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Woman, 85, claims she was strip-searched at JFK airport December 4, 2011

An 85-year-old woman said she was injured and humiliated when she was strip-searched at an airport after she asked to be patted down instead of going through a body scanner.

Transport security officials have denied allegations by Lenore Zimmerman, who said she was taken to a private room and made to take off her clothes after she asked to forgo the screening because she was worried it would interfere with her defibrillator. She missed her flight and had to take one two-and-a-half hours later, she said.

“I’m hunched over. I’m in a wheelchair. I weigh under 110lb (50kg),” she said. “Do I look like a terrorist?”

But in a statement the Transportation Security Administration said no strip search had been carried out.

“While we regret that the passenger feels she had an unpleasant screening experience, TSA does not include strip searches as part of our security protocols and one was not conducted in this case,” the statement read.

Zimmerman was dropped off by her son at JFK airport in New York for a 1pm flight on Tuesday to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on JetBlue, she said. She arrived at the ticket counter at about 12.20pm and headed for security in a wheelchair, her metal walker in her lap.

She said she had been traveling to Florida for at least a decade and had never had a problem being patted down until now. “I worry about my heart, so I don’t want to go through those things,” she said, referring to the advanced image technology screening machines at the airport.

As a result, she said, she was taken into the private screening room by a female agent and made to strip.

“Private screening was requested by the passenger, it was granted and lasted approximately 11 minutes,” the TSA said. “TSA screening procedures are conducted in a manner designed to treat all passengers with dignity, respect and courtesy and that occurred in this instance.”

The private screening was not recorded.

Jonathan Allen, a TSA spokesman, said a review of closed-circuit television at the airport had showed that proper procedures before and after the screening had been followed.

Zimmerman said she banged her shin during the process and it bled “like a pig,”, partly because she is on blood-thinning medication. She said an emergency medical technician patched her up, but she was told to see a doctor when she arrived in Florida to make sure the wound did not get infected. There are no records indicating medical attention was called on her behalf.

“I don’t know what triggered this. I don’t know why they singled me out,” she said.

Her son, Bruce Zimmerman, said: “My mother is a little old woman. She’s not disruptive or unco-operative. I don’t understand how this happened.”

He said she had had an increasingly difficult time travelling, especially since her husband died a few years ago. She has two grandchildren and her older son, a doctor, died in 2007.

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TSA officer charged with sexual assault November 22, 2011


November 22, 2011

by legitgov

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TSA officer charged with sexual assault 22 Nov 2011 A federal airport screener has been charged with sexual assault after he allegedly assaulted a woman near his home in Manassas, Virginia, police said Tuesday. Police said Harold Glenn Rodman was wearing a uniform and displayed a badge at the time of the attack. Rodman is a Transportation Security Administration officer at Dulles International Airport, the TSA confirmed. He has been removed from security operations pending the investigation.

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House GOP pair bashes TSA on its 10th anniversary November 17, 2011

Washington (CNN) — Ten years after its formation, the Transportation Security Administration on Wednesday got the type of birthday card no one wants to receive — a blistering report from Republican lawmakers who said the agency is “bloated” and “inefficient” and has done little, if anything, to improve aviation security.

Rep. John Mica, R-Florida, a longtime critic who has fought to privatize TSA screening jobs, said Congress never intended the agency it created in November 2001 to “mushroom” into a workforce of 65,000 employees, “top heavy” with bureaucrats.

“I can tell you, in our wildest dreams … no one ever envisioned 4,000 administrative personnel in Washington, D.C., making on average … almost $104,000, and then nearly another 10,000 out in the field,” Mica said.

But the most scathing comment came from Rep. Paul Broun, R-Georgia.

“Americans have spent nearly $60 billion funding TSA and they are no safer today than they were before 9/11,” Broun said.

Pressed on the accuracy of that statement, Broun and Mica said the TSA has never stopped a terrorist attack, and gave credit to private citizens or others for terrorist plots disrupted thus far.

“Unfortunately, the focus has been diverted from security … into managing a huge bureaucracy,” Mica said.

Broun concurred. “We must focus on identifying terrorists and stopping them instead of patting down grandma and children. And we must stop worrying about political correctness,” he said. “TSA needs to put their resources into intelligence and technologies that can be more effective when it comes to catching highly elusive and dangerous terrorists.”

The lawmakers said they are preparing legislation to reform the TSA.

A TSA spokesman called the GOP report “an unfortunate disservice to the dedicated men and women of TSA who are on the front lines every day protecting the traveling public.”

The country’s aviation system is “safer, stronger, and more secure than it was 10 years ago,” spokesman Greg Soule said. The agency has screened more than 5 billion passengers over the past decade, he said, and has prevented more than 1,100 guns from being brought onto passenger planes this year alone.

Mica and Braun released the GOP report at a news conference held in the main concourse of Reagan-Washington National Airport. Their remarks criticizing the state of aviation security were amplified over a loudspeaker, and drew sidelong glances from passengers headed to airport checkpoints.

One day earlier, TSA Administrator John Pistole stood in the same location to discuss holiday travel preparations, touting advancements in screening technology and saying passengers are happy with changes that have reduced the number of pat downs of children.

