Woman battling breast cancer ‘humiliated’ by aggressive TSA pat down
Denise Albert, 42, flew previously over the course of her cancer treatment. However, her experience Sunday with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was the first time she was subjected to the treatment shown in a video she uploaded to Facebook, she said.
I have never been so humiliated or felt more violated in my life. I went through the scanning machine at the airport without incident. I had already told them about my metal port and my medical cream which I removed from my bag for them to see and test as I have done on prior flights. I don't know what was different this time but TSA agents aggressively attempted to do a body cavity search in public. (Also I had already removed my wig in public because the search they wanted to do would have messed it up and taken it off). The only way I was allowed to proceed was when a supervisor was kind enough to have more compassion and possibly think the 2 agents went too far and took me into a private room for a regular soft pat down. Today the 2 TSA agents in my video went too far and even threatened to call police. I hope no one ever experiences this. ************************UPDATE**************************** Monday Dec 5th: I was in such shock last night that I didn't include all of the details. Thank you all for your love, your personal stories and your support. I truly hope this doesn't happen to anyone else! I have never been so humiliated or felt more violated in my life. I went through the scanning machine at the airport without incident. I had already told them about my metal port and my medical cream which I removed from my bag for them to see and test as I have done on prior flights. I don't know what was different this time but TSA agents aggressively attempted to do a body cavity search in public. I was TSE precheck and once through the scanner they asked me to take off my shoes. I explained I didn't have socks on and that my cream is for an infection from my current treatment, including on my feet. So if they wanted to put my shoes through x-ray, I would have to sit down because I would not put my bare feet on the floor. They allowed that. They then started to tell me they would apply pressure from head to toe and I got very upset because I wear a wig. I didn't want them to touch it, move it, or ruin it. So I ripped it off for them to pat my head without damaging my wig (that I paid for and insurance didn't cover!) I don't ever go out in public without it. I have shown pictures on social media as I feel it empowers others but I'm not comfortable in public (I have taken it off at 2 breast cancer related work events for a second to show other cancer survivors and those in it now!) They also put my shoes through and then wouldn't allow me to put them back on until after the full body search. After at least 20 minutes of sitting there because they were debating how to proceed, I told them my feet were freezing. Also a side effect from chemo. They refused to help me. The woman reached behind me and forceable and aggressively put her hands down my jeans in the back. At some point they offered me a room but wouldn't let me put my boots on to walk there, which I can't do barefoot especially because of my open sores and rashes from my treatment on my feet. When I kept asking why they needed to do all of this, they kept saying because I wanted to bring medical cream on the plane. (They NEVER said there was any reason due to my scan so that made no sense!) On the video you see the woman shove her hand up my crotch and then try to go down my shirt. That's when I said (again) I have a medical port and had a lumpecomy. Many of you have remarked about how calm I was. I have to admit, after the video ends (though I do have it on video), I lifted up my shirt. Rather then have them touch my breasts and port "with pressure" as the TSA agent stated. That's when they said they were calling law enforcement and I asked them to please do so. Finally, a supervisor arrived. The only way I was allowed to proceed was when the supervisor was kind enough to have more compassion and possibly think the 2 agents went too far and took me into a private room for a regular soft pat down. After that, it still didn't end. Even though all of my bags when through x-rays without incident as well, they opened my bags, removed everything and another TSA agent joked about all of the eyelashes I had. I told her, it's because I don't have real ones from my cancer treatment. I would have thought at that point, the humiliation would have ended. The 2 TSA agents in my video went too far. I hope no one ever experiences this. I should also point out that according to the TSA website, what these agents did was improper procedure - they are not allowed to touch skin and should be gentle over clothing (contradiction to what you hear on video). I should NOT have been required to remove shoes because of my medical condition and they were supposed to ask if I have a tender area and didn't and didn't listen when I told them I did. Luckily, Melissa Musen Gerstein and I had a wonderful flight on American Airlines with an incredible crew and 1 very special flight attendant, Latane, who made everything better for the night. ****UPDATE**** Please watch ABC7NY NOW! ******UPDATE**** UPDATE Tuesday Dec 6 Last nights ABC news piece by Bill Ritter AND Joe Torres http://abc7ny.com/news/media-personality-battling-breast-cancer-posts-humiliating-tsa-search/1641467/#videoplayer *****UPDATE****** Tuesday Dec 6th 3:55pm The TSA just called. Kimberly Walton - Assistant Administrator for Civil Rights and Liberty, Ombudsman and Traveler Engagement. Here are some notes from my conversation: Apologizing for experience at this point LAX investigation into what happened very aggressively train on how to screen medical / disabilities this was not at their expectations a lot of disappointment we didn't get it right they are going to refresh training at LAX 3000 employees airport conducting investigation I'm very pleased with this. I will also be on FOX 5 / Fox5NY.com with Stacey Delicate at 5:30 and PIX 11 with Dan Marino at 5!Posted by Denise Albert on Sunday, December 4, 2016
For people receiving cancer treatment, airport security can be problematic especially when, like Albert, patients use a port that sits just under their skin and allows chemotherapy to be administered more easily. Other issues such as open sores and the need to transport medical creams can complicate traveling. However, TSA agents are meant to be understanding of these situations.
She first went through a pre-check, but “once through the scanner they asked me to take off my shoes,” she wrote on Facebook. Albert was unable to do so, because she did not have socks and was concerned that open sores on her feet would be prone to infection. However, her medical condition should have prevented her from having to remove her shoes in the first place, according to TSA standards, which say, “you are not required to remove your shoes if you have disabilities and medical conditions.” They do note that the shoes themselves have to undergo physical examination, though.
In addition, she notified the TSA agents that she was transporting medical cream to treat an infection and removed it from her luggage.
The TSA agents allowed her to sit down in order to X-ray her shoes, forcing her to hold her feet above the ground while they applied pressure to her body, including on her head. Albert wears a wig due to cancer-related hair loss and “didn't want them to touch it, move it, or ruin it.” She ended up whipping the wig off to allow the agents to examine her head.
A female TSA agent began patting her down. When Albert expressed her discomfort, they offered her a private room but refused to allow her to put her shoes on in order to walk there. When she asked why she was being subjected to additional screening, she was told it was because of the medical cream she was bringing with her.
The TSA agent attempted to feel Albert’s chest which she refused out of concern for her port and a recent lumpectomy. She is heard in the video telling the TSA that she has a port on her chest, which the agents insist still requires to be checked during the pat down.
At this point the video ends, but Albert explained on Facebook that she grew frustrated and “lifted up my shirt. Rather then [sic] have them touch my breasts and port ‘with pressure’ as the TSA agent stated. That's when they said they were calling law enforcement and I asked them to please do so.”
At that point, a supervisor allowed her to put her shoes on and go to a private room for a soft pat down.
While Albert applauded the supervisor for showing compassion along with a flight attendant who “made everything better for the night,” she told WABC. "I actually want those people fired because they didn't follow any protocol and I think it was really a game for them.”
As a result, Albert claims that she was contacted by the TSA who said they would refresh training at the Los Angeles airport on how to screen medical disabilities.