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Politics

TSA's Diaper Grope Sparks More Criticism of Feds

June 26, 2011 - 6:00pm

A Florida group is calling on state lawmakers to enact a law "against state-sponsored perversion and oppression" in the wake of an aggressive TSA patdown of a diapered 95-year-old woman at Northwest Florida Regional Airport.

Andrew Nappi, head of the Florida 10th Amendment Center, is urging Reps. John Wood, R-Haines City, and Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, to sponsor the legislation.

"During the last campaign season, you both signed the 10th Amendment Centers state pledge. Among those things you pledged 'I do, and will continue to, oppose any and all efforts by the federal government to act beyond its constitutional authority,' Nappi related.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security was the subject of a complaint last week over TSA's handling of a dying cancer patient.

Jean Weber, of Destin, said her 95-year-old mother was detained and extensively searched while trying to board a plane to Michigan to be with family members during the final stages of her battle with leukemia.

Weber's wheelchair-bound mother was asked to remove an adult diaper in order to complete a pat-down search.

Its something I couldnt imagine happening on American soil, Weber told the Panama City News Herald Friday. Here is my mother, 95 years old, 105 pounds, barely able to stand, and then this.

Neither Wood nor Workman returned messages from Sunshine State News seeking comment, but Nappi said abuses by TSA workers have prompted legislative reaction in other states.

The Texas House of Representatives passed a bill authorizing the arrest of anyone who touches another person at airports. But the measure stalled when the U.S. Department of Justice warned that such a law could trigger a shutdown of all federally controlled air travel in the state.

Utah is considering similar legislation, Nappi said.

Meantime, legislators from several states have banded together to form a coalition caucus called the United States for Travel Freedom" to contest intrusive actions by the TSA.

One of the caucus leaders, Alaska Rep. Sharon Cissna, got energized when she refused a TSA patdown at the Seattle airport. A cancer survivor whose mastectomy can show up as an anomaly on scanning devices, Cissna said that, alternatively, inappropriate touching by strangers can trigger memories of sexual abuse she suffered as a child.

Cissna ended up taking a ferry home to Alaska.

TSA actions have spawned a website that lists 14 TSA-related bills pending in 10 states, as well as several citizens' groups, including Freedom to Travel USA.

Wendy Thomson, leader of the Michigan-based group, decried the Florida incident, saying the TSA "routinely abuses the rights of the disabled and the elderly. This includes servicemen with artificial limbs who face being subjected to additional searches for no other reason than for serving their country."

Saying "no one should be strip-searched without probable cause," Thomson called the Florida case "egregious." "Police aren't allowed to do that. The TSA shouldn't either."

Protesting what they deem a government-sanctioned invasion of privacy, other activists staged a "Ban the Scan" rally earlier this month in New York City. At the event, one protester advised air travelers to stand up for their rights:

"If 10 percent of those flying opted out then they couldn't use the scanners, since the TSA couldn't pat that many people down. Probably only 5 percent would be enough."

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Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

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