TSA detains, harasses another disabled woman

Following is an account from a reader who has experience with TSA Pre-Check — as you’ll see, she confirms what we’ve been telling you for over a year now — that it’s a boondoggle and an extortion racket — and who also has experience with being abused by the TSA. She was temporarily disabled when she flew. The TSA first bullied her, then went against their own procedures and forced her to remove her leg cast. Still that wasn’t enough. They then bullied her some more and almost caused her to miss her flight. Read on:

Saw the video from the Cato Institute on which you posed a question about TSA and mentioned your organization. I think I’ve been looking for your TSA News Blog for half a decade!

I’m a very frequent flier, have my Global Entry Bathroom Pass, etc. By the by, as you’ve heard, that whole Global Entry thing is good only for using the kiosk when returning from foreign travel. Forget the promise made during the GE interview stuff that I’d now have PreCheck for all my flights. 26 flights later and I still have never had PreCheck permitted.

So, in January this year, I tore a couple of ligaments in my left knee two days before I was due to fly from Chicago to Dallas. I called the carrier with which I’d made reservations and requested a wheelchair. The ickies started with TSA.

First, I was wheeled up to the body scanner and told to walk through without my crutches. Right. That’s why my left leg was encased in a very visible bright royal blue external brace from my thigh to my lower calf. Well, I tried to get out of the wheelchair and nearly fell on my face. TSA agents stood silently until one of them said: “hurry up, you’re holding up other passengers.” 

Another said: “never mind, do a manual.” What that amounted to was a 25-minute wait for a female to come over (although there were 3 female TSA agents just standing around). 

In front of all other travelers, the young lady had me unstrap the leg brace (awkward and painful to do), stand up unassisted (nearly fell again), put her hands down my blouse and bra, and put her hands down both the front and back of my pants and around my waistband.

This was in addition to having my crotch thoroughly groped in public. I’m a 62-year-old woman, born of US citizens, born in the USA.

But this wasn’t the end. I had a birthday gift for my grandson in my carry-on. I hadn’t wrapped it in the event that someone would want to see what was in the small box (a bisque china puppy figurine). When asked about the object, I said it was a gift for my grandson. But the questions kept coming: where did you purchase this item?, how much did you pay for this item?, is this item hollow or solid?, what was the name of the person who sold it to you? etc.

I didn’t know the street address for the Hallmark gift shop, but was able to give the suburb where it is located. Evidently, not having that specific address caused the tsunami of interrogation questions.

I was also asked about two hard candy mints I had in my purse. You know: the red and white striped hard mints wrapped in clear cellophane. Mint candies? Really? I always have some kind of hard candies in case I finish off my airport purchased overpriced bottle of water and have dry mouth. But I think I screwed up when I said: “please don’t take my mints; those are also treats for my horse.” 

Ask anyone who owns a horse and they will verify that horses love those Starlite mints. But my mints were taken “for testing.” All of this Broadway production ate up the entire two hours I’d allowed for arriving at  the airport before my scheduled departure. I barely made the flight.

Does TSA do this to anyone who is handicapped? I’ve had a healthy life for the most part, and don’t travel if I have one of those rare injuries — usually horse-sport-related, so this was a first for me. I’d called Southwest Airlines customer service when I arrived in Dallas from this flight. The phone agent told me they don’t handle TSA complaints and didn’t know where I could file one. I called in at the Global Entry office in Chicago’s ORD, and they said exactly the same things.

Do I have a legitimate complaint? If so, where in the name of heaven do I file one? Will this cause me further grief when I’m heading out to Dubai or when I’m coming back in?

In my global travels, I’ve never encountered anything like our US TSA, and I’ve been in some hot spots on the planet.

I teach business seminars for the Institute for International Research in Dubai. I’m dreading what I will face when I have to travel next month.

I don’t blame her for dreading it. The TSA has turned travel in/from this country to one big dread.

As for filing a complaint, good luck. I’ll give you info, but don’t expect to get any satisfaction. The TSA’s standard line, even when they physically assault people, is “proper procedures were followed.”

Since the TSA is part of the DHS — Department of Homeland Security — you go through DHS. From their website:

DHS Traveler Redress Inquire Program (DHS TRIP)

File a Complaint /Apply for Redress

And Office of the Inspector General

Good luck, Rita. I also urge you to submit your story to the TSA during the public comment period that is going on now. 

(Photo: man pikin/Flickr Creative Commons)

  • you might also consider suing the people responsible for the pre flight screening for fraud or put in a complaint with the local police about it.

  • The TSA is a predator. In nature, a predator watches the herd and singles out the old, weak, slow, vulnerable members and dispatches them. That ugliness lives on in the human heart and working for the TSA is a perfect way to indulge it without being held accountable.

    • Silver Fang, agree 100%. I hope you’ve put this comment or something similar in the public docket. See link in post.

  • Fisher1949

    She should also copy her Federal elected officials, Rep and Senators and members of the Homeland Security Oversight Committee with her complaint. Link at Wikipedia with members is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_House_Committee_on_Homeland_Security

  • Susan Richart

    Here’s another place to file a complaint, Rita:


    In addition, write to your congresspeople and the chairs of the House and Senate committees dealing with the TSA.

    I second Mr. Weber regarding the questions about your gift for your grandchild. It was none of their business.

  • Reading about the TSA always raises my blood pressure, but this was a particularly disturbing post. They checked her mints? I’d have been inclined to just snatch them out of the agent’s hand and eat them. Let’s assume (worst possible case) that they were explosive. How much damage could you pack into a mint-sized package? And what’s this line of questioning about the figurine? If you were bringing it in from outside the country, it might be understandable, but for a Chicago-to-Dallas flight an x-ray should be sufficient. My reaction here would be “clear it or give me a reason why not.”

    The spectacular idiocy of this agency really knows no bounds. Combine that with their hubris and they really are little daily reminder of the Bush administration that created them.

    • Robert, yes, all true, and a daily reminder of the Obama administration’s continuance of this abusive system. Don’t forget that Gropenfuhrer John Pistole came in under Obama.

  • 1amWendy

    I am really sorry this woman had to endure this. “Does TSA do this to anyone who is handicapped?” Pretty much – especially with temporary disabilities. Like I’ve been saying for years: Flying While Handicapped: the new Driving While Black.

    • LeeAnneClark

      Many of the frequent readers on this blog will remember my story when I became temporarily disabled (major back surgery) and flew out to OKC to attend my son’s Army training graduation. On the flight home out of OKC I was bullied, intimidated, told that I had to remove my back brace (which is contrary to TSA’s own posted rules on their website!), and finally physically abused by pressing hard on my recent incision, and sexually assaulted by forcibly rubbing my pubis.

      It is horrifying how the TSA treats disabled people. I just don’t understand why the ADA hasn’t gotten involved.

      • TSAisTerrorism

        It’s for your safety, of course. There’s no need for ADA.


      • The ADA, the American Psychological Association, the AMA, and so many others have all dropped the ball on this. They should be ashamed of themselves. They aren’t standing up for their members, and they sure as hell aren’t standing on principle.