The TSA is getting some unwanted attention after a recent incident with a media personality who is battling cancer in Los Angeles.
Denise Albert, a host of “The MOMS with Denise and Melissa” on SiriusXM and TV, posted a video of her experience with TSA agents in Los Angeles on Facebook. She has been battling breast cancer, and as a result had conditions that required some accommodation.
Albert has TSA PreCheck, and had informed the agents of an implanted port and medications in her luggage. She reportedly went through the scanner without a hitch, but was then asked by agents to remove her shoes, to which she complied. However, due to open sores on her soles from her treatment, she couldn’t place her bare feet on the floor.
From the video, you can see the agent doing a pat-down her thighs and between your legs, probably until she “met resistance.” As the agent attempted to proceed with a pat-down of her upper limbs and chest area, Albert said “you cannot touch me.” According to Albert, she removed her wig out of frustration, and lifted up her shirt so the agents could do a visual examination (not shown in the video).
Throughout the ordeal, the agents allegedly told her the additional screening was required because she wanted to bring to take (presumably liquid) medications onto the plane.
Here’s an excerpt of Albert’s description of her experience. You can read her full account on Facebook.
I have never been so humiliated or felt more violated in my life. I went through the scanning machine at the airport without incident. I had already told them about my metal port and my medical cream which I removed from my bag for them to see and test as I have done on prior flights. I don’t know what was different this time but TSA agents aggressively attempted to do a body cavity search in public. I was TSE [sic] precheck and once through the scanner they asked me to take off my shoes. I explained I didn’t have socks on and that my cream is for an infection from my current treatment, including on my feet. So if they wanted to put my shoes through x-ray, I would have to sit down because I would not put my bare feet on the floor. They allowed that. They then started to tell me they would apply pressure from head to toe and I got very upset because I wear a wig…
They also put my shoes through and then wouldn’t allow me to put them back on until after the full body search. After at least 20 minutes of sitting there because they were debating how to proceed, I told them my feet were freezing. Also a side effect from chemo. They refused to help me. The woman reached behind me and forceable and aggressively put her hands down my jeans in the back. At some point they offered me a room but wouldn’t let me put my boots on to walk there…
On the video you see the woman shove her hand up my crotch and then try to go down my shirt. That’s when I said (again) I have a medical port and had a lumpecomy…they said they were calling law enforcement and I asked them to please do so. Finally, a supervisor arrived. The only way I was allowed to proceed was when the supervisor was kind enough to have more compassion and possibly think the 2 agents went too far and took me into a private room for a regular soft pat down. After that, it still didn’t end. Even though all of my bags when through x-rays without incident as well, they opened my bags, removed everything and another TSA agent joked about all of the eyelashes I had. I told her, it’s because I don’t have real ones from my cancer treatment.
I have my fair share of frustrating experience with the TSA, though I don’t think I can agree that the agents were attempting to do a “body cavity search in public,” as Albert stated. However, I do think that even if the TSA agents’ job is to “ensure safety and security,” compassion and sensitivity is absolutely necessary when they work in a passenger-facing environment. If the additional inspection really was required in the first place, proactively offering a private screening probably wouldn’t have been a bad idea.
Here is TSA’s official policy regarding a pat-down.
If you cannot or choose not to be screened by advanced imaging technology or a walk-through metal detector, you will undergo a pat-down procedure instead. You may also undergo a pat-down procedure if you alarm the screening equipment and/or at random. The pat-down will be conducted by a TSA officer of the same gender and you may ask that the TSA officer change their gloves before performing a pat-down. The TSA officer will ask whether you have an injury or tender area to treat such areas accordingly during a pat-down.
You may request to have a pat-down in private and be accompanied by a companion of your choice. You may bring your carry-on baggage to the private screening area and may request a chair to sit if needed. You will not be asked to remove or lift any article of clothing to reveal sensitive body areas. Please note a second TSA officer will always be present during a private pat-down screening.
The TSA does have policies regarding accommodations for those with medical conditions, and there is a “notification card” you can download, print, and present during your screening. The TSA has released a statement to ABC7NY:
The Transportation Security Administration takes reports of alleged impropriety very seriously. TSA is currently looking into the specific details as to what occurred during the screening process to ensure our security protocols were followed. We regret any discomfort the security screening process may have caused the passenger. We will work with the passenger directly to address her concerns.
Do you think the TSA handled the screening of this cancer patient appropriately?