The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) received over 900 complaints from travelers over the last month who've been subjected to the new screening procedures of the Transportation Security Agency.
"The TSA agent used her hands to feel under and between my breasts," said one woman. "She then rammed her hand up into my crotch until it jammed into my pubic bone."
About 70 airports have put into use over 400 backscatter x-ray machines that can see beneath passengers' clothing. If the ticket-holder refuses the scan due to health or privacy concerns, they're subjected to an invasive physical pat-down. The new body scanners and pat down procedure have both received intense scrutiny amid reports of travelers feeling humiliated and traumatized.
"The government must keep us safe, but it must do so in a way that is sensible, effective and constitutional," Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, said. "The new 'enhanced' security methods are far more intrusive than other methods but have not been shown to be any more effective. Nobody should be forced to choose between 'naked scans' and intrusive groping by strangers to keep our airplanes safe."
A former Army veteran and sexual assault victim was forced to endure a TSA pat down because of her panty-liner, according to her email to a popular women's health company.
"Now, I don't want this to be about bad TSA agents," she wrote in an email to GladRag's blog.
"They were doing their job, they were as delicate as they could be, etc., etc. But what ultimately happened is that I was subjected to search so invasive that I was left crying and dealing with memories that I thought had been dealt with years ago of prior sexual assaults."
"These new scans are so horrible that if you are wearing something unusual (like a piece of cloth on your panties) then you will be subjected to a search where a woman repeatedly has to check your 'groin' while another woman watches on (two in my case - they were training in a new girl - awesome)," she added.
In mid-November, Joe Sharkey of the New York Times reported that the new body scanners could detect panty liners, noting that the TSA "couldn't say" if that would necessitate a pat down. Security officers "are expected to exercise some discretion," the TSA told Sharkey.
"So please, please, tell the ladies not to wear their liners at the airport," the woman continued. "I just don't want another woman to have to go through the 'patting down' because she didn't know that her glad-rag would be a matter of national security."
Another woman told the ACLU that the pat down she received was more intense than her monthly breast exam.
"She ran her hands all the way up and into my crotch with force," she said. "When she finished with the front she did the same with my back to the point that she, what I would call groped, my butt. She went under, in between, and on my breast."
A man from New York said he was berated by TSA officers for refusing a body scan.
"Three or four TSA employees came over, basically surrounded me and very loudly proclaimed what a jerk I was for refusing the scan," he said. "The 'supervisor' then spent 15 minutes examining every part of my body - it was intrusive, humiliating and without a shadow of a doubt, intended to punish me for electing to not be irradiated."
More excerpts from complaints sent to the ACLU can be viewed on the organization's website.