Alaska lawmaker who had mastectomy refuses TSA pat-down

The Anchorage Daily NewsFebruary 22, 2011 

Anchorage state Rep. Sharon Cissna refused an "invasive, probing" security pat-down at the Seattle airport and is driving and taking the ferry back to Alaska.

Cissna was in Seattle for medical treatment and planning to fly back to Juneau on Sunday night to rejoin the legislative session. She underwent a body scan while going through airport security and was singled out for a full body pat-down because she'd had a mastectomy, said her chief of staff, Michelle Scannell.

Transportation Security Administration officials didn't return a call from the Daily News on Monday, a federal holiday, asking to discuss Cissna's case. But there have been reports of cancer survivors saying TSA gave them extra screening because of a prosthetic breast. The TSA website says "security officers will need to see and touch your prosthetic device, cast or support brace as part of the screening process."

Cissna sent out a statement late Monday saying the body scan showed scars from her breast cancer. She said she knew that meant there would be "invasive, probing hands of a stranger," and that a similar incident had happened three months earlier.

"Facing the agent I began to remember what my husband and I'd decided after the previous intensive physical search. That I never had to submit to that horror again!" she said. "It would be difficult, we agreed, but I had the choice to say no, this twisted policy did not have to be the price of flying to Juneau!"

Cissna sent her statement from Prince Rupert, British Columbia. She said she's been traveling north from Seattle by car, small plane and the Alaska state ferry system.

She can catch the state ferry Malaspina in Prince Rupert today and make it back to Juneau on Thursday morning. She has been excused from the legislative session through Wednesday.

TSA's full-body scanners and pat-down searches are controversial, and the story of Cissna's refusal was appearing on news websites all over the nation on Monday. Her action was drawing praise from critics of the TSA.

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