The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been at the center of some mighty ethically murky news stories in the past few weeks, most centering on overly aggressive agents harassing citizens who have, frankly, had enough of all this handsy behavior. At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that since November 2001, there have been 25,000 breaches of airport security.
In the past several weeks, here are some of the stories which follow the TSA-agents-are-out-of-control storyline:
WASHINGTON – A woman was “pulled out of the security line after having gone through the Advance Imaging system (that see-through techonology) and told she needed a pat-down.” Why? The TSA agent wanted to search through her curly hair, which she had put up in a bun. “They put the gloves on and now, they’re really just digging around in my hair,” the woman said. A TSA supervisor told the woman that, “It’s our policy that we examine anything that poofs from the body.” (King 5 News)
TENNESSEE -- “A 41-year-old Clarksville woman was arrested after Nashville airport authorities say she was belligerent and verbally abusive to security officers, refusing for her daughter to be patted down at a security checkpoint.” The mother didn’t want to go through the scanner, saying, according to police reports, “I still don’t want someone to see our bodies naked” and did not want her young daughter to be “crotch grabbed.” (The Tennessean)
FLORIDA – A wheelchair riding 95-year-old woman “in the final stages of leukemia” was allegedly detained and told to remove her soiled adult diaper so the TSA agents could complete their physical pat-down of her. The woman “did not have another clean diaper with her.” The TSA denies these charges. (MSNBC)
NEW YORK– A Florida couple, both of whom use wheelchairs, complained about hand searches they were forced to undergo at the Greater Rochester International Airport which they said were invasive and insensitive. The husband said of his search, “They did the hair then did the neck. Then they had me do a pushup in my chair, then got down into my inner thigh around my back side. It’s the most thorough search [I’ve] had done in my life.” (Tampa Bay CBS affiliate)
NORTH CAROLINA– A 94-year-old wheelchair-bound Floridian was forced to be taken out of her wheelchair to stand in the security scanner, then was told she required a pat-down. The woman said of her pat-down, which was reportedly in full view of other passengers, “They took me to one side and they patted me down, and they made me stand . . . with my arms out, for over 10 minutes. I was beginning to feel that I wasn’t going to be able to continue to stand, I was going to fall down or something.” (Raleigh ABC affiliate)
WASHINGTON – A 6-year-old boy was pulled out of line by a TSA agent and subjected to two pat-downs after he’d gone through the scanner. His mother told the an NBC affiliate in Washington, “We all talk to our kids about improper touching, somebody shouldn’t touch you if you don’t want to be touched, and we had no time to talk with him about what they were really doing.” (Washington NBC affiliate)
ARIZONA – A 61-year-old Colorado woman apparently had had enough of what she said she has to “go through every week,” and reportedly turned to a female TSA agent and allegedly “squeezed and twisted the agent’s breast with both hands.” The woman was busted on “felony charges of sexual assault and held briefly in the Maricopa County Jail.” Authorities say, however, she won't be prosecuted for sexual assault. The TSA responded by saying, “the agency will not tolerate assaults against its workforce.” Apparently the TSA has never heard of the old chestnut, “The pot calling the kettle black.” (New York Post)
Now it seems as though the woman, Yukari Mihamae, is becoming the Steven Slater of the airline passenger set as Facebook pages have popped up in her defense, including one called “Acquit Yukari Mihamae" where a commenter compared her to “a 21st century Rosa Parks.” (MSNBC)
In the meantime, the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations took the TSA to task during a hearing, saying that there have been 25,000 “breaches of secured airport perimeters reported since November 2001,” according to The Hill. Further, “more than 14,000 people were able to access sensitive areas of the airport and some 6,000 passengers and carry-on luggage were able to make it past government checkpoints without proper security,” ABC News reported.
Hmm, something’s not working here, is it?