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‘Appalled’ John McCain and TSA clash over treatment of disabled passengers

By Arturo Garcia
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 17:25 EDT
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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is pressing the Transportation Safety Authority (TSA) for answers following more than 20 complaints on behalf of disabled passengers concerning their treatment at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport.

The Arizona Republic reported on Tuesday that McCain has contacted both TSA Administrator John Pistole and Jeh Johnson, who was nominated by President Barack Obama to head the Department of Homeland Security, following an earlier report by the Republic detailing incidents involving passengers getting groped in public, stripped of articles of clothing and removing prosthetic limbs.

“I was appalled,” the Republic quoted McCain as saying. “You are just disgusted by it.”

According to the Republic, 26 complaints were lodged against TSA officials at Sky Harbor Airport in 2012, double the amount from 2011, findings that McCain cited in a letter demanding information from Pistole.

“I write to ask you to explain the alleged wrongful actions of TSA personnel at Sky Harbor and review TSA’s screening policies for passengers with disabilities to ensure that security protocols meet contemporary threats and respect the dignity of travelers,” The Hill quoted McCain as saying in his letter.

KPNX-TV reported that in one incident, a 92-year-old man who uses a wheelchair said he heard one TSA agent tell another, “Find out if he has his knees and his hips. If he does, then there is no reason he can’t stand.” In another complaint, the grandson of an 82-year-old woman reported that his grandmother, who had survived breast cancer, was forced to remove her prosthesis, blouse and bra in a back room.

“I am sure you would agree that no 82 year-old woman should ever have go through such a process in order to board an airplane,” McCain said in his letter. “Of course, TSA has to strike a balance between privacy and security, but in the case of passengers with disabilities, that common-sense balance seems to be eluding TSA’s screeners at Sky Harbor.”

The Republic also reported that more people have come forward with their own stories about alleged mistreatment by TSA officials, including one woman who said agents were overly aggressive on multiple occasions when her 15-year-old autistic daughter set off a metal detector.

“They don’t use any discretion,” the woman, Jill Graf, told the Republic. “They always escalate by saying, ‘I don’t like your attitude.’ They escalate by arguing with a 15-year-old girl. It always involves patting down her chest.”

The TSA denied that any strip searches have taken place in a statement sent to the Republic.

“A passenger should not be asked to remove or lift any article of clothing to reveal a sensitive body area or to remove a prosthetic,” the agency’s statement read. “TSA works with numerous groups including breast cancer organizations to continuously refine and enhance our procedures to improve the passenger experience while also ensuring the safety of the traveling public.”

Watch KPIX’s report on the TSA’s alleged wrongdoings, aired on Tuesday, below.

[Image via CNN]

Arturo Garcia
Arturo Garcia
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
 
 
 
 
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