Interview With Meg McLain, Ejected From Airport After Questioning Body Scanners

Last week Meg McLain’s story lit up the internet. She says she was cuffed, her ticket was ripped up, and she was kicked out of the airport after she refused the body scanner and tried to ask questions about the pat-down. The TSA took it seriously enough to quickly post security footage of the incident on their blog. I reached Meg by phone to find out more about what happened, and, especially, why she refused the body scanner in the first place. Here is the interview, which has been condensed and edited.

The TSA calls your account inaccurate.
The first interview I did was less than 30 minutes after it happened. I was frazzled, I was frightened. People get upset and make mistakes and I totally admit there was a few people that came through secondary screening that I didn’t see at the time.

People have pointed out inconsistencies between the original radio interview and the TSA video. How do you respond?
The camera angles are in such a way that it doesn’t show a lot of what happened. I think more people are focusing on the specifics of the radio interview, and those videos – which are very misleading – without focusing on the main issue. You can tell in that video even if I made it all up it’s still overly heavy-handed how they reacted.

How are the videos misleading?
There is a section where I was pulled to a second chair that is not included in there. There are a lot more agents and officers just off camera. There’s one angle where it only shows one of the two chairs in the section. It cuts to me walking away, but where they show me walking to in the second video is not where I walked to after that first video. It happened further on.

It sounds like a very traumatic experience.
I am a Liberty activist. I’ve been arrested before. I’ve seen all my friends be arrested. It’s something that I’m used to, but it never gets easier.

I’m not familiar, what is a Liberty activist?
It’s basically a movement to get 20,000 liberty-minded people to move to New Hampshire and become activists for liberty. Everyone has a different level of belief about what liberty is, but for me, personally, I believe that government is essentially a monopoly on violence. There’s a better society based on consensual agreements between human beings.

Live free or die, right?
Definitely. That’s why we chose New Hampshire.

Why do you object to the body scanner?
It takes a naked image of your body. For the government to require you be photographed naked in order to travel is invasive and dehumanizing.

You’ve read up on the procedures, you’ve heard talk about this online, why then did you choose to ride an airplane? Did you expect a different kind of security procedure than what you encountered?
For many years that they’ve had more and more progressively invasive procedures I’ve dealt with it in my own way. I’m pretty soft-spoken when I do activism, so I will talk to them about it, but I’ve never been in a position where I’ve been forced to choose between naked photos or this very invasive procedure. I had no idea that that was what I was going to be dealing with. I’ve even traveled without ID.

You purposefully left your ID at home and tried to fly.
I’ve done that a couple of times. Once it got to the point where they required ID, I carried ID, but I definitely voiced my opposition. But when it got to the point where you have to get naked or molested, that’s just too far.

Was this a premeditated activist project?
It was my intention that if I was chosen for the body scanner to refuse the body scanner. I knew that you could opt out of it, and they would give you this secondary screening. I had questions about before it happened, but I never refused the actual pat down. I just had questions. No one would answer my questions. Eventually they decided that because I had questions that they couldn’t answer they would rather just assume that I was declining to go through security. It was never my intention to miss my flight or get kicked out of the airport.

So each time you go through security it’s kind of like a micro-activist project where you raise awareness on a one-to-one level by making TSA workers answer your questions.
At this point in my life it’s I don’t even do these things as activism. I believe that I am a free person, I am a sovereign person, and I respect myself, and I’m not going to allow people to touch me like that without questioning it.

What are you going to do next time you fly?
I’m hoping to have a discussion with the TSA manager. If they do require me to do the enhanced pat-down, I’m going to request that a friend of mine stand outside the security area and record it. I want them to know there are people watching them.

Anything you’d like to say in conclusion?
I just want to say that a lot of people are focusing on the specifics of this. I told the story as best I could, as best as I could recall, and I’d like people to more focus on the issue at hand. We don’t have to subject ourselves to this. People need to step up and say no. If enough people say no, there’s nothing they can do.

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