The report released Wednesday was prepared by Republican staffers on House Transportation and Oversight committees. It is largely a compendium of earlier critical reports of the TSA, looking at its deployment of failed technology, such as puffer machines; the failure to interdict terrorists, such as 2001 “shoe bomber” Richard Reid and 2009 “underwear bomber” Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab”; and the lack of card readers for the 1.8 million ID cards issued to transportation workers.

The report says the agency has grown nearly four-fold since its inception, from 16,500 workers to more than 65,000, while commercial passenger traffic has increased less than 12 percent.

But a TSA spokesman said the agency had approximately 56,000 security officers in 2002, the year it started screening, and has approximately 52,000 today.

The report by the Republicans contains 11 recommendations, saying the TSA must act with greater independence from the Department of Homeland Security, and the administrator’s stature must be elevated. The TSA has become “lost” in the Homeland Security bureaucracy, Mica said.

It also calls on the agency to contract out more screening jobs to private industry. Currently, 16 airports, including San Francisco International, have “opted out” of federal airport screening and use private screeners under what is known as the Screening Partnership Program. The screeners wear the same uniforms, use the same technology and follow the same procedures.

Mica advocates the continued privatization of airport screening jobs, but administrator Pistole has been less supportive, at one point saying he would expand the program only if there was a clear advantage to doing so.

In other TSA news, a travel industry group Wednesday said the agency’s screening procedures remain “inefficient and frustrating” for travelers.

The U.S. Travel Association released the results of an online survey it conducted last month of about 600 people.

According to the survey, “four of the top five air traveler frustrations relate to the checkpoint process,” including the top frustration: “People who bring too many carry-on bags through the security checkpoint.” But five of the 11 options on the survey pertained directly to TSA checkpoints, and the remaining options did not include some common irritants, such as excess baggage fees.

The survey says 66.2 percent of air travelers are “somewhat or very satisfied” with the TSA’s overall performance as it relates to security, 21.2 percent are neutral, and 12.5 percent are “somewhat or very dissatisfied.”

But frequent air travelers are less happy, with 54.6 percent “somewhat or very satisfied.”

The group said that despite the TSA’s new initiatives to improve passenger screening, an “overwhelming majority” have not recognized any improvements in checkpoint efficiency when compared to the previous year. It said 81.8 percent plan to arrive at the airport the same amount of time before a flight as they did last year.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

The TSA said it was pleased to see the vast majority of travelers polled believe the agency is moving in the right direction, and said checkpoint screening has gotten speedier, taking less than 20 minutes for more than 99 percent of passengers last year.

“The increased number of carry-on bags impacts our ability to further reduce wait times, but not the level of security we provide, which remains our priority,” the agency said.


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Newest threat: TSA warns terrorists could be targeting buses for holiday travel season November 13, 2011


November 12, 2011

by walden9

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Newest threat: TSA warns terrorists could be targeting buses for holiday travel season.12 Nov 2011. Al Qaeda [Al CIA-duh] and other terrorist groups could be targeting buses around the nation because they are easier to attack than airplanes, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Just before the beginning of the holiday travel season, the TSA warned police departments in Washington, D.C., to be wary of potential attacks on city buses as terrorists seek to attack the country’s transportation infrastructure.

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TSA officer faces dismissal over ‘get your freak on, girl’ note October 29, 2011

(CNN) — An airplane baggage screener faces dismissal for leaving a note in a passenger’s bag that said “Get Your Freak On, Girl” after discovering a vibrator.

The Transportation Security Administration “has initiated action to remove the individual from federal service,” an agency spokesperson said. “Like all federal employees, this individual is entitled to due process and protected by the Privacy Act. During the removal action process, the employee will not perform any screening duties.”

The agency randomly selects checked baggage for screening on flights originating in the United States. Lawyer and writer Jill Filipovic tweeted a picture of the note Monday and later blogged about it on Feministe.

“This is what TSA will do when they inspect a bag you checked and find a, um, ‘personal item,’ ” she wrote. “Total violation of privacy, wildly inappropriate and clearly not OK, but I also just died laughing in my hotel room.”

The TSA identified and removed the employee from screening operations, the TSA said Wednesday on its blog. After completing an investigation, action was initiated to remove the individual from federal service.

“TSA views the handwritten note to be highly inappropriate and unprofessional and apologizes for this unfortunate incident,” the spokesperson said. “TSA has zero tolerance for inappropriate behavior by our employees as occurred in this instance. When this is brought to our attention TSA takes swift and appropriate action.”

An agency official reached out to Filipovic to apologize personally, the agency said. At this point, though, she said she wishes the story would go away.

“It’s easy to scapegoat one individual here, but the problem with the note is that it’s representative of the bigger privacy intrusions that the U.S. government, through the TSA and other sources, levels every day,” she wrote Wednesday after learning of the employee’s suspension.

“As much as this is a funny and titillating story, when I put the note on Twitter for what I thought was a relatively limited audience, I was hoping it would open up a bigger conversation about privacy rights (or lack thereof) in post-9/11 America. It unfortunately hasn’t done that, and instead has turned into a media circus,” she said.

“The note was inappropriate, the agent in question acted unprofessionally when s/he put in my bag, there should be consequences and I’m glad the TSA takes these things seriously. But I get no satisfaction in hearing that someone may be in danger of losing their job over this. I would much prefer a look at why ‘security’ has been used to justify so many intrusions on our civil liberties, rather than fire a person who made a mistake.”


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