On the Gulliver blog, over at The Economist, is yet another embarrassing story of the TSA overstepping reasonable security measures:
Did you hear about the Camden cop whose disabled son wasn’t allowed to pass through airport security unless he took off his leg braces?
Unfortunately, it’s no joke. This happened to Bob Thomas, a 53-year-old officer in Camden’s emergency crime suppression team, who was flying to Orlando in March with his wife, Leona, and their son, Ryan.
Ryan was taking his first flight, to Walt Disney World, for his fourth birthday.
Of course, this was not TSA policy, so this seems to be the result of an over-zealous TSA agent looking to exercise his level of status. However, the TSA official policy isn’t exactly a cup of tea, either. Why does the TSA need to do these things? Well, because they are caught in a paradox where if they don’t from time-to-time humiliate your grandma, “terrorists” will adapt to using grandmas as fodder. For anything that the TSA overlooks — be it infants, wheel chairs, the mentally handicapped — determined “terrorists” will adapt.
On the other hand, these blemishes are always very public, and hurt the TSA’s publicity…but what incentive does the TSA have to maintain good publicity? Is the TSA going anywhere? Probably not. Individuals may lose their jobs, but no one important, in the grand scheme of things. Turns out the kid’s father got a call from the director and an apology. In the private sector, this would (probably) be grounds for a lawsuit under the American’s with Disabilities Act…
So the Gulliver blog raises the question:
But if the TSA really wants to improve its reputation, it’s going to have to figure out a way to make sure these sorts of incidents don’t happen in the first place. Anyone have suggestions for how to make that happen?
The unhappy answer here is…as long as we allow ourselves to be gripped by fear while travelling by air, and demand that a centralized bureaucracy provide a “solution” to keep us safe, these sort of things will necessarily continue to happen.