Nation Of Change | May 5 2012
From intrusive pat-downs to body scans to perceived profiling, the Transportation Security Administration always seems to be the target of complaints.
Here’s another one: It took the TSA almost four years to tell me what people complained about — in 2008.
In my first week at ProPublica in June 2008, I filed a public records request for the agency’s complaint files. Such records can provide good fodder for investigations.
For example, amid the brouhaha over the agency’s introduction of intensive full-body pat-downs in 2004, I requested complaints and discovered an untold story of the pain and humiliation suffered by rape victims and breast cancer survivors. In one incident that I found from that request — while I was a reporter at the Dallas Morning News — a woman complained that a screener asked her to remove her prosthetic breast to be swabbed for explosives.
When I made a similar FOIA request in 2008, I assumed the TSA would respond in a few months. Government agencies have about a month to respond to public record requests, though they often take longer. I figured even if their response took months, I’d be able to repeat it regularly to get a timely, inside look as to what passengers were complaining about and find out about incidents that required some more digging.
Boy, was I wrong.
After waiting and waiting and narrowing my request and some more waiting, the files finally arrived this week.
The information is now four years old — but it echoes much of what people are still complaining about.
For instance, an elderly woman in a wheelchair was asked to walk through security and fell at Orlando International Airport.