Saturday, August 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Congress to hear TSA horror stories

A House Subcommittee will conduct a hearing on TSA screenings, and a star witness is expected to be an Alaska state rep whose post-mastectomy prosthetic breast set off alarms and repeatedly led to "humiliating" pat-downs.

Congress to hear TSA horror stories

Rebecca Solomon, a 22-year-old college student, was passing through security at Philadelphia International Airport when a TSA worker, she says, pulled a small clear plastic bag with white powder from her bag as a joke.
Rebecca Solomon, a 22-year-old college student, was passing through security at Philadelphia International Airport when a TSA worker, she says, pulled a small clear plastic bag with white powder from her bag as a joke.

A year ago, two of my columns about troubling searches at the Philadelphia airport spurred a Congressman to demand answers of the Transportation Security Administration. Today I got word that that this inquiry has led Congress to call a hearing on Whole Body Imaging for next week in Washington.

A House panel will conduct a hearing on TSA screenings Wednesday, and a star witness is expected to be an Alaska state representative whose prosthetic breast set off alarms and repeatedly led to  "humiliating" pat-downs.

Documents from the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations show that Sharon Cissna, a Democratic state representative from Anchorage, has been invited to testify about her ordeals at security checkpoints. Cissna's post-mastectomy false breast triggered an alert on a full-body scanner last fall and again last month in Seattle.

"The horror began again," she told the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 24. But the second time, she declined a rubber-glove search, and instead traveled by small plane and ferry for a two-day return trip home.

More coverage
 
No joke at security gate

The Alaska legislature passed a resolution declaring "no one should have to sacrifice their dignity in order to travel."

The hearing, titled TSA Oversight, Part I: Whole Body Imaging," is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in Room 2154 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The subcommittee, led by U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. is to examine the effectiveness and safety of imaging technology and consider privacy concerns.

In addition to Cissna, invited witnesses include:

Robin E. Kane, the TSA's assistant administrator for security technology; Lee Kair, the TSA's assistant administrator for security operations; David J. Brenner, a professor of radiation biophysics at Columbia University, Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center; and Fred H. Cate, director of the Center of Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University.

The columns that U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, referenced in his letter to Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, reported on the complaints of the father of a disabled four-year-old boy made to walk through metal detectors without his leg braces, and of a college student who was accused of packing a suspicious white powder, only to hear from the TSA employee that he was kidding -- it was his. He was fired.

About this blog
Daniel Rubin is a columnist and The Inquirer's director of social media. Since joining newspaper as a staff writer in 1988, Daniel Rubin has reported from Mayfair to Macedonia, 27 countries in all. He has been the European Correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and for two years he sat at home and wrote Blinq, the paper's first daily blog. Dan began newspaper work in Norfolk and Louisville, Ky., after getting his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Northwestern University. He has lived in all four commonwealths, most recently in Pennsylvania. He teaches urban journalism at the University of Pennsylvania

Email Blinq here. My day job - Inquirer metro columnist - is here.

Reach Daniel at drubin@phillynews.com.

Metro Mashup
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected