Fly With Dignity

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This report was sent in by Jill:

Like many women my age I have a metal knee replacement so I am screened every time I fly.  Up until a few weeks ago I was wanded.  Now I am subjected to the new humiliating genital and breast exam.  Yesterday I was not even offered a private location for this abuse.  I have been groped 4 separate times already since I travel often for business.  The first time was so shocking and dehumanizing that I was unable to even discuss it with my husband.  The recent intense public discussion and websites like this are helping me cope with the horrible feelings that I have as a result of this misguided government policy.  There is  small comfort in knowing I am not alone but no lessening of the dread and fear of my next trip.  I predict there will be much personal suffering and mental harm generated by this shameful government practice.

Katherine writes:

The following is a copy of the report my step-mother filed with the TSA. She never received a response of any kind from them. My father died less than a week after this happened, of pancreatic cancer, on March 28, 2010. This took place as he was returning from what would be the last visit he would ever have with me, my daughter and husband. How tragic that the last time we would see him alive, would end this way.

As an additional note, policies written on the TSA website indicate that he should have been offered assistance in standing, and he should have been offered screening in private as he carried a very visible indication of his disability, his cane. He also had visible near the collar of his shirt, an IV port that was used for chemo. Only the least observant of people would have missed my father’s obvious illness and frailty.

Her account, exactly as written and filed with TSA.

Alaska Airlines 312 on March 22,2010
Approx. time of screening 10:45AM at Sea-Tac Airport.
Comments: My husband, Kenneth H Fye, MD,age 66 is a 2yr survivor of pancreatic cancer. His weight 2yrs ago was 170lbs. On Mar 22 he weighed 127lbs clothed. Because he can no longer wear a belt which would have been removed prior to sceening he wears suspenders with metal clips which set off an alarm. He was shifted immediately to detailed screening. It was obvious that he was so weak he had to use a cane to walk and could not stand minus the cane, yet the screener made him stand arms out, spread legs, pull his pants where the button was in front towards the screener. It was obvious that he had a distended stomach due to the enlargement of the tumor and painful but that didn’t seem to stop the man from looking down his pants. Then he had him sit down and lift each leg to screen the bottom of his socks. His feet are extremely swollen and it was painful to comply. WHAT POSSIBLE REASON WOULD THE SCREENER WANT HIM TO DO THAT??? My complaint and question is what would ever cause security to choose a man who looks sick, weak and obviously uncomfortable to pat him down? Don’t you train these people to use common sense. I could do no less than just cry looking at him having to go through this. I don’t blame the detailed screener as much as the one to sent him for more screening. We were returning from a visit with our granddaughter and had decided that this would probably be the end of travel due to his illness. I just cannot get out of my mind the site of him trying so hard to pretend he could endure the screening when in truth it was heartbreaking.

Nathan sends us this:

Some background – I am a type 1 diabetic, and to treat that condition, I wear an insulin pump, which is a little machine that is plugged into the side of me and literally keeps me alive. I wear this 24/7. In the past when I have flown it has usually not been an issue. The agents sometimes notice it, sometimes don’t, but almost never make an issue about it, and have always known what it is when mentioned, so I’m assumed that they are trained about this.

Anyway, I was flying home from San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, a few days after the new procedures went into place, and I was slightly nervous because I wasn’t sure how they would affect me and my situation. When I got to the security area I was very up front with them, showed them my insulin pump, and they seemed confused. I was put through the backscatter machine, while holding my insulin pump in my hand, and was then held while the TSA agents went off and discussed my situation. After a few minutes they came over, and I overheard them saying that everything checked out fine on me, but then they took me aside where I got the “enhanced pat down.” Then they also did the swab test on my insulin pump, and everything checked out and I was sent on my way.

This got me to thinking, though. Am I going to always be subjected to the “enhanced pat down” because of my medical device? I don’t even so much object to the backscatter x-ray machines, and I don’t have any problem with them doing the swab on the device. So I did some research and talked to other people with the insulin pumps who have also flown, and they have had to deal with the same thing I did. One lady was even told by a TSA supervisor that if you have a medical device like an insulin pump, you have to go through the “enhanced pat down”. No choice.

I’m really bothered by this, for multiple reasons. One, they clearly said that they saw nothing was wrong, and still submitted me to the “enhanced pat down”, even though it seems to me like at that point checking my insulin pump to make sure it was real would have been fine. I also think it is pretty wrong to single out a group of people, specifically those with a form of disability, and make them go through something that is pretty unpleasant and demeaning. I’m not someone opting out of the scanner for some reason. I’m being told that the scanner is not an option for me no matter what. I have no choice.

