TSA: Too Sad for an Acronym

LTB default 777x437

One more just to complete the trifecta, and then I will try to get a little more lighthearted.

We've recently seen the TSA harassing the elderly, the very young, and now … the disabled. (Also the nude, but in that case it was a response to rather than the reason for harassment. But I support the rights of the nude also, don't get me wrong.)

This is the worst situation of all, I think, because the person hassled is so vulnerable. The elderly at least have life experience, kids are pretty resilient and generally have parents around, and nude people can put clothes on. As a last resort, most of us could at least walk away from this nonsense, even if it meant not being able to travel. But someone who's physically and mentally disabled has no good options — they may feel, or actually be, physically trapped, and also may not even fully understand what's happening to them.

Before I go on, you should get a look at the terrifying security risk the TSA singled out this week. I don't have permission to post the photo, but The Daily has it here. Seriously, go look.

I assume TSA asked the Air Force to scramble fighters, just out of an abundance of caution.

As Noreen O'Donnell of The Daily reports today, seven-year-old Dina Frank (who is, at worst, terrifyingly cute) and her family were hassled at JFK International Airport recently. Dina has cerebral palsy, which can have a wide range of effects but often causes both physical and mental and/or developmental disabilities, as it reportedly has with Dina. Like the senior citizens I mentioned a couple of days ago, who have knee and hip replacements, Dina can't go through the metal detector because of her crutches and braces, and so would have to be scanned and/or patted down under current procedures.

Okay, fine, whatever. This can be tolerable if the TSA people involved are compassionate. To give credit where credit is due, I've seen TSA agents be respectful and friendly toward my sister, who also has cerebral palsy, on the rare occasions she travels. I very much appreciated that, despite the fact that I think the whole drama is unnecessary security theater, and that a little respect is really the least we can do for the disabled, who have more than enough to deal with as it is.

But that of course is not what happened here.

According to the report, the agents dealing with the Franks were "exceptionally aggressive," so much so that Dina's father felt compelled to record the encounter with his iPhone. As we have seen before, this is not only legal (under New York law, only one party must consent) but constitutionally protected – it doesn't even violate TSA policy – and so of course the official reaction was what seems to be the typical official reaction these days: "[She] started screaming at me and cursing me and threatening me,” Mr. Frank said.

It's not clear how long this went on, but eventually a supervisor decided that inspecting Dina's crutches would be enough (they could have been sword crutches, after all), and the family was allowed to leave.

Or at least that's what they thought.

They had been at the gate for an hour when, oh great, here come the TSA agents, with a manager or supervisor of some kind, presumably a different person than the one who let them go before. They said that "proper protocol" had not been followed, and that Dina would have to be patted down. And not there at the gate, either, but back at the security checkpoint, which makes zero sense and can only have been intended to punish them. So her dad rushed her back across the terminal in a wheelchair to be screened, and then back again (apparently she was not carrying weapons), but by then they had missed their plane. 

The article quotes Dina's mother as saying that only some recent medical treatments have allowed Dina to walk at all. They are proud of her for that and I'm sure she is very proud of herself, and then here's the TSA treating her like a criminal and forcing someone to rush her around in a wheelchair. It's impossible to imagine what she must have been feeling.

Again, I don't want to tar every TSA agent with the same brush here. Not every lawyer is a creep, nor is every TSA agent. But this is inexcusable, and the whole thing is just unnecessary, as people far more expert than I am have explained over and over again. How long are we going to let it go on?

Okay, back to the regularly scheduled nonsense.