The TSA always finds a way to top itself when it comes to controversy, negative publicity, and most importantly, a degradation of human dignity. This time, it was by telling an elderly, disabled woman who lost her speech after a stroke that she could not fly because she could not say here name. This is no Onion story.
From the family’s side, we have a narrative that goes something like this—we have Heidi, a senior citizen who suffered a debilitating stroke rendering her unable to write or speak. Naturally, she had little use for a diver’s license anymore and it lapsed. Still, she had an expired picture ID and other non-picture identifying items.
The TSA clerk checking her boarding pass against her ID was incredulous that this wheelchair-bound woman could not speak, asking her repeatedly what her name was despite an explanation from family members and willingness to undergo additional screening.
She was denied. The TSA decided she was too grave a threat and she ended up taking a bus instead.
The TSA has since apologized—half-heartedly—but the damage is done.
The broader concern here (and one that I have expressed before) is that the security check alone is considered not enough, that somehow checking ID against ticket protects us from terrorism, one of the “many layers” of security the TSA is fond of boasting of.
No. While matching tickets to names is a boon to airline revenue protection, I contend that everyone who submits to airline security screening should be allowed to pass. Either we trust our full body scanners or we do not. The specter of requiring valid government-issued identification to travel internally in the USA remains a troubling constitutional issue to me as well, despite the present Administrative Search doctrine, and superfuflous to keeping airports safe.
But the thing is, the TSA gives its clerks some discretion in handling situations like this. Certainly, the clerk could have been more gracious—the apparent taunting is simply deplorable—but Heidi could have simply been wheeled off to the side or to a private area for an enhanced screening.
So the TSA again failed us. How sad that the government agency tasked with keeping U.S. airports safe is not even competent enough to treat a disabled passenger in a respectful way.
(tip of the hat to Gary)