Burger flipping perverts in airports
John A. Quayle
blueoval at SGI.NET
Thu Feb 7 14:09:36 MST 2002
At 06:17 AM 2/7/2002, Jim wrote:
>Apparently some of the burger flippers who pretend to be security guards
>in the airports are groping the women passengers. The url for this article is
Hm-m-m-m, sounds like something Howard Stern might do for
>Airport frisks stir outrage
>Pat-downs improper, 32 females say
>By Tom Zoellner
>The Arizona Republic
>Feb. 07, 2002 12:00:00
> Read about the latest airport security measures at airport.azcentral.com.
>At least 32 female airline passengers have complained about being fondled
>and groped during random body searches at Sky Harbor International Airport
>and other airports across the nation.
>In many of the reported incidents, male gate agents appear to be targeting
>solitary female travelers for the supposedly random pat-downs, which have
>become a feature of air travel since the Sept. 11 attacks.
>There is no federal law that requires airlines to provide an employee of
>the same sex to conduct the searches. Passengers who try to complain find
>that the price of objection can be a missed flight.
>"The more I protested the more he smirked," said Anita Lawrence, a
>60-year-old real estate broker from north Scottsdale who said she was led
>behind a tall screen by a male employee before boarding an America West
>Airlines flight to Houston on Jan. 21.
>"He told me: 'Do you want to get on this plane?' " Lawrence said. "He
>touched my breasts, he touched my hips. I felt sexually assaulted."
>Arizona Attorney General Janet Napolitano is assembling a database of 32
>aggrieved passengers who have come forward with stories of possible sexual
>abuse in airports in Arizona and elsewhere. One case involves a 12-year-old
>"We need a policy in place that protects passengers," said Napolitano, who
>has no legal standing to prosecute the cases but has written letters of
>complaint to America West and to the Federal Aviation Administration.
>"Our policies for the searches do not involve targeting customers due to
>gender or race," said Janice Monahan, an America West spokeswoman. "We
>don't want to offend anyone, but for the safety of our passengers after
>September 11, we must follow federally mandated procedures."
>Passengers who haven't flown since the attacks may be unaccustomed to the
>new gate searches, she said.
>Women singled out
>The stories of abuse are impossible to corroborate or independently verify,
>but the common denominator seems to be women singled out based on their
>beauty rather than their potential to be hijackers.
>Erik Collins, a computer technician from Kansas City, Mo., said he was
>waiting at a Southwest Airlines gate at Sky Harbor when he started talking
>to two airline employees who had just patted down a blond woman.
>"They chuckled and proceeded to tell me how their 'random' system worked,"
>Collins said. "They would pick two or three random men, and then take turns
>picking out 'the top two or three hottest women' in the gate area. After
>their break, I watched them 'randomly' pick people out exactly as they had
>explained, often looking at each other for approval of their selections.
>"These people are on power trips. They act like they're God."
>Friskings by civilian airline employees, who sometimes aren't in uniforms,
>can take place within the concourse even after passengers have cleared
>security checkpoints and metal detectors.
>Complying with law
>The FAA gives airlines latitude to conduct their own pre-boarding searches
>as a last line of defense against a hijacking or bombing.
>Airline officials said it is customary to use employees of the same sex as
>the passenger to do the searches. But sometimes that is not possible
>because of crowded flights or lack of staff.
>"All we are doing is fulfilling the mandate of the law," said Mike Wascom,
>spokesman for the Air Transport Association in Washington, D.C., which
>represents major airlines.
>"Our airlines would never tolerate a search that violates an individual's
>rights," he said. Whitney Brewer, spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines, said
>random gate searches are necessary but can be "an uncomfortable experience
>for our employees."
>Southwest's policy is to first wave a magnetometer wand over the passenger,
>front and back. If the wand beeps, and the metal object can't be found, the
>employee is supposed to ask the passenger for permission to pat him or her
>Passengers waiting for a flight are selected for a special search by
>Southwest's booking computers, which use a formula to assess risk.
>If there is still time before the flight leaves, Southwest employees are
>supposed to do additional searches of passengers chosen at random, Brewer
>"Customer service is at the forefront of our minds in all cases," said
>Brewer, who added that she has not been made aware of any complaints from
>female passengers about the pat-downs.
>The Arizona Republic, through telephone interviews and public documents,
>has nevertheless learned of six incidents of questionable airport searches
>by airline agents at the gate and security guards at metal detectors:
>Passengers speak up
> Corporate attorney Ruth Smith, 50, of Columbus, Ohio, said a security
>guard reached up her blouse to feel for a possible weapon before a Dec. 7
>flight to New York. "I really avoid flying now," she said.
> Lonnie Jaycox of St. Louis said he watched in disbelief as a male airline
>employee "vigorously and inappropriately" frisked the sides of his wife
>Emily's breasts in Houston's Hobby Airport on Dec. 25. His complaints fell
>on deaf ears. "They make it clear that if you oppose them in any way they
>will call the National Guard and cause you to miss your flight and possibly
> Sally Sausman, 58, of Boca Raton, Fla., said she was subjected to an
>unusually thorough search by a female security guard in Tucson on Monday.
>"She ran her hands up my sides to my underarms, then lifted my blouse and
>ran her fingers around the waistband of my slacks," said Sausman, who
>blamed "misplaced zeal" rather than sexual harassment.
> After a bobby pin in Kathleen Taylor's pocket set off the metal detectors
>at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on Jan. 15, a male security
>guard frisked her. "Oh, she'll pass, she's pretty," the guard reportedly
>said before giving her a pat on the side.
> Lawrence, the real estate broker from Scottsdale, said the male America
>West employee who searched her grew angry at her protests and threw the
>contents of her purse to the ground, breaking a fountain pen. She reported
>the Jan. 21 incident to the Attorney General's Office on Wednesday morning,
>but has not yet filed a formal complaint with the airline.
> Sharon Schmidt of Placerville, Calif., said she was touched in a sexually
>inappropriate way by a male America West gate staffer the same night as
>Lawrence. "That 'search' was in no way, shape or form a security measure,"
>America West spokesman Monahan responded Wednesday: "We have had no
>evidence for any basis of this allegation." The airline knows the name of
>the employee but has not disciplined him; an investigation is ongoing.
>Schmidt went to Napolitano, whose office was flooded with complaints after
>the incident was publicized.
>Air staff complains
>The complaints have not been limited to passengers. The Association of
>Flight Attendants sent a Nov. 9 letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary
>Norman Mineta concerning "unprofessional and abusive behavior by security
>screeners at airports."
>The union cited three instances of harassment: a pregnant flight attendant
>in Portland, Ore., who had her belly pressed during a body search; a woman
>"repeatedly rubbed all over her body" with a screening wand in San
>Francisco; and a flight attendant subjected to a strip search in Los Angeles.
>Mineta responded Jan. 7, saying that a heightened level of professionalism
>can be expected after the federal government takes over airport security
>contracts on Feb. 17.
>"Under the current structure, if passengers or airline employees believe
>they are treated unfairly, they should ask to speak to the security
>screener's supervisor or contact the air carrier's ground security
>coordinator at the departing airport," Mineta wrote.
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