Civil Rights News: Travelers Share Tales of Airport Security-Induced Humiliation

11/22/2010 // West Palm Beach, FL, US // Sandra Quinlan // Sandra Quinlan

West Palm Beach, FL—Two travelers claimed they were humiliated while undergoing enhanced pat-downs by Transportation Safety Administration agents on two separate occasions in the last few months. The incidents, both of which involved cancer survivors, occurred at airports in Michigan and North Carolina.

According to a Nov. 22, 2010 MSNBC report, 61-year-old bladder cancer survivor Thomas D. “Tom” Sawyer, of Lansing, Mich., was scheduled to fly to Orlando, Fla., out of Detroit Metropolitan Airport when he was subject to an aggressive pat-down.

Sawyer wears a urostomy bag, which collects his urine from an opening in his stomach, under his clothing. On Nov. 7, one of the airport’s security scanners picked up the medical equipment he was wearing, prompting TSA officers to choose him for an enhanced pat-down.

Sawyer asked the TSA agents to screen him in private. “One officer looked at another, rolled his eyes and said that they really didn’t have any place to take me… After I said again that I’d like privacy, they took me to an office,” Sawyer alleged.

Though airport security agents told Sawyer what the pat-down was going to consist of, it wasn’t until they asked him to remove his sweatshirt that they noticed the urostomy bag and inquired into 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,” Sawyer explained.

The humiliated traveler added, “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.” Sawyer is expected to file a formal complaint with the TSA.

In a completely separate incident, TSA agents allegedly forced a flight attendant and breast cancer survivor to show and remove her prosthetic breast, according to a TIME NewsFeed report.

Cathy Bossy, who has worked in the aviation industry for 32 years, claimed she was selected for an enhanced pat-down while going through security at a North Carolina airport three months ago. It was not clear if she walked through the full-body scanner beforehand, or chose to opt out and undergo a more thorough pat-down instead.

The screener who was conducting the pat-down allegedly asked Bossy why her right breast felt strange. She then went on to tell the TSA agent about her prosthetic breast.

Bossy was subsequently instructed to remove the prosthesis. Though TSA rules state, “Agents are absolutely allowed to ask about, touch and demand to see any prosthetic part of the body,” Bossy said she was extremely mortified by the episode.

To read more about the TSA’s heightened security procedures and the controversy surrounding them, please refer to a previous report, titled, “TSA Faces Backlash Over Full-Body Scans, Aggressive Pat-Downs.”

Legal News Reporter: Sandra Quinlan– Legal News for Civil Rights Lawyers.

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Url: Sandra Quinlan: West Palm Beach Injury News