The TSA, that is.
Of course we’ve already covered that. Or, if we haven’t, we should have.
But seriously, I can’t think of any legitimate, rational reason that the TSA should continue to function and use up taxpayer money.
The screenings have stopped exactly zero terrorist plots, and anything they’ve managed to catch would have been caught by pre-September 11 screening methods.
But yes, I’m writing this as I’m outraged by their behavior regarding a four-year old. I’m going to quote the first-hand account, because it’s key to my point. Read it please.
My two young children, aged four and six, were particularly excited their Grandmother was catching the same flight out of Wichita. Since she lives in California, and we live in Montana, they’ve never had a chance to fly with her. Tired and eager to return home, we began passing through security. My children and I went through without an incident. My Mother, however, had triggered the alarm. She was asked to go through the scanners again, and when the source of the alarm could not be identified she was told to sit aside and await a pat-down. All of this was perfectly routine.
When my Four-year-old daughter noticed her Grandmother, she excitedly ran over to give her a hug, as children often do. They made very brief contact, no longer than a few seconds. The Transportation Security Officers(TSO) who were present responded to this very simple action in the worst way imaginable.
First, a TSO began yelling at my child, and demanded she too must sit down and await a full body pat-down. I was prevented from coming any closer, explaining the situation to her, or consoling her in any way. My daughter, who was dressed in tight leggings, a short sleeve shirt and mary jane shoes, had no pockets, no jacket and nothing in her hands. The TSO refused to let my daughter pass through the scanners once more, to see if she too would set off the alarm. It was implied, several times, that my Mother, in their brief two-second embrace, had passed a handgun to my daughter.
My child, who was obviously terrified, had no idea what was going on, and the TSOs involved still made no attempt to explain it to her. When they spoke to her, it was devoid of any sort of compassion, kindness or respect. They told her she had to come to them, alone, and spread her arms and legs. She screamed, “No! I don’t want to!” then did what any frightened young child might, she ran the opposite direction.
That is when a TSO told me they would shut down the entire airport, cancel all flights, if my daughter was not restrained. It was then they declared my daughter a “high-security-threat”.
Two TSOs were following her and again I was told to have no contact with my child. At this point, I was beyond upset, I disregarded what the TSO had said to me, and I ran to my daughter. I picked her up. I hugged her. I tried to comfort her.
The TSOs were not pleased.
I was forced to set my child down, they brought her into a side room to administer a pat-down, I followed. My sweet four-year-old child was shaking and crying uncontrollably, she did not want to stand still and let strangers touch her. My heart was breaking. I will never forget the look of pure terror on her face. A TSO began repeating that in the past she had “seen a gun in a teddy bear.” The TSO seemed utterly convinced my child was concealing a weapon, as if there was no question about it. Worse still, she was treating my daughter like she understood how dangerous this was, as if my daughter was not only a tool in a terrorist plot, but actually in on it. The TSO loomed over my daughter, with an angry grimace on her face, and ordered her to stop crying. When my scared child could not do so, two TSOs called for backup saying “The suspect is not cooperating.” The suspect, of course, being a frightened child. They treated my daughter no better than if she had been a terrorist.
It was an awful sight.
A third TSO arrived to the scene, and showed no more respect than the first two had given. All three were barking orders at my daughter, telling her to stand still and cease crying. When she did not stop crying on command, they demanded we leave the airport. They claimed they could not safely check my daughter for dangerous items if she was in tears. I will admit, I lost my temper.
Finally, a manager intervened. He determined that my child could, in fact, be cleared through security while crying. I was permitted to hold her while the TSO checked her body. When they found nothing hidden on my daughter, they were forced to let us go, but not until after they had examined my ID and boarding passes for a lengthy amount of time. When we arrived at our gate, I noticed that the TSOs had followed us through the airport. I was told something was wrong with my boarding pass and I would have to show it to them again. Upon seeing the TSO, my daughter was thrown into hysterics. Eventually, we were able to board our flight.
My daughter is very shaken up about this, and has been waking up with nightmares.
What should have been a very minor, routine security check was turned into a horrific ordeal. All of this could easily have been prevented if the TSO involved had used a little bit of compassion and a smidgen of common sense. There is no reason for any child to go through this, and while I completely understand the necessity of tight airport security, I fail to see how harassing a small child will provide safety for anyone.
