Congressman Duncan Hunter, representative for California's 50th congressional district, this week wrote a terse letter to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator John Pistole. The letter detailed an account of alleged mistreatment of a wounded marine by TSA officers and demanded an explanation for the event.
Hunter's letter alleges that a Marine, later identified as Cpl. Toran Gaal, was "humiliated" as he passed through security at Phoenix Sky Harbor International airport. Gaal, who lost both of his legs to explosive in Afghanistan, was traveling from Phoenix to San Diego with several other marines.
TSA agents allegedly asked Gaal to stand, which he cannot do on his own. They are also alleged by Hunter to have forced Gaal to remove his prosthetic legs (presumably looking for some sort of James Bond rocket launcher). This is before he was taken to a second screening area for his wheelchair to be examined.
From Hunter's letter:
One of the Marines in particular, who lost both of his legs to an Improvised Explosive Device, was confined to a wheelchair with limited to no mobility. The individual escorting this Marine asked the TSA officer which of two checkpoints to enter and received the response, "either one," only to be told moments later they should have entered a different way. As a result, a TSA officer asked the Marine to stand and walk to an alternate area, despite the fact that he could not stand or walk on his own. With numerous TSA officers sitting and unwilling to assist, an officer then made him remove his legs, then put them back on, only to advance to a secondary screening location where he was asked again to stand, with extraordinary difficulty, while his wheelchair was examined for explosives.
Though Hunter stated he recognizes the necessity of passenger screening, he wrote that he is "concerned by the apparent lack of situational awareness and respect among TSA officers - specifically when it comes to the treatment of war wounded."
The TSA has responded to the allegations via a blog post. The agency claims that surveillance footage shows the Marine never removed his prosthetics and that his screening took only eight minutes.
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