As Nick Gillespie noted earlier this morning, Transportation Security Administration screeners at a Florida airport this past weekend required a 95-year-old wheel-chair-bound woman to remove her adult diaper before heading to her gate. According to her daughter, the woman has leukemia and needed last-minute blood transfusions to bolster her immune system before travelling, but "was very calm" despite “the fact that she had to go through the airport without underwear.”
If such incidents are starting to feel almost common, there’s a reason for that: TSA screeners are doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing.
When the online response to this weekend’s screening faux pas grew to a howl, the TSA issued the same statement it’s issued dozens of times since its founding: "We have reviewed the circumstances involving this screening and determined that our officers acted professionally and according to proper procedure."
Here are some other incidents and responses:
- Earlier this month, a woman taped her screening at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and posted it on Youtube. The TSA responded to the video on its blog, where PR officer “Blogger Bob” wrote, “After reviewing this passenger’s time at the checkpoint, we found that our security officers acted properly.”
- In early May, a traveler posted pictures of two TSA screeners frisking a baby. The TSA response? “We reviewed the screening of this family, and found that the child’s stroller alarmed during explosives screening. Our officers followed proper current screening procedures by screening the family after the alarm, who by the way were very cooperative and were on the way to their gate in no time.”
- In April, Matt Drudge linked to a video of screeners frisking a 6-year-old. Again, the TSA PR machine reported that screeners had acted properly: “Some folks are asking if the proper procedures were followed. Yes. TSA has reviewed the incident and the security officer in the video followed the current standard operating procedures.”
- In November of last year, TSA screeners spilled urine all over an elderly bladder cancer survivor when they broke the abdominal seal on his urostomy bag during an advanced pat-down. TSA Administrator John Pistole called the man and apologized, and the TSA blog reported that the agency was "reviewing the training that’s already being provided to our officers to see if needs to be updated." [Emphasis mine.] The TSA blog also suggested that "passengers with disabilities...contact one of our Customer Support Managers to coordinate their screening. This way, they can have a chance to speak with an expert and explain the best possible way to be screened prior to arriving at the airport."
- In November 2010, the Daily Mail reported that a woman passenger carrying 12 ounces of her breast milk asked for the bottles to be visually inspected, per TSA guidelines, instead of run through the x-ray machine. In response to her request, TSA screeners detained the woman for an hour, causing her to miss her flight, and told her that “if she didn't 'go through with the horse and pony show' she would be arrested.” The TSA responded to the story on its blog thusly: “Although the proper screening procedures were followed at the time, we acknowledge this particular passenger experienced an out of the ordinary delay, and have worked with our officers to ensure we proceed with expediency in screening situations similar to this.”
- In 2008, a heavily pierced traveler was made by Lubbock TSA screeners to remove her nipple piercings with a pair of pliers while two male screeners snickered and cracked jokes. Once again, the TSA defended the actions of its people on the ground. “The bottom line: the security officers followed the procedures for when someone alarms the metal detector and did nothing wrong,” wrote “Lynn” on the TSA Blog. “But, after looking at the procedure the officers followed, it was determined that the procedures should be modified.”
These bodily violations, in other words, are consistent with how the TSA thinks travelers should be treated. Screeners are simply following orders.
Jean Weber said Monday her mother was trying to board a flight from Fort Walton Beach, Fla., to Detroit on June 18. Weber says she helped her mother, Lena Reppert, through the scanning machines. That's when the Transportation Security Administration screener pulled them aside and said there was a suspicious spot on Reppert's diaper. The woman ultimately took off the wet diaper so she could be cleared in time for her flight.
Reppert is suffering from leukemia and wants to buried in Hastings, Mich.
The TSA says its inspectors handled the situation correctly and professionally and didn't require Reppert to remove her diaper.
So much for dignity.