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Third Elderly Woman Comes Forward With Claim Of Being Strip-Searched By TSA At JFK

New Incident Said To Be Mirror Image Of Previous 2; Rep. King Concerned
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Lenore Zimmerman (L) and Ruth Sherman (R) both claim they were strip-searched at Kennedy Airport (credit: CBS 2)

Lenore Zimmerman (L) and Ruth Sherman (R) both claim they were strip-searched at Kennedy Airport (credit: CBS 2)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — They are two elderly women with two humiliating stories, they say, at the hands of airport security at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The women say they were strip searched by Transportation Security Administration agents.

Now a third woman, Linda Kallish, has come forward as the outrage grows. She spoke to CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown on Monday afternoon.

Kallish, who is in her 60s, told Brown a nearly identical story about her experience going through security JFK last weekend. In fact, she was on the same flight as one of the other women.

She said she is outraged and embarrassed.

“It’s been my fear every time I fly, that something like this would happen,” Kallish told CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey on Monday night.

The TSA confirmed it is investigating all three claims.

CBS 2’s Dave Carlin spoke to the first two women to come forward on Sunday.

“They strip searched me. I was in shock,” said 85-year-old Leonore Zimmerman of Long Beach.

“It never happened to me before,” added 88-year-old Ruth Sherman of Florida.

Zimmerman and Sherman don’t know each other and they weren’t traveling together last weekend, but the women have strikingly similar stories.

“She said ‘pull your pants down. Then she pulled my underwear down,” Zimmerman said.

“She said lower your pants and that’s what I did,” Sherman added.

Both women said they were forced to take off their clothes in a private screening room at JFK  last weekend, one day apart as part of an extended pat down by TSA agents.

“They decide this 85-year-old lady needs to be strip-searched,” Zimmerman said.

Congressman Peter King, who chairs the committee on Homeland Security, pointed out not all terrorists look like terrorists and said the incidents highlight a frustrating problem.

“There have been cases overseas where elderly people and young children have been used to conceal bombs and explosives so I understand why the TSA is concerned, but you can’t treat everyone the same,” Rep. King said.

Security expert Bob Strang said there’s a need for sensitivity in searches but he understands where TSA agents are coming from.

“If you have an elderly person in a wheelchair or if you have a child with stuffed animals, sometimes those are the kinds of things terrorists look for to put explosives in,” Strang told CBS 2’s Hennessey.

“The TSA is getting better and better at finding the balance between security and privacy, but as this case shows they still have a ways to go,” added N.Y. Sen. Chuck Schumer.

The TSA is looking into what happened and said it has interviewed the agents involved in both incidents, but issued a statement saying “TSA does not include strip searches in its protocols and a strip search did not occur in this case.”

But, there are no security cameras in the private screening rooms, so it boils down to a he said/she said situation.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris is outraged at what the two women say happened and at the agency’s response and is demanding a deeper investigation.

“Where there’s smoke there’s fire and it seems we have TSA agents that are crossing the line in terms of their searches of passengers,” Gianaris.

At JFK on Monday night, passengers didn’t have much sympathy.

“It’s what they have to do. There really isn’t a happy medium, unfortunately,” said Josh Rolnick of Merrick.

“I think they do a great job,” Eileen Haggerty of Pleasantville.

Again, there are now three women with nearly the same story. The most recent woman to come forward said she has diabetes and when she told agents she had an insulin pump attached to her thigh that’s when they made her strip, and she was too afraid to say “no.”

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