It is entirely conceivable in this age of remarkable disguises that a bloodthirsty terrorist intent on sneaking through airport security might assume the identity of a 12-year-old with a debilitating bone disease. But why would so clever a thief be clumsy enough to leave traces of explosives on his hands?
That is the question that officers of the Transportation Security Administration are hard-pressed to answer when asked about their detention of wheelchair-bound Shelbi Walser for the better part of an hour at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport last Sunday.
The Daily News reports that Walser, who suffers from a genetic bone disorder called Brittle Bone Disease, was on her way to Tampa with her mother to receive treatment. She was randomly selected for a security screening, and when officers swabbed her hands, they found traces of explosives.
According to the girl’s mother, Tammy Daniels, the ordeal left her in tears. Luckily, mom and daughter still made their flight, but Daniels was critical of the procedure, telling TV station WFAA:
I am by no means undermining our safety in the air. After 9/11, by no means am I doing that. But, when it comes to children, common sense is not in a textbook.
But common sense might have led authorities to ask questions that would have explained the anomaly, such as do you ever have occasion to handle fertilizer (“Yes, we raise chickens”).
In a statement, the TSA acknowledged the incident but defended its actions, writing:
We are sensitive to the concerns of passengers who were not satisfied with their screening experience and we invite those individuals to provide feedback to TSA through a variety of channels.
We work to balance those concerns with the very real threat that our adversaries will attempt to use explosives to carry out attacks on planes.
That’s all well and good, but what ever happened to the TSA’s policy exempting children 12 and under from pat-downs?