TSA Backtracks, Admits Agents Violated Procedure in Elderly Screenings at JFK

Octogenarians who complained they were strip-searched still fuming despite agency's apology.

Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012  |  Updated 9:35 AM EDT
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After insisting its agents acted appropriately in searches of two elderly women at John F. Kennedy Airport, the Transportation Security Administration now admits that screeners violated procedure.

Lenore Zimmerman, 85, and Ruth Sherman, 89, complained they were humiliated by what they perceived to be illicit strip-searches at the airport. 

Zimmerman said she was taken to a private room and made to take off her pants and other clothes after she asked to forgo the screening because she worried it would interfere with her defibrillator. Sherman had said she was forced to pull down her pants so screeners could see her colostomy bag. 

In a letter obtained by the Daily News, Homeland Security officials acknowledge that both women were searched in violation of TSA policy. 

“It is not standard operating procedure for colostomy devices to be visually inspected, and [the Transportation Security Administration] apologizes for this employee’s action,” Assistant Homeland Security Secretary Betsy Markey wrote in the letter to state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens). 

Markey did insist, however, that Sherman voluntarily pulled her pants down. She also wrote in the letter that Zimmerman had not been strip-searched, but that scanning her back brace constituted a policy violation and apologized. 

Both women, still fuming about their perceived indignities, told the News the federal letter did not accurately describe their full experiences.

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