India diplomat gets ‘humiliating’ pat-down at Mississippi airport
By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY
The “humiliating” TSA pat-down of a female India diplomat is generating headlines today in Mississippi. That’s where The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson reports that India’s ambassador to the United States was subjected to the agency’s new enhanced pat-down as she went through security at Jackson-Evers International Airport last weekend.
The Clarion-Ledger writes Ambassador Meera Shankar was in Jackson last weekend as a guest of Mississippi State University.
“While in town, Shankar met with Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, representatives from the Mississippi Development Authority and members of the Indian community in Jackson, and she spoke to more than 100 people at the Executive Lecture Forum of Jackson,” the paper writes.
Shankar apparently was selected for enhanced screening, even though she did not set of the airport’s metal detectors. Witnesses tell the Clarion-Ledger security agents told Shankar she was singled out because she was wearing a sari, which the paper notes is as “a traditional Indian robe that is draped across the body.”
The Jackson airport does not yet have full-body screeners, which meant that the ambassador became subject to the thorough pat-down.
The Clarion-Ledger writes “witnesses said Shankar asked for a private screening, but she was led to a clear box where two officers searched her in clear view.”
“She is a very strong woman, but you could see in her face that she was humiliated,” Tan Tsai, a research associate at MSU’s International Security Studies center who witnessed the screening, tells the paper. “The Indian culture is very modest.”
For the TSA’s part, agency spokesman Jon Allen tells the Clarion-Ledger in an e-mail that “this passenger was screened in accordance with TSA security procedures.”
A spokesman for Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour says the governor’s office is “trying to find out exactly what happened — all of the details.”
Meanwhile, other officials from Mississippi fear the state could face fallout from the incident — even though it was related to federal aviation requirements.
Janos Radvanyi, a top professor at Mississippi State and the man for whom the university’s Chair in International Studies is named, plans to send the ambassador a formal apology letter. He hopes other state leaders will do the same.
“Mississippi had nothing to do with it, but she was very upset,” Radvanyi — native of Hungary who fought against the Germans in World II — tells the Clarion-Ledger. “It’s terrible. This is very bad for Mississippi. She said she’s not going to come back.”
Posted Dec 8 2010 3:26PM
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