TSA Pat-Down: Elderly Woman Told to Remove Adult Diaper at Airport

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The pat-down came, and the tears followed.

Jean Weber of Destin, Florida filed a complaint with federal authorities last week alleging that security officials forced her 95-year-old mother to remove her adult diaper as part of a security pat-down at the Northwest Florida Regional Airport. “It’s something I couldn’t imagine happening on American soil,” Weber told the Northwest Florida Daily News on June 24. “Here is my mother, 95 years old, 105 pounds, barely able to stand, and then this.”

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According to Weber, TSA agents said they “felt something suspicious” on her mother’s leg and needed to search her in a private room while Weber waited outside. After several minutes, an agent came out and told Weber they had identified something “wet and firm” and that they needed to remove the diaper to complete their checks. The invasive search is all the more insulting because Weber’s mother has entered the final stages of her battle against leukemia and is bound to her wheelchair. The pair were traveling to Michigan on June 18 so she could spend her final days with relatives.

Citing national security concerns, TSA officials have defended their decision to search a woman who was too ill to walk through the security gates. “TSA cannot exempt any group from screening because we know from intelligence that there are terrorists out there that would then exploit that vulnerability,” Sari Koshetz, a spokeswoman for the TSA in Miami, said shortly after the incident. On June 26, following further review of the case, the TSA released a statement saying their officers “acted professionally and according to proper procedure.”

Weber says that her mother remained calm throughout the search—despite the fact they had not packed another diaper for her to change into. But watching her ailing mother be subjected to the uncomfortable search left Weber in a flood of tears. “My mother is very ill,” Weber told CNN. “She had a blood transfusion the week before, just to bolster up her strength for this travel.” (via Northwest Florida Daily News)

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William Lee Adams is a writer-reporter at TIME’s London bureau. Find him on Twitter at @willyleeadams. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.