The TSA’s notoriously bad behavior is quickly becoming the biggest hot-button topic in America since the first round of gay marriages took place several years ago, and for good reason. The people employed by the Transportation Security Administration, commonly referred to as “agents,” as though they were educated professionals such as the men and women deployed by the FBI, are all-too-often little more than minimum-wage thugs. They frequently harass innocent travelers, leaving them feeling insulted, molested, humiliated and degraded past the point that any law-abiding citizen should have to endure. Nearly anyone who has gone through an airport security gate in the last decade will likely have stories of overly-rude TSA workers, or worse, but these are 10 truly outrageous instances where the TSA has simply gone too far.
Bladder cancer survivor left covered in urine
Thomas Sawyer, a 61-year-old survivor of bladder cancer, was humiliated beyond belief when he tried to board his flight at Detroit International earlier this month. He is unfortunate enough to require the use of a urostomy bag, which must have shown up on the scanner. He was pulled aside for the TSA’s new “enhanced” pat-down, at which point he tried to tell the screeners about his condition and the apparatus. They cut him off, saying that they didn’t need to know about his issues. His pants, which were sized larger to make it easier for him to wear the bag, fell down around his ankles since they had made him take off his belt to walk through the detectors the first time around. He had to ask twice before they would allow him to pull them up. They then made him take his sweatshirt off, at which point he again told them about the delicate bag of urine that was under his clothing — but they didn’t listen. A screener ruptured the bag with his hand, causing it to begin dribbling and spilling Mr. Sawyer’s own urine down his shirt, groin and pants. Sawyer was reduced to tears as he was forced to make his way through the terminal and onto the plane before he could clean himself up and change clothes.
Woman forced to remove nipple ring with pliers
Mandi Hamlin was trying to pass through a security gate at an airport in Lubbock, Texas back in 2008, when she was stopped by a female screener with a hand-held metal detector. Though Mandi had no trouble passing through the larger metal detector, the screener’s wand unit chimed when passing over her breasts — where she had nipple-piercings. Instead of handling the small issue on her own, the female screener called over several of her male counterparts, who then insisted that Mandi remove her nipple rings. Mandi asked if she could simply show them to the female screener in private, but was refused the option. Flustered, she managed to get one piercing out (it was bar-shaped), but she couldn’t get the other, which was ring-shaped. She said she wouldn’t be successful without pliers, and pled again for the female to simply examine her. They gave her pliers. Crying, she worked the ring loose and removed it, but she could hear the male screeners giggling and joking about it on the other side of the curtain that acted as her only means of privacy. She was then allowed to proceed — never being asked about the belly-button ring she was also wearing at the time. The flight wasn’t even international, in fact she wasn’t even leaving the state; it was a hopper to Dallas.
A 3-year-old’s pat-down
Steve Simon was with his wife and daughter at an airport in Chattanooga, Tennessee, when he, a television reporter, found himself in a situation that demanded the use of his camera phone. His 3-year-old daughter, Mandy, began crying when they had to put her teddy bear through the X-ray scanner. She was so upset that she kept setting off the metal detector, so after the second time through, a TSA screener decided to judiciously follow through with procedures written with suspicious adults in mind — two failed detector walkthroughs mandates a pat-down. The screener’s groping hands forced the already terrorized young girl to panic more, and her father’s phone managed to record nearly 20 seconds of frenzied screaming. At one point, you can clearly hear the little girl cry for the screener to “stop touching” her. Her mother was not able to calm her down, since the scary stranger wouldn’t stop feeling her body, something her parents had no doubt told her to never allow a stranger to do. Steve took it all quite well, but most fathers wouldn’t be so gracious.
Left with pants down due to knee implant
Leaving people with their pants down seems to be a favorite activity amongst TSA screeners. Robert Perry, a 71-year-old man with a knee replacement, was ordered into the very open and public inspection area by one of them and barked at when he set off the metal detectors. Perry had tried explaining the situation with his knee to the man, but was only yelled at to take his belt off. When the screener went to feel the knee, he did it so roughly that he jerked the pants right off, leaving Perry looking like an idiot in his underwear for all to see. Perry immediately, and rightly, asked to see a supervisor. The supervisor, a woman, was worse than the screener. Perry, in a news interview, reenacted that supervisor’s gorilla-like display of superiority as he mimicked her, beating his chest and repeating the words “I have power.” Perry and his wife were threatened with losing their flight, and they were only trying to take a vacation for the 50th wedding anniversary.
