Clinton Promises ‘Review’ of Procedures After TSA Pat-down of Indian Envoy Causes Stir
(Editor’s note: Adds statement from TSA spokesman)
(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the administration would be “reviewing the policies” after an airport pat-down of India’s ambassador to the U.S. brought a rebuke from New Delhi.
Reports that Ambassador Meera Shankar was subjected to a full-body search while awaiting a flight at Mississippi’s Jackson-Evers International Airport last weekend caused a stir in India, and it adds to the controversy swirling around airline screening procedures introduced in the U.S. last month, including full-body scans and intrusive pat-downs.
Some Indian media outlets said the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) decision to single out Shankar for closer attention may have something to do with her trademark attire, a traditional Indian sari.
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna called for an apology, telling reporters at parliament in New Delhi Thursday that the incident was “unacceptable to India.”
“We are going to take it up with the government of U.S. that such unpleasant incidents do not recur,” he said, noting that there were “certain well-established conventions, well-established practices, as to how members of the diplomatic corps are treated in a given country.”
“We obviously are concerned about it,” Clinton told reporters in Washington.
Although the matter had not been raised when she met with Shankar on Tuesday, she said, “certainly we will be looking into it and not only responding to the Indian foreign minister but also reviewing the policies.”
Pressed about the incident during a regular press briefing earlier in the day, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said it was the TSA’s responsibility “to assess each passenger and then work each passenger through security based on what they see.”
“The fact that you’re a diplomat does not necessarily mean that you are not subject to basic screening as is any other passenger on any particular flight,” he said.
Crowley referred further queries to the TSA.
TSA spokesman Jonathan Allen provided CNSNews with a statement saying that after a review of the incident “we determined that the TSA officers followed proper procedure.”
“In 2007, TSA adjusted its security procedures to include provisions for ‘bulky’ clothing,” it said. “Removal of bulky clothing is recommended but the rules accommodate those with religious, medical, or other reasons for which the passenger wishes not to remove the item.”
“Transportation Security Officers have several options for screening passengers who choose not to remove bulky clothing. If the officer cannot reasonably determine that the clothing is free of a threat item, individuals will be referred for additional screening,” the statement continued. “Officers must use their professional discretion to determine if a particular item of clothing could hide a threat object.”
News reports on the incident received prominent coverage in Indian media, with headlines saying the envoy had been humiliated and describing the External Affairs Minister as “livid.”
Some outlets thought Krishna had overreacted in demanding an apology, however.
“Does a simple case of over-vigilant airport security warrant such emotion from India’s foreign minister?” the Indian Express, a national daily, asked in an editorial Friday.
“Why are we so insistent on two cultures for VIPs and others, where a lucky few float through the processes that hold up ordinary citizens? There are certain exemptions that the diplomatic corps enjoy, but if those conventions are occasionally bypassed, that’s not a grievous injury to India’s self-worth.”