Moral Low Ground

Civil Liberties

John Brennan, Man Who Stripped Naked in Portland Airport TSA Protest, Found Not Guilty of Indecent Exposure

An Oregon man who stripped naked while going through a TSA checkpoint at Portland airport has been found not guilty of indecent exposure.

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge David Rees ruled Wednesday that John Brennan’s action constituted protected free speech. On April 17, Brennan, 50, was traveling from Portland to San Jose, California on a business trip. He refused to go through the airport’s full body scanner, choosing the metal detector and pat down instead. A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent then detected nitrates on the gloves he used to pat down Brennan.

“For me, time slowed down,” Brennan told the Associated Press. “I thought about nitrates and I thought about the Oklahoma City bombing.”

At his Portland trial, Brennan recounted months of anguish each time he passed through airport security, which he did about once a month. He felt that the nitrate detection was an unspoken accusation that he had something to do with terrorism.

That’s when he decided to strip naked. He was arrested, even though Oregon law says that being naked is legal unless an individual is engaged in a public sex act or has the “intent of arousing sexual desire.”

Indeed, after San Francisco, perhaps no other major city in America is more nude-friendly than Portland, which holds a World Naked Bike Ride event each year.

At his trial, Brennan said he was “aware of the irony” of stripping naked to protest about his privacy. But he asserted that his protest was very much about giving the TSA a taste of its own medicine.

“I wanted to show them it’s a two-way street,” he told the Associated Press.

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