Lena Reppert is wheel chaired bound, weakened by and in the final stages of Leukemia. She is frail and 95 years old and along with her daughter Jean Weber, was on her way to visit relatives in Michigan. What should have been a non eventful and joyous trip turned into a humiliating nightmare thanks to TSA agents at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (DSI) in Okaloose County, Florida.
When Lena Reppert was unable to stand, due to her illness, and go through the metal detector TSA Agents took her aside for a visual search. This included a pat down. But the agents didn’t stop there; according to her daughter Jean, they insisted the elderly woman remove her adult diaper so they could complete their search. Mrs. Reppert’s daughter wheeled her into the bathroom and removed it. It took them 45 minutes for TSA to complete their search of the two women.
Ms. Weber told the Northwest Florida Daily News, “It’s something I couldn’t imagine happening on American soil. My mother is very ill. She had a blood transfusion the week before, just to bolster up her strength for this travel. Nobody should feel the way I felt that day. I’m not angry. The rules need to be changed.” Needless to say Jean Weber filed a complaint with TSA.
TSA’s response, “‘While every person and item must be screened before entering the secure boarding area, TSA works with passengers to resolve security alarms in a respectful and sensitive manner. We
have reviewed the circumstances involving this screening and determined that our officers acted professionally and according to proper procedure.’
A TSA spokesman told the Northwest Florida Daily News it would be dangerous for them to exempt any group from screening. “We know from intelligence that there are terrorists out there that would then exploit that vulnerability.”
So TSA is basically saying that they were “Just following orders.” But this story gets better. In a statement later to MSNBC TSA said, “While every person and item must be screened before entering the secure boarding area, TSA works with passengers to resolve security alarms in a respectful and sensitive manner. We have reviewed the circumstances involving this screening and determined that our officers acted professionally, according to proper procedure and did not require this passenger to remove an adult diaper.”
Jean Weber is sticking to her statement, “My story has not changed from my first contact with TSA at the airport.”
No one will argue the point that due to today’s terrorist threat we need to have strong security at our points of departure. This is just common sense. But is the TSA the proper agency to dispense that protection? The answer is obviously “No.”
The TSA has been an embarrassment to our country since it was established by President Bush as part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act in 2001. It is presently under the jurisdiction of The Homeland Security Agency. For any security agency to work effectively you need to staff it with experienced and intelligent people. That is obviously “not” the case with the TSA. Time after time we hear how their agents fail to see dangerous items either on their scanners or during their pat downs; time after time we hear how their agents rudely treat passengers during their scans or subsequent body searches. As I said we all understand security is a necessary evil in today’s world but it does not have to be such an arduous experience for those who simply wish to travel from point “A” to point “B”.
When I travelled to India to film a movie I went through more security in one airport than I’ve been through here in the US in the last 5 years. I went through no less than 8 security checks, from metal detectors, to wands, to pat downs, to having armed soldiers going through my luggage on the tarmac. At each point they were polite; apologizing for the delay I had to experience, professional and courteous. But when you boarded that plane you knew it was secure. Can we say the same about the TSA? I think not.
This country, if it truly wants to make the skies safer, needs to retool the TSA and replace their present agents with a professional and intelligent staff who are specially trained like the Israelis, to visually spot suspicious people and not depend so much on machines to do their work for them. Knowledge is power and lack of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Right now the TSA is a dangerous thing.