1 of 2
Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Jason Chaffetz

Rep. Jason Chaffetz was pulled out of a normal security line and told to enter what he calls a "strip search" machine at Salt Lake International Airport, according to Transportation Security Administration reports obtained by the Deseret News through a Freedom of Information Act request.

A union representing TSA workers earlier had claimed that Chaffetz himself chose to stand in line for that machine and spark a now infamous conflict with security officials over the machines that he has been trying to ban.

While the just-released reports back up most of what Chaffetz has said about the Sept. 21 incident, they do say TSA officials did not know who Chaffetz was when they asked him to go through the machine, even though he later claimed it was payback for fighting the machine and opposing TSA unionization.

The reports also say Chaffetz became combative and used profanity-laced tirades — including telling them their process "was full of (s-word)" — after identifying himself as a congressman, raising questions if a non-congressman using such language would have passed through security. But Chaffetz says the profanity is exaggerated in the reports.

The incident began, one officer wrote, when he noticed no one was in a line for the whole-body imaging machine, so he chose the next person waiting to go through an adjacent, regular security line to enter that imaging machine instead. It happened to be Chaffetz.

"He said, 'No, I don't want to go through here,' " the officer wrote. "I said we could give him a pat down instead of the ITM (whole-body imaging machine). He said, 'No, I want to go through here and again pointed at the walk through."

The officer added, "I then stated, 'Sir, at this point your options are the ITM or we could give him a full pat down instead of the ITM.' He then went through the walk-through" and was led to another area for a pat-down search.

The officer wrote, "At that time, I didn't know who he was nor would (it have) mattered. He was a passenger."

Another officer wrote about watching Chaffetz receive the pat-down search. "During the entire process he was asking why we had singled him out. We informed him he was randomly selected to go through the ITM. We also informed him that by refusing to go through the ITM that he was subjected to a full pat down.

"He then informed me at how ridiculous and 'full of (s-word)' our screening process was. We informed the gentleman that the screening was completed and told him to have a good day." Of note, Chaffetz denies saying such profanity at that point.

Another officer who performed the screening wrote, "That through the screening the gentleman ask(ed) why was I singled out. We said he opted out of the ITM screening. Then he asked again, 'Why was I single(d) out. We told him again the same thing. And again for a third time, he said, 'I don't know why I was single(d) out.' I didn't reply to him this time. (I) Finish(ed) the screening and walked away."

Chaffetz then asked to talk to a supervisor. The supervisor who responded wrote his version of what happened next.

"I asked him what I could do for him. He then stated to me, 'Do you know who I am? I replied, 'No.' He then said, 'I'm Congressman Chaffetz and I'm the one trying to get rid of that (s-word). He then pointed toward the ITM (whole-body imaging machine)."

Chaffetz, however, told the Deseret News, "I remember that conversation a bit differently."

He said, "I asked who the supervisor was. He said, 'Why do you want to know.' And I said, 'I want to talk to the supervisor.' He said, 'Well, I'm the supervisor.' And I said, 'Well, what's your name?' He said, 'Well, why do you want to know?'

"At that point, I said, 'I'm Jason Chaffetz. I'm a member of Congress. I've been working on the whole-body imaging machine,' " Chaffetz said. "He interrupted, and said, 'Oh, we know exactly who you are.' I said, 'That's a bunch of BS.' It spilled out."

Chaffetz said he said figured the supervisor's comment showed that Chaffetz had been targeted to go through the machine because of his work in Congress.

Chaffetz asked to talk to a top supervisor. After waiting many minutes, he went back to the supervisor with whom he had previously talked to give them his card and ask that he be contacted.

The supervisor wrote that Chaffetz walked up "and said, 'Will you give them this card?' I told the passenger, 'They know who you are.' He then said, 'You're not going to take my card?' I took it and set it on the podium. He started to walk off and I chuckled.

"He turned around again and asked, 'Is this funny to you? I told him, 'No, it's just the way you're acting.' " Another officer wrote in a separate report that the supervisor said, "he was not laughing at him, but at the congressman's attitude."

The supervisor then wrote that Chaffetz asked for his name and badge number, and then the supervisor held out his badge toward Chaffetz so he could write down information. He said Chaffetz then wanted his ID number, and the supervisor said he was confused which number Chaffetz wanted beyond what was on his badge.

"He grabbed my badge from my hand. I grabbed it back and told him not to do that or touch me. He then said, 'You're a TSA supervisor and don't know your ID (number)' and started to get argumentative. I then told him I wasn't going to argue with him. He then stated, 'I look forward to following up with this with you.' I then told him I looked forward to it."

A second officer also said in a separate report that Chaffetz grabbed the badge and was combative. But Chaffetz says he never touched the badge and that allegations he did "are absolutely not true."

TSA surveillance video released earlier does not show whether he did or didn't because that action is cut off at the top of the screen. Still, Chaffetz said, "I think the tape backs up the fact that it was a very benign situation."

TSA surveillance video of the incident is available at www.tsa.gov/research/reading/index.shtm (near the bottom of that TSA Web page). Like the documents, it was also released last month through a Freedom of Information Act request first filed by the Deseret News.

Chaffetz said he hopes controversy about the incident is now over. "It's time to move on and kill the (Democratic) health-care bill," he said.

Still, he adds, "My frustration was the fact that people are not informed that going through the whole-body imaging machine is a choice. Nor is there, in my opinion, the proper signage to let people know what that machine does, what it sees, and that it is a choice. It's still problematic. And it still hasn't been changed."

He has passed legislation through the House, but not the Senate, that would ban using the machines for primary screening. It would still allow using them for secondary searches instead of pat-downs if passengers choose them. The TSA has opposed that and has proposed expanding use of the machines.

Chaffetz contends that people essentially appear naked through the imaging, and that it is an unnecessary invasion of privacy.

e-mail: lee@desnews.com