Karen Johnston Bubb started a gripe about TSA - Transportation Security Administration

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Posted Nov 12 2010 via website

What Happened

I am griping about a recent pat down search that was conducted on me in the Colorado Springs Airport. I was traveling with my 13 year old daughter. We were in Colorado Springs for a medical consult with a specialist. On Monday, Nov. 8th we were leaving Colorado Springs and were in the airport trying to get through security to board our flight (American Airlines flight 2010 to DFW). After my daughter and I walked through the metal detector (without issue) a female TSA worker stepped in front of me and told me to move to a side area for a routine check. My thirteen year old daughter was left standing there confused as to what to do. I told her to go to the end of the conveyor belt and wait for me. As I was trying to tell my daughter what to do, I was scolded for talking to her and was told to move to a small glass encased area.

Then another female TSA employee walked up to me and began telling me that she was going to do a pat down search on me and began telling me she was going to be touching my entire body including around my breasts, my butt, and my crotch. I looked at her in horror and said, "In front of everyone?" She said I could have a private pat down if I preferred. I told her I wanted it done in private. Then in an exasperated tone of voice, she loudly shouted to another female TSA employee across the room, in ear shot of everyone in the vicinity, that I wanted the search done in private and she needed some help. I told them that I was traveling with my daughter and pointed to where she was standing at the edge of the glass barricade. She was watching us and was scared to death. So the TSA employee went up to my daughter and demanded that she give her my belongings. My child was trying to accommodate her, but was confused and scared. The lady started barking questions and orders at her saying "Is this hers? Then give it to me. Is that hers? give it to me, is this hers, oh you share it?, then I need it, don't touch it, just step away". Then she abruptly told her to wait alone while she walked back to me. I was sitting in a glass cubicle on a chair.

My daughter walked to the edge of the glass barricade and looked at me terrified. I called out her name and told her to come to me. As she walked up, I told the TSA lady that she was my child and I would not leave her alone. She rudely asked my daughter how old she was and my daughter could barely tell her because she was so frightened. She finally managed to say..."thirteen". The TSA lady told her she could come into the glass barricade and then added sternly, "but don't you get near or touch your mother". I tried to reassure her by very calmly pointing to a chair a few feet away from me and told her to sit there until this was resolved. I asked the TSA lady how long this was going to take because I didn't want to miss my flight. She said, without concern, that she didn't know and maybe it would go quickly. Then she told us both to follow her to another room and repeated her orders very sternly to my child.. "do NOT touch your mother".

As we approached a door with a key pad lock, I watched her type the entry code (2300 or 2500) into the lock and open the supposedly secure room. Again, she repeated to my child not to touch me. The two female TSA workers and my child walked into the room first and I entered last. I carefully navigated around everyone and was directed to a floor mat with two foot shapes on it. I was told to stand with my legs apart on the mat with my arms extended out, palms up. The female TSA worker put on a pair of gloves and started by grabbing the back of my head and began rubbing her hands down my head, my neck, down my back, over my butt cheeks (fingers cupping my butt cheeks and thumbs partially into the crack of my ass). Then she took both hands and grabbed the back of my leg at the level where my ass cheek and leg meet. One hand was between my legs, the other hand was on the back of my leg. She proceeded to rub her hands all the way down my leg gripping me until she reached my ankle. She did the same thing to my other leg, starting between my legs and just below my ass cheek and proceeding to my ankle.

Then she put her hands on each side of my upper body cupping her hands around my torso at my arm pits and grasped my sides and torso while rubbing her hands down each of my sides to my waist. Then she cupped both hands around my armpit and upper arm and rubbed down the entire length of each arm. Then she told me to lift my shirt up in the back and slid her part of her hand into the back of my jeans and rubbed her hand along the back of my body and panty waistband inside my jeans from my left side, around the back, to my right side. While she did this she said 'You can thank the underwear bomber for this". To which I replied, "Do I look like an underwear bomber?" Then I looked at the other female TSA worker and told her I objected to the search and said it was very humiliating to me. She didn't look at me or say a word to me.

