TSA abuse has been going on for years – here’s my story

by Wendy Thomson on December 29, 2011

As I was reading an email string about tactics to get mainstream Americans aware of what the TSA is actually doing, it occurred to me that I have never told my entire story. So here goes.

My saga starts when I was four years old and had my right leg amputated at the knee. Fast-forward to 2004, when I had a spate of business trips to Washington, DC and Texas.

12/1/2004: I walked up to a DTW (Detroit) security checkpoint and announced I had an artificial leg. Without being wanded I was taken aside by two women to Concourse A, MacNamara Terminal, where the women took three cubicle panels that were leaning up against the wall and made a makeshift enclosure at the public entrance to the Concourse. The panels were not stable, so the screeners had to lean them up against one another.

When inside I was instructed to remove my pants. The screeners were about to instruct me to also remove my pantyhose, but since I was standing there pretty much naked anyway they swabbed the top of my prosthesis with a swab and told me to get dressed.

12/1/2004: return trip from Dulles. I announced I had an artificial leg. I again was not wanded, but was subjected to an extensive search of torso and especially my breasts. The toe of my right shoe was swabbed, but other than that my prosthesis was not checked.

12/12/2004: After my complaints, this time I called ahead to DTW and requested a supervisory escort. I was given one, Tyrone Stokes, who instructed the screener to conduct a “simple pat-down.” The screener did not wand me to determine where my metal was but I was subjected to a “Full Monty” pat-down – crotch, inside my pants, everywhere. The screener wanted to show Mr. Stokes, apparently, that she knew how to do it.

12/14/2004: returning from DFW. Announcement by me about my leg. This time I was wanded to determine the location of the metal. I was instructed to lift my pant leg. I was also subjected to an upper-body pat-down (no metal alarm there) and had my hands swabbed.

12/23/2004: Back again at DTW. This time I had printed a copy of instructions from the TSA’s own website. Made my announcement. I set off the regular metal detector but did not set off the subsequent wand. The screener did an upper body pat-down (no metal alarm there) but indicated that because the wand did not alarm around my announced prosthesis it would not need to be checked.

12/31/2004: Sky Harbor, Phoenix. Same announcement by me. I was wanded and my left shoe was swabbed (what’s that about? My prosthesis is on my right side). Once again the upper body pat-down (once again, no metal alarm there).

2/12/2005: Back at DTW. Announcement per usual. I was wanded — again the only alarm was between my right knee and ankle. Never mind: I got a thorough chest/breast “massage” anyway, along with hand-swabbing and prosthesis-swabbing.

12/14/2005: Back at Dallas-Fort Worth. This time, though, I told the screeners that they could check the area that alarmed but they could not check areas that did not. After over two hours of their trying to convince me to allow myself to be assaulted once again, to no avail, I was denied boarding. On 2/16/2005 my employer flew me home on the corporate jet but I was told that they “would have to think twice about putting me on a plane again.” So now you know what happened to THAT career . . . .

I didn’t fly for several years. I discovered, however, that all the folderol would disappear if I took off the leg, put it on the conveyor, and hopped through the metal detector. I made several trips that way.  But that move required that I wear dresses. All sorts of screeners were upset with me. That tactic stopped when I read about a woman from Grand Rapids who received a full-on grope for the sole reason she was wearing a dress. I did try once to go through a MMW machine (millimeter wave scanner), but I got called over for a grope anyway. The word from the “back room” was to check my right thigh. The result was no right thigh but an upper body pat-down instead.

The last time I flew was October 2010. The TSA’s position of scanners or Full Monty is too much for me. I’ve done my share, and I will not be treated that way ever again.

I sued the TSA and got the Jesse Ventura answer that Federal District Courts did not have jurisdiction; the Appellate Court did. Try as I might, I never figured out how to appeal a ruling that didn’t exist.

I was on the front page, Sunday edition, of the Detroit News and had the local ABC affiliate run an investigative report on my experiences, complete with a hidden camera crew that documented one of my flights.

One person cannot change the monster the TSA has become — it takes many. Therefore, I have turned to organizing those of us who understand what’s going on. We need to speak with one loud, persistent, forceful voice.

Now you know the story. This insanity must stop.

(Photo: tsaiid/Flickr)

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