Naked TSA protest ruled free speech, not indecent exposure

Credit: KGW

John Brennan was arrested after stripping before TSA inspectors at Portland International Airport

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by KGW.com Staff

KTVB.COM

Posted on July 18, 2012 at 2:42 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 19 at 10:13 AM

PORTLAND -- A man arrested after he stripped naked at PDX was found not guilty of public indecency at a trial Wednesday.

John Brennan, a frequent-flying businessman from Portland, set off an explosives wand in April and stripped naked to show Transportation Security Administration screeners he was not carrying a bomb.

At Wednesday's trial, TSA officer Steven Vangordon testified that "he started taking clothes off quickly, I mean he whipped them off pretty fast."

Brennan took the stand early in the afternoon, saying he believed he had the right to be naked.

"I know the irony of taking off my clothes to protect my privacy," Brennan said. "They're getting close to seeing us naked, so I thought I'd up the ante," he testified.

Brennan said removing all his clothes was not premeditated. The frequent traveler who had heard of many TSA issues while on prior business travels was just fed up as he set off the detector at PDX.

"The machine went off, and I asked what it was and he said 'nitrates' which I know from Oklahoma City is one of the explosive ingredients," Brennan told KGW in an earlier interview, "and I was not interested in being hassled so I took off my clothes to show them I was not carrying any explosives."

TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz told KGW "TSA partners with the traveling public to screen all passengers safely and efficiently. When a passenger chooses to be purposefully disruptive, we notify law enforcement. "

A Port of Portland Police report said Brennan was asked several times to put his clothes back on. Two screening lanes were closed for a short time until Brennan was wrapped in a towel and arrested.

A judge found Brennan not guilty of public indecency on the grounds that he stripped naked as a form of protest, which is protected speech.

But things aren’t over for Brennan yet. The TSA is also investigating him to see if he possibly interfered with the screening process. If they find him guilty, he could be forced to pay an $11,000 fine and be put on the no-fly list.

KGW Reporter Abbey Gibb contributed to this report

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