Video: Lawmakers urge TSA to restrict pat-downs

  1. Closed captioning of: Lawmakers urge TSA to restrict pat-downs

    >>> lawmakers in at least four states want the tsa to back off. a picture of a baby getting a pat-down sparked the latest round of anti-tsa outrage. there is that picture. now lawmakers were pushing laws that would charge tsa screeners with a felony sex crime for touching passengers' private parts . new jersey state senator michael doherty introduced legislation to restrict pat-downs and bar body scans and so has texas state representative david simpson . both republicans join me now. gentlemen, good to see you both.

    >> thank you.

    >> good to see you.

    >> so senator doherty, let me begin with you, representative doherty, i should say. when we're looking at people going through screening, the reason those pat-downs happen, according to the tsa is because they're necessary, they're thorough. we don't want people like the christmas day underwear bomber getting through. is this pushing it a bit too far?

    >> well, contessa, the fourth amendment of the united states constitution is very clear. and it states that we have a right to privacy and the government cannot invade that private area absent going to a judge and getting some type of probable cause and a warrant issued. and what is going on right now is a violation of constitutional rights of american citizens and i've introduced legislation on a number of fronts saying that these new x-ray body scanners should be outlawed and also this invasive touching is actually a crime and the tsa agents should have no immunity.

    >> representative simpson, let me ask you, why do you think it is necessary to put this into law to say no touching private parts ?

    >> well, we have to draw a line somewhere and we believe the line is with our private parts . i shudder to think what a terrorist -- if a terrorist hides a bomb in a cavity, what they would do then. we don't oppose reasonable searches, but we oppose treating innocent travelers as criminal suspects and here in texas, the texas house has said the line is with our private parts , 95 -- or 94 legislators signed that legislation with me. we hope to see it passed on final engrossment this afternoon.

    >> the texas senate has yet to act on that legislation. let me just ask you, though, what would be your reaction if i have to come back to you in a year and somebody got threw based on hiding explosives or something like near their private parts ? what if the tsa doesn't pat them down? then what is going to be your reaction?

    >> well, nothing is perfect.

    >> go ahead, representative.

    >> at vfw airport, an undercover tsa agent went through the body scanners five times with a handgun and was not detected. the present methods are not perfect. the metal detectors are very helpful and not invasive or intrusive. i don't know why we don't just use them. dog sniffing, dogs that sniff explosives are also helpful. but this intrusive touching of people's private parts is uncalled for without probable cause .

    >> michael, i played a little videotape of miss usa who had gone through the pat-down and when she got through, she was crying and was very explicit where she had been touched and said that was her second pat-down of the travel day and it was far different than the one she had in los angeles , the one in houston from the one in los angeles . is that part of the problem is that even though they're supposed to be a protocol, they vary from person to person, from city to city?

    >> well, i think the problem that we have is there are much less invasive ways for our government to determine who may be a threat. and you look around the world and there is airlines such as el al airlines. they're able to assess if a passenger is a threat if they fit into a particular profile. that's what we need to do, we need to have some common sense profiling here, in the united states , use some of the techniques we see other airlines use like el al . what we have done, the government has gone to the most invasive right off the bat. and they are trampling the fourth amendment rights of american citizens. it is very interesting, you mentioned the detroit christmas bomber, and actually everybody should go check out the testimony given before the house homeland security committee back in january of 2009 . they actually hauled in a guy from the state department and said why did you let this detroit christmas bomber come into the country? and he said, we actually flagged him to not let him in, yet we were overridden by intelligence agencies of the united states government stating we want to know who he's working with, let him go through. so as an american citizen , i'm pretty outraged that our government actually identified that detroit christmas bomber, yet other intelligence agencies of the u.s. government said let him through and immediately after that, this new tsa security procedure including the invasive pat-down procedures were implemented.

    >> senator michael doherty , representative david simpson , gentlemen, thank you, both, for joining me. appreciate it.

    >> thank you, contessa.

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Explainer: Up in arms over pat-downs

  • Since the Transportation Security Administration initiated tighter airport security measures in late summer — including new X-ray body-scan machines that render subjects virtually naked and intimate pat-downs for those who decline to go through them — some airline passengers have taken offense at what they consider unreasonable invasions of privacy.

    Image: TSA screening
    Ted S. Warren  /  AP

    Click at left to review some of the most notorious confrontations between TSA screeners and unruly passengers.

  • Don't touch 'my junk'

    In one of the best-documented confrontations between a traveler and TSA employees, software engineer John Tyner told a screener at San Diego International Airport who was explaining the pat-down procedure, "If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested."

    Tyner, 31, who recorded the exchange using his cell phone camera, was on his way to go hunting in South Dakota when TSA agents asked him to go through an X-ray machine.

    "I don't think that the government has any business seeing me naked as a condition of traveling about the country," he replied.

    Tyner, of Oceanside, was informed that he could undergo a pat-down instead, but after hearing the procedure described, he made his now-famous "junk" comment.

    A TSA supervisor and police were called and Tyner was ultimately escorted out of the screening area and to a ticket counter, where his ticket was refunded.

    Tyner told the Los Angeles Times that his father-in-law, who went on without him, was initially upset that he had refused the body scan and missed the hunting trip. But by the time he had touched down in South Dakota, he had changed his mind.