And then the TSA has this which I suppose sort of qualifies as a response:
I’ve seen some headlines stating that TSA Officers accused a 4-year-old child of having a firearm. This wasn’t the case, and I wanted to take a few moments to explain what happened.
TSA has long had a security procedure where if somebody has contact with a person who is undergoing additional screening, they must also undergo additional screening. Why you might ask? You’ve probably heard the old saying that the hand can be faster than eye? Well… that’s the reasoning behind this procedure. There’s always the chance that a prohibited item could be traded off during contact. I’m sure you’ve watched the scene play out in more than one movie where two people collide or shake hands and an item is traded off? Same thing…
We did recently roll out new procedures that reduce the need for pat-downs of children. These new screening procedures include permitting multiple passes through the metal detector and advanced imaging technology to clear any alarms as well as the greater use of explosives trace detection. These changes in protocol will ultimately reduce – though not eliminate – pat-downs of children. But… this is one of those examples where a pat-down of a child was necessary.
It was explained to the family why the pat-down was needed and at no time did our Officers suggest the child was carrying a firearm. We’ve reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures.
Bob Burns, TSA Blog Team
Apparently, the TSA is trying to stop Danny Ocean and his crew from escaping with the loot they heisted from that sleazy casino owner. Guys, “you’ve seen in movies” is a terrible, terrible argument. You know what else I’ve seen in movies? Time Travel. Space slugs that eat space ships capable of faster-than-light travel. Dragons. I believe the chances of any of those things somehow threatening US citizens is so remarkably close to zero that it is zero.
But that’s more a criticism of the structure of their argument. Not the point.
Mr. Burns is adamant that no TSO ever suggested the four-year-old of holding a handgun. That, apparently, is what they feel they need to quibble about.
But if you need to, re-read Ms. Brademeyer’s narrative. She says they implied it. Who am I going to believe here? A mother who is not allowed to be with her child but gets to watch as they grope the four-year-old? Or the civil rights violating agency with a history of poor judgement, even poorer action, and the lack of ability to even justify their own terrible existence? Perhaps they’re both suspect in terms of believability. But I’m going to go with the first-hand report rather than the guy with the job to make an oppressive government organization look a little less terrible.
Other than that, the TSA doesn’t dispute a single fact that Ms. Brademeyer puts forth.
Ok, here’s the thing about first-person accounts. They’re great for historians because they put a lot of context into contemporary events. However, they are almost certainly always embellished, if not exaggerated. Eye witness accounts are almost always faulty. Still the subjective view is valuable, because it clearly illustrates the effect the TSA has on the American people.
But even if we tone down Ms. Brademeyer’s story, we’re still left with TSOs who separated her from her child, did nothing to help console a distraught child and prohibited the child’s mother from the same, and refused to re-scan the child, opting for a pat down.
Oh hey. What’s this that I found on the TSA’s Website?
Security officers will approach children gently and treat them with respect. If a child becomes uncomfortable or upset, security officers will consult parents about the best way to relieve the child’s concern.
and from the same page:
TSA has enacted risk-based checkpoint screening procedures for passengers 12 and under that include: … Allowing multiple passes through the walk through metal detector and advanced imaging technology to clear any alarms on children.
Again, the TSA doesn’t dispute any of the essential, or even most of the ancillary, facts of Ms. Brademeyer’s story. Which states that everything I just quoted from the TSA website was blatantly violated. However, the TSA does claim that they checked on it, and it’s ok because they “determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures.” Really! Big Charlie who dates the cousin of one of the TSOs told me so.
I’m calling a lie on that one.
You may have noticed that I used the word “terrible” a lot. That’s intentional. The TSA has caused more terror in the hearts of Americans and other innocent air passengers than Bin Ladin ever did or ever could. Bin Ladin never scared me. Angry beyond reason at times. But never terror. My own government? Especially the TSA? Yeah, they terrify me CONSTANTLY.
Update 2012-04-27 13:34
It should surprise no one that my comment on this entry on the TSA Blog was never approved. The comment was an abbreviated form of the ideas expressed in this blog entry. Note, however, that they couldn’t very well pretend that no one said anything. Of 156 comments at this moment, only one expressed any support for the TSA, and it didn’t expend any effort justifying this particular adventure the TSA led us on.