Two women in their 80s put the Transportation Security Administration on the defensive this week by going public about their embarrassment during screenings in a private room at John F. Kennedy International Airport. One claimed she was forced to lower her pants and underwear in front of an agent so that her back brace could be inspected. Another said agents made her pull down her waistband to show her colostomy bag.
While not confirming some of the details, the TSA said a preliminary review shows officers followed the agency's procedures in both cases. But experts said the potential for such searches will increase as the U.S. population ages and receives prosthetics and other medical devices, some of which cannot go through screening machines.
"You have pacemakers, you have artificial hips, you have artificial knees," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "As we get older and we keep ourselves together, it's going to take more and more surgery. There's going to be more and more medical improvements, but that can create what appears to be a security issue."
Prosthetic devices can set off metal detectors, and certain devices such as catheters and bags are visible on body scanners, making those passengers candidates for more thorough inspections. Metal detectors and wands can disrupt some devices such as implanted defibrillators, so those passengers must ask for pat-downs instead.
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