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TSA denies woman, 85, strip-searched

Dec. 5, 2011 at 7:45 PM   |   Comments

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NEW YORK, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- The Transportation Security Agency denies an 85-year-old woman's allegation she was strip-searched at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.

Lenore Zimmerman said the invasive search took place at a JetBlue airlines terminal Nov. 29, WCBS-TV, New York, reported Sunday.

"After they patted me down, they took me into a private room and they strip-searched me," Zimmerman said. "I said: 'Why are you strip-searching me? Do I like look a terrorist?'"

She said her family wants justice and she intends to sue.

The Hill reported TSA officials deny the elderly traveler was made to remove her clothes.

"TSA contacted the passenger to apologize that she feels she had an unpleasant screening experience; however, TSA does not include strip searches in its protocols and a strip search did not occur in this case," TSA blogger Bob Burns said in a post on the agency's Web site. "We're currently gathering information and reviewing the screening of this passenger, but we wanted to share what we know so far."

Zimmerman said she missed her flight and had to wait 2 1/2 hours for the next one.

Her son, Bruce Zimmerman, said he wanted some sort of consequence for the incident.

"I think the two agents that escorted or initiated the strip-search should be terminated," he said.

The Long Beach, Calif., woman, who winters in South Florida, said she wanted a patdown because her defibrillator cannot go through the screening machine, WCBS said.

TSA said its review of security camera footage showed Zimmerman was asked to remove a back brace she told security personnel she was wearing.

"The passenger opted out of advanced imaging technology screening, requested a patdown and told the officers that she was wearing a back brace or support belt which required private screening," the agency blog said. "Private screening was conducted by two female officers. The item was removed, rescreened and the passenger was cleared for travel.

"Nothing unusual was depicted on the [closed-circuit television] as the passenger and two female officers entered and exited the room."

New York state Sen. Michael Gianaris said he wondered how TSA can be so certain of events, since there are no cameras in the private screening rooms.

"It's outrageous," he said. "What they need to find out is exactly what happened and if someone crossed the line they need to be penalized."

Another woman, 88-year-old Ruth Sherman of Sunrise, Fla., said her visit with family members in New York ended when screeners wanted to physically check the lump created by a Sherman's colostomy bag -- also near the JetBlue terminal at JFK, WCBS said.

"This is private for me. It's bad enough that I have it," she said. "I had to ... pull my underwear -- my underwear -- down."

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