    "He called me and said, 'You know, I'm really proud you took a stand on something you believe in,'" Tyner was quoted as saying.

  • Prosthetic breast examined

    A longtime Charlotte, N.C., flight attendant and cancer survivortold WBTV  that she was forced to show her prosthetic breast during a pat-down in August.

    Cathy Bossi, who works for U.S. Airways, said she received the pat-down at Charlotte Douglas International Airport after declining to do the full-body scan because of radiation concerns.

    Bossi said that when the TSA screener placed her hand on her prosthetic breast, she explained that she had undergone a mastectomy three years earlier. The screener responded, 'Well, you'll need to show me that,' and ordered her to pull the artificial breast out of her brassiere, Bossi said.

    "I did not take the name of the person at the time because it was just so horrific of an experience, I couldn't believe someone had done that to me," Bossi told the station. "I'm a flight attendant. I was just trying to get to work."

  • Pat-down busts urostomy bag

    Image: Thomas Sawyer
    Courtesy Thomas Sawyer
    Thomas Sawyer, 61, said he was left "humiliated" and covered in urine after undergoing a TSA pat-down.
    Thomas D. Sawyer, a retired special education teacher, was left soaked in his own urine after an aggressive pat-down by TSA officers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport burst his urostomy bag.

    Sawyer, 61, told that he was “absolutely humiliated, I couldn’t even speak,” after the incident on Nov. 7, as he was on his way to a wedding in Orlando, Fla.

    Sawyer is a bladder cancer survivor who now wears a urostomy bag, which collects his urine from a stoma, or opening, in his abdomen. “I have to wear special clothes and in order to mount the bag I have to seal a wafer to my stomach and then attach the bag, he said. “If the seal is broken, urine can leak all over my body and clothes.”

    That, Sawyer said, is exactly what happened during the pat-down.

    After passing through a security scanner, which apparently detected his urostomy bag, Sawyer was informed he needed to undergo a pat-down search. When he asked for a private search, two TSA screeners took him to a nearby office.

    Sawyer said he tried to inform them about his medical condition, but “they said they didn’t need to know about that.”

    Instead, one agent proceeded to run his flat hand down Sawyer’s chest, ignoring warnings not to press on the bag, Sawyer said.

    “But he ignored me,” he said. “Sure enough, the seal was broken and urine started dribbling down my shirt and my leg and into my pants.”

    The security officer finished the pat-down, tested the gloves for any trace of explosives and then, Sawyer said, “He told me I could go. They never apologized. They never offered to help. They acted like they hadn’t seen what happened. But I know they saw it because I had a wet mark.”

    The soaked Sawyer made his flight, but said he had to wait until after takeoff to clean up and change his clothes and urostomy bag.

    After his experience received widespread publicity, Sawyer said he received an apology in a phone call from TSA chief John Pistole.

  • 'Boxer rebellion' ends in arrest

    Samuel Wolanyk conducted a boxer rebellion of sorts on Nov. 19 when he stripped to his underwear at a security checkpoint at San Diego International Airport.

    Wolanyk, who was on his way to Barbados, shed his pants and shirt in a futile effort to avoid a pat-down after refusing a full-body scan.

    Unlike fellow traveler John Tyner, who was escorted to the airline counter to obtain a refund after warning TSA screeners not to “touch my junk,” Wolanyk was arrested for refusing to complete the security process.

    In a statement released by his attorney after the incident, Wolanyk said, "TSA needs to see that I'm not carrying any weapons, explosives, or other prohibited substances, I refuse to have images of my naked body viewed by perfect strangers, and having been felt up for the first time by TSA the week prior (I travel frequently) I was not willing to be molested again."

    Wolanyk's attorney said that TSA requested his client put his clothes on so he could be patted down properly but his client refused to put his clothes back on. He never refused a pat-down, according to his attorney.

  • Pat-down for shirtless boy

    A shirtless boy’s pat-down by TSA screeners at the Salt Lake City airport on Nov. 19 was captured on video by a college student waiting in a security line, triggering yet another outcry about what critics describe as over-the-top security measures.

    Utah Valley University student Luke Tait posted the video on YouTube, where it was viewed more than 765,000 times in three days.

    Tait said the boy appeared so shy he couldn't keep his arms raised for a pat-down, and the father apparently removed his son's shirt out of frustration to speed up the search.

    "I was shocked and realized something crazy was going on, so I took my BlackBerry off the conveyor belt and started recording," Tait told The Associated Press.

    "A couple of times the father raised the arms of the boy. That ended up not being enough, so the father got frustrated and tore his boy's shirt off," Tait said.

    That prompted a TSA officer to protest, "Sir, sir!"

    The TSA said in a blog posting that the boy was being searched because he sounded an alarm inside a metal detector. The boy's father removed his son's shirt to expedite the screening.

    "That's it. No complaints were filed and the father was standing by his son for the entire procedure," said the posting by "Blogger Bob" of the TSA Blog Team.

Interactive: Full-body scanners

Photos: Airport Body Searches

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  1. (Terry "Aislin" Mosher / The Montreal Gazette, Canada, Back to slideshow navigation
  2. (Daryl Cagle /, Back to slideshow navigation
  3. (Cam Cardow / Ottawa Citizen, Back to slideshow navigation
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  6. (Jimmy Margulies / The New Jersey Record, Back to slideshow navigation
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