What is happening to our country?
Update: Here’s more:
A retired special education teacher on his way to a wedding in Orlando, Fla., said he was left humiliated, crying and covered with his own urine after an enhanced pat-down by TSA officers recently at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
“I was absolutely humiliated, I couldn’t even speak,” said Thomas D. “Tom” Sawyer, 61, of Lansing, Mich.
Sawyer is a bladder cancer survivor who now wears a urostomy bag, which collects his urine from a stoma, or opening in his stomach. “I have to wear special clothes and in order to mount the bag I have to seal a wafer to my stomach and then attach the bag. If the seal is broken, urine can leak all over my body and clothes.”
On Nov. 7, Sawyer said he went through the security scanner at Detroit Metropolitan Airport. “Evidently the scanner picked up on my urostomy bag, because I was chosen for a pat-down procedure.”
Due to his medical condition, Sawyer asked to be screened in private. “One officer looked at another, rolled his eyes and said that they really didn’t have any place to take me,” said Sawyer. “After I said again that I’d like privacy, they took me to an office.”
Sawyer wears pants two sizes too large in order to accommodate the medical equipment he wears. He’d taken off his belt to go through the scanner and once in the office with security personnel, his pants fell down around his ankles. “I had to ask twice if it was OK to pull up my shorts,” said Sawyer, “And every time I tried to tell them about my medical condition, they said they didn’t need to know about that.”
Related: Obama: TSA pat-downs frustrating but necessary
Before starting the enhanced pat-down procedure, a security officer did tell him what they were going to do and how they were going to it, but Sawyer said it wasn’t until they asked him to remove his sweatshirt and saw his urostomy bag that they asked any questions about his medical condition.
“One agent watched as the other used his flat hand to go slowly down my chest. I tried to warn him that he would hit the bag and break the seal on my bag, but he ignored me. Sure enough, the seal was broken and urine started dribbling down my shirt and my leg and into my pants.”
The security officer finished the pat-down, tested the gloves for any trace of explosives and then, Sawyer said, “He told me I could go. They never apologized. They never offered to help. They acted like they hadn’t seen what happened. But I know they saw it because I had a wet mark.”
Humiliated, upset and wet, Sawyer said he had to walk through the airport soaked in urine, board his plane and wait until after takeoff before he could clean up.“I am totally appalled by the fact that agents that are performing these pat-downs have so little concern for people with medical conditions,” said Sawyer.
Sawyer completed his trip and had no problems with the security procedures at the Orlando International Airport on his journey back home. He said he plans to file a formal complaint with the TSA.
When he does, said TSA spokesperson Dwayne Baird, “We will review the matter and take appropriate action if necessary.” In the meantime, Baird encourages anyone with a medical condition to read the TSA’s website section on assistive devices and mobility aids.
The website says that travelers with disabilities and medical conditions have “the option of requesting a private screening” and that security officers “will not ask nor require you to remove your prosthetic device, cast, or support brace.”
Sawyer said he’s written to his senators, state representatives and the president of the United States. He’s also shared details of the incident online with members of the nonprofit Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network, many of whom have offered support and shared their travel experiences.
“I am a good American and I want safety for all passengers as much as the next person,” Sawyer said. “But if this country is going to sacrifice treating people like human beings in the name of safety, then we have already lost the war.”
Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network executive director Claire Saxton said that there are hundreds of thousands of people living with ostomies in the United States. “TSA agents need to be trained to listen when someone tells them have a health issue and trained in knowing what an ostomy is. No one living with an ostomy should be afraid of flying because they’re afraid of being humiliated at the checkpoint.”
Eric Lipp, executive director of Open Doors Association, which works with businesses and the disability community, called what happened to Sawyer “unfortunate.”
“But enhanced pat-downs are not a new issue for people with disabilities who travel,” Lipp said. “They’ve always had trouble getting through the security checkpoint.”
Still, Lipp said the TSA knows there’s a problem. “This came up during a recent meeting of the agency’s disability advisory board and I expect to see a procedure coming in place shortly that will directly address the pat-down procedures for people with disabilities.”
And here’s even more:
A San Diego man was arrested this weekend after he refused to complete the TSA screening process. The passenger was then paraded through the airport in his underwear.
The Examiner reported:
In what can only be described as TSA handlers gone wild, the San Diego Harbor Police arrested an area resident for refusal to complete the screening/security process yesterday. This is the same airport that created the TSA security catch phrase “don’t touch my junk.” John Kliner of San Diego started the airport screening firestorm last week as Americans head into the busiest travel week of the year in the United States.
