Eighty-five Year Old Grandma Claims Being Strip Searched by TSA at JFK: She Plans to Sue
By Ellen Cannon
Lenore Zimmerman of Long Beach, New York was going through security at JFK Airport trying to make her 1PM flight to Florida when security suddenly took her to a private room where two female TSA employees started to undress her. Elderly, suffering from a hunch-back and walking with a walker, Mrs. Zimmerman feared that the metal detectors would intrude with her defibrillator. She said she normally asks to be patted down. This time they escorted her away.
Mrs. Zimmerman is outraged. She contends that she was not only humiliated but injured as well when her walker banged her leg causing a gash. According to Mrs. Zimmerman, the TSA workers offered no sympathy as they continued to pull her pants down. She was treated by a medic who worked on her bleeding for an hour (www.nydailynews.com12/3/11).
According to Nicholas Hirshon of the New York Daily News, the incident occurred on Tuesday. Hirshon notes that TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein reviewed the incident after watching it on closed circuit television. According to Farbstein, correct procedures were followed. “Our procedures, she said, are conducted in a manner designed to treat all passengers with dignity, respect, and courtesy. In addition the footage according to the TSA shows no evidence of being injured.
However in news reports issued today by both msnbc and the AP potentially contradictory information emerged. The TSA issued a statement “that no strip search was conducted. While we regret the passenger feels she had an unpleasant screening experience, TSA does not include strip searches as part of our security protocols and one was not conducted in this case.” The TSA made no mention of Mrs. Zimmerman’s reported injury that she states was treated by a medic. Furthermore, according to TSA spokesperson Jonathan Allen, “A review of closed-circuit television at the airport showed no improver procedures were followed. Private screening was requested by the passenger; it was granted and lasted approximately 11 minutes.” What is critically important is the fact that “the private screening was not recorded.” ((C. Long, AP, salon.com (12/3/11) Most closed circuit screenings do not retain depictions for long periods of time. Consequently, there is no retained image depiction evidence of what occurred.
Mrs. Zimmerman states that she took a tetanus shot to prevent infection from the injury from the walker which she incurred during the incident.
One of the largest legal settlements involving strip searches and pat-downs at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, occurred in 2006. A group of women agreed to accept $1. 9 million in compensation for what they said were illegal pat downs and strip searches. The lawsuit was filed in 1997, long before the present post 9/11 airport security procedures were in place.
The lawyer for the plaintiffs was Judd Minor, a prominent Chicago attorney. The women who filed the case were African American women whom customs agents “pulled out of line without cause and forced the women to submit to searches which were sometimes humiliation.” According to Mr. Minor, all of the customs agents were women who claimed that they pulled people out of the line who appeared to be nervous and gave inconsistent answers to questions. The criteria, he pointed out, were subjective, no reliable, and resulted in the majority of people strip searched being African American women. U.S. officials who were required to offer the 87 women $1.9 in compensation admitted no wrong doing. As one of the women plaintiffs stated, “The money was not the issue with me. We were able to bring attention to the problem.”(Michael Higgins, Chicago Tribune, 2/5/06)
As of now, the case of Mrs. Zimmerman is front page news throughout the country as well as featured on many blogs. This case is not going to go away.