Aaron Tobey's dramatic strip-protest is one of the latest in a series of stunts by American travelers fed up with airport security procedures some consider too invasive. A YouTube video of a California man's airport security pat-down, in which he warns the agent not to "touch my junk," went viral last year. John Tyner's infamous quote has been made into T-shirts and bumper stickers and even became the colloquial title of proposed legislation, the Transportation Security Administration "Don't Touch My Junk" bill.
The Constitution's Fourth Amendment outlaws "unreasonable searches and seizures." Tobey, a 21-year-old University of Cincinnati architecture student, had those very words scrawled across his chest and abdomen when he stripped down to his underwear at a Richmond, Va., airport back in December. He was heading to his grandfather's funeral at the time. Tobey was arrested and cited for disorderly conduct.
The misdemeanor charge has since been dropped, but Tobey is still suing. The defendants listed in his legal filing are Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the head of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, the Richmond airport authority and several security officers there. He's seeking $250,000 in damages and reimbursement for legal fees.
"This action seeks vindication of the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of Aaron Tobey, who ... was arrested without probable cause, falsely imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted," the legal complaint states. The civil lawsuit was filed on Tobey's behalf by the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group.
Neither federal officials nor Richmond airport authorities could immediately be reached for comment. Tobey also did not respond to an e-mailed request by AOL for an interview.
Both Tobey and "Don't touch my junk" Tyner exercised their right to opt for a thorough pat-down from TSA agents rather than walk through sophisticated X-ray machines and imaging scanners newly introduced at airport security checkpoints. Some cite health or privacy concerns about the machines.
Tobey claims he was handcuffed and held for 90 minutes after stripping off his clothing during the pat-down. He still made his flight.