Wednesday, November 17, 2010

STOP FLYING! -- TSA Strips Americans of Freedom, Shatters American Dignity and Pride

In addition to social conversations, Facebook features ads. What a surprise, right? They actually want to make money?

Well, one of the ads they are featuring today is the following:

Public Safety Masters

This online Masters is for professionals in the field of law enforcement, emergency medical services, fire services & disaster response.

Now, I don't know, I'm no genius, but I have managed to stay alive through three battlefields, 27 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, 17 years with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers where I went to Iraq for a year as a federal civilian (no weapons allowed), and even survived 10 years as an ordained Christian Pastor.

So, with that meager background, it occurs to me that maybe our Homeland Security people -- through the Transportation Security Administration, TSA -- might want to either hire some bona fide security experts, or send some of their people to this class at Lewis University. Surely at Lewis they are not teaching that before you board an aircraft with Americans presumed to be innocent you should grope their screaming children, handle their "package" between their legs, their breasts, and be sure to hand-check those nuns and 80-year-old anxiety-ridden grandmothers. Or that you need to put them through waves of radiation, but without the protection as they do for clinical x-rays or dental x-rays, so that all their private parts show up on a publicly-viewed screen.

Surely we can do better than that. This is the land of invention and innovation that teaches the rest of the world to sing, to organize, and produce bigger and better. Surely we can do better than that.

But that sense of bewilderment at our morphing stupidity that passes for protecting ourselves is not the real reason I write about this.

The real reason is because of what happened to three United States Marines, in their dress blue uniforms, carrying a ceremonially folded U.S. flag, as they escorted home a brother Marine encased in a casket. The tragic comedy of their treatment reflects on all of us.

There are certain preparations made and adhered to by the U.S. airlines to ensure these deceased American heroes are afforded every courtesy, and every protection, on their way home. And wherever possible, they do as much for those brothers-in-arms escorting home someone's husband, someone's brother, someone's son.

But this incident happened before these three Marines were ever allowed to board the aircraft and, indeed, there was great question whether or not they would even be able to make the flight carrying their fellow Marine.

Here's the news story version of these Marines being strip-searched:

Escorting Marine Strip Searched

By Gidget Fuentes Marine Corps Times staff writer

It wasn't the city of "brotherly love" for a trio of Marine noncommissioned officers escorting the body of a fallen Marine through the Philadelphia airport.

Each decked in their blue dress uniforms, the three enlisted Marines made their way through a security checkpoint at the Philadelphia International Airport about noon on May 3 when they were pulled aside by security workers with the federal Transportation Safety Administration.

The Marines -- a sergeant and two corporals -- were escorting the body of Sgt. Lea R. Mills from Dover Air Force Base, Del., to his family in Gulfport, Miss. Mills, who was married and lived in Oceanside with his wife, was killed in Iraq on April 28 by a roadside bomb. He was one of three Leathernecks killed that day in Iraq's Anbar province.

They were brothers-in-arms. Like Mills, the Marine escorts are members of the Camp Pendleton-based 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion.

The trio had to go through the terminal's security in order to reach their flight that would take them to Houston and make sure that Mills' body was properly placed on the airplane. While their uniforms likely would trigger the metal detector, they had figured they would be able to zip through the screening process and get on with their business.

"Wearing the blues, the metal detector is going to go off," said Sgt. John Stock, a mechanic, who was accompanied by Cpls. Aaron Bigalk and Jason Schadeburg.

But as the Marines went through the initial screener in their dress blues, they were stopped by several TSA agents. Each was told to remove their dress uniform blouse, belt and black dress shoes, which were scanned by the detector, as the agents scanned them with hand-held detecting wands.

"They had me take off my shoes and ran them through the screening," Stock said, speaking by phone May 5 from Gulfport, where the men are helping with Mills' family and funeral support. "We all got searched."

Then they were taken to a nearby room, where TSA workers patted them down.

At one point, Stock's shoes disappeared, leaving him to frantically search for them and retrieve them from a TSA agent. Separated from their belongings, which included the flag that they bore that would drape Mills' casket for the rest of the journey home, they worried about getting to the gate in time to ensure his safe placement in the airplane.

Time, it seemed like a half-hour, clicked by. "I was like, hey, we need to be on the tarmac," Stock recalled. "It just took longer than it should have had to take."

The agents said nothing to explain why all three were singled out for additional search and the Marines didn't protest. "We were just trying to get there as quick as we could," he added.

In all, it was a humiliating experience that left them angry.

"They could probably tell that I was pissed off," said Stock, who noted that he's never encountered that kind of search when going through airport security in uniform.

"I understand if I was in civilian clothes. But with what we were wearing and what we were doing. ," he said, noting that "we had the flag with us."

A call into TSA's public affairs office in the D.C. area was not returned as of press time.

Now, you don't have to have been an active duty U.S. Marine, as I was, to be disturbed regarding how badly this was handled, and to be concerned that TSA promotes a "siege" mentality where none of us are safe, all of us are suspect, our individual rights are violated as a matter of routine, and we are completely stripped of our dignity as human beings and as members of the most advanced, the greatest nation in the world today. We can do better. And until we do, Americans should not trade their rights and dignity for an airplane flight.

No comments: