Our ex-president was frisked while boarding a plane for the US. By way of explanation, the airline, Continental, said, “TSA (Transportation Security Administration of US Department of Homeland Security) requirements impose a final security check in the aero-bridge just before boarding the aircraft. This procedure is followed by all carriers flying to the US from most of the countries in the world and there is no exemption to this rule.”
That coloured phrase (‘most’ but not ‘all’) gives all away. Entire (white) countries can be exempted, but not India’s ex-president.
PS: The TSA put out a press release saying, “On 21 April 2009, former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was traveling aboard Continental Airlines flight 083 from Delhi to Newark. Dr. Kalam was required to undergo pre-board screening in accordance with the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) regulatory requirements immediately prior to boarding the aircraft. TSA requires that all passengers and their accessible property are screened for any items listed on the prohibited items list.
There are reports that the government of India has an official list of VIP’s and their spouses that are exempt from pre-board screening procedures. However, such a list does not mirror U.S. requirements for passengers that are exempted from pre-board screening when traveling aboard U.S. commercial aircraft. While traveling from an international location to the U.S. on an U.S. commercial aircraft, former Heads of State, and other VIPs, are screened according to the same screening procedures as for any other passenger. If requested, private screening can be provided.
TSA has reviewed the circumstances of Dr. Kalam’s travel and confirms that Continental Airlines implemented security measures in compliance with TSA regulations. TSA regrets any inconvenience that Dr. Kalam may have experienced as a result of our standard security requirements. TSA works closely with our international counterparts and our stakeholder air carriers to ensure a safe and secure transportation network.”
On reading this, I wrote to TSA asking exactly which regulations required Dr Kalam’s frisking. I strongly suspect they have recommendations but no regulations at all.
Here’s what they wrote back: “Thank you for your email message.
Because this is beyond TSA jurisdiction we encourage you to contact your airline to obtain information regarding policies on this matter.
Please visit our website at www.tsa.gov for additional information about TSA. We continue to add new information and encourage you to check the website frequently for updated information.
TSA Contact Center” (Emphasis mine)
Aren’t I glad these guys aren’t protecting me!