CBS 2 Investigation: Who’s Scanning Your Body At The Airport?

TSA In The Line Of Fire After Women Tell Of Horror Stories, Privacy Violations

NEW YORK (CBS 2) — If you’ve been to an airport recently, you’ve probably seen security randomly select people for extra screenings.

But in a CBS 2 investigation, some female travelers say there was nothing random about it.

They claim agents hand-selected them with something else in mind, reports CBS 2’s Kristine Johnson.

“I feel like I was totally exposed for some guys in a back room watching on a video camera,” Ellen Terrell said.

Terrell said she was singled out at the airport.

“They wanted a nice, good look,” she said.

Terrell said they weren’t looking for weapons or explosives. She said security agents in another room were sneaking a look at her body and they enlisted the help of a female agent to do it.

“She says to me, ‘do you play tennis?’ And I said ‘why?’ She said ‘you just have such a cute figure,’” Terrell said.

Here’s how an airport body scanner works: as a passenger walks through the body image is viewed by agents out of sight in another room. In Terrell’s case she said she had to walk through the scanner not once, not twice, but three times, forced, she said, by the female agent.

“She is talking into her microphone and she said, ‘come on guys.’ She’s like ‘alright, one more time,'” Terrell said.

According to Terrell even the female agent was getting frustrated with her co-workers’ requests.

“She’s talking into her microphone and she says ‘it is not blurry, letting her go’ and she says ‘come on out,’” Terrell said.

“I was watching the whole thing happen,” added Terrell’s husband, Charlie.

Charlie Terrell said he is angry.

“I think they were getting a good look and then seeing it two more times,” he said.

CBS 2 has found that Terrell’s experience isn’t that uncommon. After combing through hundreds of documents we found similar complaints made to the Transportation Security Administration — women saying:

* “I feel I was targeted to go through the see you naked machine because I am a semi-attractive female.”

* “…only women were told to go through.”

* The screener appeared to enjoy the process of picking someone.”

* “A woman behind me was also ‘randomly selected.’”

* “I know he went to that room to see my naked body.”

* “Passengers are unwilling victims of a peep show by TSA employees.”

And the scanners, called backscatters, can be found at 39 airports across the country, in just about every major city, including New York — at JFK and LaGuardia.

“It just makes me wonder are they doing this all over the country,” Charlie Terrell said.

In a statement the TSA defended its actions, saying:

“TSA does not profile passengers. All of our millimeter wave technology units including those in Dallas have been upgraded with additional privacy enhancements that no longer display passenger-specific images. Even prior to this upgrade, officers reviewing the images were located in a separate room and would have never seen the passenger being screened. To further ensure passenger privacy and anonymity, a privacy filter was applied to blur all images.  The technology remains optional to all passengers.”

Many passengers CBS 2 spoke to at LaGuardia Airport said they had no idea they could say no to the scanner and be patted down instead.

“No, not until now,” one person said.

“No, I had no idea,” another said.

“No, I didn’t know, but I’d rather go through the scanner than have somebody touching me,” another person said.

It’s an option a humiliated Ellen Terrell said she wishes she knew about.

“I feel my privacy was violated,” she said.

In recent months there have also been complaints about overly aggressive pat-downs — even strip searches.

Now, Sen. Charles Schumer wants a passenger advocate posted at area airports.

Has this ever happened to you? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below. …

  • mike

    The more I see around the more I see our rights fling away in the distence.

  • mj

    i wonder how often this happens to first class passengers ?

  • RoyBoySays

    The TSA continues to make excuses for the poor performance,and bad behavior of their agents,rather than deal with these very real problems. I think a top to bottom shakeup of this poorly run and poorly managed agency is in order.Enough with the b.s. excuses,deal with these perverts…….

  • michaelfury
  • Rocco Giuliano

    Note this from Rafi Sela, the Israeli security expert responsible for Ben Gurion Airport: ““I don’t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines,” Sela commented. “I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747. That’s why we haven’t put them in our airport.”.

    • michaelfury

      “I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747.”

      No doubt he could.

      • Rocco Giuliano

        Actually, doing so is child’s play for anyone who understands how they work. The entire system is a sham. Catering/cleaning personnel come and go as they please, allegedly dangerous liquids/gels are tossed into open containers, and the checkpoint itself is a target-rich environment for a bomber or shooter. That’s why former Federal Air Marshals and Red Team members refer to TSA as the Terrorist Support Agency.

  • CC

    The last time I was in the U.S. was two years ago – before they started using the scanners. I don’t think I’ll be returning anytime soon. I doubt that such measures really deter terrorism.

  • JC

    If you refuse the scan and request the optional pat-down, you will be given a hard time by the TSA employees, especially if you are female and they have to go track down a woman agent to do the pat-down. At the airport in Fort Lauderdale, the patdown takes place in full view of other passengers, even when requested, and the sheep…I mean other passengers…will look at you as if you are a terrorist. I experienced this myself. The woman who did the pat-down was very professional and courteous, but this is no way to treat American citizens. We are being conditioned to be obedient little sheep in all areas of our lives, and this is just one more.

  • Nancyr

    Now didn’t we just hear before Christmas that there was no more viewing of the body under the clothes on these scanners? WYF

  • Viktor Yuschenko

    If you choose to “Opt out”, they yell at the top of their lungs and yank you aside and strip search you like you’re a Jihad terrorist and will intentionally make you stand there for so long you fear you’re going to miss your connection.
    Welcome to Amerika, comrade!

  • Ann Mason

    If people who are in positions of authority want to abuse power, it’s unlikely anyone will stop them. Even putting a passenger advocate at the checkpoint might be useless because the TSA has been empowering abusive screeners. Any passenger advocate will be expected to cooperate with the screeners.

  • Mike

    C’mon people have you been living on another planet? yes the scanners are optional. These scanners are not about security, it’s all about the money and for these TSA goons to get their rocks off. If ordinary citizens did what TSA is doing they would be thrown in jail.

  • Mark A

    Interesting report. I came through Newark and Louisiana last month [EWR & MSY] and at no time did I feel this was optional. They made it seem mandatory to go through the scanner. I guess there should be customer advocates at all airports. While the TSA may have their policies it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t cover for their bad employees.

    • Robert Wheeler Todd

      All TSA personnel will be going the scanner at the Great White Throne one day and the radiation they will get is called the Lake of Fire. You just wait and see.
      Google K7VHQ and see my photo and more links about these things please.

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