Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Screening Hysterical Media

I've been AWOL from the post, so to speak, for about a month. Back on duty now.

Let's spend a little time, shall we, looking at the media and the T.S.A. -- particularly at nearly hysterical media accounts that portray the T.S.A. as a collection of ham-brained dopes.

Here and there, T.S.A. screeners do some dumb things, and some of them occasionally act like asshats, to use a term that really ought to be more easily employed in the common rhetoric these days. But by and large, it seems to me, the T.S.A. does a good job under tough circumstances, many of which (hello, Congress, where the asshats truly rein) are not of its own doing.

Specifically, have a look at the latest flap, the supposed humiliation of a disabled Marine who was supposedly ordered to remove his artificial legs by thuggish screeners. The Arizona Republic  (another gem in the tinplate Gannett crown) flogged this one for a while. The video link to a report on KPNX-TV (a station also owned by Gannett and operated in close affiliation with the newspaper, which shares its Web site)  shows one of those terribly earnest, wide-eyed TV anchor wonderwomen revealing that the fury over the alleged incident "is going all the way to Congress" (when, actually, it  was a congressional office that started the ball rolling on this non-story). The Phoenix newspaper still seems to be equivocating and crouching into that famed "well, there are two sides to every story" media defense in its online update today, even though it and the other media outlets who jumped on this hype have been informed that the story is false. (As Chico Marx once said, in a line later reiterated by Pryor: "Who you gonna believe, me or your lyin' eyes?")

From the wires: "...This time the agency faces allegations that it 'humiliated' a wounded 22-year-old Marine at a security checkpoint at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.The controversy took hold after witnesses traveling with Cpl. Toran Gaal – the wounded Marine – contacted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) to say TSA agents forced Gaal to remove his prosthetic legs and try to walk at the checkpoint."

From the Arizona Republic account, which is based on half-baked information from the office of a California Republican representative, Duncan Hunter: 
"Gaal was in a wheelchair carrying his military identification. Witnesses told Hunter's office the ordeal dragged on for at least 10 minutes.
"Gaal was directed to two screening stations, ordered to remove his prosthetic legs and at one point stand up for a second inspection. Other TSA agents sat and watched as he tried to stand painfully and as his wheelchair was checked for explosives, Hunter wrote Monday."
The Republic and other torch-carriers now at least are making note of the T.S.A.'s response to these charges, which is that they are not true. Says the newspaper: "Those accounts came from a man accompanying five San Diego-area Marines to a spring-training game as part of a volunteer effort to help wounded veterans with their recovery, Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper said."

Rep. Duncan is himself a former Marine who perhaps ought to be keeping closer inspection on the stuff his office puts out.  

Actually, here's the T.S.A.'s account by its blogger, Bob Burns, which is even more notable because it states that the two screeners in question are themselves military veterans:

"There have been many reports about a U.S. Marine Wounded Warrior who was recently screened at Phoenix (PHX). Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misreporting. 

After reviewing TSA video (CCTV), interviewing and receiving written statements from all officers involved, we found that the soldier was not asked and did not remove his prosthetic legs. The screening was done by the book and lasted a total of 8 minutes from beginning to end.  By chance, the screening was conducted by two TSA Officers who were prior military. One was in the U.S. Air Force for 18 years, and the other was in the U.S. Marine Corps for 13 years.

Nevertheless, we strive to ensure that all veterans and individuals with medical concerns are treated with dignity and respect. 25 percent of TSA employees are prior military. Some are even still serving in the reserves and guard. I’m a veteran as well. We have the greatest respect for our men and women serving in the military and strive to screen them with the dignity they deserve. 

Through our Wounded Warrior Screening program, we strive to make the overall experience for 
wounded service members as simple and trouble-free as possible. In the coming days, we will expand the Wounded Warriors Screening program to offer TSA Pre✓™, or expedited screening, to this group of veterans.

TSA Officers at Phoenix (PHX) alone have screened and assisted 164 Wounded Warriors over the past year. We value the continued commitment of our veterans and active duty military employees to TSA’s mission, and to ensuring the safety of all Americans.  See some of TSA’s proud servicemen and women here."

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