Female Passengers Say They’re Targeted By TSA

2/13/2012 update: This story has led to new legislation being introduced in the U.S. Senate.  Click here for that part of the story.

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Women passengers complain that TSA agents are targeting them for extra screening.

The Transportation Security Administration has a policy to randomly select people for extra screening, but some female passengers are complaining. They believe there is nothing “random” about the way they were picked.

A Dallas woman says TSA agents repeatedly asked her to step back into a body scanning machine at DFW International Airport. “I feel like I was totally exposed,” said Ellen Terrell, who is a wife and mother. “They wanted a nice good look.”

When Ellen Terrell and her husband, Charlie, flew out of DFW Airport several months ago, Terrell says she was surprised by a question a female TSA agent asked her. “She says to me, ‘Do you play tennis?’ And I said, ‘Why?’ She said, ‘You just have such a cute figure.’”

Terrell says she walked into the body scanner which creates an image that a TSA agent in another room reviews. Terrell says she tried to leave, but the female agent stopped her. “She says, ‘Wait, we didn’t get it,’” recalls Terrell, who claims the TSA agent sent her back a second time and even a third. But that wasn’t good enough.

After the third time, Terrell says even the agent seemed frustrated with her co-workers in the other room. “She’s talking into her microphone and she says, ‘Guys, it is not blurry, I’m letting her go. Come on out.’”

When TSA agents do a pat down on a traveler, only female agents are allowed to touch female passengers. But the TSA allows male agents to view the images of female passengers.

Ellen and Charlie Terrell are convinced that the extra screenings were unnecessary, possibly even voyeuristic. “I think it’s sexual harassment if you’re run through there a third or fourth time,“ responded Texas State Representative Lon Burnam of Fort Worth. “And this is not the first time I have heard about it,” said Burnam, who adds that a number of his constituents have voiced concerns about privacy.

CBS 11 News dug through more than 500 records of TSA complaints and found a pattern of women who believe that there was nothing random about the way they were selected for extra screening. TSA redacted the names of the passengers who complained, but here are quotations from several complaints.

  • “I feel I was targeted by the TSA employee to go through the see-you-naked machine because I am a semi-attractive female.”
  • “The screener appeared to enjoy the process of picking someone rather than doing true random screening. I felt this was inappropriate. A woman behind me was also “randomly selected.”
  • “TSA staff ‘trolling’ the lines looking for people to pull out was unprofessional.”
  • “After that, I saw him going to the private room where x-rays are, to speak to the guy on that room.”
  • “I know he went to that room to see my naked body through the machine with the other guy.”
  • “When I looked around, I saw that there were only women that were “told” to go through this machine. There were no men.”
  • “Maklng American citizens unwilling victims of a peep show by TSA employees using full body imaging devices is an over-the-top invasion of privacy to which I strenuously object.”

CBS 11 News first contacted the TSA in mid-January to request a one-on-one interview on camera. A TSA spokesperson told us that no one was available for that kind of interview. The TSA held a news conference the following week. “Privacy issues is the main point,” said Amy Williams, Federal Security Director for Dallas Love Field.

At the news conference, the TSA announced that DFW and Love Field airports now have all-new scanning machines. The updated technology shows a only a generic-body outline which highlights potential threats. “With the old technology, we had to have an image room that was separate from the equipment,” says Williams. The older scanners, which create more detailed individual x-ray like images, are still used in 39 airports across the country.

“It just makes me wonder what’s going on. Are they doing this all over the country? They’re missing their focus,” said Charlie Terrell.

“You just feel like your privacy has been violated,” says Ellen Terrell.

Ellen Terrell told CBS 11 News that she did not file a complaint because she did not realize that she had that option. Passengers may not be aware that they also can opt out of the scanner by requesting a pat-down screening instead.

The TSA provided CBS 11 News with the following statement in response to our investigation.

“TSA does not profile passengers. All of our millimeter wave technology units including those in Dallas have been upgraded with additional privacy enhancements that no longer display passenger-specific images. Even prior to this upgrade, officers reviewing the images were located in a separate room and would have never seen the passenger being screened. To further ensure passenger privacy and anonymity, a privacy filter was applied to blur all images. The technology remains optional to all passengers.” — Kristin Lee, Assistant Administrator, Office of Strategic Communications & Public Affairs, Transportation Security Administration

A TSA spokesperson told CBS 11 News that it is not protocol to send a passenger back into a scanner more than once. He said the agency takes all complaints seriously and urges consumers to file complaints if they have a problem. He said airports store video of checkpoints for at least 30 days and complaints filed within that timeframe may be reviewed using the video. He added that passengers can notify a TSA supervisor on location to make a complaint.

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One Comment

  1. Ituri says:

    There is no question about it. I have only ever NOT been “randomly selected” once since the redrawing of the “security” lines. I have never gone through the scanner and never will. I am chosen every single time without fail. It doesn’t matter what I wear, how much, how little, how dull or provocative, how I wear my hair, how “blendy” I try to be, I am ALWAYS chosen, and ALWAYS by a male.

    And 95% of the time, the male TSA agent SNEERS at me when I opt out of the scanner. They give me the worst face possible every single time. Then I’m treated like garbage for the rest of the entire process, and there’s no question they’re crude to you and make the pat-downs worse on purpose to punish those who don’t just do whatever they want.

    I’m so sick of airports, I can’t stand being treated like trash, a criminal. I’m a good person, I’ve never even had a speeding ticket! And every tyrannous nation begins with its “weaker” social members, the elderly, children and women, to test what a population will accept against it. Do we learn nothing from history?

    1. Kim says:

      I, too am ALWAYS “randomly” selected for the sexual assault. I always travel with the big, burly hubby who is NEVER selected. The consensus from friends and family is that I’m selected for the size of my breasts. I totally agree but I refuse to reduce what God gave me just so I won’t have to be harrassed by these useless perverts. No flying for me anymore! I hope they all get what’s coming to them for trying to fry innocent Americans in their microwaves and I hope it is slow and painful!!

      1. Randy Mantooth says:

        If Ituri is busy, perhaps we could get together. You sound interesting.

      2. Joe ThePimpernel says:

        That comment makes you a terrorist threat, you know.

        How dare you disrespect Eric Holder’s people!

      3. trololol says:

        Yeah, “God” didn’t give you your big boobs, Kim. More like your insatiable appetite for fried chicken.

    2. Jesimiel Harp says:

      Ginger acts as if it is ok to be patted down by a tsa agent. Why is the news services not questioning the actions of our government. Ginger needs to do a report on why we are all being treated as criminals.

    3. jim says:

      Honestly, how else are we going to be safe? Any group of women could smuggle weapons onto a plane and you know these agents really need to get a good look and feel up there on these girls in the name of safety.Terrorists would be more inclined to use teenage girls so what do you expect, and the government would never be so negligent to actually create an agency that allows sexual perverts the ability to pick and choose American citizens to victimize under threat of arrest. And how do we know that every person on the plane would all fight for their survival knowing they are most likely going to die anyway. These x-rays are proven safe by tests not yet released, besides TSA agent are around these devices for significant periods of time as proof.

      1. Ken says:

        I’m not sure if you’re being real or sarcastic.

      2. Meg McLain says:

        how can we be safe? let people carry weapons on the plane. let me ask you this, if people were allowed to carry self protection with them onto a plane, would 9/11 have happened? nope.

        government has no responsibility to protect you. the courts of the US government have said over and over that there is no obligation to protect you. so they don’t. everyone needs to be responsible for their own safety. sadly, that safety is being threatened by the US government, not “terrorists”.

        ***FACT: you are 8x more likely to be killed by a cop than by a terrorist****

    4. tippietoez says:

      Then DON’T FLY!!!! It’s because of you people that there is still groping and naked body scanners. I refuse to fly. Yes, I love to travel, but I WILL NOT until this goes away. It’s against the constitution. Stop being a sheep and say no to flying!

