Alaska Rep Refuses TSA Airport Pat-Down, Takes Ferry Instead
An Anchorage state representative decided to take a long trip including a 12-hour ferry ride back to Alaska rather than submit to an "invasive" pat-down by TSA screeners at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
Rep. Sharon Cissna, a Democrat, said she had no problem going through a full-body scan Sunday at airport security in Seattle, while trying to board a flight to Juneau. But then she was told she required further examination in the form of a pat-down because of scars from her mastectomy.
Cissna said she had experienced the "invasive, probing hands of a stranger" during a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport pat-down three months ago, and wasn't going to go through it again.
"Facing the agent I began to remember what my husband and I'd decided after the previous intensive physical search. That I never had to submit to that horror again!" she said in a statement sent out Monday. "It would be difficult, we agreed, but I had the choice to say no, this twisted policy did not have to be the price of flying to Juneau!"
The politician had been in Seattle for medical treatment. She was returning to Juneau to rejoin the 90-day legislative session.
Cissna sent her statement from Prince Rupert, British Columbia. She said her trip home, rather than a commercial flight, now involved driving, a small plane and the Alaska state ferry system.
In response to the incident, TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball tells AOL Travel News, "We are sensitive to travelers' concerns, but security is not optional." He says the agency has contacted Rep. Cissna's office.
"We have reached out to Rep. Cissna's staff to explain that our responsibility is to keep the traveling public safe and discuss some of the policies in place to carry out this mission, including conducting pat downs to resolve alarms during screening," Kimball says.
He adds, "If a person is unwilling to complete the screening process, he/she will not be able to board his/her flight."
Other travelers have complained about being signaled out at TSA security for pat-downs for prosthetic devices and wheelchairs, among other things.
On its website, the TSA says its security officers "will need to see and touch your prosthetic device, cast or support brace as part of the screening process," but does not mention scars.
A woman answering a call to Cissna's capital office in Juneau said she was not sure when the representative would return. But there were reports Cissna planned to be back at the Legislature on Thursday.
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