HONOLULU – After a series of abuses by TSA officials across the county, Hawaii Senators on the Transportation and Public Safety/Military Affairs committees, unanimously passed a “Travelers Bill of Rights” on Monday, March 19.
Based on Congressman Ron Paul’s federal proposal, Senate Concurrent Resolution 15, authored by Minority Leader Sam Slom, R-Hawaii, urges the congress to rein in the TSA abuses and make the agency more accountable for privacy rights and personal civil rights. Slom is a member of a national legislative task force – the United States for Travel Freedom Caucus -formed in March 2011 to ensure TSA accountability.
The Hawaii resolution attracted the attention of Alaska State Rep. Sharon Cissna, who co-chairs the United States for Travel Freedom Caucus.
In testimony submitted to the Hawaii Legislature, Cissna, who served on Alaska’s Military and Veterans committee in Alaska for more than a decade, writes the TSA current procedures “do not have verifiable oversight over their equipment and give very poor management and training to their employees.” She added: “Security is not being served by the current program. We must demand better.”
Cissna, R-Alaska, made national headlines when she took on federal airport screeners in February 2011, refusing to submit to her second “intrusive” search and body pat down in three months by the Transportation Security Administration. When the then 68-year-old cancer survivor, who also suffered abuse in her youth, was barred by federal security from flying from Seattle, Washington to her home in Alaska, she took alternative transportation. During the four-day journey home to Auke Bay near Juneau, she heard from several other people about embarrassing and humiliating experiences they’d had with the TSA.
“Ordinary citizens across this country have told us they are being treated like common criminals by the TSA.” Cissna, who had a mastectomy, said in an interview with Hawaii Reporter. “Many of them are cancer or other health-related survivors, whose prostheses, pacemakers or other surgically implanted devices cause them to be continually subjected to embarrassing pat-down procedures.”
That personal communication – combined with more than 1,000 letters, emails, calls and visits Cissna received after national exposure on her story and her testimony that followed before the U.S. House – led to a new partnership with Sen. Val Stevens in Washington State. Together Cissna and Stevens formed the United States for Travel Freedom Caucus inviting legislators from across the country who’d introduced TSA reform legislation to join them. So far, there are 9 states with legislators in the caucus including Alaska, Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington.
To get the attention of Congress, they hope to recruit at least 32 states in total. “Congress has made a terrible mistake by not finding out what is happening with the TSA. I told my story and people responded to my story, and through that experience, I learned how widespread and how big of a problem this is. This is a huge problem,” Cissna said.