Cancer survivor forced to show prosthetic breast to TSA agents during airport pat-down
Horrified: Cathy Bossi from South Charlotte said she was upset having to remove her fake breast to show to TSA agents
A flight attendant and cancer survivor has revealed her horror at being forced to show her prosthetic breast to a security agent during a pat-down at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
Cathy Bossi from South Charlotte has been a flight attendant for over 30 years and has worked for U.S. Airways for the past 28 years.
She said she was asked to go through the full body-scanners at the airport in early August which she was reluctant to do because of fears of the radiation from the machine passing through her body.
The 3-year-breast cancer survivor agreed, but was then asked by two female Charlotte TSA agents to go to a private room for further screening, and they began what Ms Bossi described as an aggressive pat down.
She said they stopped when they got around to feeling her right breast – the one she had lost through her illness.
Ms Bossi said: ‘She put her full hand on my breast and said, ‘What is this?’. And I said, ‘It’s my prosthesis because I’ve had breast cancer.’ And she said, ‘Well, you’ll need to show me that’.’
She was then apparently asked to remove the prosthetic breast from her bra and show it to the TSA agents.
‘I did not take the name of the person at the time becaue it was just so horrific an experience, I couldn’t believe someone had done that to me. I’m a flight attendant. I was just trying to get to work’.
Ms Bossi has since contacted the Legislative Affairs Team provided through her flight attendant union because she wants to see a crackdown on personal pat-downs.
‘There are blowers and there are dogs out there that can sniff out bombs’, she said. ‘There’s no reason to have somebody’s hands touching your body parts.’
Touchy subject: Passengers have voiced their disapproval at being submitted to pat-downs at airports
A TSA representative said although agents are allowed to ask to see and touch any passengers’ prosthetic, they are not supposed to be removed and will investigate this matter.
Another woman is also comparing her experience at Lambert Airport in St. Louis to being sexually assaulted.
Penny Moroney was flying home to Chicago when while going through security, the metal in her artificial knees set off the detectors.
She had to undergo more screening because of the alarm going off and when Ms Moroney asked if she could go through a body scanner she was told none were available.
Shaken: Penny Moroney compared her pat-down at a St. Louis airport to being sexually assaulted
The only alternative offered to Ms Moroney was a pat-down which she said she found a horrific experience.
‘Her gloved hands touched my breasts… went between them. Then she went into the top of my slacks, inserted her hands between my underwear and my skin… then put her hands up on the outside of my slacks, and patted my genitals’, Ms Moroney explained.
‘I was shaking and crying when I left that room. Under any other circumstance, if a person touched me like that without my permission, it would be considered criminal sexual assault.’
Ms Moroney complained to the TSA supervisor and then on the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) website.
The national site are now monitoring what it calls a ‘flood of complaints’ from across the country from people who are dissatisfied with the screening process at their airports.
Ms Moroney said that she wishes there were full body scanners everywhere so that she didn’t have to endure having to be patted down.
When asked if putting hands down the front of someone’s pants is excessive, The TSA responded that their officers’ first priority is safety.
But the head of the TSA says the close-quarter body inspections causing a furor among some passengers and pilots are unavoidable in a time of terrorist threats.
John Pistole told CBS’s The Early Show today that he understands the public distaste for more intense security procedures, particularly hand pat-downs.
Body search: Ms Moroney had set off the detectors because she has metal plates in her knees but said the TSA agent then put her hands in her underpants for a more thorough search
He called it a ‘challenge’ for federal authorities and airport screeners.
But Mr Pistole said the attempted bombing of a U.S. bound plane last Christmas and the effort to ship packages with bombs to this country on cargo planes more recently makes tougher security measures necessary.
He said: ‘The bottom line is, we’re trying to see that everybody can be assured with high confidence that everybody else on that flight can be properly screened.’
Mr Pistole also claimed that the Obama administration could soon announce new airport security screening measures for airline pilots, who have complained about the full-body scans and invasive pat-downs.
He acknowledged that the search to find explosives and other weapons would offer
little protection against any pilot determined to bring down an aircraft.
‘We’ve had a number of very good discussions with pilots and hope to be announcing something very soon in terms of a good way forward for the pilots for that very reason, using a risk-based intelligence driven process,’ he said.
Too far: Enhanced airport security including enhanced pat-downs like the one pictured has raised concerns from civil liberties unions
Pilots’ unions, which have raised health concerns about scans and objected to rigorous pat downs, say their members already have gone through security background checks, making further screening duplicative.
U.S. officials contend that radiation from the scans pose no health risk at all.
Mr Pistole gave no indication that screening rules for passengers are about to change, despite calls for alternative measures including Israeli-style one-on-one interviews with travelers.
‘That’s a good topic of public debate. Obviously we use layers of security and hopefully we’re informed by the intelligence,’ he told ABC.
But the television network also reported on Friday that TSA is testing new X-ray technology that would show a ‘stick figure’ instead of a passenger’s full-body image.
As the U.S. airline industry enters one of the year’s busiest seasons, administration officials face a continued uproar over the invasive screening techniques intended to foil attacks such as the 2009 Christmas Day bomb plot in which a Nigerian man is charged with trying to detonate explosives in his underwear aboard a Detroit-bound airliner.
Images: A passenger stands in one of the full-body scanners and, left, the X-Ray image of his body
Travelers and U.S. lawmakers have objected to the scans that produce revealing body images and pat down procedures that are highly personal.
Critics have called for a boycott of the screening procedures during next week’s busy U.S. Thanksgiving travel season.
Some airports have threatened to privatise screeners rather than use TSA staff and pilots have sued in federal court to halt the screening procedures.
Amid the growing uproar, a new survey has revealed that more people will opt for road travel this holiday season over air.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) has revealed that 94 percent of Thanksgiving travelers nationally are expected to drive – up from 86 percent in 2008 and 80 percent in 2000 – this despite the high gas prices.
The air travel share is projected at 3.8 percent this Thanksgiving, the lowest figure in a decade.
Many aviation experts have scoffed at the full body scanner machines which costs more than $100,000 each saying they are an example of the focus on the perception of security that has pervaded airports since the September 11 attacks.
Security expert Bruce Schneier said: ‘All these machines require you to guess the plot correctly. If you don’t, then they are completely worthless’.
Mr Schneiere argued that assembling better intelligence on fliers is the key to making travel safer.
The TSA contend that the new machines are effective and have identified more than 130 dangerous or prohibited items this year. It also says the scanners incorporate protections for privacy.
But with the intense backlash from passengers and pilots, some airports are considering ditching TSA agents altogether.
Federal law allows airports to opt for screeners from the private sector instead.
The push is being led by a powerful Florida congressman who is a longtime critic of the TSA and counts among his campaign contributors some of the companies who might take the TSA’s place.
For Republican Rep. John Mica of Florida, the way to make travelers feel more comfortable would be to remove TSA employees out of their posts at the ends of the snaking security lines.
This month, he wrote letters to the nation’s 100 busiest airports asking that they request private security guards instead.
‘I think we could use half the personnel and streamline the system,’ Mr Mica said on Wednesday, calling the TSA a bloated bureaucracy.
Mr Mica is the ranking Republican on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Once the new Congress convenes in January, the lawmaker is expected to lead the committee.
Companies that could gain business if airports heed Mr Mica’s call have helped fill his campaign coffers.
In the past 13 years, Mica has received almost $81,000 in campaign donations from political action committees and executives connected to some of the private contractors already at 16 U.S. airports.
Private contractors are not a cure-all for passengers aggrieved about taking off
their shoes for security checks, passing through full-body scanners or getting hand-frisked.
For example, contractors must follow all TSA-mandated security procedures, including hand pat-downs when necessary.
Still, the top executive at the Orlando-area’s second-largest airport, Orlando Sanford International Airport, said he plans to begin the process of switching to private screeners in January as long as a few remaining concerns can be met.
The airport is within Mr Mica’s district, and the congressman wrote his letter after hearing about its experiences.
CEO Larry Dale said members of the board that runs Sanford were impressed after watching private screeners at airports in Rochester, N.Y., and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He said TSA agents could do better at customer service.
‘Some of them are a little testy,’ said Mr Dale, whose airport handles 2 million passengers a year. ‘And we work hard to get passengers and airlines. And to have it undone by a personality problem?’
To the south, the city’s main airport, Orlando International, said it is reviewing Mr Mica’s proposal, although it has some questions about how the system would work with the 34 million passengers it handles each year.
In Georgia, Macon City Councilor Erick Erickson, whose committee oversees the city’s small airport, wants private screeners there.
Mr Erickson called it a protest move. ‘I am a frequent air traveler and I have experienced… TSA agents who have let the power go to their head,’ Erickson said.
‘You can complain about those people, but very rarely does the bureaucracy work quickly enough to remove those people from their positions.’
TSA officials would select and pay the contractors who run airport security. But Mr Dale thinks a private contractor would be more responsive since the contractor would need local support to continue its business with the airport.
‘Competition drives accountability, it drives efficiency, it drives a particular approach to your airport,’ Mr Dale said.
San Francisco International Airport has used private screeners since the formation of the TSA and remains the largest to do so.
The airport believed a private contractor would have more flexibility to supplement staff during busy periods with part-time employees, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said.
Also, the city’s high cost of living had made it difficult in the past to recruit federal employees to run immigration and customs stations – a problem the airport didn’t want at security checkpoints.
TSA spokesman Greg Soule would not respond directly to Mr Mica’s letter, but reiterated the nation’s roughly 460 commercial airports have the option of applying to use private contractors.
Pilots Michael S. Roberts of Memphis and Ann Poe of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are also upset with the new measures and have refused to participate in either pat-downs or full body screening.
As a result they will not fly out of airports using these methods according to a lawsuit filed this week in Washington.
Mr Roberts is a pilot with ExpressJet Airlines and is on unpaid administrative leave because of his refusal to enter the whole-body scanners.
Ms Poe flies for Continental Airlines and will continue to take time off work as long as the existing regulations are in place.
‘In her eyes, the pat-down is a physical molestation and the WBI scanner is not only intrusive, degrading and potentially dangerous, but poses a real and substantial threat to medical privacy,’ the lawsuit states.
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