November 18th, 2010
By: Fran Golden
When you ask a friend to join you for a nice weekend cruise from Miami, you don’t expect the friend to be hauled away by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents into a private room where she says she was practically strip-searched. But that’s what happened at Logan International Airport in Boston.
I breezed through security, taking off my shoes, putting my stuff on the belt and walking through the traditional metal detector machine. The process took less than five minutes.
Then I looked over to the adjacent security line and saw to my horror my red-faced friend questioning TSA officers after she was chosen at random for, and refused to go through, a full body scanner.
My pal happens to be a Boston media personality and crime reporter, Michele McPhee. She is not a shy lady. When this tough blond makes up her mind she makes up her mind. There was no way she was going to be convinced to do a body scan if she didn’t want to.
So instead, she opted for a pat down and was whisked away, barefoot, by two women – a TSA officer and her supervisor – to a private room, where McPhee says a very intrusive body search was conducted.
“They run their hands inside your leg and under your bra strap and patted the front of my breasts,” she says. “If someone had done that to me at a nightclub I’d call the cops.”
McPhee says the officers were “nice and apologetic” and seemed to feel bad they couldn’t give her her shoes back until after the search, especially when she pointed out how dirty the floor of the terminal was. The whole process took about 15 minutes.
So why did she reject the full body scan? McPhee says her big issue is privacy when it comes to the images that are taken.
“I have questions about privacy. I don’t really trust the TSA to keep these things private,” she says.
McPhee says she’d also like to know who profits from the proliferation of the body scanner machines the TSA is rolling out.
With some grass roots groups calling for a boycott of full body scanners on Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving and one of the busiest travel days of the year, McPhee says she’s all for it if it shakes things up.
“People need to know why we need body scanners,” she says. “The humiliation of walking across a crowded, dirty terminal in bare feet, escorted by two TSA agents, dragged into a room and essentially assaulted, I really did leave mad.”
The TSA maintains both pat downs and full body scans are designed to find dangerous items such as explosives and bomb parts that can be concealed on the body.
Coming back from Florida, at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, neither of us was asked to go through a body scanner or given a pat down.