Two New York lawmakers are calling for on-site passenger advocates to help protect travelers from strip searches at airport security checkpoints. "I appreciate the Transportation Security Administration's work to keep air passengers safe, but passengers should not be humiliated and degraded during their travels," said Democratic state Sen. Michael Gianaris, who joined US Sen. Charles Schumer in a call for the advocates. The move comes on the heels of complaints by three elderly women that they were subjected to humiliating strip searches on recent trips. One woman had to remove her back brace during the search, another was ordered to reveal her colostomy bag, and a third had to show a diabetic pump. Removal or lowering of clothing was required in each search, according to the women.
The TSA has denied "strip searches" occurred, but officials admitted that the back brace was removed in error. "We truly regret these passengers feel they had a bad screening experience," the TSA said on its website. "Our goal is to provide the highest level of security while ensuring that all passengers are treated with dignity." Schumer and Gianaris want passengers to be able to contact advocates at airports if they object to their treatment. "While the security of our flights must be a top priority, we need to make sure that flying does not become a fear-inducing, degrading, and humiliating experience," Schumer said. TSA officials said they're in the process of establishing an 800 number where passengers with disabilities or those wearing medical devices can get information about what they can expect at airports, reports MSNBC.