Aaron B. Tobey, Airport Security Strip Protester, Sues TSA Over Arrest (UPDATE)

by Libby Zay 
Posted Aug 11th 2011 09:30 AM



Associated Press

UPDATE 8/11/11: A judge said Wednesday that he would rule in two weeks in the case of a college student who stripped naked at an airport security checkpoint last December.

Aaron Tobey, 21, of Charlottesville, Va., was passing through Virginia's Richmond International Airport on December 30, when he opted-out of going through the full body scanner. He was, instead, seeking an enhanced pat down, and, when he went through security, took off his clothes to reveal the Fourth Amendment written on his chest in magic marker.

Tobey was handcuffed and briefly held on charges of disorderly conduct. A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed on his behalf, claiming Tobey's First and Fourth Amendment rights were violated.

Now, U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson will rule in two weeks on whether or not to dismiss the lawsuit, reports the Associated Press. He also set a tentative trial date for January 18.

Carlotta Wells, an attorney for the federal defendants, said all the TSA did was call for police assistance when Tobey refused the body scan and began stripping and placing his clothes on the X-ray conveyor belt.

"What he was doing was unusual, unexpected and out of the ordinary," she told the AP.

But, all Tobey did was obey the officers' commands, asserts Anand Agneshwar, Tobey's lawyer, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch. He adds that the TSA and airport police went beyond what was necessary to ensure that his client wasn't a threat.


Previously, 3/15/2011: A 21-year-old college student who was arrested for stripping down at airport security is suing the Transportation Security Administration for $250,000.

Aaron Tobey, a student at the University of Cincinnati, was passing through Richmond International Airport in Virginia last December when he opted out of going through the controversial "naked body scanner" advanced imaging machines and requested an enhanced pat-down. As he went through airport security, Tobey took off his pants and shirt to reveal an abbreviated version of the Fourth Amendment scrawled across his chest in magic marker.

He went there knowing he would not do the advanced imaging and do that pat-down instead," Tobey's attorney, James Knicely, tells Wired.com. "He was making it easy for them and in the process he wanted to communicate his objection for doing so."

The federal civil rights lawsuit that was filed on Tobey's behalf by the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties group, claims Tobey's First Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights were breached when the student was handcuffed and held for roughly 90 minutes after being detained on charges of disorderly conduct.

"Tobey was unduly seized by government agents in violation of the Fourth Amendment, despite the fact that he did nothing to disrupt airport routine," says John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute in a statement.

According to the suit, authorities interrogated Tobey "about his affiliation with, or knowledge of, any terrorist organizations, if he had been asked to do what he did by any third party, and what his intentions and goals were."

Tobey was on the way to Wisconsin for his grandmother's funeral when he made the magic marker protest. Despite the detainment, he made his flight.

On January 10, it was reported that the disorderly conduct charges against Tobey were dropped.

Tobey did not respond to an e-mailed request by AOL News for an interview.

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Jeff Rockyflatsgear

Sadly, Mr. Tobey was punished with loss of liberty ( fifth amendment) for exercising his first amendment and while actively preserving this forth. Let’s hope judge Hudson honors his oath of office and gives Mr. Tobey a chance to put the evidence to the jury (seventh) and be compensated. The pat-down is a search similarly the scanner is a warrant less electronic search. Our paper constitution does not stop radiation. Scanners have a non-zero radiation risk we have a basic right to protect our body, DNA and our future generations from the ravages of radiation. Learn how to protect body and dignity:

August 14 2011 at 5:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

One of the weirdest things I ever heared.


August 12 2011 at 2:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

im ashamed to say i think we take our freedoms much too literally!!!

August 11 2011 at 11:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jacob Aplaca

Dude thinks he's so cool. I think he just looks like an idiot. Until airport regulations are somehow merges into the constitution, people should cool it.
What do you have to hide?

August 11 2011 at 10:57 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Tim Waller

Thank you Mr. Tobey for speaking out and this remind me of this quote:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

August 11 2011 at 10:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Ms. Wells needs to go back to law school. Mr. Tobey could not have violated any laws, since these procedures are TSA regulations, not laws.

Mr Tobey has every right to exercise his 1st Amendment rights and did nothing wrong since a male being shirtless in public is not a violation of any statute, Of course, TSA disregards the 4th Amendment so no reason to expect them to honor the others.

The TSA paid trolls who post on these stories will undoubtedly say he was wrong but the flying public knows better. He asserted his right to protest and should be commended. TSA and the police on the other hand should be punished for their abuse of power and arbitrary actions.

The American traveler is being punished for the failure of the FBI and CIA to share information and stop the 9/11 attacks. It is both stunning and sickening that so many people are willing to allow a government agency to sexually assault their children a just so they can fly somewhere. Under Pistole’s policies, TSA screeners have been turned into de facto child molesters and sexual assailants. They have admitted that the pat downs involve direct contact with passenger's penises, testicles, breasts and vaginas which constitutes sexual assault. This week Denver TSA Area Pat Ahlstrom said of the scans "They were graphic, no doubt about it," sa. "Now, they don't have to be concerned that a private image will be viewed by a TSA officer.

The agency has repeatedly lied about their procedures and the level of the personal invasion and arrogantly dismissed victim complaints as either exaggerations or necessary to assure aircraft security. TSA has now become a criminal agency headed by unethical and arrogant bureaucrats only interested in furthering their own fortunes. According to Pistole we should be thankful that they will feel up fewer children than they do now. This of course implies that child molesters who only assault a few victims are somehow more acceptable than those whose attacks are more frequent.

If TSA actually provided security instead of theater people might be inclined to support them. As is stands TSA is the most hated agency in government and the majority of travelers want them to be reformed or abolished due to the agency’s incompetence. Even Rep. John Mica who headed the TSA formation has described TSA as “completely out of control” and called for their closure.

Since December 2010 there have been 42 screeners arrested for crimes ranging from rape and child pornography to drug trafficking and theft from bags. In the same period, there have been 40 security breaches or failures, dozens of lawsuits and thousands of groping and abuse complaints. .There is clearly a problem when an agency this size has this level of job-related criminal activity and abuse.

Hopefully, those responsible for this criminal malfeasance, particularly Pistole, will be prosecuted by the next Administration.

August 11 2011 at 9:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The TSA is the biggest WASTE of an agency there is. Period.


August 11 2011 at 9:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The loss of individual freedom will come not from on high but from the masses as a culture of fear overtakes all sense of what freedom truly is.

How much more monitoring will be to much? Your internet activity is now tracked by your provider. Your children are watched by gov't video cameras while they play in the park. Your likes, dislikes and every photo posted online is given to the public domain. Now to get onto a plane (the safest form of travel ever) you must strip entirely naked (via computer or being physically felt up).

When do you say no? Where does public end and private begin? You've never been more safe in the entire span of human history and yet you give more and more away.

In a culture of fear it's dangerous to be an individual - remember that America because you're giving it away.

August 11 2011 at 7:03 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

Why are there so many idiots in this world? I would like to be a juror in this trial. It is obvious from his actions this is nothing but an attention getting ruse. $250,000? Yeah right, how about $2.50 for the cheap peep show?

August 11 2011 at 11:48 AM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rockhound34x's comment
Gneiss guy

You mean you've made up your mind before hearing the FACTS. Yes, tell us why there are so many iidiots in this world. We'd like to know!

August 11 2011 at 9:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I was with him for an interesting protest until the story said he was going to his grandmother's funeral. That is not an appropriate time to make a spectacle.

May 06 2011 at 2:57 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to clberger's comment

Maybe his Grandmother was a protester, and this was an homage to her spirit.

August 12 2011 at 8:29 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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