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TSA officer faces dismissal over 'get your freak on, girl' note in luggage

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN
October 28, 2011 -- Updated 1930 GMT (0330 HKT)
Passenger Jill Filipovic found this note in her luggage last weekend.
Passenger Jill Filipovic found this note in her luggage last weekend.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Baggage screener found vibrator in bag, left note saying "Get Your Freak On, Girl"
  • Passenger tweeted about note to open "a bigger conversation about privacy rights"
  • TSA says it has "zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior," initiates removal process
  • Woman says she does not want employee to get fired, laments "media circus"

(CNN) -- An airplane baggage screener faces dismissal for leaving a note in a passenger's bag that said "Get Your Freak On, Girl" after discovering a vibrator.

The Transportation Security Administration "has initiated action to remove the individual from federal service," an agency spokesperson said. "Like all federal employees, this individual is entitled to due process and protected by the Privacy Act. During the removal action process, the employee will not perform any screening duties."

The agency randomly selects checked baggage for screening on flights originating in the United States. Lawyer and writer Jill Filipovic tweeted a picture of the note Monday and later blogged about it on Feministe.

"This is what TSA will do when they inspect a bag you checked and find a, um, 'personal item,' " she wrote. "Total violation of privacy, wildly inappropriate and clearly not OK, but I also just died laughing in my hotel room."

The TSA identified and removed the employee from screening operations, the TSA said Wednesday on its blog. After completing an investigation, action was initiated to remove the individual from federal service.

"TSA views the handwritten note to be highly inappropriate and unprofessional and apologizes for this unfortunate incident," the spokesperson said. "TSA has zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior by our employees as occurred in this instance. When this is brought to our attention TSA takes swift and appropriate action."

An agency official reached out to Filipovic to apologize personally, the agency said. At this point, though, she said she wishes the story would go away.

"It's easy to scapegoat one individual here, but the problem with the note is that it's representative of the bigger privacy intrusions that the U.S. government, through the TSA and other sources, levels every day," she wrote Wednesday after learning of the employee's suspension.

"As much as this is a funny and titillating story, when I put the note on Twitter for what I thought was a relatively limited audience, I was hoping it would open up a bigger conversation about privacy rights (or lack thereof) in post-9/11 America. It unfortunately hasn't done that, and instead has turned into a media circus," she said.

"The note was inappropriate, the agent in question acted unprofessionally when s/he put in my bag, there should be consequences and I'm glad the TSA takes these things seriously. But I get no satisfaction in hearing that someone may be in danger of losing their job over this. I would much prefer a look at why 'security' has been used to justify so many intrusions on our civil liberties, rather than fire a person who made a mistake."

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