So the TSA cannot target Middle Eastern men when they do security checks. But apparently they can target men with low IQs.
What irks me most about the story is that the parents tried to tell the agent about their son’s special needs, but the agent would not listen. It reminds me of the time that I saw a man in a wheelchair go through the security clearing in an airport. They required him to stand up, which he did with great effort and strain. They also told him to take off the vest that he was wearing, which he could hardly do. He worked for a long time at the buttons, and he finally was able to get them undone and boost himself forward to take off the vest. The agent would not let any of the people who were traveling with him help him.
I felt sickened that the security agent had no respect for the old man’s age or for his physical limitations. I felt disgusted that they could suspect such a person of being a terrorist. Not only was he clearly a salt-of-the-earth American, but he couldn’t have hijacked a plane if he had wanted to.
Recently I saw a video clip from a news broadcast. A man who had had a urostomy was patted down by TSA agents so that his bag of urine leaked on him. He had little choice but to fly wet and smelly. He tried to tell the agent to be careful, but the agent allegedly paid no attention. How rude, to say the least!
I feel the same way about Drew Mandy. They had the gall to ask him why there was padding under his pants. How embarrassing! How frustrating and even potentially frightening for a person like him to be questioned and search, when he cannot understand what they are saying to him and cannot figure out what to say. Someday that agent may have to wear padded underpants and I hope people ask him about it everywhere he goes. (Not really, but in my anger I couldn’t help but think that.)
They also took away his toy hammer–a toy that he had had for years and that was his “security blanket.” So, my laptop can go through after they check it, but a toy hammer cannot? Guess which one would be a more effective weapon? For that matter, there are many items scattered throughout the cabin of the airplane that are far more dangerous than a toy hammer.
The TSA has admitted that this “isolated incident” was unfortunate and was handled improperly. I love how government agencies call each of the dozens of incidents of improper conduct they are guilty of an “isolated incident.” I know of two cases of little children being patted down and being reduced to tears. I witnessed the bad treatment of the old man that I narrated above and saw the news clip of the man with the catheter.
I think that this incident shows once again two problems with our current airport security measures. The first is that these “agents” don’t always know what they are doing. The TSA has admitted it in this case. What even makes these people security agents anyway? I guess because they wear a uniform and have some kind of badge. Are they actually specialists in security? Are they trained police detectives? Are they former military intelligence officers? Were they in the CIA?
I remember when they all became agents of the government. One day they were high school graduates who weren’t qualified for any other job except to wave people through a metal detector, and then the next day they were security agents working for the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security. I know more about security than most of them–at least more than most of them knew at that time. Maybe they have all gone through rigorous training and are certified safety and security experts now. I don’t see how that could be true, but maybe.
I certainly know that you can’t interrogate a little child or a mentally challenged person without scaring them. The information they give you, if they can actually speak without crying is not always reliable. I know that five-year-old girls in pigtails who are on their way to visit grandmother and mentally disabled people clutching toy hammers who are on their way to Disneyland are not Middle Eastern fanatics ready to blow up an airplane that they and their families are riding on.
Which demonstrates the second problem. By doing random checks, they are checking people needlessly and checking people who it is actually wrong to check. They are targetting, by default, people who could not possibly be terrorists and people who are not physically or mentally able to endure the check.
The TSA has admitted that the incident was handled poorly, but what will they do to correct it? Will they inform all of their “security agents” that they must show more respect for people who have mental or physical limitations? Will they put procedures in place to identify people who are exempt from being patted down and interrogated? Will they make a rule that toys that are being carried by children or mentally challenged adults do not need to be confiscated, seeing that much harder, heavier things are not confiscated?
I’m disgusted with the whole thing. I do not feel safer in a country where the mentally disabled are treated that way. I feel that we have gone a few steps backward in treating people like Drew Mandy, as well as our senior adults, our children, and our physically disabled people with dignity and respect.
When I worked as an election judge I twice had the honor of helping people who needed assistance in voting. One was a young man with low IQ who needed me to read the ballot for him. Another was an elderly man whose hand trembled, and so he needed me to punch the ballot. I did everything I could not to call attention to them or their issues but to let them retain their dignity as people. That’s how we should treat such people–not the way that the TSA does.