Man fighting TSA fine for naked protest

A man who was arrested last year for stripping naked to protest the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is challenging a fine for removing his clothes at an airport checkpoint.

The TSA is trying to assess a $1,000 fine for the 2012 incident, which took place at Portland International Airport, according to media reports.

The agency is scheduled to hold a hearing to review the passenger's appeal next week.

The TSA on Friday would not comment on the specific hearing, but the agency defended its ability to levy civil penalties in a statement that was provided to The Hill.

ADVERTISEMENT
"All of TSA’s policies and procedures comport with the law and the Constitution," TSA said. "The civil penalty process is administrative in nature and it is distinct and separate from the criminal process."

The passenger, Portland, Ore., resident John Brennan, told a TV station that he was cleared by a local judge of indecent exposure charges for his 2012 protest.

Brennan said in an interview with Portland's KATU that he was selected for additional screening because TSA agents told him that he had traces of explosives on his shirt, which he denied. He removed his clothes in protest of the accusation, leading to his arrest. 

Brennan said this week that despite his clearance on criminal charges, the TSA told him he was receiving a civil fine for violating a section of their rules that states "no person may interfere with, assault, threaten, or intimidate screening personnel in the performance of their screening duties."

Brennan told the station that he did not do any of those things during his protest.

"I was very cooperative," he said. "I was aware that I wasn't breaking the law and was waiting for TSA to finish their screening when I was arrested."

The TSA is allowed to fine passengers who break their rules up to $11,000, according to its website. Passengers can appeal the penalties at an administrative hearing set up by the TSA.

Brennan told the TV station that he expected the TSA to uphold his fine. If that is the decision next week, Brennan said he plans to appeal the ruling in federal court.

"That'll open the door for review of the constitutionality of the level of search and inspection that the TSA is doing," he said. "That we'll have more effective procedures that aren't so invasive."