And finally, I can’t take off the pump and run it through the flatbed xray because it is not certified for that. If something were to get messed up in it from some errant x-rays, I could die. And I would still have part of the apparatus connected to me that would show up in the backscatter scanner.

Anyway, I don’t know if this is going to do any good, but I feel like it is a part of the conversation that has been largely missed.

Anonymous:

On November 9, 2010 at Miami airport I witnessed the following. A white female TSA agent in her mid to late 50′s pulled aside a young European tourist, perhaps 14-16 years old, who was traveling with who appeared to be a sister. The American TSA agent had obviously a lot of pride in her ability to speak Italian and seemed to pick this girl on purpose. She was taking lots of time to talk in between “pats” or rubs of the girls body. She was making conversation and then running her hands along another part of the girls body. The girl was wearing a thin pajama type outfit common for young travelers. It was obvious by her near shouting that the TSA agent was trying to show off her horrible heavily accented Italian. Then the TSA agent pressed her hand directly up into the girls crotch. I was sitting very near by putting my shoes on when this happened. Then, when she was done the agent said to the girl in Italian, “you are very pretty.” The girl was silent and the agent repeated it.

Erin – read more »

I moved to the back of the security area, made a few phone calls, including to my lawyer. He did some quick research, and learned that I had indeed been sexually assaulted because she did not follow the SOP (standard operating procedure) for the new search.

SWFA on Flyertalk »

Last week, one of my flying partners (Captain with Skywest) was going through security at DEN with his 18 year daughter. As his daughter approached the detector, the TSO working the NoS said on his headset, “heads up, got a cutie for you.” He then confronted the TSA clerk with what he said and that neither of us are going through the NoS. The TSA clerk said you must have misunderstood me.

JJ sends us this story:

About a month ago, I was picked out again for the search. I cannot do the scanners/puff machines as I get panic attacks, inhaler always required. I am a small female, wearing skin tight clothes – believe me, I couldn’t hide something if I wanted to. I was proceeded to be felt up, with no warning of what they were going to touch and no offer of a privacy screening. Many onlookers were smiling, including TSA male employees. I was in tears at the end and felt completely violated.

I went to file a formal complaint at the TSA desk, and was given non-working email and website information. I returned to the desk 10 minute later to let them know about it, and they did nothing to correct the situation nor give me better information. After finding where to file myself, I was told they were to have offered me a privacy screening, which they did not. I provided the name of the employee and highly doubt anything was done about it.

Nancy sends us her experiences:

I was going through ORD on Oct 19th and with a metal implant in my hip, of course I set off the detector. I put all of my items on the belt and just before going through the detector, I told the attendant that it would go off because of the implant in my hip, He stopped me from going through and told me to go stand in line by the scanner…yes, they had one.

I complied and in the meantime, three of them were surrounding my bag asking me if there was any liquid in there. I said no, and one said “You wouldn’t lie to us, would you”? They went through it, found a liquid and called me a liar in front of everyone in line… that was embarrassing… Anyway, the lady barked at me to come over and help find the said liquid. I complied and pulled out a tiny toothpaste tube and asked if that was it. She barked no and then found the liquid… my facial towelettes which I always carry when I travel.

I told her they have never come up as a liquid before, and she said they appear as a liquid in their detector. Then instead of the scanner, I got the groping pat down for the first time in my life and it was horrible. I did tell the agent that I felt offended to be treated like a terrorist just because I have a metal implant – she said it’s all done to keep us safe, same canned response.

Two days later, I was leaving ATL and set the metal detector off (which I told him I would). He body blocked me, barked at me to stay right there and yelled for female assistance. I was told that I could get the new pat down in private, but I said no and to just get it over with. She touched me roughly between the legs, and when I turned to object I must have put my arms down – she barked at me to put my arms back up and turn around.

I vowed then that my flying days are over for a while… being punished for having a metal implant in my hip is not right and being treated with absolutely no respect by these minions was disgraceful. Six months ago when I flew SEA to JFK and back, I had a normal pat down and was treated with respect… what happened in the 6 months to change that? It’s very wrong to be an American citizen/taxpayer and be abused by minions of the US Govt in this way. And can’t they talk in normal voices? Why do they have to bark and yell?