Schumer wants kinder TSA

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer has introduced legislation mandating the TSA implement passenger advocates, who would settle disputes during security screenings. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
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Spurred by three elderly women who alleged they had been mistreated by U.S. Transportation Security Administration agents at John F. Kennedy International Airport, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday he was introducing legislation mandating the agency create positions for passenger advocates.

“While we must do everything we can to ensure the safety and security of our passengers, that is no excuse for TSA agents to act in ways that embarrass, harass or make passengers uncomforta­ble,” Schumer said in a statement.

The TSA said in a statement that it does not comment on pending legislation but offers help to travelers through its Contact Center, customer service managers and Internet-based tool Talk to TSA, which puts passengers in touch with customer service agents.

The agency said it had also instituted a hotline, TSA Cares, that passengers who have disabilities or medical conditions can call for information up to 72 hours in advance of their flight.

The senator had been calling for the agency to institute advocates, who would resolve disputes that arise between passengers and agents during security screening, since December after three women traveling to New York for Thanksgiving said they were asked by agents to remove their clothes during the screening process.

The TSA apologized for the incidents at JFK and said its agents had acted improperly in screening the medical devices of two of the women — one of whom had a back brace and another a colostomy bag — but denied the women had been strip-searched.

Schumer said he wanted the agency to hire the advocates voluntarily, but decided to mandate it when women began reporting other inappropriate behavior from agents like suggestive comments and being asked to go through the body scanners multiple times.

“These latest incidents offer further proof that passengers need an on-site point of contact who they can bring grievances to and who can advocate on their behalf when they feel they are being treated unfairly or inappropri­ately,” he said.

The legislation, called the Restoring Integrity and Good-Heartedness in Traveler Screening Act, requires the agency to establish an Officer of Passenger Support to record complaints, have an on-duty advocate at all times, put up signs informing passengers that they can rely on an advocate if they feel they have been mistreated, determine the best ways of resolving frequent complaints, fix problems when they occur and give passengers the opportunity to pre-arrange the screening process if they have a disability or medical condition.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Posted 12:14 am, February 16, 2012
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Reader feedback

Bill Fisher from Baltimore says:
TSA has no interest in treating travelers as anything other than objects to be scrutinized. They lied about the traveler advocate program expecting that the issue would blow over and they would go back to business as usual.

Three women reported being strip searched in separate incidents at JFK on the same weekend but TSA denied it and called them liars instead. They then insisted that proper procedures were followed and only admitted wrongdoing only after threatened with State Police monitoring their screeners.

They now admit that two of the women were strip searched, after lying for months and claiming that it didn’t happen but want us to believe them to believe them about this. This is another demonstration of TSA’s utter contempt for passengers and a display of their arrogance.

TSA and Pistole have repeatedly lied about every issue raised including promising Congress four times that they would conduct independent testing of the scanners only to renege on those promises and deem the scanners "safe".

TSA is a complete failure and their lack of accountability and responsible management permits these abuses to persist. This agency is a national disgrace and must be replaced with something that actually works.

TSA Crimes & Abuses
Feb. 18, 2012, 1:42 pm

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