Agency denies ordering wounded Marine to remove prosthetic legs and get out of wheelchair

Steve Watson
Mar 21, 2013

In a response to the attention focused on a wounded Marine’s account of mistreatment at the hands of the TSA, the agency has denied any wrong doing, saying that the wheelchair bound veteran made his own decision to attempt to get up and walk through a body scanner.

The story broke earlier this week, with The Washington Times, among others, reporting that the TSA “forced a wounded Marine who lost both of his legs in an IED blast and who was in a wheelchair to remove his prosthetic legs at one point, and at another point to stand painfully on his legs while his wheelchair was examined.”

The reports cited a complaint filed by fellow Marines traveling with the disabled veteran.

“It’s embarrassing to be told to take off your prosthetic leg. It’s embarrassing to be told to stand. You want to stand. You just can’t stand. I just think the TSA doesn’t get it,” fellow Marine Jim Phillips told news station 3TV.

Phillips contacted California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, an Iraq veteran, who wrote to the TSA in an official complaint.

“A TSA office asked the Marine to stand and walk to an alternate area, despite the fact that he physically 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,” Hunter said.

In a statement on its blog, the TSA responded to the claims, saying that “there has been a lot of misreporting”.

The agency claims that after reviewing the security video and interviewing its officers, 22-year-old Cpl Toran Gaal from California, who lost both legs in Afghanistan, was “not asked and did not remove his prosthetic legs.”

“The screening was done by the book and lasted a total of 8 minutes from beginning to end,” the TSA statement reads, also claiming that the screening at Sky Harbor International Airport was conducted by two veterans.

TSA Assistant Screening Director Jeff Perez reacted strongly to the claims of mistreatment, saying that as a former veteran himself, he took the claims “personally”.

“We did our own fact finding and spoke to the officers who were there. Not one said he was asked to take his prosthetics off,” Perez told reporters with 3TV.

When asked about the cctv footage of Gaal attempting to stand, Perez said it was his own choice to do so.

“He was given the option [of remaining in his wheelchair] and he opted to stand up because he wanted to expedite the process,” Perez said.

The TSA official claimed that no footage is available showing the secondary screening off to the side of the security zone, where it is claimed that the Marine was forced to remove his prosthetic legs.

Joe Kasper, Rep Hunter’s Deputy Chief of Staff, told the Daily Mail: “Witnesses said he took off his legs. At a bare minimum, he was at least asked to take off his legs.” Kasper added that Rep. Hunter included two photographs of the Marine in his letter to TSA, saying they confirmed Cpl Gaal’s complaint.

“Here’s the thing – TSA’s going to make you think what they want you to think,” Kasper said. “The Marine never complained. It was the people who were escorting him. They felt disrespected, they felt mistreated. The problem here is the situational awareness in the tone and lack of awareness.”

“There has to be a part on TSA to acknowledge there is an issue – not the leg issue, but the bigger problem that he and other veterans and the war-wounded need extra help. That’s what it’s all about and that’s what Mr Hunter was getting at,” Kasper added.

Once again this incident comes down to a case of who you choose to believe. Is it the veterans and other witnesses cited in multiple reports, and backed by a Congressman? Or is it the government agency that has been caught consistently lying to cover its own back?

In a failed PR attempt, the TSA also took to Twitter to deny that the incident took place as it was reported. Twitter users fired back a number of scathing responses directed at the TSA.


Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’, and He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.

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