NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Lenore Zimmerman says humiliation came at the hands of security screeners at Kennedy Airport on Tuesday.

“They decide this 85-year-old lady needs to be strip searched,” she told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin.

Zimmerman, who lives on Long Island but winters in South Florida every year, says she avoids the full-body scanners when she travels because of her defibrillator. Instead, she opts for pat downs, but claims that this time, security went too far.

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“After they patted me down, they took me into a private room and they strip searched me. I said ‘why are you strip searching me? Do I like look a terrorist’?” she said.

“She said ‘pull your pants down.’ Then she pulled my underwear down,” Zimmerman continued. “I said ‘why is this happening’ and she didn’t respond.”

Zimmerman says she was allowed to keep her top on.

A spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration denied her claim in a statement. “The TSA does not include strip searches as part of our security protocols and one was not conducted in this case.”

“Private screening was requested by the passenger. It was granted and lasted approximately 11 minutes.”

“I missed my flight and I had to wait two and a half hours for the next one,” she said.

When Zimmerman finally made it to her winter home in Coconut Creek, Florida, she called her son Bruce in Long Beach, Nassau County, who told CBS 2 the family plans to sue the TSA.

“I think the two agents that escorted or initiated the strip search should be terminated and their supervisor should be terminated and the rest should get a severe re-training course,” Bruce Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman will return to New York in early April, but admits that she is nervous after her experience.

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Comments (35)
  1. Larry says:

    I don’t think a strip search was enough, they should have at least performed an elderly version of water boarding to make certain she was not really hiding something, terrorism is everywhere now people! and unfortunately elderly women are not exempt! The TSA obviously knew something we don’t know, that’s why they did what they did! They go through some of the most intense professional training out there,they make special forces look like boy scouts.They are the best trained front line defense for the United States of America. I hope to one day aspire to be like a TSA Agent!!

  2. gene monahan says:

    its been quite some time since i have flown on airplanes. If my last experience going through JFK is any indication of the quality of the staffing that the TSA has im not surprised at this incident. I travelled from Modesto ,California airport and was stopped by a luggage inspection for having a clock that i had bought as a gift which showed up on the xray. Furthermore, when i was in Fort Lauderdale airport, i was stopped by an agent when they ran a wand over me and my belt buckle set the alarm off!!! it was a brass belt buckle,thats all. And i was detained. however at JFK, my suitcase went through the scanner without incident and no one stopped me to chack my belt buckle either. Even better was no one stopped me from walking out with my bags [to check the tags on them]. So in New York airports ,its either overkill or nothing. Perhaps they need a better personnel dept for hiring such employees.

  3. puff says:

    so tell me this, when a women or a man has incontinence and has to wear the ” diapers” this is what they have to go through? Better yet, how a about a women wo has her menstrual cycle and has to wear a sanitary napkin? There i said it…that is probably why they strip searched this women…there is no privacy for anyone, but to avoid racial profiling and hurting ones feelings, you have to indiginify someone by a strip search? what part of five year old kids and 85 year old women do i see the necessitiy of doing this… this is the IGNORANCE of most of these TSA agents, who by the way are not doing this to their own kind, all i here are the little old WHITE ladies or the little WHITE kids that are being racially profiled and no one recognizes the reverse discrimination….You would not see this on a black person or muslim person, the only ones this is being humilaatingly done to are the white….So this ignorant fear of this racial profiling is another word for REVERSE DISCRIMINATION……i have not heard of one “other
    child or old lady this has been done to…WHY?…becauase of ignorant political correctness….i myself was stripped searched in Miami many years ago because the dog smelled coffee instead of what it was supposed to be looking for…as a matter of fact it was a cavity search…Did anyone apologize to me? NO! They just acted like nothing happened and sent me on my way.. I fellt like i was raped, but could i say anything to anyone against authority? This lady says that they pulled her pants down and i believe it,,Of course they are going to deny it, but who is going to challenge authority…I am not a racist, but these are things that i have observed and no one wants to account for it…Its being denied that things like this happen out there, but it happens

  4. TJ says:

    Definitely side with TSA on this one. You and your son want a payday? Play bingo.

  5. Kelly says:

    Oh poor Dan, Taking away our civil liberties as Americans who
    now pat down 5 year old kids and 85 year old ladies is not part
    of the horrid attack on 9-11 which we all felt ,your attitude to being
    searched is exactly what the Muslim terrorists wished for the same
    that they have in many of their countries a police state.
    We can still applaud our emergency service workers (I for one knew
    all the deceased men from Engine Co.1 ) and still have some reasonable
    ability to travel as free citizens . As someone said here most airplane cargo
    is not screened by the very numbers of packages sent ,that is more dangerous
    in my opinion than an 85 years old woman.
    Let’s not become a country here with our own version of Sharia law called everyone is a suspect. Let’s be reasonable and yeah everyone needs a raise
    as well as first responders civil servants.

