PORTLAND, Ore. — An Oregon man who stripped naked at Portland International Airport to protest what he saw as an invasive security check went to court Tuesday to contest the federal government’s proposal to fine him $1,000.
The Transportation Security Administration is fining John Brennan for interfering with the screening process.
In testimony before a federal administrative court judge on Tuesday, TSA workers and an airport officer described how Brennan disrobed — an act caught on smartphones and relayed on the Internet.
Brennan is expected to testify Tuesday afternoon.
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On April 17, 2012, Brennan arrived at the Portland airport intending to take a business trip to San Jose, Calif. At the time, he was a web developer and worked with groups in Silicon Valley. He said he flew out of the airport about once a month.
When Brennan reached the gate, he refused to go through the airport’s body scanners, instead choosing the alternative body pat-down.
During the screening Brennan began narrating the pat-down, TSA officer Steven Van Gordon testified Tuesday.
“It was a descriptive kind of thing: ‘He’s now touching my collar,’” Van Gordon said.
He said Brennan was not disruptive or uncooperative.
“In all the many pat-downs I’ve done, I found this a unique experience,” Van Gordon said.
After the pat-down, Van Gordon said he detected nitrates on the gloves he used to check Brennan.
Brennan told The Associated Press prior to the hearing that he had for months felt angst every time he went through security, and the nitrate detection was the final straw for him.
So he took off all his clothes.
The airport security lanes were momentarily shut down while airport workers moved carts stacked high with gray bins around a naked Brennan to block him from public view. The police were also called.
Van Gordon said the screening process was never completed.
Port of Portland Police Officer Brian Cotter, who works at the airport, said he asked Brennan to put on his clothes. When Brennan refused a second time, Cotter arrested him.
Cotter said Brennan told him that day that he was “tired of being hassled.”
George Jordan, the administrative law judge hearing the case, says he’ll rule later on Brennan’s challenge to the TSA fine.
Last year a Multnomah County judge found Brennan not guilty of indecent exposure, ruling that his act was one of symbolic protest and therefore, protected speech.
Brennan said on Monday that he does not regret his actions, but it has come at a cost. He lost his job shortly after the incident and has had difficulty finding work.
On the other hand, he’s become a local celebrity, dubbed the Naked American Hero by some.
“People I don’t know give me high-fives in the grocery store,” he said. “I’ve become a symbol of what people have wanted to do for years.”
Brennan said he’s taken several domestic and international flights since he disrobed in 2012. Each time he opts out of the full-body scan.