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  • TSA Can’t Deny Latest Groping Allegations

    Two Transportation Security Administration employees were recently fired for allegedly colluding to allow a male screener to repeatedly grope “attractive” male passengers.

    According to reports obtained during a CBS4 investigation, the TSA began investigating the employees at Denver International Airport—one male and one female—following an anonymous tip last November, but did not take action until February, after a supervisor observed the behavior in person. (RELATED: Former TSA Agent: Your Worst Fears about Us were True)

    The supervisor, Chris Higgins, reported that on Feb. 9, he witnessed the male screener “appear to give a signal to another screener … (the second female screener),” who was operating a touchscreen system that controls whether or not the scanning machine alerts to gender-specific anomalies.

    When a male passenger entered the machine, Higgins claims to have seen the female agent press the button identifying the passenger as a female, prompting the scanner to detect a “genetic anomaly” and trigger a manual pat down. Higgins then saw the male agent “conduct a pat down of the passenger’s front groin and buttocks area with the palm of his hands, which is contradictory to TSA searching policy.”

    In a subsequent interview with Higgins, the female agent “admitted that she has done this for (the male TSA officer) at least 10 other times,” and that, “She knew that doing so would allow (the male TSA officer) to perform a pat down on a male passenger that (the male TSA screener) found attractive.”

    The TSA has not released the names of the employees or affected passengers, but in a statement to CBS4, an agency spokesperson called the alleged acts “egregious and intolerable,” and said, “All allegations of misconduct are thoroughly investigated by the agency. And when substantiated, employees are held accountable.” (RELATED: The TSA, Now in More than Just Airports)

    Perhaps a more proactive approach is needed, because the incident is far from isolated, and is not even the first accusation of inappropriate touching at Denver International Airport. According to CBS4, “Jamelyn Steenhoek filed a complaint against TSA screeners at the airport saying the frisking she received in December 2013 amounted to a sexual assault,” saying she felt “violated” by what she considered groping on the part of a female TSA employee.

    Similar accusations have been made by passengers around the country, according to watchdog site GovernmentAttic.org, which in 2012 obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request a cache of hundreds of letters written by passengers complaining of mistreatment. (RELATED: Sen. Rand Paul Detained by TSA in Nashville, TSA Denies)

    A number of letters, from both male and female passengers, attest to deliberate and egregious genital contact, and in one case, “a former U.S. Air Force officer complains to his Congressman about an experience at Orlando Airport during which a TSA agent shoved his genitals to one side in order to ensure ‘it really is your crotch.'”

    At least one passenger, though, was accused of giving the TSA a taste of its own medicine, The Daily Mail reported in 2011. Yukari Miyamae was arrested at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix “when she allegedly grabbed the agent’s ‘left breast through her clothing, squeezing and twisting it with both hands without the victim’s permission’.”

    Miyamae explained that she had refused to go through a full-body scanner and requested a metal detector instead, fearing exposure to radiation, and says she “instinctively” pushed the agent away because she felt threatened after being “surrounded by TSA agents.” Prosecutors eventually declined to press felony sexual assault charges against her.

    Follow Peter Fricke on Twitter

     

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