Woman says TSA forced piercings removal

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Principessa, Mar 28, 2008.

  1. Principessa

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    Woman says TSA forced piercings removal

    By GREG RISLING, Associated Press Writer 1 minute ago


    A Texas woman who said she was forced to remove a nipple ring with pliers in order to board an airplane called Thursday for an apology by federal security agents and a civil rights investigation.

    "I wouldn't wish this experience upon anyone," Mandi Hamlin said at a news conference. "My experience with TSA was a nightmare I had to endure. No one deserves to be treated this way."

    Hamlin, 37, said she was trying to board a flight from Lubbock to Dallas on Feb. 24 when she was scanned by a Transportation Security Administration agent after passing through a larger metal detector without problems.

    The female TSA agent used a handheld detector that beeped when it passed in front of Hamlin's chest, the Dallas-area resident said.

    Hamlin said she told the woman she was wearing nipple piercings. The agent then called over her male colleagues, one of whom said she would have to remove the jewelry, Hamlin said.

    Hamlin said she could not remove them and asked whether she could instead display her pierced breasts in private to the female agent. But several other male officers told her she could not board her flight until the jewelry was out, she said.

    She was taken behind a curtain and managed to remove one bar-shaped piercing but had trouble with the second, a ring.

    "Still crying, she informed the TSA officer that she could not remove it without the help of pliers, and the officer gave a pair to her," said Hamlin's attorney, Gloria Allred, reading from a letter she sent Thursday to the director of the TSA's Office of Civil Rights and Liberties. Allred is a well-known Los Angeles lawyer who often represents high-profile claims.

    Applying pliers to the torso of a mannequin that had a peach-colored bra with the rings on it, Hamlin showed reporters at the news conference how she took off the second ring.

    She said she heard male TSA agents snickering as she took out the ring. She was scanned again and was allowed to board even though she still was wearing a belly button ring.

    "After nipple rings are inserted, the skin can often heal around the piercing, and the rings can be extremely difficult and painful to remove," Allred said in the letter.

    TSA officials said they are investigating to see whether its policies were followed.

    "Our security officers are well-trained to screen individuals with body piercings in sensitive areas with dignity and respect while ensuring a high level of security," the agency said in a statement.

    On its Web site, the TSA warns that passengers "may be additionally screened because of hidden items such as body piercings, which alarmed the metal detector."

    "If you are selected for additional screening, you may ask to remove your body piercing in private as an alternative to a pat-down search," the site says.

    Hamlin would have accepted a "pat-down" had it been offered, Allred said.

    If an alarm does sound, "until that is resolved, we're not going to let them go through the checkpoint, no matter what they're wearing or where they're wearing it," said TSA spokesman Dwayne Baird in Salt Lake City.


    People routinely pass through security wearing wedding rings without problems, and it might take a larger bit of metal to trigger an alarm, Baird said.

    Hamlin filed a complaint, but the TSA's customer service manager at the Lubbock airport concluded the screening was handled properly, Allred said.

    Hamlin wants an apology from the TSA and an investigation by the agency's civil rights office.

    Allred said she might consider legal action if the TSA does not apologize.

    Hamlin was publicly humiliated and has "undergone an enormous amount of physical pain to have the nipple rings reinserted" because of scar tissue, Allred said.

    Hamlin said her piercings have never set off an airport metal detector.
    "The conduct of TSA was cruel and unnecessary," Allred wrote. "The last time that I checked a nipple was not a dangerous weapon."

    Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information contained in the AP News report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.

    This is beyond ridiculous! This poor woman should never have been subjected to this extremely idiotic and insensitive treatment. :angryfire2: While I understand her demanding an apology I don't think that will prevent others from similar treatment. She should sue for her medical bills since she had to get one piercing re-done, mental anguish; and emotional distress.

