Thursday, March 27, 2008

Seriously...is this a terrorist weapon?

Every time that I think that TSA can't possibly get any dumber, its employees top themselves. Case in point, Woman told to remove nipple rings for SoCal flight:
A TSA agent told a woman she would have to remove her nipple rings if she wanted to pass the security checkpoint. The woman has retained Gloria Allred as her attorney.
A woman was forced by the Transportation Security Administration to remove her nipple rings before she was allowed to board a flight, an attorney said on Thursday.
"The woman was given a pair of pliers in order to remove the rings in her nipples," said Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred. "The rings had been in her nipples for many years."
Link
Tip o' the hat to Madman in the Marketplace over at Marisacat's place. His comment of course is priceless:
I feel sorry for someone wearing a Prince Albert.
Indeed. By the way, the image above will give you an idea of what nipple rings would look like, on the off chance that you hadn't seen any before. Nipple rings look like a real threat, eh? Do you feel safer knowing that TSA agents would require passengers to remove nipple rings prior to boarding your next flight? I have never had any kind words for the US approach to airport "security" and consider TSA to be at best a very bad joke. Its only real purpose is to make the government look like it's "doing something" when in reality it only serves to keep up a climate of paranoia in order to presumably keep the "great unwashed masses" submissive. Reminds me of an essay by Bruce Schneier on the war on the unexpected:
We've opened up a new front on the war on terror. It's an attack on the unique, the unorthodox, the unexpected; it's a war on different. If you act different, you might find yourself investigated, questioned, and even arrested -- even if you did nothing wrong, and had no intention of doing anything wrong. The problem is a combination of citizen informants and a CYA attitude among police that results in a knee-jerk escalation of reported threats.

This isn't the way counterterrorism is supposed to work, but it's happening everywhere. It's a result of our relentless campaign to convince ordinary citizens that they're the front line of terrorism defense. "If you see something, say something" is how the ads read in the New York City subways. "If you suspect something, report it" urges another ad campaign in Manchester, UK. The Michigan State Police have a seven-minute video. Administration officials from then-attorney general John Ashcroft to DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to President Bush have asked us all to report any suspicious activity.
[snip]
Watch how it happens. Someone sees something, so he says something. The person he says it to -- a policeman, a security guard, a flight attendant -- now faces a choice: ignore or escalate. Even though he may believe that it's a false alarm, it's not in his best interests to dismiss the threat. If he's wrong, it'll cost him his career. But if he escalates, he'll be praised for "doing his job" and the cost will be borne by others. So he escalates. And the person he escalates to also escalates, in a series of CYA decisions. And before we're done, innocent people have been arrested, airports have been evacuated, and hundreds of police hours have been wasted.
The war on the unexpected has been going on for a while, of course, but has certainly escalated a good deal over the last few years. The latest front on that war, as it turns out, apparently is body piercing. Land of the free, my ass.

Update: More if you want to read Ms. Hamlin's side of the story:
Mandi Hamlin, 37, is demanding a civil rights investigation, as well as an apology from federal security agents after being forced to remove a nipple ring before boarding a flight from Lubbock to Dallas in Texas.
During a press conference today, Ms Hamlin said she was scanned by a female Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent using a handheld detector that beeped when it passed in front of her chest.
Ms Hamlin told the agent she had nipple piercings. The female agent then called over her male colleagues, one of whom said she would have to remove the body piercings.
Ms Hamlin said she asked if she could display her pierced breasts in private to the female agent but several other male officers told her she could not board her flight until the jewellery was removed.
Curtain call
She was taken behind a curtain and managed to remove one bar-shaped nipple piercing but had trouble with the second, a ring.
“Still crying, she informed the TSA officer that she could not remove it without the help of pliers, and the officer gave a pair to her,” Ms Hamlin's lawyer, Gloria Allred, told the director of the TSA's Office of Civil Rights and Liberties.
Ms Allred, who also represents Paul McCartney's ex-wife Heather Mills, used a nipple ring on a mannequin at the press conference to show what happened.
“After nipple rings are inserted, the skin can often heal around the piercing, and the rings can be extremely difficult and painful to remove,” said Ms Allred.
Ms Hamlin said she heard the male security agents snickering as she took out the ring, before being scanned again and eventually allowed on the plane.
Ms Allred said Ms Hamlin had filed a complaint to the TSA's customer service manager at Lubbock airport, who said the screening was handled properly.
What the woman had in her nipples
The lawyer said Ms Hamlin was “publicly humiliated and has undergone an enormous amount of physical pain to have the nipple rings reinserted' because of scar tissue”.
“The conduct of TSA was cruel and unnecessary,” said Ms Allred. “The last time that I checked a nipple was not a dangerous weapon.”
[snip]
“I wouldn't wish this experience upon anyone,” said Ms Hamlin.
“My experience with TSA was a nightmare I had to endure. No one deserves to be treated this way.”
Ms Allred said the incident followed a similar claim by reality TV star Nicole Richie, who said she had her breasts inspected by security at an airport because of her nipple rings.
As I said, this goes beyond ridiculous.

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