Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Alaska State Rep. Sharon Cissna's Courageous Stand Against TSA Earns Kudos From House Colleagues, Attracts Senator Lisa Murkowski's Attention

On Thursday September 24th, 2011, Alaska State Rep. Sharon Cissna returned to somewhat of a hero's welcome in Juneau after her courageous stand against TSA abuse at Sea-Tac International Airport on February 20th. But she had already earned her kudos from her House colleagues and attracted the interest of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski. Stories from the Anchorage Daily News, the Juneau Empire, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, and KTUU Channel 2. Former Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Bob Poe, whose wife is a breast cancer survivor, weighs in on Alaska Dispatch.

Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) introduced a “Sense of the House” measure expressing support for Rep. Cissna. According to page 0328 of the House Journal, the citation read "Last weekend the long-time member of this body from District 22 chose respect. She stood up for her rights, her sense of decency, and her prior commitments to herself at the Seattle airport by not submitting to an intrusive search of her body. It is the Sense of the House that efficient travel is a cornerstone of the economy and our quality of life, especially in Alaska, and that no one should have to sacrifice their dignity in order to travel."

It passed with a 36-2 vote; only Reps. Bob Lynn (R-Anchorage) and Dan Saddler (R-Eagle River) voted against it. Rep. Anna Fairclough (R-Eagle River) had an excused absence. Based upon Rep. Fairclough's past involvement with women's support groups like STAR, I believe she would have voted in favor of the citation had she been present. According to the News-Miner, Saddler is not unsympathetic, but says he does not believe Cissna's actions were a matter that should concern the legislature. The Juneau Empire also records quotes from other lawmakers.

Meanwhile, Senator Lisa Murkowski, who will address a joint session of the State Legislature on February 24th, got involved and sent a letter to TSA requesting clarification of its passenger screening policies. In her letter, Murkowski wrote that there is no practical alternative for someone in Cissna’s position and the Senator is requesting TSA Administrator John Pistole explain what is being done to accommodate people who have had mastectomies and who use prosthetics. Murkowski also reminded the TSA that Juneau is accessible only by air or water and that Cissna’s trip back to the state capital should have taken a matter of hours, not days.

In a related development, Anchorage Daily News Independent Traveler blogger Gloria Maschmeyer also reports an unpleasant experience with TSA which took place at Miami International Airport on February 22nd. Maschmeyer, her husband and her son elected to be patted down rather than go through the scanner. However, all three were treated rudely; despite the presence of at least eight TSA agents not engaged with other people, the three were forced to wait for at least 10 minutes before they could be patted down; meanwhile, their bags had passed through the scanner and were just sitting there unattended (someone could have easily stolen them). Only one TSA agent treated them courteously.

KTVA Channel 11 also reported on an unpleasant experience by Mark Lurtsema at Fairbanks International Airport. According to Lurtsema, "He [TSA Agent] actually put his hands down my pants and it went down...he was able to go as far down as where the top of my pubic hair starts and to the top of the crack of my behind, all the way around, and there really wasn't any [where] on my body that wasn't touched...I would have said no had I known it was going to be that thorough."

Rep. Cissna's experience has been the subject of extended discussion on the Flyertalk forum.

Public sentiment, as expressed in the form of comments to various Alaska media outlets, is overwhelmingly in favor of Rep. Cissna. Here's one comment of note from the KTUU story:

CorkyChampagne at 6:59 PM February 23, 2011:
Same Day, Same Experience!! On Sunday, Feb 20th, I was boarding Alaska Flight 103. I was exposed to my very first Full Body Scan. No one told me I could refuse. No one told me that even though I agreed, I would be subjected to a Full-Body pat down since I had a mastectomy, an "anomaly" on the scan.

What I find ironic is that this "pat-down" that I agreed to, while touching my "groin" area, never "patted" the breast in question. How did that resolve the "anomaly in question"?

We should all stand up to the horrors the TSA is infringing on the public, as we all have to fly to & from Alaska. We can begin a petition to stop "singling out" breast cancer survivors - those women who have already had their share of humiliation and "groping", to help stop this segregation and prejudice.

What's likely to happen is if passengers who have prosthetic devices continued to be routinely singled out for special treatment, one of them will file a civil rights suit under the auspices of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). At that point, we'll have civil rights squaring off against homeland security. Which will win?


  1. Homeland security corporation will win.You contract with them.It's all UCC people.

  2. These TSA folks have gone way too far.

  3. The TSA doesn't give 2 sh**s about passengers and the ADA. It's about power and control people!

    Click my name for more.

  4. "The legal system is irretrievably and irredeemably broken. And you'll never use it to fix itself either."--- Edgar Steele, Idaho Attorney at Law
    Once the word-twisters managed to change the "spirit of the law" to "the letter of the law", then the judicial system became the feeding grounds for cheats, liars and scoundrels of all descriptions all eager to "win" -- the public and justice be damned.

  5. TSA is a great transportation security administrator.They always protect the nations transportation system and save people.

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