TSA Continues To Embarass The Elderly With Unnecessarily Degrading Search Procedures

from the why-grandma-and-grandpa-don't-fly dept

The TSA is, once again, defending its screening procedures after reports came out of degrading and embarrassing searches performed on three different elderly passengers at JFK, each of which involved passengers with medical equipment that it appears the TSA did not know how to handle in a reasonable way. While the TSA emphasizes that it didn’t do a “strip search” on any of the passengers, that seems to ignore the point that, in all three cases, the searches appeared to be highly inappropriate. An MSNBC story about all of this summarizes the three passengers’ complaints:

In one case, Lenore Zimmerman, 85, of Long Beach, N.Y., said TSA agents took her into a private room in late November to remove her back brace for screening after she decided against going through a scanning machine because of her heart defibrillator.

“Zimmerman said she had to raise her blouse and remove her undergarments for a female TSA agent,” said Schumer and Gianaris’ letter.


In another recent incident, Ruth Sherman, 88, of Sunrise, Fla., was asked about a visible protrusion from her waist band, which she identified as her colostomy bag.

She was “escorted to another room where two female agents made her lower her pants for an inspection. Sherman raised concerns that the agents would disrupt her colostomy bag, causing pain and potential damage,” the letter said.

A third woman, Linda Kallish, of Boynton, Fla., said that after she revealed she was a diabetic with an insulin pump in her leg, she was escorted to a separate room where she was told to remove her pants so the agents could check the pump, the letter said, without saying when that incident took place.

The letter discussed above came from Senators Chuck Schumer and Michael Gianaris, asking the TSA to have an “on-site passenger advocate.” It seems like that would certainly make some amount of sense, though I imagine getting rid of security theater would be a better solution. But, in absence of that, having someone in authority who actually has the passengers’ interest in mind seems like it could be useful.

Even more bizarre, however, is that while the TSA admits that its agents were at fault in the first case above, and should not have removed the brace, it still seems to recommend that passengers be the ones to bone up on the rules:

We recommend that all passengers familiarize themselves with security protocols and inform officers prior to screening if they have medical devices that require special screening. It makes things easier for everybody if all parties know in advance what to expect.

Yes, JFK personnel are receiving additional training as well, but should traveling by plane really require individuals to study up on what inhumane and degrading treatment they should expect before hitting the airport?

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Comments on “TSA Continues To Embarass The Elderly With Unnecessarily Degrading Search Procedures”

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Mike C. (profile) says:

Management vs Employees

This is a typical situation where management crafts a policy without understanding the nature of what it is they are trying to control and expects everything to line up with their imagined scenarios. Until either (a) the TSA is abolished or (b) all screening exceptions are removed so that Congress and senior officials get screened as well, these sorts of problems will continue to happen.

In the end, this is why I’ve eliminated as much air travel from my vacation plans as possible. Between the unknown medical risks of being scanned, potential theft issues, groping issues, general unnecessary delays, etc, the increased speed of travel no longer seems to overcome the “hurdle” of driving or taking the train where possible.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Management vs Employees

…the increased speed of travel no longer seems to overcome the “hurdle” of driving or taking the train where possible.

The TSA are increasing the height of that “hurdle” all the time:



We might be able to walk to our destinations without all those hassles at the moment, but I’m sure they’re working on fixing that too.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Management vs Employees

Actually, it’s illegal to walk/bicycle along a hiway–and most of the time there aren’t enough non-hiway roads to get from one major destination to another…

I know this because I was looking at spending my vacation bicycling from Tempe, Az to Ventura, CA; which it turns out isn’t possible on backroads.

btr1701 says:

Re: Management vs Employees

> (b) all screening exceptions are removed

Removing *all* screening exceptions would be just as stupid as the security theater already in place.

What are you going to do with the federal agents who are flying armed? Have them go through the screeners, which would then sound an alarm and draw everyone’s attention to the agent as he/she shows the TSA their badge and paperwork, and which would serve to advertise to everyone in the terminal who the air marshals and FBI and Secret Service agents are?

Of course there should be exceptions from screening– that’s just basic common sense and OPSEC– just not for all the folks who are currently enjoying it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I suppose I could quit my job (which requires flying several times a month).

Instead, I intentionally opt-out of the stupid body scanners, insisting on the metal detector + pat down.

I go through this several times a month (to and from my destinations), and usually it’s just an annoyance. So far, most of the TSA agents have been reasonable about the process – but I noticed the last guy I got was a bit more “rough” with his hands than most.

I want to make sure they know I strongly disapprove of their stupid scanners, and they’re gonna have to pat me down every single time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Agreed. If they’re going to scan me, they’ve got to have the sand to do it the old fashioned way. If I’m going to be violated, dammit, I want to look the person in the eye who is doing it.

I may want to make snide comments to them about taking me out to dinner afterwards, or asking if my wife can join.

“So, do you come here often? Yeah, you know what I mean, *wink*. I’ll bet you do.”

el_segfaulto says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, keep living your life terrified of the terrorist boogeyman. 9/11 was a tragedy, but one that will not happen again and the TSA has nothing to do with that fact.

Pre-9/11 – A hijacking occurs, the passengers know that if they just go along and don’t make any noise they’ll get a trip to Cuba and a cool story.

Post-9/11 – A hijacking occurs, the passenger know that they will be stains if they don’t actively resist.

All of the (pathetic) attempts to blow up planes after 9/11 got past the TSA and were stopped by passengers. We had a perfectly fine screening process before 9/11 and I see no reason why we can’t go back to that.

And finally…the TSA would NOT have prevented 9/11! None of the terrorists had freakin’ bombs on them. A simple lock on the cockpit door would have saved us a lot of time, money, harassment, and civil liberties.

