Indian Embassy describes incident as “unacceptable”
Thursday, Dec 9th, 2010
The Indian embassy in Washington is to issue a formal complaint to the US State Department following the treatment of a leading Indian Diplomat at the hands of the TSA.
Indian Ambassador to the United States, Meera Shankar (pictured above with the president) was pulled out of a security line at Jackson-Evers International Airport in Mississippi, taken into what has become known as a TSA “glass cage”, and forced to undergo an enhanced pat-down in full public view.
It is believed that the TSA operatives flagged Ms. Shankar not because she set of the metal detector, but because she was wearing a sari, a long traditional Indian robe.
Despite making it known that she was an international diplomat and asking for the search to be conducted in private, the TSA led her into a glass box where not one but two agents proceeded to conduct what has been described by thousands of travelers as nothing less than groping akin to foreplay or sexual molestation.
The Ambassador was about to board a flight to Baltimore after attending an event at Mississippi State University.
“She is a very strong woman, but you could see in her face that she was humiliated,” Tan Tsai, a research associate at MSU’s International Security Studies center who witnessed the screening, told The Clarion-Ledger. “The Indian culture is very modest.”
“The way they pat them down, it was so humiliating,” Tsai added, “Anybody who passed by could see it.”
Janos Radvanyi, Chair of the MSU’s International Studies Department was quoted as saying, “She said, ‘I will never come back here.’ We are sending her a letter of apology,”
Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna has described the incident as “unacceptable”.
“Let me be frank, this is unacceptable to India. We are going to take it up with the government of US that such unpleasant incidents do not recur,” Krishna told reporters outside parliament. He said that there were “certain well-established conventions, well-established practices as to how members of diplomatic corps are treated in a given country”.
“I am rather surprised by the way the Indian ambassador to the US has been treated. This has happened for a second time in three months,” he said.
A TSA spokesman told the Clarion-Ledger in an e-mail that “this passenger was screened in accordance with TSA security procedures.”, adding that foreign dignitaries are not exempted.
The office of Mississippi governor Haley Barbour said that they were looking into the incident.
The state Lieutenant Governor, Phil Bryant, who had met with Shankar during her visit to the state, said in an e-mail to Clarion-Ledger “Although I understand we need proper security measures to protect the passengers in US airports, I regret the outrageous way Indian Ambassador Shankar was treated by the TSA while visiting Jackson.”
This is the latest in a string of incidents that has led to mass backlash against the TSA’s enhanced screening measures.
Last week we reported on another TSA incident involving the “glass cage”.
At Phoenix airport, a young mother was subjected to enhanced groping and then shut inside the clear screening box for almost an hour by agents after she refused to allow them to put her breast milk through an X-ray device, a legitimate request that is even written into the TSA’s own guidelines.
The clear box, which has been built into some security lines at airports, is obviously intended to serve as a holding area where TSA agents can conduct searches in full public view.
As previously noted by many travelers who have complained to the ACLU, as well as New York Times journalist Joe Sharkey, this policy is purposefully designed to humiliate and ward off anyone else who may be thinking about refusing to go through full body scanners.
No one should or need be subjected to being treated like cattle as part of an effective security procedure, no matter whether they are dignitaries or members of the public. What the TSA is engaged in is blatant security theatre. Clearly groping elderly women, disabled toddlers and 8 month old twin babies has nothing to do with keeping people safe.
The TSA has already changed it’s procedure for pilots and flight attendants, and conceded that the overall policy is under review. During the recent “opt out” protests, the TSA was forced to mothball the majority of it’s x-ray body scanners and tone down the pat-downs so as to avoid a huge PR embarrassment.
As more and more incidents such as the ones described above occur, as the complaints continue to flood in, and as Americans boycott airports altogether, it can only be a matter of time before the pressure on the TSA results in a significant breakthrough and the government imposition of tyranny within airports is halted before it is fully exported to rail stations and sports stadiums across the nation.