International terrorists aren’t the top target of TSA agents at New York’s JFK Airport.
Authorities working for the Transportation Security Administration have set their sights on the elderly, with a trio of elderly travelers reporting intrusive searches in the span of days.
Three elderly women from South Florida tell reporters that they were humiliated by excessive security screenings at New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport last week, all over the span of just a few days and all in the same terminal.
Lenore Zimmerman of Coconut Creek, Florida was the first to make claims, telling the New York Daily News that she was stripped naked and searched by an overzealous TSA agent while trying to travel to Fort Lauderdale. She says she asked to bypass the controversial advanced image technology scanners in fear that it would trigger problems with her defibrillator, though she didn’t expect that the outcome would turn terrifying.
“They took me into a private screening room and pulled my pants down and then pulled down my underwear,” Zimmerman, 85, tells the Daily News. An official with the TSA has responded that the agency followed proper procedures and that a strip search was not performed, contrary to the woman’s claims.
“If that’s not strip-searching, I don’t know what else you’d call it,” fires back Zimmerman. “They’re lying to protect their ass because they’re afraid of being sued — and they will be sued.”
“Why would I make up this story? In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t think of such a thing happening.”
"My blood pressure after the incident was 189 over 90, and it shouldn't be that high,” she adds to the Baltimore Sun.
Since Zimmerman’s account was publicized over the weekend, two other elderly patrons of JFK have stepped forward with similar allegations.
Ruth Sherman, an 88-year-old widow, says that she was moved by Zimmerman’s willingness to go public and days later said she was also victimized by agents only a day earlier. She tells CBS News that agents insisted she strip down so that they could inspect the bulge that was caused by her colostomy bag.
"This is private for me. It's bad enough that I have it," she tells a local CBS affiliate. "I had to pull from my sweatpants and I had to pull my underwear, my underwear down.”
"I felt like I was invaded."
To the Daily News, Sherman adds that she was crying her whole flight back to Florida.
The third woman, a 66-year-old diabetic from Boynton Beach, Florida named Linda Kallish, adds to the Sun that she was forced to strip after her glucose monitor set off the metal detector, but says she wasn’t touched by any agents.
“The whole thing is lousy," she says. "I've have never had to do that before. I have flown many times before, and I have never had to take my pants down."
The TSA has since apologized to Zimmerman, but has denied any wrongdoing. That’s not going to be enough for the octogenarian, however.
“I do want them to have some sort of consequence,” she tells WCBS. “I think the two agents that escorted or initiated the strip search should be terminated.”
“I really don’t remember if they called to apologize,” Zimmerman tells the Daily News, noting that she’s been taking sleeping pills to deal with the anxiety from the incident. She adds that, even if she does accept their apology, “I may sue them anyway because it was a very traumatic experience.”