A 56-year-old woman who says she is a rape victim was arrested and banned from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Wednesday after refusing to receive a pat down from a Transportation Security Agency (TSA) officer.
Claire Hirschkind could not receive a body scan because of a pacemaker-type device in her chest and was escorted to a female TSA officer to receive an enhanced pat down.
“I told them, ‘No, I’m not going to have my breasts felt,’ and she said, ‘Yes, you are,’” Hirschkind told KVUE.
After refusing to receive the enhanced pat down, she was arrested.
“The police actually pushed me to the floor, and handcuffed me,” she said. “I was crying by then. They drug me 25 yards across the floor in front of the whole security.”
Hirschkind said her constitutional rights were violated.
About 70 airports have put into use over 400 backscatter x-ray machines that can see beneath passengers’ clothing. Passengers who set off a metal detector or body scan machine or refuse to be scanned receive an invasive physical pat down.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said it received over 900 complaints from travelers in November who were subjected to the new screening procedures of the TSA.
“Under the newly implemented enhanced pat-down, a TSA officer slides his or her hands over an individual’s breasts, buttocks, groin, and inner thighs, and inserts his or her fingers inside the entire circumference of the pant’s waistband,” a lawsuit filed against Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and TSA administrator John Pistole stated.
“Although it is well established that subjecting airline passengers to limited searches designed to detect weapons and explosives is consistent with the Fourth Amendment, it is equally well established that such searches must be reasonable,” the lawsuit added.
In response to the incident at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the TSA issued a statement saying “our officers are trained to treat all passengers with dignity and respect” but that “security is not optional.”