disabled passengers at Sky Harbor airport in Phoenix. McCain also sent a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole demanding answers on the high number of abuse complaints at the Arizona airport.
McCain cited a complaint by an 82 year old woman who was partially strip-searched because she wears a prosthetic breast. As he has done in the past, TSA spokesman Nico Melendez, disavowed agency responsibility saying that their policies prohibit these searches but failing to offer any explanation why their screeners persist in these searches or why these abuses continue to happen when the TSA website clearly states that passengers will not be asked to remove clothing.
The Hill – October 29, 2013 – By Keith Laing
“The Arizona Republic recently reported on an ‘intolerable situation’ where many passengers with disabilities at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona have complained of ‘invasive’ searches by the Transportation Security Administration,” McCain wrote.
“At Sky Harbor, passengers with disabilities are filing formal complaints about TSA procedures at a rate of more than two and a half times the national average,” the long-time Arizona senator continued. “I write to ask you to explain the alleged wrongful actions of TSA personnel at Sky Harbor and review TSA’s screening policies for passengers with disabilities to ensure that security protocols meet contemporary threats and respect the dignity of travelers.”
McCain cited examples of the TSA’s alleged mistreatment of disabled passengers at the Phoenix airport.
“In June, an 82-year-old wheelchair-bound woman reportedly went through the security line at Sky Harbor to board a flight to London and set off a metal detector,” he wrote. “She apparently explained to the TSA agent on duty that she had survived a battle with breast cancer and, as a result, had a prosthesis.
“Ignoring her explanation, however, TSA agents reportedly brought the elderly woman to a back room where they ordered her to remove her blouse, bra, and prosthesis for examination,” McCain continued. “Only after this search — which her granddaughter described as ‘degrading’ and ‘invasive’ — was she allowed to finally board her flight.”
Unfortunately this isn’t an isolated incident or the first time that someone has been strip searched by screeners who aren’t even sworn law enforcement officers nor is likely to be last. There have been a number of strip searches reported and many others that go unreported because the passenger is embarrassed or fears retaliation by the agency the next time they fly.
In hearing after hearing where TSA is criticized for its abuse of passengers, Pistole or one of his minions offers the same empty rhetoric, alludes to Pre-Check or promises endless “retraining” of their incompetent workforce.
After three years of habitual humiliation of the public TSA has learned that they can continue to abuse travelers, ignore passenger complaints and Congressional criticism simply by repeating the same canned response and waiting for public awareness to fade. Unfortunately, this has proven to be a viable strategy and not one that is likely to change any time soon.