The Transportation Security Administration appears to have placed a frequent flyer on its terrorist watchlist after he filed suit Tuesday in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati challenging the Federal Transportation Mask Mandate.
Michael Faris, a helicopter maintenance supervisor, is trying to fly home today to Elizabethtown, Kentucky, from a work assignment near Ontario, California. When he tried to check in on the United Airlines mobile app, he received a message that his “reservation requires special handling. Please check in at an airport kiosk.”
When he used a United kiosk at Ontario airport, it displayed a message to “Please collect the printed document and see a United representative for further assistance.”
It took United agents a long time on the phone to check Faris in, during which a TSA officer responded to the counter. He was then escorted to the security checkpoint, where she showed his mask-exemption letter from his physician. TSA officer Steven Pointer and supervisor Ramona Baker reluctantly allowed Faris into the screening area without a face covering.
TSA then put him through a lengthy process known as “Secondary Security Screening Selectee,” noted on his boarding pass by the code “SSSS.” During the extended search, he was patted down for more than five minutes and every item was removed from his carry-on bag. TSA officers even swabbed inside his wallet.
Three TSA officers walked Faris to the gate, where United was holding the airplane bound for Denver for him. A United agent told him he had to put on a mask before stepping into the jetway, ignoring his medical exemption. While walking down the jetbridge, Faris, who suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, had a panic attack and fainted, collapsing to the floor. His elbow and knee were bruised.
The TSA officers responded and called 911, after which four airport police officers and four paramedics arrived. Meanwhile United closed the boarding door said Faris could not fly today because of his fainting episode. He had to rebook with another airline and is currently enduring a five-hour delay.
“It seems awfully suspicious that just two days ago I filed suit in the 6th Circuit against TSA, then all the sudden I was put on a terrorist watchlist,” Faris said while waiting for his new flight home to Louisville on via Dallas. “I’m in a little bit of pain from the fall, I’m mentally exhausted, and I feel betrayed and belittled – completely disrespected in the sense that TSA and the airlines are making me feel like I should not be a member of society because I suffer from a medical condition that precludes me from safely wearing a mask.”
When passing through TSA’s checkpoint today, one female officer belittled Faris by telling a colleague that he’s “a piece of work,” “give me a break,” and “not cool.” These remarks were captured on Faris’ phone at Minute 36 of an audio recording of today’s incidents.
Faris is part of a group of 12 disabled flyers and a former flight attendant from nine states and the District of Columbia who filed six lawsuits Tuesday around the country charging TSA with exceeding its legal authority by continuing to extend a requirement that all public-transportation passengers don face masks. Faris is the lead petitioner in the 6th Circuit case, which includes three others.
“TSA’s function is limited by law to address security threats. Congress has never given the agency power to regulate the public health and welfare,” the petitioners argue. “Wearing face masks has nothing whatsoever to do with transportation security.”
Faris has to fly every 12 days for work. He is medically exempt by a neurologist from wearing a mask, but airlines have consistently refused to grant him an exception because of the FTMM. Faris was injured on a United Airlines plane earlier this year when blocking his breathing caused him to faint during a flight. He smashed his face on a galley cart.
“As a person who has endured physical injury by the airlines due to these unconstitutional mandates, I am standing up for people like me,” Faris said. “We cannot allow TSA to continue down the path of discriminating against Americans with medical conditions who cannot wear a face covering.”
Fellow litigants denounced TSA’s actions blacklisting Faris for asserting his legal rights in court and fear they also have been deemed potential terrorists.
“Our own government is being weaponized against us now simply for exercising our rights of redress, a fundamental constitutional protection,” said Kleanthis Andreadakis of Henrico County, Virginia, lead petitioner in the 4th Circuit case against TSA’s mask mandate. “This is yet another example of how incompetent the Biden Administration is. It cannot control how any of its organizations behave. Let this be a warning to all Americans: This can happen to anyone. Stop being silent and stand up against this nonsense.”
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