Summary. There are numerous reports in the news of people being unreasonably searched, detained, and embarrassed by security officials.
The people being harassed by security officials are not those who would appear to fit any category of people that might present a threat.
Pictured here is an 95 year old dying wheelchair-bound woman with Leukemia who was detained for 45 minutes by TSA personnel. The woman’s daughter began crying, so TSA personnel detained the crying daughter as well. A video clip of the news report is below. When asked about the incident, the Transportation Security Administration provided the following response:
“While every person and item must be screened before entering the secure boarding area, TSA works with passengers to resolve security alarms in a respectful and sensitive manner. We have reviewed the circumstances involving this screening and determined that our officers acted professionally and according to proper procedure.” ~ TSA, June 2011
What’s disconcerting about their statement is that it implies your grandmother or elderly parent could be next, and there’s nothing you can do about it. According to TSA, what transpired with Jean Weber’s mother is perfectly normal and can happen again.
Videos. Below are videos covering this story.
CNN Transcript. Below is a transcript of the above CNN news video report.
CNN News Anchor: More complaints of absurd pat-downs by the TSA. This time the air traveler isn’t a kid, but an elderly woman who was forced to remove her adult diaper. A Florida woman says security agents asked her 95 year old mother who was in a wheel chair to remove her diaper so they could complete a full search. It happened at the Northwest Florida Regional Airport last weekend. Jean Weber says her mother was detained for 45 minutes. The pair were heading to Michigan so Weber’s mother could be with family during the final stages of her battle with Leukemia.
Jean Weber: They said they felt something suspicious on her leg and they couldn’t determine what it was, so they took her into a closed room that was private and I was left outside. They came out and told me that it had something to do with her Depends, that it was wet, and it was firm, and they couldn’t check it thoroughly. She would have to remove it. I said, ‘I don’t have an extra one with me, normally this isn’t a problem.’ They said that she could not complete the security check without the Depends off.
Associated Press Transcript. Below is a transcript from the above Associated Press video report.
Jean Weber: Because she was in a wheel chair, I understand now, that they have to do a pat-down search. That they no longer have wands. My mother is 95, she’s 105 pounds, 4 foot 11 inches, frail and in ill health. They said they found something on the back of her leg. They didn’t know what it was. They took her in a private room, and put her in a closed door session and came out in a while and told me that her Depends had been wet. There was a firm area in there that they could not analyze or feel. [They said] she would have to remove them. We’d already been there a half an hour. I knew that time was flying. I said, ‘Well can we just take them off?’ They said that would be fine, but they couldn’t clear her with those Depends because they were wet. [I] got her back to the TSA area [after removing the diaper] and had to take her shoes off again, and my shoes, and load them in the bin, and by this time I was crying. I was so upset. I knew the time was going, and so I’m now crying and that triggered another alarm that I had strange behavior, so they then took me to a glassed in area and took my purse, took everything out of my purse. [They were] swabbing it for chemicals or something, and then patted me down all over and did their gloves after they had patted me and swabbed them. In the meantime they had taken my mom back into the private room to complete the pat-down process. At that time, she came out, I said, ‘I have lost my gate pass just so I could wheel her back.’ I said, ‘Please get my mother to the plane. It’s two minutes [until departure]. Could you please get my mother to the plane.’ And I hugged her, and I kissed her, and we said our goodbyes right there, but it was a traumatic moment.
Commentary. Below are commentaries about this issue.
“Our international partners have not adapted this kind of policy. They have to look at people’s behaviors. You should’t be subject to a pat-down because your’e the fifth person in line…. They need to screen based on risk…, based on point of origin that deserves greater scrutiny.” ~ Erroll Southers, FBI Agent, Counter Terrorism Expert, Former TSA Administrator Nominee [source]
“I’m usually very conscientious and careful when traveling. However, on one occasion, I’d unknowingly traveled thousands of miles, through numerous security check points, carrying several items on the TSA prohibited list, including a liter of water. I say unknowing because I did’t realize it and the TSA screeners never discovered it either. I had a knife, multiple liquids over 3 ounces, cutlery, silverware, and other items. After traveling about 5000 miles through numerous airports and security checkpoints, I only then discovered these things that had gone undetected by security agents. I got rid of them immediately, but wondered why it is that innocent people get detained while those who are more suspicious looking don’t get detained. I recalled seeing elderly people getting frisked and taken aside for more intensive screening while I was getting waived on by TSA personnel. It just doesn’t seem fair, rational, or effective.” ~ Anonymous
Artistic Expression and Social Commentary. Below is a graffiti drawing by Banksy that depicts our myopic and overzealous passion for policing.