While founded with the best of intentions after 9-11, the Transportation Safety Administration has become a source of outrage for Americans rather than a reassuring sense of security. In the past we’ve seen children groped, a breast-cancer survivor forced to remove her prosthetic breast, and a bladder-cancer survivor left soaked in his own urine. I’m sure you can think of others.
This latest incident had got to be a finalist in the “Let’s humiliate innocent travelers” contest: forcing a 95-year old woman to remove her adult diaper before allowing her on the plane:
[Jean] Weber said the two were traveling June 18 from northwest Florida to Michigan, so her mother could move in with relatives before eventually going to an assisted living facility.
“My mother is very ill, she has a form of leukemia,” Weber said. “She had a blood transfusion the week before, just to bolster up her strength for this travel.”
While going through security, the 95-year-old was taken by a TSA officer into a glassed-in area, where a pat-down was performed, Weber said. An agent told Weber “they felt something suspicious on (her mother’s) leg and they couldn’t determine what it was” — leading them to take her into a private, closed room.
Soon after, Weber said, a TSA agent came out and told her that her mother’s Depend undergarment was “wet and it was firm, and they couldn’t check it thoroughly.” The mother and daughter left to find a bathroom, at the TSA officer’s request, to take off the adult diaper.
Weber said she burst into tears during the ordeal, forcing her own pat-down and other measures in accordance with TSA protocol. But she said her mother, a nurse for 65 years, “was very calm” despite being bothered by the fact that she had to go through the airport without underwear.
Eventually, Weber said she asked for her mother to be whisked away to the boarding gate without her, because their plane was scheduled to leave in two minutes and Weber was still going through security.
TSA defended itself against complaints by saying its agents were following proper procedure, and it’s true that explosives have been smuggled in underwear before, as Ed Morrissey points out. But it’s not just the lack of common sense in the application of those procedures, as Ed argues, but the procedures themselves.
TSA screening procedures focus on the device, the means of attack, rather than the attacker himself. The myriad ways al Qaeda has dreamed up to deliver the explosives to their targets (shampoo, shoes, ladies’ lingerie, breast and rectal implants) have lead the TSA to increasingly invasive and outrageous efforts to find the weapon. And with each new means of attack, our response is yet another regulation that annoys and humiliates.
Let’s face it: while these procedures are incredibly effective against little old ladies in wheelchairs and young children, they don’t seem to be all that good against potential terrorists on a dry run.
What would be much more sensible and less intrusive would be the dread “P-word:” profiling. By looking at patterns of behavior indicative of a potential terrorist, we would concentrate on the person, not the weapon, an approach the Israelis have shown to be very effective.
The Transportation Safety Administration is in need of serious reform if it is to be able to actually carry out its mission, which, the last time I checked, was to make air travel safe, not leave innocent people crying.
And if it can’t be reformed, then it should be abolished and replaced with something that can do the job.
UPDATE: Courtesy of International Liberty, here’s video of Senator Rand Paul, who’s rapidly becoming a favorite of mine, taking a TSA representative to task for these stupid search policies:
(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)