislation.
In a letter sent to Texas lawmakers, including to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Speaker Joe Straus, the House Clerk, and the Senate Secretary, U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy threatened to cripple the airline industry in the state if legislators did not back down.
“If HR [sic] 1937 were enacted, the federal government would likely seek an emergency stay of the statute,” Murphy wrote. “Unless or until such a stay were granted, TSA would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers and crew.”
“We urge that you consider the ramifications of this bill before casting your vote,” Murphy added.