A few days ago I linked to a story of Kadra Abdi, a young Somali-American woman who was profiled and harassed by immigration authorities on her return from a trip to Sweden. Now comes along an even worse story of TSA harassment on a domestic trip of Aditya Mukerjee, a young man of Indian origin. Mukerjee gives detailed account of his ordeal.
To add insult to injury, after he was finally cleared for traveling by the NYPD and the TSA, his airline JetBlue refused to let him fly that day on their airline, requiring him to buy another ticket on another airline. Then when he returned to his apartment a few days later, he found evidence that someone had entered it in his absence and been searching through his things.
What really bugs me about these stories is the smug arrogance of the people doing the harassing at airports. They clearly think they are untouchable whatever they do, so they feel they can subject their victims to petty harassments without any fear of repercussions. And they are probably right. I rarely hear of them being reprimanded for their high-handed behavior. They don’t assault or torture people (not yet anyway) but they make their victims suffer all manner of rudeness and indignities.
The well known aphorism ‘power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ should have a variant that goes ‘power corrupts and petty power corrupts in petty ways.”
To be fair, I have to say that I have never been singled out for bad treatment by the TSA and have experienced just the same absurd security theater as others. But it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that just because you personally are not abused, that people who are treated badly somehow deserved it. My better treatment may be because I mostly travel out of Cleveland airport, where mid-western friendliness and politeness still rule to some extent. Furthermore, I am an older guy with a visible disability whose ethnicity cannot be gauged easily by sight or by name (at various times in my life I have been mistaken for Indian, Italian, Egyptian, Israeli, Iranian, and South American) and so not easy to profile.