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Saturday, July 2, 2011

TSA vs. My Two-Year Old Girl

Daughter (2)

This blog post merely recounts one more encounter with the Transportation Security Administration. Like so many other reports, it is merely an anecdote, rather than statistical proof of the thuggish ways of that agency. Yet, it strikes me as at least as cruel as several other incidents that recently have gained national attention, so it might be worth posting and reading.

Last Christmas, my two-year old daughter went for a holiday visit to family in Australia, accompanied by her mother, grandfather, and brother. Her flight departed from Dulles, near Washington, DC, and so of course she had to pass through airport security.

At the time, she was barely two years old. In fact, because she was born four month prematurely, less than two years had passed since her due date. Only thanks to the heroic, high-tech efforts of the doctors and nurses at one of the best Neonatal Intensive Care Units in the country and perhaps the world was her life saved. Even so, she did not leave the NICU after four months entirely without scars. She is extremely near-sighted and a little cross-eyed. She also suffers from a relatively mild case of cerebral palsy and only recently, after the events recounted here, learned to walk unassisted, if unsteadily.

Yet, despite her handicaps and perhaps in part because of them, she is an extremely sweet girl, almost pathetically eager to please any big person, always ready with a toothy smile for everybody and prone to fits of giggles and screams of laughter when played with. In so far as that matters, she is also a U.S. citizen by birth, like her family, by obvious if unobtrusive signs a Catholic, and—please forgive a father for saying so—exceptionally beautiful.

In short, if there was an Olympic event in Obviously Least Likely to Be a Threat to Homeland Security (or Anything Else), I'd wager she'd be a favorite for a medal.

But under the strict non-profiling policy—criticized and superior alternatives proposed here and here— obviously none of that matters to the TSA.

My little girl was singled out for special scrutiny: She was dragged away from her mother and grandfather. They were threatened by the TSA if they came near her or tried to comfort her. As multiple large TSA men started shouting incomprehensible orders and touching her, her smile turned first to fear then tears. Eventually she was reduced to a terrified little blob of sobbing and crying.

It was just another routine incident of needless TSA cruelty against a little girl. It seems likely that no permanent harm was done. It seems undeniable that this sort of thing should not and need not happen.