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Three elderly women from Florida allege that they were the victims of a TSA strip search while leaving JFK Airport last week. Each of the three suffers from an ailment requiring a medical device. One has a defibrillator and back brace; another wears a colostomy bag; and the third wears an insulin pump to treat diabetes.
Lenore Zimmerman, 84, was the first to go public. She claims that she was intimately searched after requesting not to go through the body scanner. However, the TSA disputes her story.
In a post on its official blog, the TSA states that Zimmerman requested a private screening because of her back brace and defibrillator. CCTV shows that two female officers removed the brace, screened it and cleared her for travel.
Two other women, Ruth Sherman, 88, and Linda Kallish, 66, told similar stories of a TSA strip search. Kallish says that her insulin pump set off the metal detector, reports the Sun-Sentinel. She was escorted to a private room and asked to remove her pants. The agent took a look at the pump and sent her on her way.
Sherman also pulled down her pants and underwear so that she could show agents her colostomy bag, notes the Sun-Sentinel. She, too, was allowed to fly.
TSA protocols do not include strip searches, according to the agency. They suggest that you request a supervisor if asked to remove anything but your jacket and shoes.
However, TSA still needs to search all exterior medical devices if they will set off alarms. Though a pat down is usually sufficient, a visual or physical inspection may be necessary. The agency's website indicates that passengers may be required to lift their clothing.
Whether the alleged TSA strip searches went farther than a simple "lifting" is up for debate. Security video could provide more answers, but privacy laws prevent the TSA from releasing the tapes.
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