What I want is men who will support me when I am in the wrong.
These words were uttered by a British Whig politician, William Lamb, Lord Melbourne, in the early 19th Century, reportedly in reply to a fellow politician offering to support him when he was in the right. The principle the words embody, however, might as well be emblazoned on the employment contract for each TSA (Transportation Security Administration) manager, especially those at the highest levels of this federal bureaucracy.
The latest example of TSA leadership supporting its personnel no matter how outrageous the conduct, can be seen in the agencyâ€™s response to an incident in which a wheelchair-bound, 95-year old woman was pressured to remove an adult diaper before TSA agents at Northwest Florida Regional Airport would permit her to board a flight to Michigan. When details of this most recent controversy involving overly intrusive TSA pat-downs surfaced, the agency quickly circled the wagons and declared its people did everything â€œprofessionally and according to proper procedure.â€
In other words, telling a cancer-stricken, 95-year old woman travelling in a wheelchair, that she cannot board a commercial airliner for which she has paid her fare and been â€œclearedâ€ to travel, unless she takes off an adult diaper that a TSA agent deemed to be suspicious, is â€œprofessionalâ€ and â€œproper.â€ If that is â€œproperâ€ and â€œprofessional,â€ Iâ€™d like to see what might constitute behavior that is â€œunprofessional and improperâ€; not that it matters â€” TSA leadership takes the position that whatever its agents do is, by definition, proper and will be supported by supervisors all the way up the chain of command.
This is the very same agency that within the same week in which this incident occurred, told the public it was â€œrevisingâ€ its policies and practices regarding criminal-like pat-downs of small children. This PR gambit came in the wake of the highly publicized groping by a TSA agent of a six-year old girl at Kansas City International Airport. In fact, however, the â€œrevisionâ€ was nothing but public relations double talk. The TSA still claims to have the power to conduct however intrusive a search it desires of any passenger, no matter their age or infirmity; and regardless of whether there is any articulable suspicion they are attempting to bring anything dangerous on board an aircraft.
The linguistic gobbledygook was displayed clearly in a statement made by TSA Administrator John Pistole in announcing the â€œnew approach.â€ In the agencyâ€™s continuing effort to smooth-talk the public into supporting its intrusive activities, Pistole declared that, â€œevery traveler is a critical partner in TSAâ€™s efforts.â€ â€œCritical partner,â€ indeed; only in the sense that a robbery victim is a â€œcritical partnerâ€ in ensuring they will not be harmed if they simply succumb to the perpetratorâ€™s demands.
Clearly, President Obama is not inclined to step up and rein in the TSA or its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security. And thus far, TSA has resisted efforts by the Congress â€“ especially the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, headed by California Republican Darrell Issa â€“ to consider any reasonable limitations on the agencyâ€™s vast power over law-abiding citizens.
Whether citizens of this country will arise from their fear-based stupor to declare that â€œenough is enough,â€ and demand they stop being treated like common criminals simply because they need to travel by air, remains to be seen. Thus far, despite occasional public revulsion at individual incidents, the fear mongerers are winning.
By Bob Barr â€“ The Barr Code