Female Passengers Say They Were Targeted for TSA Body Scanners

TSA agents in Dallas singled out female passengers to undergo screening in a body scanner, according to complaints filed by several women who said they felt the screeners intentionally targeted them to view their bodies.

One woman who flew out of Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport several months ago said a female agent sent her through a body scanner three times after the agent commented on her “cute” body.

“She says to me, ‘Do you play tennis?’ And I said, ‘Why?’‘You just have such a cute figure,’” Ellen Terrell recalled to CBS News in Dallas.

Terrell said the female agent appeared to be acting on a request from male agents who were in a separate room viewing the scans and who apparently asked the agent to send Terrell back through the scanner twice because the scan was blurry.

After the third scan, Terrell said the agent seemed frustrated with her co-workers in the screening room. “She’s talking into her microphone and she says, ‘Guys, it is not blurry, I’m letting her go,’” Terrell said.

Terrell, who was traveling with her husband at the time, told the TV station, “I feel like I was totally exposed. They wanted a nice good look.”

As CBS noted in its story, when TSA agents pat down a female traveler who opts out of a scanner, only female agents are allowed to touch the female passenger. But the TSA allows male agents to view the images of female passengers.

Texas State Representative Lon Burnam of Fort Worth told CBS that this was not the first time he’d heard such complaints.

So the local CBS station filed a records request to obtain all of the complaints filed by passengers and found a pattern among the 500 complaints the TSA released. The names of the complainants were redacted, so CBS wasn’t able to contact them for further details, but they included several complaints from women who noted that the agents were singling out women for screening. One woman wrote in her complaint that she felt “targeted by the TSA employee to go through the see-you-naked machine because I am a semi-attractive female.”

Another woman wrote that “the screener appeared to enjoy the process of picking someone rather than doing true random screening. I felt this was inappropriate. A woman behind me was also ‘randomly selected.’”

One woman wrote that after she went into the scanner, “I saw [the male agent] going to the private room where x-rays are, to speak to the guy [in] that room.”

A complainant indicated that “When I looked around, I saw that there were only women that were ‘told’ to go through this machine. There were no men.”

When asked about the complaints, the TSA released a statement to CBS saying that scanners at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport, as well as at the Love Field airport, had been upgraded so that they now showed only a generic body outline, rather than a detailed image.

“All of our millimeter wave technology units including those in Dallas have been upgraded with additional privacy enhancements that no longer display passenger-specific images,” the TSA said in a statement. “To further ensure passenger privacy and anonymity, a privacy filter was applied to blur all images.”

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