Monday, November 21, 2011

Top 11 TSA scandals, second-half 2011

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration is the source of frequent scandals and outrages.
In August, the National Review compiled its “Ten TSA Outrages.” They included accosting the ill and disabled, giving full-body pat-downs to children, and groping pretty women.
The same month, Lew Rockwell printed “The 12 Scariest TSA Stories of All Time.” They included arresting citizens who question the TSA’s procedures, feeling up little old ladies, exposing a woman’s breasts during a pat-down, and removing another woman’s nipple piercings with pliers.
Here are some more recent TSA outrages:

Manhandled breast cancer patient

Breast cancer patient Lori Dorn was subjected to a TSA pat-down, despite having a medical ID card that explained her condition.
Dorn had a bilateral mastectomy and tissue expanders placed in her chest for later reconstructive surgery. A TSA agent wanted to give her a pat-down after seeing the expanders on a full-body scan. Dorn resisted. The agent refused to look at Dorn’s medical ID card.
Dorn was then humiliated in front of fellow passengers with a public pat-down at the checkpoint at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sept. 29.
(See Dorn’s blog post and news coverage by the Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post and Laughing Squid.)

Roughed up India’s former president

Two TSA officials who frisked former Indian President Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam at New York’s JFK airport on Sept. 29 were fired for “exceeding their brief,” according to International Business Times.
The two officers made Kalam, who is also an eminent scientist, face a second security check after he boarded his aircraft. He had already gone through a private screening procedure.

Left ‘freaky’ note in passenger’s luggage

A TSA officer was fired for leaving a “highly inappropriate” note in a passenger’s suitcase.
After a trip, New York blogger Jill Filipovic found a TSA form with a handwritten note saying “GET YOUR FREAK ON GIRL,” apparently referring to the sex toy she had stowed. Filipovic wrote about the Oct. 24 incident and generated significant media coverage.
(See coverage by ABC News, Forbes, Boing Boing and Time.)

‘Vile touching’ of sex organs

Columnist Amy Alkon reported that she was subjected to a rough pat-down that involved “the vile touching of my sexual parts.” The TSA agent groped her breasts and her vaginal area.
Her boyfriend tried to videotape the assault, but was ordered to stop by the TSA, a violation of First Amendment and the TSA’s own rules, according to Mediabistro.
After she blogged about the July incident, which she described as rape, the TSA agent got a lawyer and threatened Alkon with a defamation lawsuit and $500,000 in damages, TechDirt wrote.

Blamed in death of teen stowaway

The House Committee on Homeland Security blamed the TSA in the death of a 16-year-old boy, who allegedly was a stowaway in the wheel well of an airplane, WHDH in Boston reported Sept. 16.
Delvonte Tisdale fell to his death from the plane as it descended into Boston. Officials said Tisdale hopped a fence at an airport in North Carolina and climbed into the plane’s wheel well.
The case showed the TSA was inattentive to securing airport perimeters.

28 fired over improper luggage screening at one airport

In September, the TSA fired 28 employees – in addition to three who resigned or retired – following an investigation that revealed bags were allowed onto planes at Hawaii’s Honolulu International Airport without being properly screened, CNN reported. Fifteen other TSA workers were suspended.

Woman arrested for protesting pat-down of young daughter

A Tennessee woman was arrested in July at Nashville International Airport after protesting the pat-down of her 14-year-old daughter by TSA agents.
Andrea Abbott was just trying to protect her daughter and was “basically arrested for giving her opinion,” her attorney told a CBS affiliate.
In October, the disorderly conduct case was bound over to a grand jury after a preliminary hearing, according to News Channel 5 in Nashville.

TSA agent took cash to speed passengers through security

New York Post columnist Phil Mushnick witnessed a TSA agent taking cash tips to speed travelers through the security checkpoint at the Newark, N.J., airport. She offered to push people in a wheelchair to the front of the line for tips of around $10, according to TechDirt.
The TSA claims Mushnick mistook a skycap for a TSA agent, according to Security Management. Mushnick stands by his story.

Harassed woman with afro-style hair

An airline passenger who had already been through airport security was left in tears after TSA agents insisted on scouring her afro-style hair for concealed explosives, according to the Daily Mail.
Hairdresser Isis Brantley was stopped at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta in September, after she had already gone through a scanning device.

TSA reneges promise to check safety of scanning gear

Earlier this month, TSA administrator John Pistole promised the Senate that he would get an independent safety review of the agency’s backscatter X-ray machines. On Nov. 15, he backtracked, saying such a review wouldn’t be necessary because earlier tests proved they were safe.
Meanwhile, the European Union banned the same type of equipment because of concerns it might cause cancer.
(See articles in the Los Angeles Times, the Daily Mail, Prison Planet and Gizmodo.)

Raising ticket fees to pay for TSA screenings

President Barack Obama has proposed tripling the security fee on airline tickets to pay for TSA screening, according to Politico.
The federal government currently tacks on a security fee of $5 for a round-trip flight. Obama wants to gradually increase that to $15 by 2017.

Photos: Playmobil airport security play set available on

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