Judicial Watch announced Thursday that is has filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to uncover reports of sexual misconduct by airport screeners.
The legal action is connected to a March FOIA request that asked DHS for information about passenger complaints about sexual harassment.
While Judicial Watch agreed to narrow its request for information in March, TSA did not produce any documents at all, “or respond in any other substantive way as required by law.”
The government watchdog group said the issue of sexual misconduct by TSA came to light in January, when a Colorado woman filed a complaint that a frisking she received was sexual assault. Judicial Watch cited a press report in which Jamelyn Steenhoek was quoted as saying the agent touched her in place she’s “not comfortable being touched in.”
“On the outside of my pants she cupped my crotch,” she said. “I was uncomfortable with that.”
“The part of the search that bothered most was the breast search,” Steenhoek added. “You could tell it shouldn’t take that much groping. To me it was as extensive as an exam from my physician — full touching and grabbing in the front. I felt uncomfortable, I felt violated.”
When nothing was discovered, the TSA agent repeated the search.
Judicial Watch said it received assistance in its request for information from Jason Harrington, a former TSA agent who wrote an article for Politico called “Dear America, I Saw You Naked.” That article said TSA agents had a code they used to note when attractive female passengers were being scanned.
“With 56,000 employees and a $7.7 billion budget, the TSA is a massive government agency that requires diligent oversight,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
“It is bad enough that many experts argue that it is unnecessarily intrusive and ineffective,” he added. “The fact that TSA would stonewall basic information about potentially egregious and criminal assaults on airline passengers is a further proof this agency is out of control.”
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