CLEVELAND - The FOX 8 I TEAM is investigating complaints from travelers through Cleveland Hopkins Airport claiming Transportation Security Administration agents got too aggressive with them patting them down at checkpoints.
Denise Varga, a veteran air traveler, turned to the I TEAM after what happened last month. She said she was pulled aside for a random screening. Varga adds, "I had a female TSA agent come over, and she put her hands like this (together) and jammed them up between my legs. And then she started doing this (moving arms) back and forth between my legs. And then she pinched every inch of my body, legs, going up the back.”
Varga says she took out her phone to record what was happening, but an agent made her stop. An agent can be heard on the recording saying, "In order for us to complete our procedure, you'll have to put down your phone."
Within 24 hours of hearing from Varga, the I TEAM got an email from Franky Yoskey. He said he flew into Cleveland from the Caribbean, and he, too, encountered a check that he felt went too far. Yoskey wrote by email, "This agent roughed me up so bad I complained on the spot and was told 'standard procedure' it was crazy and I felt sexually assaulted!!"
So we contacted the TSA. A spokesman says it has streamlined pat-down screening. The Agency had been using several methods. But now, only one method is used. And the TSA says it is not being more aggressive than before.
TSA national spokesperson Michael England said, "The changes that were made are actually very subtle.” He added, "You can expect the (agents) to use the back of their hand when they're patting down sensitive areas. And they'll pay close attention to any specific area of the body that has alarmed."
This started the I TEAM wondering how often travelers file complaints against TSA agents? How often do internal investigators find those complaints to be legit? The feds say for that we have to file a formal records request. So we're following up to see what that shows.
The TSA says it can’t talk about specifics involving agents and security checks.
Denise Varga, though, wants to tell you what to expect. She said, "I'm not on any ‘no-fly’ list. And for that level of scrutiny and pat-down, I do not understand it. I've been selected for additional screening before. Never had anything like this.”
Meantime, the man who flew in from out of the country says he went through screening after landing in Cleveland. The TSA says Cleveland Hopkins Airport now also has reverse screening. Passengers go through checkpoints when they land coming in from countries with lower security standards.
The TSA says, if you have an issue at an airport checkpoint, you can always ask for a TSA supervisor, or, you can file a complaint later.