More Women Speaking Out About Humiliating Experiences With TSA

TSA: Transportation Sexual Assault

• Would you want your wife or daughter viewed naked in “pornoscanner”?

By Keith Johnson

Is the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) forcing women to endure full-body scans so that voyeuristic security officials can sneak a peek at their physiques? That’s the charge being made by a local news affiliate in Dallas, which recently discovered a shocking pattern of abuse after reviewing complaints from more than 500 travelers.

According to an investigative report, one Dallas resident traveling out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was forced to undergo three scans before being allowed to board. The passenger, Ellen Terrell, told a local CBS news reporter that a female TSA screener asked her, “Do you play tennis?” When Mrs. Terrell asked, “Why?” the agent replied, “You just have such a cute figure.”

After making Terrell go through the scanner twice, the TSA screener spoke into her microphone and was overheard saying: “Come on guys. All right, all right, one more time.”

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During a third scan, the TSA screener grew impatient with the antics of the other security operators and told them: “Guys, it is not blurry. I’m letting her go.”

“I feel like I was totally exposed,” Mrs. Terrell told the news reporter. “They wanted a nice, good look.”

AFP recently spoke with Sommer Gentry, a mathematics professor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., who became an outspoken critic of the TSA after falling victim to similar abuse.

“I was going through security at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, when I was flagged because I was wearing a skirt,” she said. “The screener placed a handheld metal detector between my legs and pushed it up into my body. I was so horribly offended that I cried for hours.”

Mrs. Gentry went public with her story, logged a complaint with the TSA and contacted her local congressman. The TSA later apologized for the incident but said the accidental touching of people’s private parts is sometimes unavoidable.

“They basically said they were sorry, but that it will probably happen again,” said Mrs. Gentry. “They refuse to change any of their procedures to make sure it doesn’t.”

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Since her ordeal, Mrs. Gentry has curtailed her flying and uses other modes of transportation whenever possible. She also coordinates with other victims of abuse and brings attention to their stories through articles she writes for the website tsanewsblog.com.

When asked if there is any substance to the claim that attractive women are being targeted, Mrs. Gentry related the story of Donna D’Errico, an attractive California actress who starred on the popular Baywatch television show.

“She was the only one selected by a male screener, who pulled her out of a long line of passengers and forced her through a ‘naked body’ scanner,” said Mrs. Gentry. “When she asked why he chose her, the screener replied, ‘Because you caught my eye.’”

In yet another case, Mrs. Gentry said: “A pilot going through a checkpoint overheard a radio conversation between TSA agents. One of them said, ‘Heads up, got a cutie for you,’ just as his 17-year-old daughter was going through the scanner.”

Mrs. Gentry says that the TSA screening process is especially offensive to women.

“Almost all of the scanner booth operators are men,” Mrs. Gentry said. “Since the TSA has promised that the touching will be done by agents of the same gender, most of the female employees are in the passenger screening line.”

AFP also recently spoke with journalist Lisa Simeone of TSA News, who says that incidents like these are common. “This goes on all the time,” says Simeone. “When you hand an agency unlimited power they’re going to abuse it.”

Concerning the incident at DFW, Simeone says, “The TSA tried to cast doubt on her claim, but they never denied it. They tried to claim that a millimeter wave scanner only gives a stick figure-like image. But she didn’t go through that. She went through a back-scatter [X-Ray], which does provide a naked image.”

Simeone is not shy about taking on controversial issues. In October of last year, she was fired as host of the NPR documentary program  “Soundprint” because she helped organize the “Occupy D.C.” protest at Freedom Plaza.

In recent months, Simeone has concentrated much of her activism on the TSA, compiling the most comprehensive list of their crimes and abuses found anywhere on the Internet. The “TSA Master List” contains literally thousands of news stories and personal testimonies of TSA  abuse—from inappropriate questions about personal finances to hardcore sexual assaults.

Part of Simeone’s research has found that the TSA not only fails to share information about reported abuses, but also goes out of their way to discourage people from filing complaints. She says: “Lots of people I’ve spoken with say they have tried to fill out a complaint form, only to be told there wasn’t one available or it would take too long to find one.”

Simeone goes on to say that even when a complaint is filed, the TSA rarely takes the issue seriously unless a lawsuit is filed and charges are pressed. She adds: “The TSA has quietly paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle claims from people who have been robbed or assaulted, but they certainly don’t advertise this fact.”

When asked if organizations like the ACLU have been effective in helping to expose TSA abuse, Simeone says “In November 2010, they had a hotline that logged about 1,000 complaints in less than 30 days. They’ve done nothing since then.”

According to attorneys that Simeone has consulted, the reason the ACLU hasn’t taken the issue to court is because they don’t think they can win. “If they don’t win, it makes bad case law for future [suits],” she says. “The problem is that these are considered administrative searches, which the [government] believes is not subject to restrictions under the Fourth Amendment.”

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Keith Johnson is an independent journalist and the editor of “Revolt of the Plebs,” an alternative news website.