Alaska lawmaker refuses Sea-Tac airport pat-down

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING 5 News Aviation Specialist

Bio | Email | Follow: @GlennFarley

KING5.com

Posted on February 21, 2011 at 7:41 AM

Updated Monday, Feb 21 at 7:33 PM

SEATTLE -- At one of Sea-Tac International Airport's TSA checkpoints an Alaska state representative drew the line. 

Rep. Sharon Cissna, a Democrat from Anchorage, is now making her way through Canada without traveling on an airplane.

Aftergoing through a body scanner at Sea-Tac over the weekend, which her office says she did not object to, Rep. Cissna was selected for a physical pat down. She had been in Seattle for medical treatment.

According to a statement released Sunday night by her chief of staff, Cissna is a cancer survivor, and underwent a mastectomy, which her office believes triggered that pat down. A pat down that Cissna refused, and she was not allowed to board her flight.  

Monday on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives, a Republican colleague Alan Dick applauded her decision.

"I would like to honor our representative from Disttric 22 who is not here today, who chose to maintain her honor and her dignity and experience an inconvenience and discomfort and...my hope is that everyone of us would take an equal stand, a similar stand anytime we feel anytime we feel govt is being invasive and intrusive," said Rep. Dick.

The TSA triggered a national firestorm in recent months when it widely rolled out body scanners across the nation, including at Sea-Tac last year. 

The scanners set off health concerns because they use low level x-rays, and raised privacy objections because of the revealing images of people's bodies that are sent to a TSA screener in a windowless room. 

The TSA argues that privacy is protected because no screener can see faces in the images, and they never see the passenger. 

But the new physical pat downs that involve TSA screeners having to check passengers, even near their genital areas, has triggered perhaps a bigger backlash.

Washington's Senator Maria Cantwell, who is now head of the Senate Aviation Subcomittee, says there needs to be more options.

"We're going to continue to make improvements in security, but we have to take into account, that passengers can have a choice in this fashon. and certainly they do today," Sen. Cantwell said. 

The TSA did not elaborate on any specifics of the incident but said while it is sensitive to passenger concerns it must balance those concerns with the very real threat of someone trying to bring explosives aboard a plane.

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