What’s wrong with/In this story?

A 95 year old woman had to remove her adult diaper during TSA pat down. 

Given that the decision to demand that a 95 year-old mortally ill woman remove her diaper before she can pass security check looks like a really bad decision, where does the fault reside?  E.g., in the fact that  there wasn’t any presumption about what is reasonable?  Or maybe the fault lay in the assumption that a lump in a depends diaper is suspicious?  Or perhaps TSA agents need a course in critical reasoning?  Or all of the above and more?

What do you think?

12 thoughts on “What’s wrong with/In this story?

  1. The mistake is believing that terrorists represent a serious threat to American aircraft. They do not and have not for years.

  2. Carl, based on what exactly? It’s only been 18 months since an al-Qaeda agent was arrested trying to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear on an American commercial airliner. He set himself and an interior wall of the plane on fire in the botched attempt.

  3. Given the incredibly massive number of attempted attacks (sarcasm), successful or otherwise, on aircraft in the past ten years, I suppose one can see why someone would be justifiedly terrified (more sarcasm). I mean, there are only a mere 30,000 commercial flights every day. Someone tried to set his pants on fire on a flight 1.5 years ago. This obviously demonstrates a very serious threat to Nemo’s safety. (I hope Nemo doesn’t drive, since that would obviously pose a much greater thereat to his safety.) Clearly the threat is so serious that it justifies the government in removing Grandma’s panties.

    Ok, seriously? Give me a break, Nemo. 16.2 million commercial flights ago, a terrorist tried (and failed) to take a plane down. This constitutes a serious threat only in the minds of the insane, the ignorant or the statistically challenged.

  4. Unfortunately you remained anonymous, but I would agree with you general statement that it doesn’t represent a serious threat. Psychologically it is easy to understand why this represents something greater than a car accident to most Americans, since it is a deliberate attack based specifically on American Citizenship/Identity alone. I think taking this threat seriously might be a good thing, if it were possible to redirect it into making policy decisions that represented how most Americans would treat their close neighbor…..unfortunately we suffer from to much of the human flaws we were endowed with, and if we don;t have personal contact, then most Americans don’t even consider the rest of the world……. Americans do seem to like to throw money at problems though …. just not time and consideration…..

  5. By that dubious reasoning, Anonymous, it would be hard to characterise terrorism as ever having been a serious threat to American aircraft, or indeed to Americans, the statistical incidence being low at all times, particularly relative to things like traffic fatalities. I guess it comes down to what kinds of threats one thinks should be taken seriously. What are the intended policy implications of your assertion that terrorism doesn’t represent a serious threat to aircraft, anyway? It’s hard to tell, particularly since your statistical argument doesn’t aid in distinguishing between a threat that isn’t serious to begin with and, say, a serious threat that is being substantially neutralised by the presence of security countermeasures and so forth.

    By the way, lest you pose a serious threat to any more straw men, I should point out that I didn’t suggest that the authorities were justified in removing Grandma’s undergarments.

  6. In favor of taking airline/plane regulation and security seriously, we should remember that bad people can do all sorts of things with airplanes that they cannot do with cars (and many other objects we encounter in life). Without reading up on it, I suppose the greatest threats regarding the transportation of security threats involves shipping. Still, remember that bad people even can coerce certain good people into transporting all sorts of security threats through airplane travel. Nonetheless, I suspect that more efficient screening procedures would involve more effective intelligence tracking of bad people (here roughly defined as people who the security officers/professionals have substantial kinds of non-circumstantial evidence about) and stopping them before they get as far after purchasing a ticket and into an airport as your local TSA line worker.

    Very unfortunately, I believe similar things have come up here more than once before. For instance, interested readers might want to check out:

    Just Bleed All Over The Airport – It’s Safer
    https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2010/11/26/just-bleed-all-over-the-airport-its-safer/

  7. Even if one believes we (as in ‘citizens of the United States and the U.S. government’) should take airplane terrorism as a top national security issue, one would be hard-pressed to find any evidence that any of our airline security measures are much more than a dog and pony show.

    Why does the person at the security gate sign your boarding pass? If you lose it, you can just print another one without a signature. Dog and pony show.

  8. I drop in to leave my usual reminder that sarcasm epically fails in online communication. If you have a good point, then you can make it without sarcasm.

  9. And of course now the TSA, in typical government reaction, is claiming that it never happened…

  10. J, I had to check their denial out. It reminded me of a philosophy discussion I had recently. If someone is given the alternatives P and Q, and Q is seriously unacceptable, then are they being forced to do P? Apparently, the TSA gave the woman the alternatives: we inspect the diaper or you don’t fly.

    I would myself call that a threat, and a very serious one.

  11. jj: and I would agree with you. And meanwhile, all kinds of other stuff goes into the cargo hold with little or no examination. It is all for public show. Gotta look like they’re *doing* something. But they seriously need to think more about “public relations”, to say nothing of good old American freedoms and human rights and all those similar goo
    d things that these days don’t seem to amount to a hill of beans…snarl

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