I glanced at my daughter, who was watching what they were doing to me, and she had a terrified look on her face. Again, trying to keep my child calm, I told her not to cry and I was okay. I also told her that they were not going to touch her like they were touching me. (In school she was taught "Good touch, Bad touch"). With that the TSA worker told my daughter that they were not the police and that they were just workers doing their job at the airport. Not much comfort considering what she was witnessing.

Now the woman moved to the front of my body. She started by putting her hands into my armpits and gripped the sides of my body as she slowly rubbed her hands down my sides to my waist. Then she proceeded to cup her hands and placed them on my upper chest and slowly moved down rubbing them over and across my breasts with her thumbs in my cleavage. Then she placed both hands flat on my body just under my breasts and rubbed down the front of my body to my pubic bone. Then, she told me to lift my blouse in the front and slipped her hand into my jeans again and ran her hand along my body and panty waistband from the left side, around front, and then to the right side.

Then, similar to the way she gripped the back of my leg, she slipped one hand between my legs until her index finger was compressing my labial area and she gripped the other hand around the front of my thigh. She slowly rubbed her hands down my leg to my ankle. She repeated the process to my other leg. Once again, I looked at the other lady and told her that I objected to this search and that I was totally humiliated. Once again, she said nothing, only shrugged.

After she finished, she rubbed her gloves onto a paper of some sort and put it into a machine. While she was doing this, she was explaining to my daughter that the machine was able to detect bomb residue and if any was on my clothing it would detect it. We all stood there waiting for the machine and finally she said, "see, she is fine, nothing was detected". By this time, I am in tears from the humiliation and anger that I was feeling. I was also angry at how nonchalant they were being about the process. They had just violated my rights and treated me like a criminal in front of my child and they thought nothing of the process. They opened the door and told me I could go. While I was trying to compose myself, I asked them if they were going to check my belongings and they said no because the machine didn't detect anything. I shakily gathered my belongings and left the room only to have about a hundred pairs of eyes watching me. I walked down the terminal to the restroom to wash my face and try to stop crying. Then I heard them calling my flight to board. I nearly missed my flight.

This was completely unprovoked and unwelcome. I am extremely angry about the incident. I will NEVER fly again. My child also said she hates the airport.

I Spoke With

Sent an email to TSA cutomer service

What It Would Take to Resolve This

I was guilty until proven innocent. I was harrassed. I was humiliated. Stop this invasive humiliation. They act like the Gestapo.Stop violating my human rights.

  1. Matt Mastracci commented on this

    This is horrible!

    Nov 12 2010
  2. André Bélanger commented on this

    Men are less srupulous than women and i'll be dagn if i could go through this torturus experience.

    I'm proud that you had enough strenght to let us know!

    Best of luck in your complaint.

    Nov 12 2010
  3. Georgia Wainswright commented on this

    This will sound harsh. Get over it! Judging by your detailed description, the TSA agents did the job that they are trained and paid to do. Your emotional state and that of your child is your responsibility. I am a frequent flyer and this happens often. I do not get upset. I let them search me in public: 1) to show I have nothing to hide; 2) to show other travelers that if Suzy Q. American is getting searched, the possible terrorist or drug smuggler is next. I have seen people leave the security line and not board a plane because they watched me get searched. Terrorists? Drug smugglers? All I know is that they left, my flight was safe, and I am grateful for the thoroughness knowing that security is much tighter in these trying times.

    As for your child, I traveled once with my 14 y.o. son who had recently broken his femur and had a metal rod implanted. We had a letter from the Dr. AND his x-rays to show TSA. No go. He was subjected to a search. Unfortunately, I immediately went to him to assist with his crutches. I was then labeled 'dirty' because I touched him so I now had to also be searched. No problem. My son was nervous. I reassured him that this was normal protocol and the TSA agents were there to ensure passenger safety. When a burly agent approached him to begin the search he looked even more frightened. I jokingly told him, "Close your eyes dear and imagine a cute blonde girl." When the agent was done he thanked me. He told me that kids have been getting used as drug mules lately and nothing hurts him more than having to search a frightened kid and nothing burns him more than having an ignorant/guilty guardian/parent make the kid more frightened.

    Needless to say, we had a safe happy trip. Too much turbulance, but a safe trip.

    (I wonder if I can gripe about Mother Nature providing turbulance?)

    Nov 12 2010
  4. Karen Johnston Bubb commented on this

    Get over it? Have you lost your mind? The pat down I experienced was not the typical quickie search they used to do. This one was invasive inside my clothing and inappropriate. I'm not voyeuristic and do not like public groping. These new more invasive pat downs just went into effect Nov 1st. So, you are way off base telling me you've been there. I also think telling a 14 year old boy to enjoy the pat down and picture a cute blonde is absolutely inappropriate for a parent to say to their child. I didn't ask you for you're opinion. If you don't care that your civil rights are violated, that's your problem. However because of people like you who are too complacent to stand up for themselves, everyone else is expected to conform. I will not allow anyone to put their hands on me without my approval again.

    Nov 12 2010
  5. Yvette commented on this

    I contacted TSA via phone and tweet and informed them of your gripe. Hopefully they’ll be in touch soon!

    Cheers!

    Yvette

    Gripe Support Team

    Nov 15 2010
  6. Yvette commented on this

    Hi Karen:

    We've also forwarded along your gripe to a reporter with the San Diego Union Tribune who's been following TSA stories..

    Cheers!

    Yvette

    Gripe Support Team

    Nov 15 2010
  7. Karen Johnston Bubb commented on this

    I received a response from an complaint I sent to TSA. Bascially they said nothing...

    Sent: Sunday, November 14, 2010 5:49 AM

    Subject: Re: TSA Contact Us: Complaints <<#558579-699118#>>

    Thank you for your email message. We are sorry you were unhappy with your recent travel experience.

    Because your complaint is regarding screening at COS, we have forwarded a copy of your email to the Customer Service Manager at that airport. The Customer Service Manager is responsible for ensuring that the screener workforce adheres to TSA principles for professional processing.

    We monitor the number and nature of complaints we receive to track trends and spot areas of concern that may require special attention. This ongoing process will enable us to ensure prompt, corrective action whenever we determine that security-screening policies need modification or specific employees or screener teams are the subjects of repeated complaints.

    Again, the TSA offers sincere apologies for the discomfort you experienced while traveling and encourage you to check the latest information at www.tsa.gov.

    TSA Contact Center

    Nov 18 2010
  8. Kai Gradert commented on this

    We need more people who speak out and up against this!

    http://www.pennandteller.com/03/coolstuff/penniphile/roadpennfederalvip.html

    Nov 18 2010
  9. Valarie Kay commented on this

    Thats total crap! Time to post and repost this. You did better than I, aunt Karen.

    Nov 18 2010
  10. Brian Sandeen commented on this

    This is total crap and a violation of human rights..who the F do they think they are?? I would also forward this to the news reporters in Colorado Springs..

    Nov 18 2010
  11. Brett Rostochil commented on this

    Not cool TSA

    Nov 19 2010
  12. Karen Johnston Bubb commented on this

    Here is a response that I received from the Colorado Springs Airport with my response below it...

    From: "Harris, Janet" <Janet.Harris@dhs.gov>

    Cc: "Harris, Kevin F." <Kevin.F.Harris@dhs.gov>

    Sent: Sunday, November 21, 2010 11:07 AM

    Subject: COS 11-10-013

    COS 11-10-013

    Ms. Bubb:

    We appreciate your input and concerns regarding our screening

    procedures. Security is our number one priority, providing proper

    customer service and following proscribed policies and procedures is our duty as well. The officers involved in your screening appropriately

    followed TSA policies and procedures. I am sending you some information regarding screening procedures that may assist you in understanding the process that you were involved in. All of the information comes from our public website - TSA.gov.

    TSA Statement on New Pat-down Procedures

    News & Happenings

    October 28, 2010

    "TSA is in the process of implementing new pat-down procedures at

    checkpoints nationwide as one of our many layers of security to keep the traveling public safe. Pat-downs are one important tool to help TSA

    detect hidden and dangerous items such as explosives. Passengers should continue to expect an unpredictable mix of security layers that include explosives trace detection, advanced imaging technology, canine teams, among others."

    Team Harris

    COS TSA

    _____________________

    Here is my reply:

    To: "Harris, Janet" <Janet.Harris@dhs.gov>

    Cc: "Harris, Kevin F." <Kevin.F.Harris@dhs.gov>

    Sent: Sunday, November 21, 2010 12:51 PM

    Subject: Re: COS 11-10-013

    You have got to be kidding me. This reply is totally unacceptable. Your groping, unauthorized search was totally unprovoked and unnecessary. I complied with ALL security procedures. I am a white, middle aged American citizen and represent NO threat to anyone. You and your agents treated me as if I was a terrorist and were reveling in your few minutes of power over me.You had a dog come up to me and my daughter prior to my entrance into the check point metal detector and the dog walked off without so much as a second look. At the check point, I was directed to walk through the metal detector and did NOT set off any alarms. Then, after I passed BOTH screenings, you STILL pulled me aside for a groping, humiliating "pat down" or "feel up" while your agents made my young daughter stand there confused, scared, and totally vulnerable to whomever wanted to grab her. According to the cut and pasted letter below from YOUR TSA ADMINISTRATOR that is on your website, because I did not set off any initial alarms, I should NOT have had to undergo additional harassing screening. You and your Gestapo overstepped the line. You will be hearing from my attorney.

    Karen Bubb

    Here is the lettter from the TSA website:

    TSA Message to Travelers

    November 19, 2010

    Hello, I'm TSA Administrator John Pistole. As you travel this holiday season I want to remind you that TSA's mission is to ensure the safety of the traveling public and we are committed to doing so efficiently, courteously and professionally.

    I'd like to offer a few tips and some important information we'd like you to know BEFORE you go through security.

    Remember our 3 simple steps to security: Have your ID out, coats & shoes off and Laptop and liquids and gels less than 3 oz out and ready to go.

    As you enter the checkpoint you will be directed to pass through either a walk through metal detector or an Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) unit.

    If you are directed to pass through an AIT, you may OPT OUT. If you choose to opt out, you will receive a thorough pat-down by someone of the same gender.

    If you alarm either the metal detector or the AIT, you would also receive a pat-down.

    In either case where a pat-down is required, you have important options that we want you to be aware of: you have the option to request that the pat-down be conducted in a private room and you have the option to have the pat-down witnessed by a person of your choice.

    We very much appreciate your involvement, cooperation and assistance in ensuring the safety of the traveling public. If you have questions about these procedures, the technology used by TSA, or our efforts to ensure your safety, please do not hesitate to ask one of our supervisors or visit TSA.gov.

    Thank you and remember that at TSA, your safety is our priority.

    Nov 21 2010
  13. Karen Johnston Bubb commented on this

    Here is another email I received from the TSA with my response:

    From: "Schear, James" <James.Schear@dhs.gov>

    Sent: Saturday, November 27, 2010 11:57 AM

    Subject: TSA SCREENING ON 8 NOVEMBER

    Ms. Bubb,

    My name is James Schear and I am the Federal Security Director at Colorado Springs Municipal. I have read all of the correspondence from both you and my volunteer team of Customer Service Managers. The Harris' are Supervisors who volunteer their time to answer comments forwarded on our operation.

    I sincerely regret your dissatisfaction with TSA procedures in place at the time of your travel, but in reviewing Officers statements and video, they complied with all Operating Procedures.

    The letter that you quoted from the Administrator was dated a week and half after your travel and also referenced the Advanced Imaging Technology equipment, which has not yet been installed at COS. Other procedures to provide unpredictable screening that were in place on 8 November were not mentioned in the Administrator's posting and have been modified since your travel.

    Our volunteer Customer Service Managers had nothing to do with your experience in Screening, nor did the Airport. Threatening them with legal action is only a case of attempting to shoot the messenger.