  2. Kathy says:

    What an incredible waste of taxpayer dollars! The scanners are ineffective and violate not only our dignity but our Constitutional Rights. I opt out each and every time while telling the TSA workers that I only submit to their illegal search under duress. We have to take back our Rights!

    1. Kevin Pearson says:

      I arrived at the airport wearing flip-flops, the shortest short I had and a t-shirt – and nothing else. I was just waved through the checkpoint and they didn’t lay a finger on me.

    2. tippietoez says:

      Kathy, you’re not taking back our rights by allowing yourself to be groped. DON’T FLY!!!!!!!

  3. Kim says:

    The lady got on the plane with a gun!!!! ‘Nuf said about the screening process,

  4. Joey Masona says:

    The TSA is a JOKE. Biggest waste of an agency there is, period.

  5. walnuttrees says:

    There are reports from all across the country of this happening on a regular basis.

    Why can’t we get the internet community to join together to force change on the TSA as was done with SOPA and just yesterday with the Komen Foundation (not that they have made any change yet but they are under tremendous pressure).

    Pressure from constituents would force Congress make changes in both DHS and the TSA, hopefully forcing both Napolitano and Pistole out.

    1. Jayce says:

      Among other things, the former head of the TSA miraculously ended up lobbying for the scanner makers (not terribly long after that billion dollar contract he signed with them). And the Justice Department is nowhere to be found…. Hmmm… I wonder? Nah, the TSA is definitely about security! Right? Right?

    2. Doug says:

      If you want to get together to change the TSA, join the National Association of Airline Passengers (right2fly.net) Membership is free.

  6. Sommer Gentry says:

    Anyone can see that a process by which male screeners get to pick and choose which women and teenage girls go though a machine that shows the victim’s naked body to the man’s buddies in the back room will be abused. It defies explanation how TSA could have instituted such a sexually exploitative procedure. TSA set us up to be victimized and harassed. TSA, get your filthy hands out of our pants and stop creating nude images of our bodies!

  7. Kramer says:

    Everything that the TSA does is a waste of time and money. The nude scanning machines are expensive, they cause many people to get groped and felt up due to false positives, meanwhile, most airport related employees as well as the TSA don’t even go through security when entering.

  8. jon says:

    you guys are all liars same people posting all over the net..lol you guys just want private companies to come in and make a quick buck..your a joke

    1. Joey Mitchell says:

      Please learn English before you try to use it to promote tyranny.

  9. sam says:

    tsa is doing an excellent job not one plane has gone down do to terrorist activities. bad guys won’t even try…thats how good tsa is.. lets all be real tsa is here to stay why even fight it? private companies will never take over..

    1. Jayce says:

      I have this magic rock, and it prevents tiger attacks. Since I started carrying this rock 20 years ago, I have not been attacked by a tiger, not once! Would you like to buy my rock? Its only $1,000. You can avoid tiger attacks, as well!

      1. pat says:

        You should sell that rock on EBAY 🙂

      2. david says:

        Please can i buy it ;D , I need that kind of protection in Australia

      3. Aleya says:

        Epic. 😀

    2. Joey Mitchell says:

      Sam is probably an online government troll.

      1. Joey Mitchell says:

        …or a TSA agent. Same goes for “Jon”. I guess the ignorance of proper grammar and punctuation would suggest TSA agent in both cases.

    3. Kevin Pearson says:

      The underwear bomber tried. BBBBBZZZZZZ!!!! You lose.

      1. TheVirginian says:

        According to TSA’s own commentary, the current scanners would not have detected the “underwear bomber.” And the head of the department of radiological medicine at Columbia University’s medical school estimates the body scanners could be responsible for as many as 100 additional cases of cancer per year among flyers. I have and will continue to opt out and take the option of a physical search.

    4. DaveVB says:

      You’re a tool.

    5. Rik says:

      Since it was created, the TSA has not caught one single terrorist. Not one.

