An active-duty Marine who lost both his legs to an Improvised Explosive Device was humiliated by TSA agents after he was forced to remove his prosthetic legs and was then ordered to stand so agents could inspect his wheelchair for explosives.
The incident prompted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) to fire off a letter to John Pistole, the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration.
“The Marine, whose prosthetics were exposed, was humiliated,” Duncan wrote. “While I recognize the necessity to appropriately screen passengers, I am concerned by the apparent lack of situational awareness and respect among TSA officers – specifically when it comes to the treatment of war wounded.”
Last week a group of Marines recovering from war injuries at Balboa Naval Hospital and Camp Pendleton had been invited to watch a Spring Training baseball game in Phoenix.
On March 13 the Marines were stopped by TSA agents at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The Marine who lost his legs is confined to a wheelchair and had an escort.
Hunter said TSA agents ordered the Marine to one of two checkpoints – only to be told moments later that he should have enter the other checkpoint.
“A TSA officer asked the Marine to stand and walk to an alternate area, despite the fact that he physically could not stand or walk on his own,” the congressman said.
The Marine, who was not identified, was then forced to remove his legs and then put them back on. At that point he was directed to a secondary screening location.
The escort then photographed the TSA agent as they forced the Marine to again stand while they inspected his wheelchair for explosives.
The Marine, who is still on active duty, produced his military card, but it made no difference.
The Marine’s escort was so infuriated he contacted Hunter’s office.
TSA did not return calls seeking comment. However, according to their policy, passengers with prostheses can be screened without removing them.
The policy further states: “The passenger should inform the Transportation Security Officer (TSO) of the existence of a prosthetic, his or her ability, and of any need for assistance before screening begins. Passengers can use TSA’s Notification Card to communicate discreetly with security officers. However, showing this card or other medical documentation will not exempt a passenger from additional screening when necessary.”
Rep. Hunter said there were a number of TSA officers sitting around who were “unwilling to assist” the injured war veteran.