  6. US Citizen says:

    The people responsible for this should spend the next 8 month’s at Rykers Island. I hate to say it but the TSA agents that searched this lady probably are not even U.S. Citizens themselves.

    Crap like this is why I refuse to fly.

    I am an American Citizen. I will not be shook down & searched by some fly by night rent a cop.

    The TSA should be Racial Profiling. Yes, I said it….

    They should do a little racial profiling, then decide whom to search.

  7. Mark says:

    Americans should not put up with this TSA garbage! Aside from being totally un-Constitutional, it’s also totally unnecessary and totally worthless! This security theater does absolutely nothing to keep you safe and is only meant to condition you to obey ANY asinine orders from so-called “authority” figures. Stop letting yourselves be treated like criminals/”terrorists”/children/slaves! Join us on Facebook:

  8. dan says:

    I’m willing to bet that most of the posters criticizing the TSA are the very same who said after 9-11 that security must be improved at any cost. How sad that our memories are so short, and how a slight inconvenience for the greater good cannot be tolerated and condemned as a constitutional violation. You must be the same people who applauded the FDNY and NYPD as they drove down NYC streets after
    9-11, and are now screaming to take away their pensions and cut their salaries. I feel safer, dont mind the short delay at the airport, and I am grateful to the TSA.

    1. Janni says:

      Don’t doubt for a minute that most of the security people enjoy the power they have over us when flying. I don’t and won’t go to the States ever.

  9. Pat Johnson says:

    A person did not lose their freedom of speech in this country ,yet.
    If this Grandmother says”Do I look like a Terrorist” she is asking
    a question,it is a sad day when an American has to be searched naked
    at 85 years of age for making this statement, Our enemies are winning
    the war on making us irrational after 9-11 .I hope she wins her lawsuit
    and we get back to some sanity at our airports as to who is pointed out
    as a suspect. Meanwhile most airline freight is not screened and that of
    course is a big threat as well but Granny’s get strip searched.

  10. That's not your call to make... says:

    I’m sorry – but according to the news story, the very MINUTE this old woman said, into the camera, “Do I look like a terrorist?” is the very minute she lost all credibility with me.

    While the perpetrators of 9/11 were one “type” of person, terrorists come in all shapes and sizes. There have been old women, young women, and even CHILDREN suicide bombers overseas, to say nothing of NON-Muslim terrorism throughout history.

    You have trouble with security screenings because of medical reasons, so you request the private pat down. I respect that. They took that to mean probable cause, so they searched you. Sorry Grandma, that’s what you get.

    If she HAD been carrying a weapon, you all would not be defending her. There’d be a news report about “how scary it is that terrorists are using elderly women nowadays”, and “look what a good job the TSA is doing.”

    So, “Do I look like a terrorist?” I’m sorry, ma’am, but I don’t believe there is any way to tell a terrorist by look. Hence the “terror”.

    1. D.Scott says:

      I AGREE. Search was justified. She quotes, “Do I look like a terrorist?”. Of course not, that’s why she would be a perfect “mule” without even knowing it. TSA should continue to do random searches.
      She does deserve the respect to be treated with dignity, but we’ll never know the truth.

    2. Rocco Giuliano says:

      TSA’s entire approach to security is nonsense. If someone wanted to attack aviation, the best place to do it is AT THE CHECKPOINT, a singularly target rich environment. Then what? Post-9/11, nobody could take over a plane with ANY kind of weapon. They could, of course, blow it up, so it makes perfect sense to screen for explosives. The way to do that is with K-9 teams — and I’m talking about dogs handled by real law enforcement personnel, not the clowns at TSA, which should be disbanded.

    3. Philip B Kirschner says:

      I am sorry people like you feel that way. People willing to give up liberty to recieve a little security deserve neither liberty or security. These TSA agents have no probable cause. She had a card that says she has an internal cardiac defribulator, its what the implant surgeons give you. The magnatometers prevent the device from detecting dangerious paterns. Jesse Ventura, a former governor and US naval seal went through this crap.

      If your willing to give up your freedom, give up yours, But on 911 I was at ground zero with my ambulance corp, and am sickened from it now. I rather go through this again, than give up my nation to a bunch of facist whimps asking for protection and willing to give up liberty.

      1. jamie thompson says:

        first the TSA agents have to have enough brains to know what a “internal cardiac defibrulator is”!!!!!
        She asked the question, “do i look like a terrorist?” ,thinking that most people are like herself and would have known that an old Jewish lady from Long Beach would be the last person on earth to be a terrorist. That was her mistake. Most likely the TSA people involved have little or no contact with this ethnic group, so theywoudnt have known either way.
        Regardless, the TSA should have better ways of handling an alternate method of searching a person.