      Meanwhile, there are hundreds of reports (and who knows how many unreported cases) of weapons being let onto aircraft, and several would-be terrorist attacks that were prevented only by the other passengers on the plane.

      Remind me again, why does the TSA still exist?

  10. Charlie says:

    I am a male and I get picked to go through the scanner every time i am at the airport, so I don’t think it’s just women and I never see anything inappropiate when I am there.

    1. david says:

      you donot live in Calafornia “YO WHO!! , come here we just want how you look, my your such a big man ” lol

    2. Aleya says:

      Are you LOOKING for anything inappropriate as you are gliding seamlessly through the scanner? Would you know what you were looking for? Really important commentary though.

  11. Dale says:

    2 million people fly every day in the United States, 500 complaints from people who think they are special is NOT a pattern and is Insignificant!

    1. jarhead says:

      Your sheepdog called, you’re wanted back at the meadow.

    2. GoGetter says:

      Dale, baaaaaaaaaa baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. Sheep are good for wool and meat. But maybe you’re the type to board the train or willfully make your way into the corner of the shower room.

    3. Steve Fox says:

      2 million prescriptions are filled every day, and 500 are wrong. is that insignificant?

      2 million operations occur at US airports every day (an operation is defined as one landing or one take off). 500 operations fail. Is that insignificant?

      1. TheVirginian says:

        The head of the department of radiological medicine at Columbia University’s medical school estimates these full body scanners could result in as many as 100 additional cases of cancer per year among flyers. (Source is a PBS Newshour broadcast in Dec. 2011). Would you consider that many extra people dealing with cancer each and every year to be “insignificant”?

  12. Bill Fisher says:

    Anyone who travels a lot sees how TSA targets younger, attractive women. This has been going on over a year and often the passenger doesn’t realize she is part of the TSA screeners entertainment. I’ve seen them single out young girls just so the males can watch her get a groping pat down.

    This is the abuse you get when you have a corrupt unaccountable agency whose workers think they are above the law.

    In 2011 there were 62 TSA screeners arrested for serious crimes, including rape and murder. Of these, 11 were for sex crimes involving children and 4 for smuggling contraband through security There have been 4 arrested in the first month of 2012 and TSA is on pace to for another 60 crimes this year.

    TSA hiring standards state that the worker may not have had a criminal conviction in the past ten years but exclude juvenile convictions when the applicant becomes 18 even if the conviction is less than a year old. Often, those caught in these crimes are found to have recent criminal arrests that weren’t discovered in the hiring process. Consequently, many TSA workers have criminal histories but we’re supposed to trust them with airline security and control of our belongings

    TSA Crimes & Abuses

  13. murmaid says:

    I used to fly at least 20 times or more per year until the “porn-o-matics” came rolling out in airports. II now boycott flying all together because of the TSA. I refuse to have some nose-pickin, gonad scratchin Walmart reject get his jollies off of “looking at boobies”. Do they single out women? You know darn well and good they do! My daughter (21yr old petite cute blondie) says she gets pulled out of the line EACH AND EVERYTIME and told she must receive a scan. She said the last time she flew out of LAX there were at least 5 men ahead of her and another 5 behind her in line. Don’t tell me that THAT’S not “picking your prey”.. She even said after the scan they would not let her leave the machine and the TSA goon that picked her out of the line disappeared for a few moments. She knew full and well he was on a run to have a “peek”. She flys alot and says she sees lots of other girls her age and attractive women get the same treatment.

    1. pat says:

      Good for you.
      I have also stopped flying. I travel by Amtrak (much nicer—less stress method) now..no TSA…and I can get alot more work done during the trip. And when the TSA takes over the trains? I’ll DRIVE!!

  14. Jayce says:

    They get off on abusing us. They enjoy humiliating us and debasing us, and they will continue taking things a little further, an inch at a time, so long as there are enough fools out there who buy the “as long as it makes us safer” lie. I truly hope there is a Hell, because there is no just punishment for the heads of the TSA and DHS on this Earth. They have done more in less time to destroy this nation than the terrorists could ever have hoped for.

