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Public Statements

Letter to John Pistole, Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Murkowski Calls On Tsa To Clarify Screening Policy

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today sent a letter to Transportation Security Administration Administrator John Pistole requesting the TSA immediately clarify it's screening policy for airline passengers with special medical conditions.

Murkowski sent the letter following an incident on Sunday at Seattle's airport involving Alaska state Rep. Sharon Cissna, D-Anchorage, a breast cancer survivor who was singled out for an invasive pat-down search by TSA agents after they noticed scars from her mastectomy during a body scan.

"This kind of invasive probing should not be the price of travel," Murkowski wrote in the letter. "I appreciate that the TSA has a difficult task in keeping air transportation safeĀ…. However, this incident highlights specific privacy concerns that must be addressed. I am concerned there is an imbalance between safety requirements and overly invasive procedures targeting air travelers who have undergone mastectomy surgeries or use prosthetics."

Rep. Cissna was prevented from boarding the flight to Juneau after she refused the pat down. She had to take a state ferry from Prince Rupert, British Columbia, to get back to Juneau.

"Air travel to Alaska should never require submission to a stranger's intrusive touching of one's sensitive body area," Murkowski wrote.

The full text of the letter is attached.

The Honorable John Pistole
Transportation Security Administration
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
301 7th Street SW -- Mail Stop 0020
Washington, D.C. 20528

Dear Administrator Pistole:

It has come to my attention that the TSA barred Representative Sharon Cissna's departure from SEA-TAC International Airport to Juneau, Alaska because she would not submit to an invasive pat-down body search. Representative Cissna is a breast cancer-survivor and has had a mastectomy. On February 20, 2011 Representative Cissna received a full body image scan which apparently identified her mastectomy scars as something unusual. Thus, her surgical scars triggered a hand search by the TSA. She refused that invasive procedure and could not access her plane.

This kind of invasive probing should not be the price of travel. I appreciate that the TSA has a difficult task in keeping air transportation safe and that TSA Officers use their best efforts to implement effective security protocols. However, this incident highlight specific privacy concerns that must be addressed. I am concerned there is an imbalance between safety requirements and overly invasive procedures targeting air travelers who have undergone mastectomy surgeries or use prosthetics.

As you are aware, Juneau, Alaska is only accessible by air or a lengthy boat ride. Representative Cissna is still undertaking that boat ride today. There is no practical alternative for an individual in Representative Cissna's position. Air travel to Alaska should never require submission to a stranger's intrusive touching of one's sensitive body area. It should have taken Representative Cissna a couple of hours, not a couple of days, to reach Juneau.

I would appreciate clarification of what is being done to accommodate people who have had mastectomies and those who use prosthetics and suggestions on what can be done to prevent this situation from occurring in the future. I look forward to hearing fro you.

Sincerely,

Lisa Murkowski
United States Senator


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