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Wed, Oct 13, 2004

Woman Furious At TSA Request To Feel Her Chest

Refused To Board, Drove To Destination

Ava Kingsford was flying from Denver International Airport to San Diego last month, along with her fiance and her three-month old son. She says she stepped up to the security checkpoint and was summarily chosen for a pat-down search. Everything seemed to be going routinely until the female TSA screener who was patting her down said, "I'm going to feel your breasts now."

San Diego TV station KGTV quotes Kingsford as saying she was appalled at the screener's comment. "I was stunned, and I said, 'I beg your pardon?!'"

So she says she told the screener she wasn't comfortable with that kind of physical search. That's when the trouble apparently started. A police officer and more TSA employees showed up and told her point-blank, she wasn't getting on the aircraft without having her breasts patted down first.

"I was shaking, I was sobbing. I couldn't believe that this was happening to me. It was surreal. It was like out of a movie, with these guys yelling at me, telling me that, yes, she has to feel my breasts or I'm not getting on my airplane," Kingsford told the television station.

Kingsford says she was escorted to a private area where the search was to continue. But she continued refusing to allow screeners to touch her breasts. She tried to pull her shirt down to show that there was nothing dangerous underneath, but the screeners weren't buying it.

"And then they said, 'That's it. We're not going to complete the search and you're not boarding your plane,'" Kingsford says in her interview with KGTV. "They escorted us out and said they didn't care how we got home, it wasn't their problem."

Rather than submit to the search, the trio rented a car and drove 15 hours from Denver to San Diego.

Bob Knapp, who heads up the customer service effort for the TSA's Denver contingent, says a thorough pat-down search of a female "does require going beneath, between and above the breasts." Yes, he admits, there have been some women who were unhappy with the notion of having their breasts manipulated, but he says it's "a sign of the times."

The TSA announced increased security measures -- including more pat-down searches -- after two female suicide bombers with explosive packs strapped to their torsoes downed a pair of Russian jetliners last month.

"I was wearing a pretty form-fitting tank top," says Kingsford. "There's nothing really to be hiding. You could see my figure. I didn't have any packs. She had patted down my torso. She had completed the torso pat down and wanded me with a security wand but some reason she said she wanted to see my breasts."

FMI: www.tsa.gov

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