Security leaves woman roughed up
Back in 2007, Robin Kassner was trying to take a flight out of Reagan National Airport when she was physically assaulted by a mixed group of TSA screeners and Airport police — over a bottle of contact lens cleaner. As can be seen in the airport’s own security footage, they grabbed Kassner by the arms, jerked them behind her, then pulled her several feet, slamming her onto the ground (and displacing furniture in the process), all seemingly for no reason at all. Kassner recalls thinking something along the lines of “oh God, I’m being beaten up, and I don’t even know why.” That wasn’t the end of it, either. After they picked her up and returned her to the standing-height inspection table, Kassner’s head was slammed into it, hard enough to give her a concussion and possibly permanent brain damage. Kassner was locked up in a holding cell and later released to be charged with obstruction of justice, but she was able to use the footage in a 10 million dollar lawsuit against the airport.
Singled out, cuffed, boarding pass destroyed
Meg McLain recently experienced just what happens when one decides to opt-out of the x-ray scan, and object to the groping-laden pat-down that follows such an opt-out. She was surrounded by TSA screeners and airport police, shuffled off-camera in the inspection area to be harassed, and finally forced to sit in a chair and watch as an egomaniacal TSA screener ripped her ticket in half right in front of her before having security grab her and escort her out of the airport. She was unable to get a refund for the flight, and even worse, found herself stranded since the boarding pass itself had been destroyed (and the airline would not replace it).
Arrested over applesauce
58-year-old Nadine Hays was arrested, charged with battery, handcuffed, and strip searched back in 2009 over applesauce. It wasn’t a case of applesauce being in a container that could be misconstrued as a bomb, nor was it a case of Nadine acting suspicious about her foodstuffs. Nadine was traveling with her wheelchair-bound, 93-year-old mother, and she had fully explained to the TSA screeners that the applesauce was required to feed her ailing mother, and necessary for medication to be given as well. There was also a third, younger woman with them, a full-time caretaker, who was able to vouch for Nadine. While the screener was trying to steal Nadine’s applesauce, her cohorts were barking at the caretaker to stand back, while they took their time scaring and fondling Nadine’s senile, old and confused mother off-camera. Video footage proves that both TSA and airport security lied, heavily, throughout their reports. It took a full year, but Nadine got the case against her dropped — but her mother had already died by then.
Breast cancer survivor forced to show prosthetic breast
A woman being forced to pull a nipple ring out with pliers is bad; an old man forced to walk through an airport drenched in his own urine is possibly worse, but they may pale in comparison to TSA screeners actually forcing a breast cancer survivor to remove a prosthetic breast and show it to them. Cathy Bossi, a flight attendant of 32 years, was on her way to work when this happened to her. She, like many other flight attendants and pilots, opted out of the X-ray scan because daily use of such a machine would mean daily doses of radiation. She wasn’t trying to make a statement, and she certainly wasn’t trying to hide anything. She’s not alone, either. There are more stories cropping up, every day, about the TSA humiliating women who have breast prostheses.
8-year-old on TSA’s watch list
It was mildly entertaining and only somewhat inconvenient the first time Mikey Hicks and his family were stopped at the airport terminal and told that their son was on the terrorist watch-list. He was 2 years old at the time, and his parents thought that it would not happen a second time, since incidents like that must go on record, right? Over time, it grew less funny. Early this year, Mikey and his family were making a trip to the Bahamas for a vacation. Mikey, now 8 years old, was stopped again. The TSA screeners, apparently literate enough to read the no-fly list and see that young Mikey had the same name as one of the entries, subjected the 8-year-old boy to a frisking. On his way back home, he was put through an even more aggressive pat-down. The boy doesn’t understand why anyone would think he’s a terrorist, but he took it all with a grain of salt. His parents, on the other hand, weren’t as understanding. The TSA holds that its people were doing a wonderful job, protecting the world from terrorists, and that there are no children on the no-fly list.
4-year-old forced to remove — and walk without — his leg braces
Quite possibly the worst offense on this list, a police officer in New Jersey took his family to the airport to take a trip to Disney World. His son, a developmentally-disabled 4-year-old who could not walk without leg braces, was helped through the metal detector by his mother. The alarm went off. The TSA screener, who obviously saw the boy as a threat to national security, said that he must take the braces off — and walk through the detector on his own. TSA’s own regulations state that this is not the case. The boy’s parent’s tried to plead with the screener, but he would hear nothing of it. He insisted that their son, whose leg muscles weren’t strong enough to support him, walk through the detector under his own power. When the boy’s father, now absolutely furious, demanded a supervisor. The screener’s gruff answer when confronted by the father personally was “you know why we do this,” implying that his being a police officer meant that he should think it was perfectly OK to force a handicapped toddler to do parlor tricks for a power-tripping security guard.