    Did this woman fit the profile of a known terrorist? Did they really think Al Qaeda was planting nipple bombs on planes? How does one recruit for that type of mission? :tongue::confused: She was flying from Lubbock, TX to Dallas, TX is either city known to harbor terrorist cells? Not for nothing, but I've been to Lubbock; losing that place wouldn't be that big a deal. :cool:


    Some of y'all got on my case last week for inferring that all TSA agents were under-educated, Carribean immigrants, or gum cracking, negative attitude, large, black women. I'm not saying that a white high school graduate would have done a better job. The truth is I don't care what color the TSA agents are; but they damn well better be trained to do their job properly and courteously. They should know how to make a judgement call. They should also know how to not take their bad day out on an innocent traveler. :12:

    Rant over, I'll get down off my soapbox now :soapbox:
     
  2. TinyPrincess

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    LOL - well, nipple piercings can be sharp I guess and used as a weapon ;-) NOT!!!

    Well, being an air hostess this is what I have to listen to every day at work - new strange reasons why passengers can't bring along a toothbrush, toothpaste, lotion etc. But then when you have passed the security check, you can enjoy a nice steak with really sharp knives ;-) Oh, I love airport security.

    Nipple piercings was new though - perhaps some of the guys could test security with a cockring? ;-)
     
  3. Average_joe

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    This response is less to do with the article, and more to do with people running their mouths off about things they haven't put a lick of thought into. I'm sick and tired of people bitching about the damn airport security. REALLY tired of it. It'd be one thing if they actually had something new, or thought-out, or at least had some idea what the whole point of security is.

    I have family member who worked for TSA, I've met other a large number of people who work for TSA, and quite frankly, they have better things to do than harass passengers. Do you have any idea what kind of shit screeners have to put up with on a daily basis? They still have people bringing GUNS in their carry-on luggage. The public is fucking stupid, and despite being told over and over again what they can and should do in order for the PRIVILEGE to ride a plane, they persist in disobeying and then BITCHING about it.

    Have you ever thought WHY things are done they way they are? They are not screening you in inconvenience you. They are striving to screen everybody EXACTLY the same. And everybody means just that. When TSA screeners, in uniform, go through a checkpoint to get to another part of the airport, they get screened. They're told to treat everybody as a suspect, because you really don't know what somebody might try and pull.

    No, they don't think her damn nipple rings are dangerous. Because, until the moment she lifts up her shirt and shows them, they don't KNOW they're nipple rings. All they know is that bits of the human body shouldn't register as metal. How the screeners dealt with the problem can be chocked up to plain old human stupidity. Really nasty human stupidity. Does that mean that every single screener out there wants to yank out your nipple rings for fun? Probably not.

     
  4. MidwestGal

    MidwestGal Member

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    I am with you on this one. It is awful what she had to endure. A female agent observing that they were actual nipple rings should have been sufficient.
     
  5. No_Strings

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    Heh, I've been lucky enough to never set off a metal detector at an airport, but if I did and also had piercings, I would go ape shit if they asked me to remove them.

    A bit of a tangent, but an interesting observation:

    Over the past 6 months, I've flown from London to Philadelphia and back, twice.
    I have a fairly olive complexion due to some continental/european blood somewhere in the line - typical natural tan, dark hair, very dark brown eyes.

    On my first flight, I was not stopped, searched or questioned once, in either country - same on the return journey.

    Second flight, now sporting a beard, I was stopped and had my hand luggage and shoes searched before departing from London. I was then stopped and questioned, to which I apparently gave unsatisfactory answers. :)rolleyes:) I was sent to a room full of cops for a secondary interview, had both my baggage and carry-on fully emptied and searched, whilst the policeman made fun of the contents and my belongings in front of my face.
    On the return flight (still sporting a beard) I was stopped at passport control for 10 minutes while the guy tried to figure out if the picture on my passport was fake or not. Then again after collecting my baggage I was the victim of a random stop and asked further questions, including, but not limited to, what my business is in the UK and how long I will be staying for.
    The fact that I have a UK passport with my English home address on obviously didn't matter.

