On Saturday, June 18th 2011, Ms. Jean Weber took her ailing mother to the airport so she could go see relations in Michigan.
Her mother was elderly, frail, and battling illness. She had to wear special undergarments because her age and infirmities made self control difficult. Travel is hard for her. She could not walk far enough to make it through an airport scanner. But she was determined to see her family in Michigan. With the help of her daughter, Jean, she would get through it somehow. For her part, Jean felt a daughter’s love and wanted her mom to get on her way in as little discomfort as possible.
Jean knew about airport security, but she didn’t worry. After all, this is Okaloosa; this is home.
Out of earshot, she watched as her mother was frisked by the TSA. She saw how rudely and hard the strangers placed their hands. It worried Jean because she knew how easily her mother bruised.
But something else was wrong. Her mother was shuffled out of view to a separate room. After some time a TSA agent came out and unceremoniously gave Jean an edict. In order to get on a plane her mother would have to remove her diaper for inspection.
Jean couldn’t believe it.
Jean’s Mom wasn’t offended. She was tired. She came from that generation that saw true hard times, and accepted official imposition in stride; maybe too much in stride. Seeing her family in Michigan is what mattered.
But to Jean, a heartfelt departure had turned kafkaesque. She had to physically assist her mom. Just getting to a restroom was a chore, and once there she had to help mom intimately disrobe for the TSA bureaucrats.
The inspectors told her she had a choice, but Jean knew she really didn’t. If you don’t comply, you don’t fly. There is no crime, judge or jury involved. There is no discussion of compensation for monetary loss or the fourth amendment. The TSA even claims, in court, the privilege to strip search anyone.
The emotion was too much. Jean came out of the bathroom crying. In the ridiculous shuffle of bags, tickets, wheelchair, jackets and removed undergarments, she misplaced the pass that allowed her to accompany her mom in the TSA “secure areas.” Ever helpful, a TSA agent told Jean she displayed “unusual behavior” by crying and not having a pass. Jean was subjected to an even more rigorous physical inspection as a result.
By now this process had taken a long time, and the aircraft departure was very near. Jean’s mom was still far from the gangway, and there was little time. Jean was still being questioned and frisked, so she asked that her mom be escorted to the plane.
As she watched her mom depart flanked by the TSA, she thought to herself that one of the last memories she would hold between them was this demeaning inspection.
Jean says her friends would laugh at the thought that she was complaining against the TSA. She is a private person, and minds her own business. She doesn’t get involved in “political” topics.
This event changed her. She has a new view of what it means to be an American.
Ms Jean said when she was a kid she used to watch the show “Davy Crockett.” She remembered a quote from that show, “Make sure you are right. Then go ahead.”
Ms Jean has filed a local complaint with the TSA over this incident, and she plans to file a national one as well.
Personally, I am not reassured by a complaint form.
Our government has forced us to argue for things that should be self evident, such as the fourth amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, the concept of innocent until proven guilty, and the rule of law for everyone including government officials. To me, it is as if leaders in government have lost their senses.
The Sheriff of Okaloosa County should enforce the laws of Florida, especially those relating to battery and lewd and lascivious molestation, and arrest the TSA agents responsible for the acts perpetrated against Ms Jean’s mom.
Only then will this madness end.