The TSA Needs to Be Put in Check

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What do you get when you mix racial profiling and sexual assault? The Transportation Security Administration, apparently.

After more than 30 TSA agents claimed that coworkers were targeting Hispanics, blacks, and those of Middle Eastern descent during security checks at Logan International Airport, the administration launched an investigation, and on Monday, Congressman William Keating called for a hearing on the allegations. The behavior detection program that the agents were operating under is supposed to be based on suspicious appearance, body language, and responses to questions—not employees’ blatant racism and disregard for the program’s true purpose.

A New York Times article reported the racial profiling outbreak at Logan, and included a couple of anonymous quotes from agents:

“They just pull aside anyone who they don’t like the way they look—if they are black and have expensive clothes or jewelry, or if they are Hispanic.”

“The behavior detection program is no longer a behavior-based program, but it is a racial profiling program.”

We live in the 21st century. We have fought for civil rights for years. We have a black president. It is baffling and infuriating that in what should be a modern and tolerant society, innocent people are still being picked out of crowds because of their origin or the way they are dressed. In a post-9/11 America, stricter security is certainly understandable and, to an extent, necessary. But the TSA has shown that it is too difficult for many of their workers to differentiate terrorism from having skin that isn’t white. They let their authority override their duty to promote safety.

And it doesn’t stop there. Ever since the TSA’s pat-down policy came into effect, disturbing stories of women who began sobbing during the process, or explaining that they had been violated, were released.

Children are not exempt from the mayhem either. CBS reported that four-year-old Isabella Brademeyer was forced to receive a pat-down at a Kansas airport, during which she became afraid and cried, “No, I don’t want to.” When she ran, they yelled to her grandmother, “We are going to shut the airport down if you don’t grab her.” To treat a young girl in such a callous manner, and as if she is a terror suspect, is extremely troubling.

My own cousin shared a story with me about her trying experience at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport last week. After a male TSA agent described the pat-down to her as “touching your breasts and vagina and putting her hands inside your shirt and pants,” she calmly objected and asked to speak to a manager. The TSA’s response? According to my cousin, they handcuffed her for being uncooperative and detained her in a room for nearly an hour. She missed her flight and was told that if she “made a scene at security” again, she would be banned from the airport.

The TSA’s heightened security measures, which evidently sometimes involve molestation, can quickly morph into abuses of power.

When the men and women who are supposed to be protecting us from danger are the ones inflicting it, it’s a sign that serious changes need to be made.