Security Theater At Its Most Farcical: 9-Year-Old Boy Taken Down By 18 TSA Agents–Due To His Pacemaker
The great thing about theater as opposed to movies is that you can watch other people just like you, only a few feet away, living out fictional scenes of fictional lives. There’s something visceral and alive and on edge about these actors performing these roles without the safety net and distance of cameras and multiple takes and editing and airbrushing to cover their flaws. You can lose yourself for a couple of hours yet never feel more alive and in touch with your fellow humans and their experiences.
But the thing about real theater is that it ends at some point. You walk out of the building into the bright sun and the moment is gone forever.
Not so with security theater.
That’s the term many have used to describe the actions of the Transportation Security Administration, or TSA. That’s because those goons in the blue shirts who populate U.S. airports are doing little more than delivering a performance, a show put on to assure fearful travelers and politicians who have been browbeaten with a relentless drumbeat of near-panic from wildly overblown threats into a state of terrified catatonia.
The act of taking off shoes and submitting to prison-like body scans and pat-downs is meant to reassure us that everything is fine–this despite the TSA’s epic failures as an agency, from the employee theft rings lifting travelers’ laptops and iPads and jewelry, to their failure to stop all manner of guns, knives and other weapons from slipping past their eagle-eyed troopers in tests every year.
And now this proud taxpayer-funded agency can add another notch to its belt: it took 18 agents to deal with the “threat” of a 9-year-old boy with a pacemaker.
The boy, Chille Bergstrom, had been screened many times before. Instead of going through a metal detector–which can interfere with his pacemaker–he is sent to a pat-down line where his hands are swabbed for explosives and then he is sent on his way.
Because he’s a little boy with a pacemaker, not a bomb-making terrorist. Duh.
But this time, passing through the Phoenix airport, his mother, Ali Bergstrom says that the rules were suddenly changed, and that Chille would require a special exemption. She was told that every other screening that Chille had preciously been through had been incorrectly done.
The agents refused to allow any alternative screening for the boy, and despite a TSA manager being called in, the Bergstroms were told that Chille would not be able to fly.
Witnesses say she and her son were pulled aside and surrounded by a crowd of agents, whose ranks swelled to nearly 20 at one point, and who seemed to by trying to screen the rest of the security line from the little drama they had created. Chille, understandably was near tears and the agents refused to listen to his mother despite her presenting all the proper documentation on the kid’s condition.
The TSA agents eventually told her that the reason for the stop was that another child with a pacemaker had recently attempted to bring an explosive device on board a plane–unverifiable, naturally, due to security.
Finally, after an hour of this, Bergstrom was told that Chille would have to be patted down and have his hands swabbed.
“I have been asking for this the whole time!” she said.
Eventually they were let through–along with god knows how many threats that were missed due to having 18 agents distracted by the non-threat of a little boy with a heart condition–but they missed their flight due to the delay. They were put on another plane 14 hours later.
Needless to say, Bergstrom has filed a complaint with the TSA.
Chille Bergstrom used to love to watch the planes take off and land at airports, and he once dreamed of being a pilot. One has to assume he’s since soured on that a bit.
It is strongly suggested that we not hold our breath waiting for an apology from the TSA.