ABC hypes non-news about TSA pat-downs

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

Here's the ABC headline [emphasis added]

Airport Pat-Downs: TSA Says it Can Fine You for Backing Out: Government Can Fine People $11,000 for Refusing Airport Scans or Pat-Downs; Will it?

And the nut graph:

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says it can fine individuals up to $11,000 for walking away from the airport security process. But will it? People in government say the fine is mostly a deterrent so that terrorists cannot back out of a security check once it starts.

So based on ABC's reporting and presentation, news consumers would assume this is another wrinkle in the unfolding TSA story, right? Suddenly the TSA is threatening to fine flyers?!

Wrong. In truth, the TSA has had the legal power since August of 2009 to fine passengers who attempt to back out of the screening process after it begins. Has the TSA ever levied a five-figure fine? According to the ABC report, the agency has not.

So why does ABC present this as news? I don't know, although it does play into the TSA media frenzy that's been in full swing all week. It's also unclear why ABC keeps claiming the TSA "says" it can fine people, as if the agency recently made some bold claim to that effect. Again, the fines, or the possibility of fines, have been in place for 16 months. This is not news.

But ABC pretends it is.

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