    Shave before you fly in/out of the US. Seriously.
    I guess we can add removing piercing to the list aswell.
     
  6. NorthernSchlong

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    Wow - That Is Horrible!!!
     
  7. DC_DEEP

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    Actually, if all the TSA agents were properly recruited and trained, threads like this would not be so common. I have dealt with good agents and bad ones. The bad ones do nothing to enhance security, and may actually cause security risks. I worked in the airline industry for several years, in reservation sales, and had to deal with lots of rude and stupid people. I had to deal with rude, abusive customers on a regular basis, but I never ever took out my anger and frustration on the next customer - and neither should a TSA agent.

    And you are correct that until they see a piercing, they don't know it's a piercing. But it is my understanding from the article that Ms Hamlin offered to allow a visual inspection of her nipples, but was refused that option. That's a clear violation of TSA rules and procedures. I am absolutely astounded that when she told them she couldn't remove one of them, they handed her a pair of pliers and said "try again."

    The article also mentions that Ms Hamlin passed through the walk-through magnetometer without triggering the alarm, then received an additional screening with the hand-held, but it does not mention why.

    The general public is indeed pretty stupid, but that's no excuse for the actions of some of the TSA agents. And it seems that the stupid agents are the ones who let their "federal agent" status cloud their judgement.

    The agents who are rude to travellers are also forgetting one important fact: these passengers are paying the agents' salaries. Most passengers contribute to general tax revenue (such as income tax), and all passengers pay about 8.6% of each base fare, plus a flat-rate fee of $2.50 per segment, to fund the TSA operations. On a recent flight from Washington, DC to New Orleans, my round-trip ticket included $27.08 federal excise tax, $13.60 federal segment tax, $13.50 passenger facility charge, and $7.50 security fee - a total of $61.68 for the honor of TSA scrutiny. Fortunately, all the agents I dealt with on that trip were excellent.

    But if you figure in that the average passenger is paying $31 to the federal government to get from point a to point b, and figure in how many people travel every single day, that's a lot of money that could be used to better train some of these chimps - or fire them and hire someone who can actually do the job. Statistics provided by USDOT on their website show an average of 2,015,073 daily domestic revenue passenger enplanements between Dec 2006 and Dec 2007 (that's each time a paying passenger gets on a plane - one enplanement for a non-stop flight, two for a connecting flight, etc.)

    Since I couldn't find a DOT source for information on fees paid for connecting flights, I'll leave out the excise tax and security tax, and quote only the per-segment security and facility charges: the federal government collected $1,206,438 per day, ($440,349,870 for 2007!) just in the smaller fees. That, plus the larger per-booking fees, should be more than enough to better-train the TSA workforce. And if an agent can't handle it, he shouldn't be working for TSA.
     
  8. sneakysexy

    sneakysexy New Member

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    TSA sucks. A few smart ones, but generally loaded down with dumb-ass nitwits.
     
  9. TinyPrincess

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    Shaving is a great idea - two weeks ago, I was on a plane, which was cancelled due to the fact that it carried 5 middle eastern looking men. Some Dutch passenger became nervous and suddenly the police had the plane cancelled and checked for bombs.

    This happens way too often - and its simply destroying the airlines.

    BTW, the five men were Iraqi air controllers, who had been to a seminar in Finland.
     
  10. dong20

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    Taken at face value, I don't quite know what I should find of more concern; the cancellation of a flight based on what appears to be one passenger's xenophobia, or that it should happen often.
     
  11. TinyPrincess

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    It's not uncommon on flights in Europe but it's very common on the flight to the US - not always outright cancellations but often simply "delays" while a passenger is taken off the plane and the baggage checked again.

    Would be nice if they could make an alternative for the risk-takers - an alternative without all the time wasting security, just being able to jump on the plane like before Bush. Oh, the god old days...
     
