New Port Richey couple says TSA search went too far

9:50 AM, Jul 13, 2011   |    comments
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New Port Richey, Florida - Airport security is a part of traveling these days, from walking through X-Ray machines to being patted down. But one New Port Richey couple contacted 10 News to say the search they received went too far.

"It was extremely thorough, almost a violation, "says Jason Steitler as he describes how a TSA official searched him at the Greater Rochester International Airport July 6th. Steitler's disability requires he uses a wheelchair.

"They did the hair then did the neck. Then they had me do a pushup in my chair, then got down into my inner thigh around my back side. It's the most thorough search [I've] had done in  my life," says Steitler.

Steitler and his wife, Jennifer, were heading home to New Port Richey that morning. She too is in a wheel chair and was searched by a TSA official.

"She's been using the phrase 'search raped' because it was that thorough. She says it was nearly to her crotch," says Steitler. "I feel the chair should have option of either scanner or searches, but automatically we're being thrown to being patted down."

Steitler says they've complained to the TSA about their experience at Rochester International Airport, but all they've received back is a standard form letter.

"Just the standard reply to everything: 'In order to fly you have to be searched,'" says Steitler.

In an email to the Steitlers, a TSA official writes, "We apologize for any insensitivity or inappropriate treatment you experienced during the screening process."

In another email, a TSA official says, "We believe these security measures are necessary and appropriate for ensuring the security and confidence of all air travelers."

The Steitlers say they are not opposed to the searches, just the way the disabled are treated when it's done. Steitler says, "Generally, be fair about it. Don't hold the disabled up to more scrutiny just because they are in chairs."

Noah Lebowitz, the director of communications for Monroe County and spokesperson for Greater Rochester International Airport, tells 10 News in a written statement, "The Greater Rochester International Airport always strives to provide outstanding customer service to our passengers and ensure that they enjoy a convenient and safe travel experience.  The security screening protocols in question are the jurisdiction of the federal government through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).  If any passenger believes that our airport could have provided them with an enhanced customer experience, we encourage them to contact us."

Steitler says he plans to become an advocate for the disabled until he feels the security protocol is fair and equal for all. 

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