Woman, 85, says she was stripped at airport

An 85-year-old woman says she was injured and humiliated when she was strip-searched at Kennedy Airport after she asked to be patted down instead of going through a body scanner – allegations that security officials deny.

Lenore Zimmerman said she was taken to a private room and made to take off her pants and other clothes after she asked to forgo the screening because she was worried it would interfere with her defibrillator. She missed her flight and had to take one 2 hours later.

“I’m hunched over. I’m in a wheelchair. I weigh under [50kg],” she said from her winter home at a seniors community in Coconut Creek, Florida. “Do I look like a terrorist?” But the Transportation Security Administration said she was not strip-searched.

“While we regret that the passenger feels she had an unpleasant screening experience, TSA does not include strip-searches as part of our security protocols and one was not conducted in this case,” it said.

Zimmerman was dropped off by her son at JFK for a flight last week to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, she said. She headed for security in a wheelchair, her small, metal walker in her lap.

She had been travelling to Florida for at least a decade and had never had a problem being patted down until now, she said.

“I worry about my heart, so I don’t want to go through those things,” she said, referring to the advanced image technology screening machines.

The TSA said: “Private screening was requested by the passenger, it was granted and lasted approximately 11 minutes.”

A review of closed-circuit television at the airport showed that proper procedures before and after the screening were followed, said Jonathan Allen of the TSA.

Her son, Bruce Zimmerman, said he’d like to see someone fired and screeners re-trained after his mother’s ordeal. “My mother is a little old woman. She’s not disruptive or unco-operative. I don’t understand how this happened.”

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