Opinion Brief

TSA pat-down: Was a dying woman forced to remove her adult diaper?

Jean Weber says her 95-year-old mother was subjected to an embarrassing airport security ordeal — though the TSA denies wrongdoing

The Transportation Security Administration came in for another round of bad publicity over the weekend, when a Florida woman, Jean Weber, complained that TSA agents forced her 95-year-old wheelchair-bound mother to remove her soiled adult diaper before passing through security. The TSA said its agents "did not require this passenger to remove an adult diaper," and never would, but Weber said that was her only option. The elderly cancer patient, Lena Reppert, was flying to Michigan to spend her final days, and says the ordeal was "a wee bit embarrassing." Was this incident as bad as it sounds?

This is so far over the line: The "cruelty and idiocy" of subjecting a dying 95-year-old to a diaper check is almost too much to believe, says Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic. So what if the TSA's "intelligence" tells them that terrorists might use wheelchair-bound grannies to blow up planes? There are "thoroughly non-invasive ways" to screen such potential Depends bombers. "This egregious example does indeed suggest that al Qaeda has won more than it might think."
"Thanks, bin Laden"

Well, the TSA is slowly improving: Let's get "a little perspective" here, says Rick Seaney at ABC News. Some 2 million people fly in the U.S. each day, and such "security outrages are few in the grand scheme of things." That's small comfort if it's your 6-year-old daughter or elderly mother getting the full treatment. But the TSA is making positive changes, bit by bit. And while carbon-fiber wheelchairs might have saved Reppert some embarrassment, who's going to pay for them?
"The year's worst security outrages: Time for a little commonsense?"

Let's rediscover our common sense: It's good that "the TSA is finally gaining some perspective," at least regarding the non-threat from children, says Austin Johansen in Death + Taxes. Now let's extend that "common sense" approach to the "decrepit elderly," and others who clearly don't pose a threat. The TSA should embrace "human profiling": Let the agents act on their "natural intuitions," and assume that checking "a frail woman’s soiled adult diaper" doesn't pass their smell test.
"TSA: No pat-downs for children, no mercy for elderly"

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