Three South Florida Seniors Allege TSA Abuses

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – Three South Florida women are telling their stories of embarrassment suffered at the hands of Transportation Security Administration screeners.

Each of the women flew out of JFK Airport last week and each woman is dealing with a serious medical condition.

Linda Kallish, of Boynton Beach, is diabetic and for 7 years she has flown with an insulin pump and a monitor. She told CBS 4 News she’s used to being checked closely by TSA screeners.  But Kallish says a female screener took things too far last Monday as Kallish prepared to go board a JetBlue flight for Fort Lauderdale.

“(The screener) says, ‘Come with me’ and I’m going uh-oh,” Kallish told CBS 4’s Carey Codd. “She says to the supervisor, ‘This woman is wearing a metal device and I have to see it.'”

Kallish said she was taken to a private room, ordered to remove her pants and had her body and items given the once over. She called it excessive.

“My takeaway feeling was I was in jail and they are they police,” she said. “And you do what the police tell you, don’t you?”

Kallish is even more upset that she was separated from her bag with her emergency items like juice and medicine.

“My medication is key,” she said. “I don’t survive without it.”

Kallish’s story is similar to Lorene Zimmerman’s story. Zimmerman, of Coconut Creek, suffers from congestive heart failure and has a defibrillator implanted in her. She said she was strip searched at JFK on Monday, November — the same day as Kallish. Zimmerman is furious.

“I weigh 103 pounds,” she said. “I’m gonna be 85 in February. So, I’m your typical terrorist, right?”

Zimmerman told CBS 4’s Tiffani Helberg that she expected a pat down because she refused the image screening machine. However, she said the TSA screener crossed boundaries.

“She says, ‘Will you pull your pants down’ and then she pulled my underwear down and strip searched me,” Zimmerman said.

In an emailed statement, TSA told CBS 4 News, “Our officers are committed to treating every passenger with dignity and respect and we take complaints seriously. TSA is currently reviewing recent allegations of passengers who flew out of JFK. Our preliminary review of each of these claims indicates all screening procedures were followed.”

TSA also told us they do not conduct strip searches.

Linda Kallish wants to know how TSA defines strip search. She sent an email to TSA but so far has only received a form response. She believes TSA should have separate procedures for treating people with medical conditions. She also believes travelers who are taken to a private screening room without their items could easily have those items stolen.

“It’s a lousy position to put somebody in,” she said. “Somebody’s gonna have their stuff taken. It’s an easy way for somebody to steal stuff.”

Ruth Sherman, 88, said she was also put in an uncomfortable position by TSA screeners. The Sunrise woman said she was flagged because of a bulge in her pants caused by her colostomy bag. Sherman said she was taken to a private room and searched.

“It was very humiliating,” Sherman said. “It was a terrible experience. People shouldn’t do that. They should have nurses or trained people doing that.”

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