    Napolitano, Pistole, and every traitor in Congress who voted for the (horribly misnamed) “Patriot Act”, I hope you rot in Hell for eternity, you sold out our nation’s every hope.

  15. Savage Nation says:

    Die Terrorisieren Stasi Agentur (The T.S.A.), Big Sis Janet Napoleono, Big Bro Eric Holdover and company, love the Grope Down.

    Now they’re at Train Stations, on Streets at local events, and even running random highway gropepoints (aka TSA putting local/state cops up to it) and illegal drive by nuking scanner vans.

    The only way to stop it is to promise the non-sworn Governmentized Security Guards a civil rights suit and citizens arrest if they violate you or your children then tell your State Congressperson & Senators you’ll go bankrupt de-electing them if they don’t defund the TSA and re-privatize Airport Security.

  16. Lynn says:

    I too was selected and must say the worst was at DFW, they were rude and suggestive. The female who patted me down went beyond her duty. When I complained it was on deaf ears and they rolled their eyes at me. Complements to DIA who did things appropriately.

  17. Teresa says:

    You stated that you have a choice in the type of screening. I stated to a female tsa agent that I did not want to do that screening and whay did I have to…her response was because I said so. If I had not been on the way to clean out my mother’s house who had passed away I probaly would have complained.

    1. Jon says:

      “Because I said so”…really? Most school-aged children aren’t even foolish enough to take that as an acceptable response to a legitimate question. We’re turning into a nation of toddlers at the mercy of our paternalistic, GED-holding overlords, apparently.

  18. Marlin says:

    People, this is easy to fix. Just stop flying.

    1. pat says:


      I now travel by train for biz matters and drive for vacations. (except I’m still waiting for the train tunnel to Hawaii !!) LoL.

      I have cut up my freq flyers cards and mailed them back to the airline..and they know why I wont fly anymore. You cant be sheep…make a stand..

    2. Steve says:

      Actually it’s even easier than that – just vote for Ron Paul.

    3. Ms Independent says:

      That’s dumb.

    4. Richard says:

      The TSA is a corrupt rogue agency and if you think they’re stopping at airports you’re sadly mistaken – highways, high school proms, train stations, they’re already all over the place.

      If you want to stop this corrupt rogue senseless agency, vote for Ron Paul for 2012.

    5. Doug says:

      Don’t just stop flying-change the law. Contact your congressman regularly, and encourage your friends, neighbors and co-workers to do the same. Keep it up, and encourage others to do the same.

      The National Association of Airline Passengers(right2fly.net) is trying to change the law. Membership is free.

  19. Ms Independent says:

    Dear US Citizens,

    LEARN YOUR RIGHTS AND DEFEND YOURSELF. STOP BEING SO DUMB. Nobody will protect you better than you. Smarten up already. Stop being the victim in the news.

  20. Love4ourHumans says:

    Want your Constitutional Rights back???

    Ron Paul 2012 – He is the only one. Do the Research WITHOUT the TV ON!!!

  21. Charles says:

    Join the Boycott against the expanding police state. Boycott26.com

  22. Citizen Joe says:

    So the TSA is willing to expose people to cancerous back-scatter radiation so they can get their rocks off?

    Are we prisoners or are we free citizens? Wake up America, this is nothing but the government training us to be slaves. It’s sad to see people not questioning this dangerous and intrusive treatment at the hands of morons.

  23. Worried Citizen says:

    Your (Ginger Allen) suggestion to simply “opt-out” is very misleading and does nothing to reduce the feeling of personal violation.

    The reality is that if you opt-out, the pat down process is very invasive and there have been numerous reports of TSA agents feeling passenger’s genitalia.

  24. PBJ says:

    Why isn’t 60 Minutes or 48 Hours set up a camera to prove these stories true or false? A day or two’s worth of filming would reveal any pattern of abuse. How about it, Media?

    1. TheVirginian says:

      PBS Newshour did as you asked. Their broadcast aired on Dec. 1, 2011 and also featured medical experts discussing their concern over the safety of the technology and the lack of — and TSA refusal to allow — independent tests to confirm that safety.

