The nation may be in the throes of a (partial) government shutdown, but no one can accuse the TSA of changing its stripes. The government agency is performing in precisely the same hit-and-miss fashion that it has since its formation in 2001, under the Bush administration.
A story by CNN illustrates:
A flight to America’s adult playground, Las Vegas, had an unusual passenger last week: a 9-year-old boy traveling on his own, apparently without a ticket.
The boy went through security with all other passengers, the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement, but officials are still trying to figure out how he did it — and how he then got on the flight.
Delta, the carrier that allowed the child onto one of its aircraft unaccompanied and unaccounted for, has egg on its face as well. But Delta is a privately held company whose failures consumers can react to by choosing a different carrier. Not so the TSA.
Nor is this the first time the agency formed to catch terrorists has been left scratching its head over a conspicuous security breach. In June 2011, a Nigerian citizen traveling with no ID and a fake day-old boarding pass was waved through a TSA checkpoint at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. Then again, JFK has been a revolving door for kooks and potential crooks. In March 2011, an intruder sneaked onto a plane at the busy hub without detection by the TSA.
For each act of TSA inattention, there have been as many overreactions. One occurred in March of this year, when TSA agents in Phoenix became suspicious of a Marine who was wheelchair-bound because he had lost both legs in combat. Knowing a rat when they smelled one, the agents ordered the hero to rise up out of his wheelchair and walk.
A 3-year-old confined to a wheelchair was not asked to walk. Instead the child was subject to a patdown, which he found as terrifying as his parents found it unnecessary.
UPDATE: Wait, check that. The TSA screw-up in the case of the 9-year-old stowaway was because of the shutdown. CBS Minnesota reports (via PJ Tatler) that “a spokesperson with the Transportation Security Agency pointed out that staffing is currently low due to the number of employees furloughed in the wake of the federal government shutdown.”