Two disturbing incidents involving Delta Airlines converge today on this blog.
Story One: Delta sponsors additional, needless security checks just because they can.
My family and I traveled to Ghana last June to meet a boy we were working to adopt. The only reason I haven’t told this story until now is that we wanted our adoption, and his citizenship, to be complete before rocking the boat in Ghana, especially with their airport. Now that he is home and officially ours, I feel more free to speak out about this incident.
First, a description of the first layer of security at Accra. After our visit with our son-to-be, we went to the airport for our flight home. Keep in mind that Accra airport security is much better than anything you’ll see here in the United States because it was a launching point for the Underwear Bomber‘s failed attempt to bring down an airplane over Detroit. We had been in Ghana just prior to that attempt and so we have perspective on what security used to be compared to what it is now. It is markedly different and much more secure.
At several checkpoints as you enter the airport, get your boarding passes, check your luggage, etc., there are security guards who actually look you in the eye, and several ask to see your passport, then interrogate you on your travel intentions. You could tell they were profiling. They were actively looking for tell-tale body language that would out someone as not being completely honest about where they were going, what they were carrying, and their return plans.
Next you go through the usual metal detector routine. In my case, one of my bags (my work backpack) had a metal dining fork in one of the pockets from a week prior when I had forgotten to take it out at home after eating lunch at my desk that day. Now, I’m in Accra going to the U.S. so it is now obvious to all that U.S. security completely missed the fork and let me sail on through security with it. Only in Accra…a 3rd world country…did security detect this potentially dangerous object.
And its discovery was not pretty. Two or three other guards converged on the bag and began to interrogate me as to why I had this potentially dangerous object in my bag. I finally convinced them it was an honest mistake and told them to keep it.
This time, the pat-down was even more invasive than the first. They didn’t use the metal detector wands on us at all. Just went straight for the pat-down. They did things to me, my wife, and my kids that, if a stranger outside of a security context had tried, I would have sent him to his Maker for doing.Finally through security, invasive pat-downs and all, we walked through the corridors past various shops to our waiting area for our flight. The waiting area is a sealed off, 3/4 glass room with Delta logos on the fourth and only solid wall inside. At the entrance was another checkpoint complete with metal detectors, guards holding metal detecting wands, and another pat-down. I commented to my wife, “What could they possibly be securing at this point? There were no other entrances that I could see that would compromise security in the last 40 meters. Why do they need to check us twice?”
The rest was a blur. We took our seats, embarrassed and nervous for what we’d gone through again–at a second security checkpoint and wondering if we were in for a third nasty experience. Out of indignation, I grabbed my handheld video camera and made the following video, which pretty much speaks for itself.
(Note: I use very strong words to describe how we felt about this experience. There is no small amount of debate on whether invasive, extreme pat-downs and rape can be equated to each other. What I do know is that, to my wife, my kids, and me, it felt like a violation, which word is often used to describe rape. I’m not here to debate semantics, just to describe how it affected us personally.)
Unfortunately, I was not able to capture video of my second confrontation with a different agent. As I found out from this second agent, who was a security consultant, privately hired by Delta to manage this checkpoint, my initial understanding of how things worked in the Accra airport was mistaken. I had assumed that the two checkpoints were purely Ghana and TSA operated. As explained to me by the second agent, though, all of the second checkpoint was 100% Delta sponsored and mandated, using TSA guidelines as their approach to security, but that they were not under obligation by the TSA or by Accra airport to provide it. His claim was that Delta was simply ensuring the safety of their passengers in an airport they didn’t consider safe.
Story Two: Anti-Pornography advocate on a Delta flight gets an eyeful of passenger’s violent kiddie-porn. Crew does nothing.
Are you, dear reader, okay with either of these situations?
- TSA expands pre-check programme (economist.com)
- Delta and American airlines (kendoris.wordpress.com)
- Airport security gets simpler _ for a select few (sfgate.com)