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Woman Compares Airport Security Pat-Down To Sexual Assault

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Penny Moroney

Penny Moroney says she felt violated during an airport security pat-down. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – They are designed to prevent terror in the air, but some flyers say new security measures amount to just groping on the ground. One Chicago-area woman compares her experience to sexual assault. CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman reports.

“I was shaking and crying when I left that room,” said Penny Moroney.

The room was at the St. Louis airport. The business traveler had a ticket to fly home to Chicago, but like everyone else, she had to go through security first. Metal in her knees set off detectors, demanding further inspection.

“And I said, what about the body scanner?” said Moroney. “I was told they weren’t available.”

A pat-down was the alternative. Moroney described the TSA employee’s methods.

“Her gloved hands touched my breasts, went between them,” she said. “Then she went into the top of my slacks, inserted her hands between my underwear and skin, then put her hands on the outside of my slacks, and patted my genitals.”

Moroney complained to the TSA supervisor, and she complained on the ACLU’s website. The national office now is monitoring what it calls a raging flood of complaints from across the country.

ACLU spokesman Edwin Yohnka said, “There are no laws and there are no regulations that govern scanners and pat-downs.”

Moroney wishes there’d at least be options everywhere – she says a scanner might have spared her the pat-down.

“Our officers’ first priority is safety,” said TSA spokesperson Jim Fotenos.

We asked if what happened to Moroney was excessive.

“We don’t comment on individual screening procedures at checkpoints,” said Fotenos.

But Fotenos did say if a detector sounds, like in Moroney’s case, a passenger has to have a more thorough screening to fly, for safety’s sake.

Kids under 12 get a break from the aggressive pat-down. The TSA says, actually, only a small number of travelers gets one. But frequent flyer Penny fears she’ll have to repeat the experience where scanners aren’t up and running, or available yet.

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