      1. TheVirginian says:

        Oh, and there have been cases where TSA threatened to shut down a checkpoint or tried to have the journalists arrested — or both — when reporters tried to keep track of checkpoint operations as you’ve suggested.

  25. golddiggerfail says:

    Has anyone noticed the amount of times CELEBRITIES have to go through xray machines? It is SO obvious why they’ve been selected, I bet the TSA Xray observation deck is stuffed with the entire airport staff whenever Jessica Simpson etc. shows up….

  26. Dr Brehst X. Am says:


    These claims are baseless until I see pictures. Bonus points for a still image of a cartwheel.

  27. Ken says:

    Why am I no surprised? As far as I’m concerned, the TSA is a joke.

    Until the number of people with intent to cause malicious harm to an aircraft exceeds the number of TSA agents charged and convicted of crimes while on the job, they’ll never have my trust nor respect.

  28. Vercigentorix says:

    First, I am unsurprised, these guys they’ve got working for TSA have almost no training to speak of. One person commented that 2 Million people fly every day and 500 complaints occur… Corrected facts… How many fly out of DFW Daily and then look at the complaints.

    Ok, so we’ve spent BILLIONS of dollars on the “millimeter wave” machines that will not detect what they allegedly look for and Now, we’re spending even more to get Upgraded machines that show LESS detail than the first set that couldn’t see anything. Wow, George Soros must be doing a jig and clapping. The man owns a Major stake in the company that produces these useless machines and is getting Lots of money every time we buy another. It is all a bit frustrating.

  29. Thomson says:

    There used to be an online forum through Flyertalk, where people could discuss TSA problems of all kinds. But because the site caters to the transportation industry, they literally closed down that forum in January 2012. Before that, TSA staff had even hassled a passenger because he had a Flyertalk logo on a small carry-on bag. The TSA knews this online forum was giving people an easily available means of complaint, right across the country; so pressure was put on the administrators. Now the public only gets a chance to share these stories when an occasional horror tale like this one hits the major news. Believe me, problems happen on a daily basis. This is why the number of airline flights in the USA in 2011 hit a 10-yr low in 2011 according to Yahoo. Meanwhile the WSJ said flights increased slightly over 2010. Two conflicting stories. Guess which one I believe.

  30. A.S., San Francisco says:

    I would just like to give a sincere and heartfelt thanks to Ginger Allen and the rest of CBS channel 11 in Dallas/Ft. Worth for uncovering this story and giving the victims of this TSA profiling and invasive treatment a shot at justice. I read about this story on wired.com and I, too, notice more females than males going through the scanner machines at my local airport, SFO. Thank you, thank you thank you for speaking up and giving these women a voice.
    If some female TSA employees would now have the courage to step forward and speak-up about known abuse of these scanners by their male counterparts, every scanner machine could be modified to remove the voyeuristic temptation.
    TSA needs to manage their employees so it is more focused on real threats to safety and less like the security video room at a victoria’s secret store.
    I will never allow myself to be scanned by these machines again.
    Thank you Ginger Allen and CBS 11!!!!!

  31. Larry Talley says:

    The TSA knows the general times and the specific gates at DFW where these incidents took place. That means they know which male employees were on those particular shifts. So why haven’t these employees who not only violated policy, but also may be guilty of a sex crime, been fired?

    The public has lost confidence in the TSA, especially at DFW Airport. By not terminating these employees with malice, they invite further public scrutiny as we – the public – find these actions reprehensible.

    Perhaps we need another multi-million dollar tort case against DFW Airport and the TSA to finally get justice served, as it is required by law.

  32. DrewP says:

    Just wait until all this see-through-your-clothes technology hits US streets everywhere. Rest assured, the “Department of Homeland Security” is funding it with your tax dollars. If you think the police state of the future will be limited only to airports, you’d better think again.

    Want to stop it? You’d better vote for Ron Paul in 2012. And keep your powder dry in case all else fails.

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