TSA screening changes warranted

Thursday, April 10, 2008
Story last updated at 4/10/2008 - 1:49 am

LUBBOCK GOT some unfortunate and unwanted publicity after a Dallas area woman was forced to remove some body piercing jewelry before being allowed to board a plane at Preston Smith International Airport. That's the bad news. The good news is the Transportation Security Administration is modifying its procedures to avoid a similar incident in the future.

Mandi Hamlin, 37, demanded an apology and her Los Angeles-based attorney sent a letter to the TSA requesting an investigation after Ms. Hamlin was forced to remove a nipple ring with pliers before being allowed to board.

In gathering information for this editorial, we heard from a number of people who feel TSA staff in Lubbock subject passengers to more scrutiny than is the case in other cities.

On one hand, that's good. No one wants to be on board an airliner high in the sky with dangerous individuals and potentially explosive cargo. On the other hand, there's room for logic and common sense in interpreting and applying the rules.

For its part, TSA says it supports the thoroughness of the officers involved "as they were acting to protect the passengers and crews of the flights departing Lubbock that day."

Nevertheless, TSA has reviewed the procedures and agrees they need to be changed. In the future, passengers can either allow a visual inspection of their piercing jewelry, or remove the item.

"TSA acknowledges that our procedures caused difficulty for the passenger involved and regrets the situation in which she found herself," the agency said on its Web site. "We appreciate her raising awareness on this issue and we are changing the procedures to ensure that this does not happen again."

The incident created a black eye for Lubbock and generated some cheap shots at our community on the talk show circuit.

It's unfortunate and we regret the incident happened. At the same time, we're pleased TSA was willing to re-examine its policies. After all, its mission is to try prevent another airplane from being hijacked and flown into a building or into the ground. We may not like the scrutiny, which can be intense. But all things considered it's for our own good.

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