After a series of abuses by TSA officials across the county, Hawaii Senators on the Transportation and Public Safety/Military Affairs committees, unanimously passed a “Travelers Bill of Rights” on Monday, March 19.
Based on Congressman Ron Paul’s federal proposal, Senate Concurrent Resolution 15, authored by Minority Leader Sam Slom, R-Hawaii, urges the congress to rein in the TSA abuses and make the agency more accountable for privacy rights and personal civil rights. Slom is a member of a national legislative task force – the United States for Travel Freedom Caucus – formed in March 2011 to ensure TSA accountability.
The Hawaii resolution attracted the attention of Alaska State Rep. Sharon Cissna, who co-chairs the United States for Travel Freedom Caucus.
In testimony submitted to the Hawaii Legislature, Cissna, who served on Alaska’s Military and Veterans committee in Alaska for more than a decade, writes the TSA current procedures “do not have verifiable oversight over their equipment and give very poor management and training to their employees.” She added: “Security is not being served by the current program. We must demand better.”
Cissna, R-Alaska, made national headlines when she took on federal airport screeners in February 2011, refusing to submit to her second “intrusive” search and body pat down in three months by the Transportation Security Administration. When the then 68-year-old cancer survivor, who also suffered abuse in her youth, was barred by federal security from flying from Seattle, Washington to her home in Alaska, she took alternative transportation. During the four-day journey home to Auke Bay near Juneau, she heard from several other people about embarrassing and humiliating experiences they’d had with the TSA.
“Ordinary citizens across this country have told us they are being treated like common criminals by the TSA.” Cissna, who had a mastectomy, said in an interview with Hawaii Reporter. “Many of them are cancer or other health-related survivors, whose prostheses, pacemakers or other surgically implanted devices cause them to be continually subjected to embarrassing pat-down procedures.”
That personal communication – combined with more than 1,000 letters, emails, calls and visits Cissna received after national exposure on her story and her testimony that followed before the U.S. House – led to a new partnership with Sen. Val Stevens in Washington State. Together Cissna and Stevens formed the United States for Travel Freedom Caucus inviting legislators from across the country who’d introduced TSA reform legislation to join them. So far, there are 9 states with legislators in the caucus including Alaska, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.
To get the attention of Congress, they hope to recruit at least 32 states in total. “Congress has made a terrible mistake by not finding out what is happening with the TSA. I told my story and people responded to my story, and through that experience, I learned how widespread and how big of a problem this is. This is a huge problem,” Cissna said.
One of Stevens’ main concerns is the effect of the TSA procedures on children. “Parents will wisely not want their small children subjected to the scanners’ x-rays, so they opt for the pat-down. As children are touched in places they have been told to protect, they become traumatized. … It was just heartbreaking. We should not be doing this to our kids.”
At least one family agrees with Cissna after their 3-year-old toddler in a wheelchair was extensively searched by a TSA agent while they were on their way to Disney World in Orlando, Florida, from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
The boy’s father filmed the search and published a video on Youtube, which made international news today. See the video here :TSA Nabs Suspected Al Queda Terrorist At Chicago Airport, A toddler in a wheelchair –
This and many other incidents involving the TSA have led several state legislatures and Congressman Ron Paul, R-Texas, to take up the issues of freedom of travel and invasion of privacy.
In March 2012, a Hawaii mom said she was humiliated by a Kauai TSA agent who told her she would not be allowed to bring her breast pump with her on board because it had no milk in it. She had to go into the bathroom and pump milk in front of many people who came through the restroom until the bottles were full in order to prove those were medically necessary. She told KITV News she was embarrassed, humiliated and angry over the experience. The TSA later apologized.
January 18, 2012, a TSA official strip searches two grandmothers in their 80s at New York’s JFK Airport. The TSA later apologized.
October 2011, a TSA inspector left a note on the inspection slip of a piece of luggage where a vibrator was found that read: ‘Get your freak on girl’, according to the London Daily Mail.
December 6, 2011, a third woman has complained that she faced an intrusive security search at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, according to UPI.
In April 2011, a Hawaii TSA screener plead guilty to theft, after she was caught stealing $200 from an undercover agent, according to a KHON TV 2 news report. There had been several complaints that Dawn Nikole Keka was stealing cash from Japanese travelers coming through the Kona Airport on the Big Island.
In June 2011, in Hawaii, 30 TSA officials were fired for improper screening after an extensive investigation by their supervisors which showed inspectors were improperly screening bags for explosives.
In 2010, breast cancer survivor Cathy Bossi said she was humiliated after the TSA demanded she show her prosthetic breast to Charlotte Douglas Airport TSA screeners.
In November 2010, John Tyner, a 31-year-old software programmer, refused to walk through the invasive body scanners in San Diego because of privacy and health concerns, choosing instead a “pat down.” But then he learned about the agency’s new policy for “enhanced” pat-downs, which meant the agent could put his handsand fingers on the passengers’ groin. He said: “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” And then he left the airport. His video of the incident went viral, and people started wearing T-shirts and stickers that read “Don’t Touch My Junk.” The TSA then threatened him with an $11,000 fine.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii also submitted testimony in favor of the Hawaii resolution saying no one should have to choose between invasive pat downs and naked body scans by strangers to keep airplanes safe.
“The non-targeted use of full body scanners on all travelers passes neither the civil liberties nor security test,” the ACLU testified.
Kit Grant wrote in his testimony in support of the resolution: “I just completed a month of travel and, refusing to let the government take naked pictures of me, had to go thru groping, offensive and humiliating pat downs four times in U.S. airports as lines and lines of people backed up for these mandatory privacy invasions that even the
TSA is on record as saying will not stop a determined terrorist. It’s government-mandated chaos. I have to ask: why? As a geographically isolated state requiring air travel for any interisland or out of state travel, the people of and visitors to Hawaii know all to well and first hand and from local news reports how ineffective, invasive and even corrupt the entire TSA screening procedure is.”
The TSA did not submit any testimony or comments. No one opposed the Senate resolution, which is expected to gain full approval by the 25-member Senate.