    Any lawyer you contact will know how to start the action that you desire. As for our staff and myself, there is nothing more to add. Inquires directed to me or my staff will be re-routed to our Office of Chief Counsel.

    James P. Schear

    Rear Admiral, US Navy (RET)

    Federal Security Director

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Mr. Schear,

    This is a poor attempt at an explanation and a good attempt at avoiding

    providing me with an apology for what was done to me. "Regretting my

    dissatisfaction" simply translated means "you are disappointed that I am not

    pleased". It does not apologize for the actions of your so called "staff".

    My intention is not to "shoot the messengers" as you have phrased it in your

    email. My intention is to defend myself from the unsolicited,

    unprovoked, undeserved ambush attack the was done to me at the hands of your

    TSA Gestapo. Since this happened in early November, I was not given the

    luxury of full media coverage and I walked on the scene totally unaware of

    the so called "enhanced security" measures that were unleashed on me. There

    were no warning signs, no fliers, nothing. I did not have any time to

    mentally prepare myself for what was going to happen to me.

    I paid a lot of money for my airline tickets and other travel expenses that

    I incurred on this trip, only to be singled out as the "example". There is

    no way that I would've EVER spent my money on anything that would result in

    such treatment. What kind of customer service is that? You and your staff

    need a stiff lesson in how to treat people with dignity and respect. Falsely

    implying that I was a threat, intimidating me and my child, ignoring my

    feelings, my questions, and my rights, singling me out both physically and

    socially, separating me from my child, and performing a public display of

    undignified behavior on me resulting in extreme humiliation are nothing but

    bully tactics from a gang of poorly trained, power hungry thugs. I sensed

    something was not right from the beginning by the way your agents were all

    looking at me while I was standing in line prior to even entering the

    security checkpoint.Your staff had already picked out their "victim". Of

    course choosing a woman traveling with a child will obviously ensure full

    compliance, especially when you take that child away from her.

    Don't even try to convince me that it was for national security. I know that

    I am not a terrorist, which means you missed the REAL threat, if there was

    one, because you wasted all of your time on a white, middle aged, American

    woman. What a waste of resources and tax-payer money. You and your staff are

    doing nothing but trying to fool the public into thinking they are safe. How

    safe did I feel after this incident? I didn't trust anyone, especially your

    beloved TSA staff. If you are going to have an effective security system in

    place, it needs to be an "all or nothing" approach. Or you need a better

    method. For some reason everyone in the government is trying to avoid being

    accused of profiling the real threats and are violating the rights of

    innocent Americans instead. Well done. I will no longer spend my hard earned

    money on airline tickets. The more passengers your staff molests, the less

    customers you will have and eventually, you will end up with no job anyway.

    Here is an excerpt from a recent Washington Post article:

    In a 2006 opinion for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit,

    then-Judge Samuel Alito stressed that screening procedures must be both

    "minimally intrusive" and "effective" - in other words, they must be

    "well-tailored to protect personal privacy," and they must deliver on their

    promise of discovering serious threats. Alito upheld the practices at an

    airport checkpoint where passengers were first screened with walk-through

    magnetometers and then, if they set off an alarm, with hand-held wands. He

    wrote that airport searches are reasonable if they escalate "in invasiveness

    only after a lower level of screening disclose[s] a reason to conduct a more

    probing search."

    Your agents had NO reason to conduct an enhanced pat down search me except

    that they were showing off their power. Your email indicates that you

    reviewed the "video". I take this to mean that my private pat down was also

    video taped? If that is the case, then you are in for more trouble. I've

    discussed the incident with my lawyer and will be forwarding this email to

    him as well. It will also be posted on the internet.

    Oh, one more thing... Hi to your Office of Chief Counsel.

    Karen S Bubb

    Educated, Distraught, Angry American Citizen

    Hard working taxpayer, voter, wife, and mother of 3 children and a dog.

    NOT a terrorist and no longer a frequent flyer.

    Nov 27 2010
  14. Valarie Kay commented on this

    !!

    Nov 27 2010
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