  12. dong20

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    I've never (knowingly) witnessed it but then I don't fly within Europe that much and I can imagine flights into the US are a 'hotbead' of paranoia. I once flew to NY on El Al, that was an example of rigorous security. It's been a couple of years now since I flew into the US (from Mexico as it happens).

    Yes, although if memory serves I seem to recall that the 'joy' of easy departures such as that may be a little further in the past than Bush, although certainly post 9/11, things have gone rapidly downhill when it comes to air travel. So too have security and airport support personnel IQ's, or so it often seems.

    These days I try to fly as little as possible, I'd like to say it's on environmental grounds, but mostly it's because - with the delays, misguided security efforts and general 'hassle' it just pisses me off more. Maybe I'm just becoming a jaded, grumpy traveller. Despite this, I still seem to be 'in the air' pretty often.

    To be fair, in recent years I've been primarily flying to and from (and within) Africa. While bringing it's own 'diversions':eek:, this has eased my dislike of the process, somewhat.
     
  13. dong20

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    My comments are not really aimed at the TSA (I've had few dealings with them), but at airport security personnel in general.

    I don't entirely disagree with you. I think it comes down to differences in perception between what security is really about. People see a need for airport security of course, but some of the rules relating to this are patently absurd, some others merely appear so.

    I can only imagine, and I'm sure that the majority don't actively seek to harass passengers. I will argue that being in a position to do so, by their nature or based on personal prejudices against certain 'groups' of passenger some will, and this is inexcusable. Some will also do so as a result of a 'bad day at the office'.This is unprofessional, yet perhaps more understandable.

    That is indeed stupid, but the irony is that these idiots are not the real threat. Human nature is such that some will deliberately try to get around rules.

    It's not so much what's done, it's the sometimes capricious manner in which it's done. Remember the old saying, give any idiot a cap and a badge ...

    I don't think that was suggested. DC addressed this - it comes down to employing the right people and training them properly. Then actively monitoring their performance, and acting on complaints.

    Hiding grossly insulting, irrational, racist or other such behaviours behind 'Federal Agent status' is inexcusable, I'm sure you'd agree. Using stupidity as a shield is little different, and both beg the question of why (and yes, I understand no recruiting process is flawless) such a person was employed, and more importantly continues to be employed.

    Finally, I must ask, since when is 'riding a plane' something which is in effect public transport, a PRIVILEGE?:rolleyes::tongue:
     
  14. Deno

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    in my opinion she had two options. Don't put the rings back in or stop flying on airplanes.
     
  15. dong20

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    That's a joke, right?:tongue:
     
  16. camchain

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    exactly. don't have them, then you won't get hasseld. why put yourself at risk.
     
  17. Principessa

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    I was skeeved out by the fact she had allowed them to become 'stuck'. :eek: Aren't you supposed to be cleaning that area daily with peroxide and turning the piercing, so that doesn't happen. :rolleyes: You know, like with earrings.
     
  18. Principessa

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    No, it's not.

    For most people air travel is pre-planned. This means you have time to take out your piercings and put them in a little ziploc bag in your carry-on luggage or purse. Since one does not pass through a metal detector on the way out of the airport you could feasibly put them back in before you got off the plane. :cool:

    Body piercings are an accessory. As such they are not required to be in place 24/7. When one knows they will be going through metal detectors and extensive security like at an airport you should take the necessary pre-cautions. I have a pepper spray on my key chain. When I fly, I remove it before I leave home so it won't be confiscated. It's an accessory, which I want to keep, so I take the appropriate pre-cautions.
     
  19. TinyPrincess

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    Oops, if you carry them aboard in your purse - aren't they still a very deadly and threatening weapon then? ;-)
     
  20. Mem

    Mem
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    What she should have done is tell the security that every passenger should be called back and forced to take off all of their jewelry too including their wedding rings.

    It was obviously not easy for her to remove them since she needed pliers to get them off.

    I hope she sues the airline, and the airport and the TSA.
     
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