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TSA Officials: Proper Procedures Were Followed In Cases Of Elderly Strip-Searching

Without Cameras In Private Screening Rooms, It's Case Of He Said, She Said
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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) — There’s new fallout over airport screening procedures after three women say they were strip-searched at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

On Tuesday a former top-ranking Transportation Security Administration agent weighed in, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reports.

They are three women, all over 60, all with medical issues and all with nearly identical stories of humiliation, while traveling through security at Kennedy last weekend.

“I’ve never heard of someone’s pants or underwear being taken off,” former Deputy Federal Security Director Russell McCaffrey said.

After nine years as a deputy director with the TSA at Newark Liberty International Airport, McCaffrey said the claims from three women that they were strip searched at JFK are stunning.

“I think there may be a little more to the story,” McCaffrey said.

The incidents all happened within one day in the same terminal. Two of the women were on the same flight.

And one by one they have come forward with claims of being forced to take off their pants, so TSA agents could examine their medical apparatus.

In Ruth Sherman’s case, it was a colostomy bag.

“She said please pull down your pants. I was crying then. I couldn’t believe it,” Sherman said.

The TSA’s own policy states passengers with a colostomy or urine bag “…will not be required to expose these devices for inspection.”

And that passengers should not be asked to “lift, remove, or raise any article of clothing to reveal a sensitive area of the body” … including the groin.

They are policies that appear to have been violated by agents.

“There’s been an evolution at the airports in inspections and pat-downs and I think it’s getting better,” said John Page, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Gage, who is the president of the union that represents TSA agents, said Sherman never told agents she had a colostomy bag — only “a bag.” And when agents saw what it was they backed off.

“The officers followed standard operating procedure and, of course, their activities were on tape,” Gage said.

But there are no cameras in the private screening rooms.

In a statement, the TSA said the agency is reviewing the allegations but, “Our preliminary review of each of these claims indicates all screening procedures were followed.”

McCaffrey said the jury is still out on whether the agents acted properly.

“Typically, alarms can be resolved very easily with a pat-down, with an explosive swab sample to make sure that the item doesn’t contain any type of explosive charge,” McCaffrey said.

CBS 2’s Brown spoke with a woman Tuesday, an airline passenger, who also has an insulin pump. She said when she travels screeners give her a glove, have her touch her pump and then they swab her gloved hand, avoiding anyone actually touching her.

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