The incompetence of the TSA has been a constant theme of this blog over the past four years.
What to do when those two themes collide in one irresistible, made-for-cable-TV-news story?
Such is the case of the TSA and the nipple ring lady:
A Texas woman who said she was forced to remove a nipple ring with pliers in order to board an airplane called Thursday for an apology by federal security agents and a civil rights investigation. “I wouldn’t wish this experience upon anyone,” Mandi Hamlin said at a news conference. “My experience with TSA was a nightmare I had to endure. No one deserves to be treated this way.”
Hamlin, 37, said she was trying to board a flight from Lubbock to Dallas on Feb. 24 when she was scanned by a Transportation Security Administration agent after passing through a larger metal detector without problems. The female TSA agent used a handheld detector that beeped when it passed in front of Hamlin’s chest, the Dallas-area resident said. Hamlin said she told the woman she was wearing nipple piercings. The agent then called over her male colleagues, one of whom said she would have to remove the jewelry, Hamlin said.
Hamlin said she could not remove them and asked whether she could instead display her pierced breasts in private to the female agent. But several other male officers told her she could not board her flight until the jewelry was out, she said. She was taken behind a curtain and managed to remove one bar-shaped piercing but had trouble with the second, a ring.
“Still crying, she informed the TSA officer that she could not remove it without the help of pliers, and the officer gave a pair to her,” said Hamlin’s attorney, Gloria Allred, reading from a letter she sent Thursday to the director of the TSA’s Office of Civil Rights and Liberties. Allred is a well-known Los Angeles lawyer who often represents high-profile claims. Applying pliers to the torso of a mannequin that had a peach-colored bra with the rings on it, Hamlin showed reporters at the news conference how she took off the second ring.
The TSA has just posted the following statement:
TSA has reviewed the circumstances related to the screening of a passenger with body piercings that occurred recently in Lubbock, Texas. It appears that the Transportation Security Officers involved properly followed procedures in that incident. They rightly insisted that the alarm that was raised be resolved. TSA supports the thoroughness of the Officers involved as they were acting to protect the passengers and crews of the flights departing Lubbock that day.
TSA has reviewed the procedures themselves and agrees that they need to be changed. In the future TSA will inform passengers that they have the option to resolve the alarm through a visual inspection of the article in lieu of removing the item in question. TSA acknowledges that our procedures caused difficulty for the passenger involved and regrets situation in which she found herself. We appreciate her raising awareness on this issue and we are changing the procedures to ensure that this does not happen again.
The reported snickering of TSA is inexcusable. The passenger deserves an apology for that.
But I can’t stand the over-the-top whining from the Allred camp and civil liberties absolutists, either.
All that said, of course, it’s hard to have sympathy for federal airline officials who refuse to do common sense profiling and end up repeating scenes like this over and over again: