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Washington » Rep. Jason Chaffetz identified himself as a congressman and swore in an exchange with a Transportation Security Administration official at the Salt Lake International Airport after screeners tried to steer the Utah Republican through a body imaging machine he is trying to ban.
That's according to incident reports released Thursday to The Tribune by the TSA through an open records request.
The TSA handed over eight hand-written memos filed by its employees at the airport on Sept. 21 when Chaffetz complains he was singled out for extra screening.
Chaffetz, who had just voted against allowing the TSA's union to use collective bargaining, was pulled out of a standard metal-detector line to use a device that allows screeners to peer through clothing to detect weapons or explosives. Chaffetz is pushing legislation to bar use of those machines for primary screening, arguing they violate privacy of passengers.
And he wasn't about to go through one himself.
"Do you know who I am," Chaffetz told a supervisor he had called over when he was patted down for refusing to enter the body imaging maching, according to one report.
"No," the unnamed supervisor said he responded.
"I'm Congressman Chaffetz and I'm the one trying to get rid of that s---," Chaffetz responded, pointing to the body imaging machine, the supervisor wrote.
Chaffetz then asked for "the highest person" in charge at the screening area, the supervisor wrote, and while one was being summoned Chaffetz approached the supervisor and handed over his congressional business card, the supervisor wrote. The freshman congressman left but returned when the supervisor admittedly "chuckled."
"He turned around and asked, 'Is this funny to you,'" the supervisor wrote. "I told him, 'No. It's just the way you're acting.'"
Chaffetz reportedly asked for the supervisor's name and badge number and the supervisor says he was unsure what number Chaffetz was referring to.
"He then grabbed my badge from my hand," the supervisor wrote. "I grabbed it back and told him not to do that or touch me."
The TSA had previously released four clips of surveillance cameras in the area at the time, though no audio recording was made of the incident. The videos were mostly inconclusive as to what happened during Chaffetz screening, though the congressman claimed the videos vindicated him.
Chaffetz, who did not return a call for comment immediately, has previously said that the TSA officer told him he was well aware that he was a member of Congress, a point Chaffetz claimed meant that he was singled out to go through the body imaging machine.
Another hand-written report released by the TSA says that Chaffetz also swore at the officers who patted him down. The officer wrote in the report that Chaffetz repeatedly asked why he had been singled out and that, "He then informed me of how ridiculous and full of s--- our screening process was."
"We informed the gentleman that the screening process was complete and told him to have a good day," the officer continued.
Another officer's report released Thursday backs Chaffetz's story - which had been disputed by TSA's union - that he purposefully chose a line with a standard metal detector but that a TSA officer pulled him from that line to enter the body imaging machine.
That officer says the line for the body imaging machine was empty and he or she pulled Chaffetz out to enter it to expedite the lines.
"At that time, I didn't know who he was nor would it [have] mattered," the officer wrote. "He was a passenger." Chaffetz disputes the dialogue reported by the TSA officer, saying that the officer was the one who recognized him and Chaffetz says he didn't grab the supervisor's badge. He says if anyone has questions about the incident, they should view the video.
"Fortunately, there's video," Chaffetz said. "I only wish there was audio."
Chaffetz says he wants to move on from the incident at the airport and focus on combating Democrats' health care reforms, but he argues that the reports for the most part back up his side.
"By and large, it further backs up my recollection of the entire thing," he said. "At the end of the day, there was a question about whether I was obnoxious, rude, throwing my weight around. The answer is unequivocally no."
The American Federation of Government Employees, TSA's union, declined comment.