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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  • Ituri

    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?

    • tippietoez

      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!

    • Jesimiel Harp

      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.

    • Kim

      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!!

      • trololol

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

      • Randy Mantooth

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

      • Joe ThePimpernel

        That comment makes you a terrorist threat, you know.

        How dare you disrespect Eric Holder’s people!

    • jim

      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.

      • Meg McLain

        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****

      • Ken

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

  • Kathy

    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!

    • tippietoez

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

    • Kevin Pearson

      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.

  • Kim

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

  • http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/checkpoints-borders-policy-debate/1310130-cbs-11-news-dfw-female-passengers-say-they-re-targeted-tsa.html#post17945333 Anonymous

    […] […]

  • Joey Masona

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

  • walnuttrees

    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.

    • Doug

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

    • Jayce

      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?

  • Sommer Gentry

    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!

  • Kramer

    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.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/1432/news/women-say-theyre-singled-out-by-tsa/ Women say they’re singled out by TSA

    […] yet another unsurprising development, female passengers claim they’re being targeted by TSA agents for extra, uh, scrutiny. A Dallas woman says TSA agents repeatedly asked her to step […]

  • jon

    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

    • Joey Mitchell

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

  • sam

    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..

    • Rik

      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?

    • Joey Mitchell

      Sam is probably an online government troll.

      • Joey Mitchell

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

    • Kevin Pearson

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

      • TheVirginian

        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.

    • DaveVB

      You’re a tool.

    • Jayce

      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!

      • pat

        You should sell that rock on EBAY :)

      • david

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

      • Aleya

        Epic. :D

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    […] some female passengers believe there is nothing “random” about the way they were picked. More from: http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2012/0… Filed under Uncategorized | Leave a […]

  • http://polizeros.com/2012/02/03/back-in-the-tsa/ Back in the TSA

    […] scanners (which the European Union banned last November due to safety concerns).A number of women travelers using the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) are complaining that they feel unfairly targeted for extra screening.“The screener appeared to enjoy the process […]

  • Charlie

    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.

    • david

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

    • Aleya

      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.

  • Dale

    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!

    • jarhead

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

    • GoGetter

      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.

    • Steve Fox

      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?

      • TheVirginian

        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”?

  • Bill Fisher

    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

  • murmaid

    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.

    • pat

      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!!

  • Jayce

    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.

  • Savage Nation

    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.

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    […] the Dallas CBS affiliate reported last week, that wasn’t all. Terrell says she walked into the body scanner, but was […]

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  • Lynn

    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.

  • Teresa

    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.

    • Jon

      “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.

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    […] the Dallas CBS affiliate reported last week, that wasn’t all. Terrell says she walked into the body scanner, but was […]

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