When you think of a young pregnant woman, does dangerous-to-national-security immediately come to mind? Time and again, we've seen TSA agents treat little kids, elderly folks, and people with disabilities like highly potential terrorists. While not all TSA screeners may enjoy performing enhanced pat-downs, there are TSA agents who seem to be drunk with power and misuse their authority at airports. Such may have been the case at Knoxville Airport when TSA agents seemed to go out of their way to harass a young pregnant woman.
We've looked at the controversy surrounding body scanner technology as EPIC challenged DHS and TSA's use of those scanners. Some believe the body scanners are not safe. How much more might a pregnant woman worry about the risks? Previously TSA agents at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport pressured a pregnant woman into the full-body scanners; she had wanted a pat-down instead of exposing her unborn child to any possible scanner risk. In another case involving a pregnant mother, she had printed out the TSA breast milk rules in case there was a problem and agents tried to run it through x-ray. She ended up in a "glass cage" while a TSA agent told her to be quiet if she knew what was good for her.
While working on a holiday might put a person in a bad mood, that is no excuse for the TSA to take it out on innocent travelers. Pregnancy can certainly stir up hormones, but TSA agents singled out another pregnant woman. One of the main differences is that this pregnant lady wanted to go through the AIT scanners instead of having to endure the groping of an enhanced pat-down.
A 25-year-old pregnant first grade teacher emailed The Intell Hub to relate her story of how TSA agents bullied her at the Knoxville Airport on Easter Sunday. When the pregnant woman, Becky, walked through the metal detector, it buzzed. Becky was sent to another TSA agent who swabbed her hands. Afterwards, Becky started to grab her purse but was told, "Don't touch that and get back over here." The TSA agent then searched Becky's purse and wallet as Becky grew increasingly upset. She wanted to go back with her husband and board the plane as it was scheduled to take off in 20 minutes.
The lady then called for backup because they said they found 'traces of explosives' on my hands. I asked if it was policy to search and profile young pregnant women who obviously did not come into contact with ANYTHING explosive or dangerous, and asked why they searched my wallet without asking me. They did not respond.
TSA supervisor Agent Olinger "forced" Becky to a back room without asking if she wanted to have a private room for a pat down. Becky said "Don't touch me!" because they were forcing her against her will and treating her "very harshly."
When Becky asked if they would make her remove her clothes, Agent Olinger snapped, "Not unless you want to go to jail." The TSA supervisor was described as "incredibly rude."
I was almost hysterical and crying and asking why they were doing this to me, and I said I did not want to be touched, that I was pregnant, that I didn't want her hands on my body and especially on my belly. The Olinger woman barked out a bunch of stuff I could not understand, and without my consent felt up my entire body, breasts, butt, etc. I was NOT given the option to have AIT (body scanners) instead of her touching me. I also wanted to be out in public with my husband and other people, not in a private room.
After the TSA agents wrote down all of Becky's information from her boarding pass without explaining why - other than doing "my job," Becky was allowed to board the plane. A man came up to her and offered to be a witness for how the TSA had treated her. Becky is worried her name might end up on a watchlist.
She believes she was harassed because she was pregnant "as if the bump under my shirt was something other than my unborn child. I am horrified and outraged by this experience and I hate the TSA."
As Rep. David Simpson told The Raw Story, "If we don't nip this thing in the bud it's gonna come to our sidewalks, to our football games. The DHS was considering as recent as five years ago doing covert scanning of the public, but they've denied pursuing that any further. That they would consider it shows they have no regard for the Fourth Amendment."
The Intel Hub believes a police state starts by harassing minors and women. A commenter on that site may be a troll or may hate "arrogant" Americans, saying none of us are "innocent" and now it's the "American people's turn."
People in the USA do not "deserve" to be sexually assaulted, molested, humiliated or feel violated merely because they choose to travel by air. The TSA would have you "Talk to the TSA" if you have a complaint, but the ACLU is also logging complaints about the TSA. The ACLU advises, "If you are denied the right to opt out of the body scanner machines or believe you have suffered from rough, rude, and humiliating manhandling and groping of breasts and crotch areas, sexual comments, and a lack of privacy, please contact us."
Image credit: pironimo
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Ms. Smith (not her real name) is a freelance writer and programmer with a special and somewhat personal interest in IT privacy and security issues. Smith has a diverse background in information technology, programming, web development, IT consulting, and information security. She focuses on the unique challenges of maintaining privacy and security, both for individuals and enterprises. She has worked as a journalist and has also penned many technical papers and guides covering various technologies. Smith is herself a self-described privacy and security freak.
Smith is an independent contractor and is not affiliated with any vendor that makes or sells information technology.
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