After TSA complaints, bill would require ‘passenger advocates’ at airports

A TSA screener pats down a traveler at Orlando International Airport on November 24, 2010.

Want someone to complain to next time you fly? You may soon be in luck.

After three elderly women said they were strip-searched at JFK in December, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said he will introduce legislation this week that will mandate the Transportation Security Administration employ “passenger advocates” at all U.S. airports.

The advocates would summoned by fliers who feel they’ve been inappropriately touched or treated by TSA workers, said the New York senator.

In December, Schumer asked the TSA to voluntarily implement the advocates, but the federal agency has so far declined to do so.

“Because the TSA has refused, I’m introducing legislation that would force them to do so,” said Schumer earlier today. “Going through security at our nation’s airports should not be a humiliating or degrading experience.”

Schumer said he was compelled to act after several women across the nation filed complaints with the TSA, claiming they were subjected to sexually suggestive screenings. One woman flying out of Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport earlier this month said agents made her walk through a full-body scanner three times. While being scanned, the woman said agents asked if she played tennis because of her “cute” figure, according to Schumer’s office.

TSA officials at first denied claims from three older women who said they were strip-searched at JFK in three separate incidents. However, in January, the agency admitted the screeners had violated standard practice in two of the incidents, and apologized. Ruth Sherman, 89, pulled down her pants after she was asked to show her colostomy bag while at Terminal 3, admitted the TSA. Agents also violated policy by scanning a back brace worn by Long Island resident Lenore Zimmerman, 85.

Schumer’s bill would also require the TSA to set up an “Office for Passenger Support” in every airport, where passengers could log complaints. The bill would also require signs at every security checkpoint, letting people know how to summon the advocate.

Here’s more embarrassing gaffes by TSA agents.


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