Woman sues TSA for alleged strip search

An Arab-American woman is suing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for allegedly forcing her to strip naked for a search on the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Ohio resident Shoshana Hebshi, says she was removed from a Frontier Airlines flight at Detroit Metro Airport in 2011 after officials reported suspicious behavior from two passengers sitting next to her, who were also of foreign descent.

In a statement released this week by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which helped file her lawsuit, Hebshi alleged that she was targeted because of her appearance.

“I was frightened and humiliated, and my rights were clearly violated solely because of my ethnicity,” Hebshi said. “As an American citizen and a mom, I’m really concerned about my children growing up in a country where your skin color and name can put your freedom and liberty at risk at any time. This kind of discrimination should not be tolerated.”

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Hebshi said she was held at the Detroit airport for four hours, during which she was handcuffed and strip searched while being forced to cough for an internal cavity search. Hebshi said she was forced off her flight at gunpoint and not allowed to make a call to relatives.

The airline and the airport are also named in Hebshi's lawsuit, as are the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and the airport's police department.

ACLU Michigan attorney Sarah Mehta said Hebshi's treatment was not "simply a mistake made by an airline employee or government agency, but a predictable consequence of institutionalizing racial stereotypes and mass suspicion as law enforcement tactics.

"Racial profiling is unconstitutional and counterproductive," Mehta said, explaining why the ACLU decided to take on the case. 

"No one is safer because an innocent mother of two was dragged off a flight, strip searched and held for several hours,” Mehta continued.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

The TSA declined to comment on the allegations, citing the ongoing lawsuit.

The full complaint filed by the ACLU on Hebshi's behalf can be read here

-This post was updated at 4:34 p.m. with TSA's response to the allegations.