After probing this story further, some of my outrage has dissipated. Yet I am still fuming at all parties involved.
A 95 year-old woman in Florida in the terminal stages of leukemia, weighing only 105lbs and bound to a wheelchair, entered the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint at Northwest Florida Regional Airport (VPS) with her daughter. The woman was traveling to Michigan to be closer to her family in her final days.
Navigating U.S. airport security with a wheelchair is never an easy task and the lady was unable to stand to walk through the metal detector. I have said in the past that I have no problem with full body scanners being used as secondary screening devices when a metal detectors picks up something or when a passenger, like a senior citizen with screws or bolts inside their body, opts to use it. This would have been an ideal situation for AIT only this particular airport did not have any of the scanners.
Instead, the TSA had to pat the poor woman down and even swab her wheelchair for explosives. She was taken to a private screening area but the TSA was unable to complete the screening.
You see her, diaper was soiled and that made searching a bit tough. So her daughter wheeled her into the bathroom, removed the diaper, and wheeled her back. The screening was completed but now she had to travel to Michigan without a diaper because her daughter had neglected to pack an extra one.
What kind of a daughter would leave a soiled diaper on her mother and not bring along an extra one?
That part about the soiled diaper was not in the original article I read and with that fact in mind, I cannot blame the TSOs for following policy and ensuring that she wasn’t hiding anything sinister in that diaper.
But isn’t there something sickening about this whole story? Was it really necessary to strip search a frail 95-year old women in a wheelchair wearing a diaper? What does it say about ourselves when we are afraid that a dying senior citizen is a national security threat? Sari Koshetz, a TSA spokeswoman, stated:
TSA cannot exempt any group from screening because we know from intelligence that there are terrorists out there that would then exploit that vulnerability.
Literally, she is correct–by law the TSA must screen everyone, but does anyone really think “the terrorists” are going to start recruiting 95-year old women near death to blow up airplanes? I find the thought comical and the trite “national security” justification for every TSA overreach disgusting.
I have often advocated for no screening at all on this blog, arguing that as someone who flies 200,000+ miles per year I am willing to take my chances and prefer no passenger screening to the sickening security theatre we encounter today in America, but what about some sort of compromise?
Wouldn’t it have been enough to search this woman with a hand-held metal detector? Must we treat everyone, even 95 year old women, as suspected terrorists who are guilty until proven innocent? Did she really need to be humiliated?
This story just makes me mad–mad at the TSA and mad at this poor woman’s daughter. We are not any safer by making old women remove their Depends to board an airplane.