Local Woman Says New TSA Screenings Invade Privacy

by Abby Reed
NewsWest 9

The new pat down screenings the TSA is now enforcing, too hands on for one Odessa woman. While trying to board a plane at the Midland Airport, she says screeners got too close for comfort, invading her privacy and making her feel victimized.

The Transportation Security Administration first implemented the new "enhanced pat down screenings" last Friday. That's the same day Beverly Ferguson says she was trying to fly to Florida. She didn't even know of the new screening procedure, until she was trying to get through security. That's when she says, her privacy was invaded.

"I was violated. I was violated, I have never felt so humiliated in all of my life," Ferguson said.

The same day the new guidelines went into effect, Ferguson says she was screened by a TSA agent who touched her chest and bottom.

"What got me was, she came back around to the front and told me to put my arms out and spread my legs out," Ferguson said.

She says the agent felt under her dress. The TSA agent was performing what's called an "enhanced pat down screening." Using the palm of their hands, agents can slide them up and down a passenger's body. They can even move inside your legs, and have the authority to touch breasts and genital areas, with the over-the-clothes pat down.

"These procedures come from Washington, and they're implemented throughout the United States, so it's not that they are implemented in one airport and not the other," Marv Esterly with the Midland International Airport, said.

Esterly says he understands why some passengers, like Ferguson, might be uncomfortable with the pat-down. However, he says this is the first time he's heard of local passengers having problems.

"I think this is the first time that I've heard of anybody that didn't enjoy the experience, coming through the terminal building, and of course, we're concerned about that," Esterly said.

The enhanced screening is, usually, only done if a passenger sets off a metal detector and refuses to go through the full body scanner. The Midland Airport doesn't have full body scanners just yet, so passengers don't have any choice.

"If you're going to fly, it's part of the game, that you're going to have to go through a security checkpoint," Esterly said.

"That is violating my personal space, and we teach our children to let us know if anyone is touching you, inappropriate touching. To me, that's inappropriate. There's got to be another way to do it," Ferguson said.

Ferguson tells NewsWest 9, she isn't upset with the Transportation Security Administration or the agent who was performing her job duties. She says, more than anything, she is just upset with the situation, and wishes the government could come up with a better way of screening passengers.

NewsWest 9 did try to contact TSA, but we were referred to a voicemail.