Kernan exemplified the best of America as he handled an encounter with TSA personnel and airport police with courtesy and politeness. His act of civil disobedience came after he and other deplaning passengers were deposited into the airport’s “sterile” area and told they must be screened again (even though they had been screened at the departure airport and had not left the plane until then) through either a body scanner or metal detector, and the new "enhanced" pat-down, which includes touching private areas. He objected to the procedures.
Kernan, who works for a finance company in Cincinnati, related that he was able to take a stand because he wasn’t making a connecting flight and had time to pay attention and be courteous — an attitude which he noted is sorely needed in America today. The civility went a long way for him.
Kernan pointed out that he isn’t someone who normally protests every constitutional infraction that comes along — but the TSA violations really bothered him. He added that he had thought through the possibilities of what might happen if he declined the new screening procedures, and had an idea of what he was in for. When he found himself in the situation, he quickly assessed which way it would go, and already had a plan in mind. But he determined that the one thing he wanted to avoid was an argumentative incident, which certainly would have resulted in a different outcome.
The November 23 Cincinnati Inquirer quotes Kernan:
It was civil disobedience, and a big component of it was that I had the luxury to do what others have not been able to. I wanted to set a precedent ... and to prove the point that these new security procedures are not necessary and are invasive.
The Inquirer reported that Kernan said when he told the TSA agents he didn’t like the screening choices, they told him they had two options:
The choices they had were to either arrest me or let me go home. It wasn't like I had a plane to catch. I basically told them if they touched me I would consider it an assault.
After Kernan refused the screening procedures, the TSA agents kept restating the agency’s policy; however, in an interview with Jon Grayson on CBS Radio Overnight America, Kernan emphasized that the agents never said the screening policy was “ law.” He said he even offered to go through the metal detector, but ended up not having to.
After his lengthy ordeal, Kernan was eventually escorted from the airport with a growing entourage of TSA agents and two police officers — eventually 13 total.
The Cincinnati Enquirer continued:
TSA officials acknowledged the incident occurred and that Kernan was escorted through a "non-secure" part of the airport. The official airport police incident report also verifies Kernan's account, airport spokeswoman Barb Schempf said. The airport was still working to comply with an open records request for the report late Tuesday.
“In this instance, TSA in consultation with local law enforcement, made the determination to deny access to the secure area and have law enforcement escort the individual to the public side of the airport," TSA spokesman Jim Fotenos wrote in an e-mail. He declined to elaborate further when asked if this would be allowed again in the future.
Kernan’s website (No Blasters!) posted the audio of his conversations as well as the transcript from his iPhone recording. In his encounters first with TSA agents, and later with airport police, it becomes clear that neither group of officers was quite sure what to do with this dissenting passenger, and that because he had stated his constitutional rights in a courteous and non-threatening way, the stand he had taken was effective.
The account has captured worldwide attention, and almost all responses to his website have been positive. None of the articles, however, has answered whether such an incident would have occurred if Kernan had been boarding a plane instead of leaving one. Kernan sums up the encounter with these thoughts: "It has been incredible, although it's been frustrating as well. I don't think I'm heroic. Since when has simply asserting your own rights been heroic?"
Photo: Aerial view of Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport