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November 22nd, 2010
09:08 AM ET

Cancer survivor humiliated from TSA pat-down

A retired special education teacher on his way to a wedding in Orlando, Fla., said he was left humiliated, crying and covered with his own urine after an enhanced pat-down by TSA officers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport earlier this month.

Today on American Morning, Thomas D. "Tom" Sawyer, 61, of Lansing, Mich., describes the humiliating experience. Sawyer, a bladder cancer survivor, tells us about his condition and how TSA handled it.

Filed under: Airline safety • Airlines • Health
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. izziebot

    I would rather risk that one in a million chance that I end up on a plane that someone tries to bomb than allow myself to live like a caged animal every day of my life, being subjected to inspection and prodding just to walk down the street.
    I have a better chance of dying in a car accident than on a plane due to terrorism.

    November 24, 2010 at 11:35 am |
  2. JPost

    So this woman said she was "humiliated" too by the TSA pat down. I guess it comes down to giving up your dignity for your security.

    November 23, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  3. Tom

    I'm sorry but I still completely fail to see what this uproar is all about (with the obvious exception regarding insensitivity to those with disabilities, etc). I've been "patted down" more than once–of course I didn't like it but at no time did I feel like I was being violated by the screener–uncomfortable-yes; violated-no! And I maintain that news organizations are making things worse. I'd be willing to bet that many of those who are complaining about this "violation of their rights" have never been through the pat down process, much less been in an airport in a very long time-they heard it on the news and said "yes, me too". And do we seriously think that the TSA implemented the pat downs to simply "irritate the masses" and that anyone is being fondled as Jeff contends??? WOW!

    November 23, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
  4. James E Ibarra

    I think the Tom is right we need to educate our TSA workers so they know how to handle those kind's of problem's it is sad to see him go threw something so awful. They need to know the medical problems on a person before they do any thing else so that it never happens again. and Erika it's not that people are whining he had a medical condition and got pee all down his leg if you had the same problem then you would be upset.

    November 23, 2010 at 10:47 am |
  5. Chris

    This is just a cry for attention. I understand that he is a cancer survivor, and that's fantastic. However, for someone who claims not to want the world to know about his urostomy, he certainly has no problem sharing it with the entire country. If this isn't a cry for attention, then this man is nothing more than a hypocrite.

    November 23, 2010 at 9:52 am |
  6. Erika Lehnsherr

    We need to suck up, stop whining and get with the program. A little patting never killed anybody. People seem to be *way* too sensitive about being touched and they need to get over it. Better a TSA agent's hands on someone's intimate areas than that someone being able to smuggle a bomb or other hazardous material on board.

    November 23, 2010 at 7:07 am |
  7. Average American

    A couple of comments directed @ the stupid people infecting this blog.

    The problem isn't overseas but right here in the US. Have you forgotten 9/11? All those flights originated in the US.

    To the idiots that think it's an infringement on a person's constitutional rights to have to be searched before flying. It's not mandatory that you fly but if you choose to then you are bound to follow the rules of said service. These type of people want no security on flights and are willing to gamble with other people lives because they don't fly and don't put themselves at risk.

    To the other type of idiots making statements like "they don't look Muslim so they must be safe" stop making moronic comments and attempting to fan the flames of hatred.

    If you don't like the security at airports – don't fly then. Simple.

    November 23, 2010 at 6:27 am |
  8. DC

    Debbie, you are a fool. Plain and simple.

    In Israel they don't do this at airports. Why don't they do these searches at an airport all the terrorists would like to attack?

    Because they are professionals and are strictly educated and constantly tested on what questions to ask and they don't make mistakes.

    So, Debbie you throw away your freedoms for what you think is your families safety. Well, if you think being groped by idiots does that that just makes you as smart as they are.

    November 22, 2010 at 11:25 pm |
  9. RogueTARDIS

    As a disabled person (multiple Strokes)some thing as simple as removing my belt and shoes is a tremendous strain on me, and trying to get reconfigured quickly? I don't see that happening, sorry. Worse, I'm a veteran and know security, so, my country has decided to limit my movement– I'll survive. I can't help but wonder what other disabled people do...probably "suck it up" we tend to do that a lot. My heart goes out to Mr. Sawyer,he NEVER deserved that abuse. Mr. Swayer, I'm so sorry your country let you down.

    November 22, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
  10. Chris Hansen

    It's hard to stand by TSA officials when there have been reports of misuse of the backscatter images, dissemination of false information, and even horrible reports of mishandled pat downs.

    There have been reports of TSA officials making lewd comments to their coworkers whenever a cute girl is about to enter the xray area (google it... the teenage daughter of a pilot).

    There have also been cases where TSA officials tell outright lies about the xray scanners. One told a passenger that the X-ray machines don't emit x-rays. The TSA's site even states that the Xray machines don't have the capability to store images, when a US Marshall admitted that they do, and some have already stored 10,000+ images.

    As for mishandled patdowns, there's videos and testimonials aplenty. From Cancer survivors being asked to remove prosthetics, to ureter bags being broken during searches, to pilots getting felt up inside their underwear.

    These acts, if posed to a citizen outside the context of the airport scanner, would be a felony charge and would earn you the public title of Sex Offender. Speaking of Sex Offender, there was even an instance where a TSA official was arrested for having sex with a 14 year old girl, and a Homeland Security officer was arrested on Dateline NBC's To Catch a Predator. How can we trust an agency that can't regulate its hiring practices??

    Every single person has a choice when it comes to working for a company. If these agents truly feel bad working everyday, find a new job. Whining does nothing.

    November 22, 2010 at 5:51 pm |
  11. Jeff

    And many times do you have to explain it to people, did you watch the full interview? He explained it twice, and warned more specifically during the pat down...all was IGNORED. Until it happened, the seal broke, and there were no apologies so there was no remorse. Are you trying to tell people with disabilities do not have the right to fly without being harassed more than the others.

    November 22, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  12. Jeff

    I agree with the scanners but the enhanced pat-downs are just a means of irritating the masses. Commenter Tom is just mad at CNN because it is reporting like FoxNews, tough Tom, some people like to be in the dark about certain issues. If you like to be in the dark, don't read or watch the news. Enhanced pat-downs are not necessary, they are lawsuits waiting to happen. For instance, would you allow your child to be put through an enhanced patdown, their private areas being touched/fondled? I do acknowledge that the TSA officers are being forced to do this and they probably don't even agree with it. I don't blame them...I blame the higher powers that create those stupid policies. Very sorry Mr Sawyer for your run-in. Commenter Tom still gets to could CNN a very reputable news agency open the forum up to haters...tsk tsk...its news get over it.

    November 22, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
  13. Rhea McCauley

    "An injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere"; these words were spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King,Jr., and the incidents involving heightened security at our nation's airports proves that George Orwell's book called '1984' is coming true.
    These new security measures are intrusive, and would someone kindly tell me how the airline pilot will deal with a plane-load of physically traumatized passengers and fly the plane too?
    I would advise CNN to be cautious of the polls that state most Americans agree with full -body scans and the pat-downs – some people do not want other people rubbing and touching on them. It is utterly shameful and intrusive.

    November 22, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
  14. Chloe

    Why don't they have doctors viewing these full body scans? Seems they would be more familiar with the various medical conditions that people have and will be able to verify such.

    November 22, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  15. debbie

    I sorry but if I am flying I would rather be safe with my family then sorry. Everyone looks for away to sue instead of work that guy who did not want to be embassed should have done a body scan and explained better about his medical condition these people doing the pat down are not doctors

    November 22, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  16. Julie

    Such thing is definitely uncalled for. What were they thinking? Such humilation is horendous. Enough harm was done to lady with cancer prosetics too.

    Eh, well when lawsuits for invasion of privacy and cancer, humilation put the planes completely out of the sky. Hope the guy gets enough from his lawsuit he can buy his own plane.
    I think they have gone way too far.

    November 22, 2010 at 11:05 am |
  17. oman

    This poor guy was humiliated, hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit.

    The problem isn't here its overseas. If they don't do the same procedure in the middle east where all these crazies live and strap bombs to their chest what's the point !

    November 22, 2010 at 10:43 am |
  18. oman

    Stop flying and send a message !

    November 22, 2010 at 10:34 am |
  19. Tom

    Of course this is a terrible situation and clearly TSA employees need more education. However, the majority of people are complaining simply because they "prefer" not to go through the process–who does?? I fully support the TSA director and the need to maintain this level of security. You either do it or you don't fly–period. And shame on you CNN for turning this into a such circus giving angry, ignorant people who are constantly looking for something to complain about a forum to do so. I don't care if the TSA has ever found a terrorist during a routine pat down. Maybe it's BECAUSE of these pat downs that these dangerous people aren't trying to get through as they did in the past. I've been a fan of CNN for years but you're just spreading hate right now.

    November 22, 2010 at 10:15 am |
  20. Weedstomper

    This man clearly is not a Muslim why is he being profiled in the first place .

    November 22, 2010 at 9:28 am |