      2. av says:

        Phil you idiot…the terrorist who took down the WTC, etc they had driver licenseses..don’t you think they can get a CARD !!!! Duh….wake up

  11. Nikos Retsos says:

    First we had the famous video of a TSA madam patting down a 5 year old girl from neck to toe in search of dynamite or en explosive device. Now we have another TSA madam stripping down an 85 year old grandma ! And the irony of all this is to catch “extremists or terrorists !” Are extremists and terrorists using 5 year old toddlers and 85 years old grandmas to get us, or are the people who manage the TSA in urgent need of a lobotomy? Nikos Retsos, retired professor

    1. Janni says:

      and the real terrorists are laughing.

  12. Aletta Vandernat says:

    TSA workers at JFK are very rude. They start yelling to tak shoes , coats, etc. off a long way before you even get to the screening point, as if people don;t already know it. When I flew out of Minneapolis to Newark in the Summer, they were very friendly. Just plain scadilous what hapened to that lady!

  13. Mark Wallace says:

    She looks like a terrorist to me!!!! All right thinking Americans have learned to get tough with 85 year olds who blow hijack airplanes and blow up skyscrapers.

    1. AV says:

      You people are so naive…she makes a statement and everyone believes it to be 100% accurate….What happened to the other side of the story…..because she is old with medical conditions that makes it all true…

  14. Ann Mason says:

    This is an absolute disgrace. I learned something from reading the article, though. If I’m ever singled out for a patdown at the airport, I won’t ask for a private room and I won’t allow the screeners to take me out of the view of witnesses. What happened to Mrs. Zimmerman was motivated by a criminal mentality, and the TSA has failed to keep criminals out of their workplace.

  15. NYC says:

    This is terrible. I watched ‘To catch a smuggler’ last week and it showed a woman completely humiliated, stripped searched, by TSA at JFK airport. They found nothing on her. These people have no shame.

  16. chrissygnj says:

    Horrilble…Vile….When is the TSA going to hire competent people who know what they are doing? IF the screening was NOT recorded..I believe the woman NOT what TSA says. The United States deserves better!



    “Change is on the Horizon Part 3 of 3 The Farmer Claims Program ”

  18. Lynn Rose says:

    they shouldve not done that to her

  19. enough is enough says:

    All activity from the TSA like any other public servants should be monitored and should be recorded. The recording of the private screenings would prove innocence to either side should a situation like this arise again. Why the TSA’s actions not recorded is because they are all trash and don’t want to be proved guilty and fired. They treat the flyers like garbage and we’re the ones that are keeping the airline industry and their jobs in tack. I probably would ask for someone to accompany me as a witness if I had this treatment. Like the MTA the TSA should appreciate their salaries and jobs that they have.

  20. pete says:

    The TSA people at Kennedy are all a bunch of low lifes who should better have remained on welfare. My wife has a hip replacement and it is always a dramatic occasion to go through the screening. Last time they tried to take a flashlight away from me with a normal battery because they probably liked it for their own home. I had to run back to check it with the other baggage and nearly missed my flight. They are just a useless bunch of morons, as all the terrorists actually caught were already on the plane and had passed TSA inspection uninspected.

  21. Albion says:

    Demand this stop and that TSA be de-funded. Why pay a trillion dollars and be abused for security theater?

  22. Noah says:

    We have all lost our minds and sensitivity since 9-11 ,sad.

  23. Pat Johnson USMC Ret. says:

    To “Observer” you are a sad case yourself. .
    A patient with brain injury may or may not be able to walk or
    not walk at any given moment ,depending on the diseases such
    as Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis, Stop feeling bad and suspicious
    as to what only you perceive as right or wrong without knowing the
    medical history of each passenger.
    This statement from you is a new low and I hope that you never get
    the joy of being in a wheelchair or needing a walker 24/7.

    1. Philip B Kirschner says:

      Or need a service dog or need oxygen concentrators. Pat, Observer really does not have a clue what the constitution is meant for.

  24. Philip B Kirschner says:

    Observer, I have seen TSA mess up. I use a service dog and was treated like garbage.

  25. observer says:

    Unfortunately, it has become too commonplace at airports for people who do not need, yet use wheelchairs in order to board planes before other passengers and have security protocols expedited for them. I’m not suggesting this is the case in this article, but I’ve witnessed passengers being wheeled onto planes, then walking off just fine.
    My experiences have always shown TSA officers to be courteous and professional.

  26. Philip B Kirschner says:

    If this is true, TSA crossed the line. I am a patient with an ICD being installed very soon due to reactive airway from ground zero exposure and inheritied Hypertropic CardioMyopatjy. Nothing my fellow NYers have been through on 911 justifies the terrrible reach of the federal government and TSA and thier intrusive and unconstitutional treatment of citizens. This is basically what Bin Laden wanted for us, death by a thousands cuts and loss of freedoms. TSA does not protect freedoms. The scanners emit radiation on par with a chest film, however thier magnatometers will mess with ICD/Pacers.

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