Friday, April 29, 2011

Another unreasonable search - this time she was pregnant

A pregnant woman wrote to a blogger about her recent traumatic experience at the hands of the TSA in Knoxville. I've pasted her story below. In a recent post, I noted that any travel - and especially air travel - is stressful. All the TSA does is add to the stress and read our completely normal and understandable signs of stress with suspicion. These stories will continue to be common, and, thankfully, we have the internet to share them. What is your breaking point? How many stories like this must you hear before you say enough is enough?
I went through the metal detector at the Knoxville Airport on 4-24-11 at approximately 5:20 pm. It buzzed, so the TSA agent pointed me to another agent, and she swabbed my hands. I then went to grab my purse, and she said “Don’t touch that and get back over here.” She would not let me have my things, and proceeded to search my purse and wallet without asking me. I was flustered, upset, and getting angry, as my husband and I were needing to board as our flight that left in 20 minutes from that time.
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.
Then the backup agent, who I later was told was the supervisor on duty, Agent Olinger, said I had to come with her. She and the other lady forced me to leave my husband and almost miss my flight, pushing me on my back toward a room, to which I said “Don’t touch me!” because they were forcing me against my will and treating me very harshly. They did not ask me if I wanted to go in a private room – I did not want to be away from my husband and most of all did not want her to touch me.
I then asked if they were going to make me take my clothes off to which Olinger snapped, “Not unless you want to go to jail.” She was incredibly rude and would not explain why they were making me go into the room.
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.
Then the other woman demanded my boarding pass, and when I asked why she just said “I need your boarding pass.” She then left and Olinger wrote down all my information on a form. I asked why and what she was doing and she said “My job” and would give me no explanation. I told her to watch out for other dangerous pregnant women, and left, sobbing, upset, and sick to my stomach. I became dizzy and sick for the rest of the evening.
When seated on the plane, a nice man came up to us and said he would like to be a witness for us as to the way I was treated and harrassed. He said he felt that it was profiling, rude and harsh to treat me that way. I felt violated and treated as a criminal and was given no apology or explanation when NOTHING was found on me. Now I feel I will have to suffer every time I fly because they put my name on some “dangerous passenger” list.
I also feel that my harassment was due to pregnancy, 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. Time and again they harass young women, children, and others who certainly do not deserve to have their rights, or their bodies so violated.