Sen. Charles Schumer Sunday said he will introduce legislation this week that will require the Transportation Security Administration to put passenger advocates in every major airport after three elderly women, including one from Long Beach, were strip-searched by screeners.
"Passengers who feel their rights are about to be violated have nowhere to turn," said Schumer, who will introduce the Restoring Integrity and Good Heartedness in Traveler Screening Act this week. "The RIGHTS Act helps give a voice to those who feel they are being inappropriately treated."
The legislation would require the TSA to give some of its employees extra training in resolving disputes in case a passenger feels that the search they are undergoing is invasive or inappropriate.
At least one passenger advocate would have to be present at all times at each airport where the TSA operates. The plan also would require all disputes to be resolved immediately and for the TSA to provide signs that inform passengers of their rights. Schumer (D-N.Y.) added that these programs would not cost the taxpayers any money.
Schumer said screeners strip-searched three women traveling separately at Kennedy Airport at the end of November, even though they were in their 80s and posed no clear security threat.
Lenore Zimmerman, 85, of Long Beach, was stopped at a security checkpoint while in a wheelchair. She had to lift up her shirt and lower her pants so a female TSA agent in a private room could remove her back brace, which was X-rayed.
"It'll never happen again, I wouldn't allow it, but I was hoping they would have some enforcement that would protect the passengers," Zimmerman said during a telephone interview Sunday from her winter home in Florida.
She added that she is "very glad" about Schumer's bill.
Schumer said the measure would resolve problems by providing someone with whom a passenger could negotiate before violations occur. Currently, TSA takes passenger complaints through a hotline and on its website. "If TSA won't provide common sense reform, we will compel them," he said.