Beta (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Some of the people who walk down streets are terrorists. Are you in favor of searches of everyone who walks down your street?

The basic question is what you’re willing to give up in exchange for how big an increase in safety. The TSA searches represent a huge expenditure of money and erosion of personal rights in exchange for a moderate protection against a laughably narrow range of threats of vanishingly small probability.

Honestly, it’s as if you think there’s a secret terrorist cell someplace where people say “let’s kill a bunch of Americans exactly the same way we did last time— oh, wait, we can’t, never mind, let’s do nothing.” I don’t know who’s stupider, the fictional terrorists who can’t think of a crowded place to set off a bomb, or the citizens willing to give up everything for protection against them.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

SOPA and PROTECT IP make taking an extra intraweb out of petty cash because Beta may, perhaps may, possibly, while of of his mind or otherwise impared link to some entity on his intraweb or the other intraweb that possibly, perhaps, just might, be could be or ought to be infringing a hollywood copyright, as any links to terrorism must because they’ve made more than enough movies and tv shows about terrorism that simply being one, these days, would be infringing.

I know it all leads in circles but that’s the whole point. Get people so dizzy they can’t tell the difference.

Chris says:

Re: Re: Re:

EHH! WRONG! You’ve been watching entirely too much Fox News. There are not terrorists aboard or even trying to get aboard planes on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. We are not in any more or less danger of a terrorist attack than we ever have been.

What we have is ridiculous spending of tax dollars on smoke and mirror tricks to make the public believe we are safe from terrorist attacks.

Anonymous Coward says:

And being prepared means nothing...

After all, remember this story about a woman who brought with her material explaining everything for the TSA… and was promptly ignored and gro… felt u… enhanced chest patted to feel the implants.


Wait… come to think of it that was JFK too. Way to keep up the high standards!

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What I hate about all these comments about “Ron Paul has said X” is that, from my experience, the politicians always say they will do X…then proceed to not do it. Case in point, in Ireland, the Opposition (what we call the major political parties that are not currently in office) kept stating that “If elected, we won’t increase taxes, or do X and Y” etc etc”. Of course, once elected, they proved to be even worse than the previous government, and that was almost fucking impossible to achieve.

another mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I go by what they’ve already done. That’s their record. Paul is already a Congressman, where is his proposed bill to abolish the TSA? The President doesn’t control funding or appointments to office. That’s Congress’ job. If he’s going to get rid of the TSA, he needs to do it now while he’s still a legislator.

aluminum falcon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:Another mike

sorry been busy with finals and life.
Over summer, Paul introduces a bill that from what I have seen doesn’t end the TSA but would force the TSA to follow laws regarding assault and the like and also the bill would of made the TSA treat everyone the same regardless of their political standing (such as congressmen) http://paul.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1796&Itemid=60

william (profile) says:

That’s right TSA.

It’s not because that your agents are incompetent, misfit high school drop outs that you found on the street randomly who doesn’t receive proper training.

It’s the people being push overs and bend over whenever the agents tells us to. I mean, it’s totally our fault that we are such sissies and our rights are being violated by people who get paid by tax money.

I apologize for being spineless.

John Nemesh (profile) says:

Driving 1600 miles this Christmas

I am driving from Seattle WA, to Las Cruces NM this fall instead of flying. I prefer to endure a 28 hour drive rather than the impersonal, rude, and downright NASTY treatment I get when I fly. Between the TSA’s Gestapo tactics and the fact that I have to LEAVE the airport terminal to enjoy a cigarette, I have decided that if I have the choice, I will drive myself, even if it costs more money and time. I will fly again once the TSA is abolished, or if I have no other choice.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Let me see now. I have a pacemaker, metal heart valves. The two of them make me audibly go tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-toc.

Does all of this screening mean I have to strip off in the middle of an airport just to prove that I’m not a bomb?

Hmmm, stuff your private room, how about right here, right now? Let’s get to it!

(Same crap happens in Canada, and I threatened a screener with that and he decided to take the medical evidence that such things were actually inside me along with his little picture of my insides and outsides rather than have to suffer through that. I did have to talk to a very nice RCMP officer in the lounge as I waited for the plane to get going who thought it was the funniest thing she’d heard in years. I’m probably on Air Canada’s no fly list now but I don’t care as I don’t fly on them, made that mistake once and never will again.)

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

But but but someone might call me soft on terrorism and I will loose my position of power if I point out the obvious – the TSA is a bad idea that has run it course.

It was created in a vacuum when people felt we had to do something. So rather than say this whole thing is crap, we add another layer of people who can fail to do their job of making the first tier of people do their job they way we intended, and then we can create a 3rd tier of oversight to the issue. How many more layers do we add before we just admit we are putting more more shit on the shit pile?

They used DHS funds to buy $900 snowcone makers in Michigan, and a whole bunch of failed tech sitting in warehouses. More tech keeps arriving because they have never considered adding a simple clause to a contract of – If your item does not work as promised, your paying us back and taking your tech back.
We never hold them accountable for these things, and when you try you get promises of investigations and such, but do we yet have answers to the radiation dose from pornoscanners? Do they have a system in place to make sure the pornoscanners are working correctly and not delivering a dose outside of spec? I’m tired of the “great idea” with no follow through, how can you hand billions to a company with untested unvetted machines using radiation on people and not have the simplest question of – is this dangerous? – answered in a clear rational way?

argh says:

check the frigging bags

So what should happen? I say don’t touch my leg, there’s a colostomy or catheter bag there. And TSA is going to wave me though and say “we care and see you must have a tough life”?

Get over it. These are allexception cases which have turned out to be non-issues so far. BUT, if the TSA were to allow someone through who blew up the plane with a bag they claimed was full of human waste, you’d all attack them saying they should have know better and we should shut the incompetet boobs down.

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