With one “enhanced patdown,” everyone’s favorite airport screeners have graduated from nationwide annoyance to international embarrassment.
You have to admire those airport screeners of the Transportation Security Administration. This is one group that doesn’t rest on its laurels.
Between annoying and time-killing screening procedures which may or may not enhance airline security, using full-body scanners that have the potential to threaten people’s health and humiliating frisking, they’ve fully established themselves as the bane of a traveler’s existence.
They’ve managed to infuriate adults, terrorize small children, abuse cancer patients and give Americans an entirely new perception of the word “junk.” They have become a seemingly inexhaustible source of comedy material for columnists, talk-show hosts — and yes, bloggers — across America.
But even after achieving all this, they are ever on the lookout for ways to set new standards, to raise that proverbial bar.
And last weekend, apparently, they found one.
SARI ABOUT THAT
Some TSA screener in Jackson, MS decided to do one of their “enhanced patdowns” on Meera Shankar of India, on the grounds that she was wearing a traditional Indian dress called a sari.
When she asked for a private screening, she was led into a booth — a clear booth, and extensively frisked in full public view, before finally being allowed to board her flight to Baltimore.
This would be a fairly absurd and demeaning way to treat any 59-year-old woman, but Meera Shankar just happens to be India’s ambassador to the United States.
That’s her with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office.
In a sari.
No sign of alarmed Secret Service agents anywhere.
For the record, foreign diplomats are not exempt from TSA security screens. However, her diplomatic credentials were in order. She had a security detail with her, which presumably included someone from our State Department. She set off no alarms going through the metal detector.
She didn’t even have the option of refusing one of those controversial full-body scan; they don’t yet have the machinery in Jackson.
But she still was subjected to being fondled in the name of the “war on terror.”
With one extended grope, the TSA graduated from national irritant to international embarrassment.
You can read the entire episode, courtesy of the Times of India, when you click on this link.
Perhaps the location of this particular incident explains it all. Maybe they’d never seen a sari before in Mississippi. Who knows?
But the silliness wasn’t confined to the state with the lowest literacy rate in country. No, it migrated north to Washington DC, where needless fondling was replaced by diplomatic fumbling.
One on the one hand, you had the State Department expressing its concern and regrets over the episode, all the way up to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.
On the other, you had Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano saying the the patdown “followed our procedures, and I think it was appropriate under the circumstances.”
What those circumstances are, only Secretary Napolitano knows — and so far, she’s keeping the information to herself.
Hilary, Janet. Janet, Hilary. Have you two met?
As you might expect, the Indian government is fairly steamed. It’s not the first time their diplomats have been humiliated in this manner. It wasn’t even the first time for Ambassador Shankar, who was in Jackson to give a speech at Mississippi State University about…
…wait for it…
THE WAGES OF FEAR
In fairness to Mississippi, its state officials, including the lieutenant governor, are the only ones so far to have formally apologized to the ambassador for this sorry mess — and full marks to them for that.
This flap, like many other minor diplomatic flaps before it, will quickly blow over and be forgotten — presuming the TSA can get through the end of the year without feeling up India’s ambassador again.
But this country is trying to improve its diplomatic ties with India, a tough trick given our friendship with India’s nuclear arch-rival, Pakistan. Incidents that make the Indians feel that we don’t respect them or their representatives do nothing to help the cause.
And creating the impression that our airport security is in the hands of clods doesn’t do us great good elsewhere in the world, either.
This is what all our fear has done to us.
I can’t escape the feeling that, somewhere in the bowels of his cave, deep in the wilds of North Ubetchastan, Osama bin Laden is laughing his bearded ass off.
Powered by Facebook Comments