On November 19, 2001, The Transportation Security Administration was created as a part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. Originally a part of the Department of Transportation, it was moved over to the Department of Homeland Security on March 25, 2003.
During the Obama Administration, the TSA has become infamous for intrusive pat-downs and revealing x-rays in airports across the nation.
According to latimes.com:
The Transportation Security Administration isn’t just in airports anymore. TSA teams are increasingly conducting searches and screenings at train stations, subways, ferry terminals and other mass transit locations around the country.
“We are not the Airport Security Administration,” said Ray Dineen, the air marshal in charge of the TSA office in Charlotte. “We take that transportation part seriously.”
The TSA’s 25 “viper” teams — for Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response — have run more than 9,300 unannounced checkpoints and other search operations in the last year. Department of Homeland Security officials have asked Congress for funding to add 12 more teams next year.
According to budget documents, the department spent $110 million in fiscal 2011 for “surface transportation security,” including the TSA’s viper program, and is asking for an additional $24 million next year. That compares with more than $5 billion for aviation security.
TSA officials say they have no proof that the roving viper teams have foiled any terrorist plots or thwarted any major threat to public safety. But they argue that the random nature of the searches and the presence of armed officers serve as a deterrent and bolster public confidence.
“We have to keep them [terrorists] on edge,” said Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington. “We’re not going to have a permanent presence everywhere.”
U.S. officials note that digital files recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan after he was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in May included evidence that the Al Qaeda leader had considered an attack on U.S. railways in February 2010. Over the last decade, deadly bombings have hit subways or trains in Moscow; Mumbai, India; Madrid; and London.
This expansion, under “Big Sis” Janet Napolitano, comes of the heels of the latest allegations against the TSA:
Two more elderly women with medical conditions have come forward claiming they were strip-searched by Transportation Security Administration [TSA] agents at JFK Airport on Nov. 29, bringing to three the number of senior passengers who allege they were forced to remove their clothes at the New York airport last Tuesday.
Ruth Sherman, 88, told ABC News she was about to board a 3:30 p.m. Jet Blue flight to Florida after visiting her family for Thanksgiving when two female TSA officers ordered her into a private room. The great-grandmother of seven has worn a colostomy bag since undergoing cancer surgery two years ago. She claims the agents noticed the bulge from the bag and that prompted the additional screening.
According to Sherman, the TSA agents told her to enter the screening room and demanded to know what the bulge was. Sherman said she was embarrassed and annoyed that even after she explained what it was they asked her to drop her jogging pants and show them.
“They were just two ordinary people, not medical technicians, not doctors, not nurses, what do they know about this?,” said Sherman. “It was very degrading.”
Sherman said she travels frequently to New York and San Francisco to visit family and had never before been forced to remove her clothing. She said she’s made an appointment with her cancer surgeon in order to receive a traveling note that would exempt her from any further searches.
Linda Kallish, a 66-year-old diabetic, claims she too was strip-searched at JFK on Nov. 29. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Kallish, who was bound for Ft. Lauderdale via Jet Blue on a 1 p.m. flight, had a glucose monitor that checks her blood sugar every five minutes strapped to one leg and an insulin pump strapped to the other. A female TSA officer allegedly asked her into a private room after setting off the metal detector. Kallish says she was ordered to remove her pants in order to demonstrate both devices.
The women’s claims come just days after Lenore Zimmerman alleged she was strip searched while trying to catch the 1 p.m. Jet Blue flight to Ft. Lauderdale.
Zimmerman said security whisked her away without explanation after she asked to forgo the full-body scan, fearing it might interfere with the heart defibrillator she was wearing. She told ABC News that she was asked to pull down her slacks and underwear with no explanation or apology. She missed her 1 p.m. flight to Ft. Lauderdale.
TSA did not immediately respond to ABC News requests for comments about the incidents. A TSA blog said that “TSA does not include strip searches in its protocols,” and also said that Zimmerman was not strip searched. The TSA declined to answer a question from the Orlando Sentinel about whether there were instances when passengers were required to remove clothing.
Hey, nothing to worry about, according to the TSA’s website:
We are your neighbors, friends and relatives. We are 50,000 security officers, inspectors, directors, air marshals and managers who protect the nation’s transportation systems so you and your family can travel safely. We look for bombs at checkpoints in airports, we inspect rail cars, we patrol subways with our law enforcement partners, and we work to make all modes of transportation safe.
Uh huh. Well, as far as I know, none of my neighbors ever strip-searched Grandma.