This time the defendant, Sam Wolanyk says he was asked to pass through the 3-D x-ray machine. When Wolanyk refused, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel told him he would have to be patted down before he could pass through and board his airplane.
Wolanyk said he knew what was coming and took off his pants and shirt, leaving him in Calvin Klein bike undergarments.
“It was obvious that my underwear left nothing to the imagination,” he explained. “But that wasn’t enough for the TSA supervisor who was called to the scene and asked me to put my clothes on so I could be properly patted down.”
It was clear to Wolanyk that TSA only wanted him to submit to a pat-down and if they were interested in ensuring the safety of all passengers they would have rifled through his clothes, carryon baggage and acknowledged that he was not carrying any illegal paraphernalia on his person.
Once Harbor Police arrested Wolanyk, he was handcuffed and paraded through two separate airport terminals in his underwear to the Harbor Police office located inside a different terminal at the airport than Wolanyk had originally gone through during his TSA security process.
Another woman was arrested for filming the TSA screening process.
And then we have this from the Sun Sentinal:
If you don’t want to pass through an airport scanner that allows security agents to see an image of your naked body or to undergo the alternative, a thorough manual search, you may have to find another way to travel this holiday season.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is warning that any would-be commercial airline passenger who enters an airport checkpoint and then refuses to undergo the method of inspection designated by TSA will not be allowed to fly and also will not be permitted to simply leave the airport.
That person will have to remain on the premises to be questioned by the TSA and possibly by local law enforcement. Anyone refusing faces fines up to $11,000 and possible arrest.
“Once a person submits to the screening process, they can not just decide to leave that process,” says Sari Koshetz, regional TSA spokesperson, based in Miami.
Koshetz said such passengers would be questioned “until it is determined that they don’t pose a threat” to the public.
Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Teri Barbera said PBSO deputies stationed at the airport would become involved when requested by the TSA.
“We will handle each incident on a case-by-case basis,” she said.
No one will be forcibly searched or arrested “just because they refuse to go through the security procedures,” Barbera said. “That may rise to the level of suspicious behavior for the TSA, but it wouldn’t rise to the level of suspicious behavior for a deputy,” she said.
But Barbera said that if a person is judged to be a possible threat, deputies are legally permitted to detain and search that individual. “The deputies will do it at the airport just as they would do it anywhere else,” she said.
Once cleared by the TSA and deputies, the people will be allowed to leave, she said.
Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union was urging Americans to petition the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the TSA, to change the new policies.
“All of us have a right to travel without such crude invasions of our privacy,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Tell DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to put in place security measures that respect passengers’ privacy rights. You shouldn’t have to check your rights when you check your luggage.”
The ACLU outlined ways for citizens to respond to TSA demands at checkpoints and also provided a form letter for filing complaints.
But the TSA stuck to its guns. Testifying before Congress Wednesday, TSA Administrator John S. Pistole said inspectors at the nation’s airports would enforce the new policies despite complaints that the search methods are too invasive.
“We have to ensure that each person getting on every flight is secure,” Pistole said.
Asked by U.S. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) about groups that objected to all forms of bodily search on religious grounds, Pistole didn’t waiver: “While we respect that person’s beliefs, that person’s not going to get on an airplane.”
In March, the TSA introduced AIT scanners — also known as “nude body” or “whole body’ scanners — and now uses them in more than 60 airports, including South Florida airports: Six each at Palm Beach International and Miami International and 10 at Hollywood- Fort Lauderdale.
The machines project a black and white image of a passenger’s naked body to a screen in a separate, private room where it is studied by a TSA agent.
No face is visible and the agent never sees the person being scanned.
TSA officials say the new technology is necessary because it detects not just metal but other potentially dangerous materials, including plastic explosives.
Koshetz said the TSA goal is for as many passengers as possible to pass through the AIT machines, rather than the less revealing traditional metal detectors.
A recent CBS poll found that 81 percent of people questioned did not object to the AIT system. But some do and an online group called National Opt-Out Day is encouraging passengers to refuse the AIT screening on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, which would force TSA to perform many more manual searches and probably cause long delays.
They may be letting themselves in for more than they expect. A policy enacted in the past month allows agents to perform manual searches of passengers, including their private areas, which are much more invasive than the back-of-the-hand technique most often used in the past. Some critics have referred to the technique as “groping.”
One critic of the TSA is Jon Corbett, 26, of Miami Beach, who this week requested that a U.S. District Court judge in Miami grant an injunction to block the new security methods. Corbett said he plans to fly to New York Thanksgiving Day and had hopes the court would respond before that.
“But I’m not sure that will happen,” he said.
That said Ladies and Gentlemen ….