The 4th Amendment is supposed to protect us from unreasonable searches and seizures. It requires that in order to search someone’s person or effects, there must be a probable cause-based warrant issued, “particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
It seems that when it comes to airport “security,” the 4th Amendment is a dead letter. Their excuse is always national security. They remind us that we live in a “post-9/11” world, which now means everyone is a suspect. (Well, except if someone might actually be a terrorist, in which case questioning that person would be racial profiling and discrimination.)
Nineteen-year-old Hannah Cohen had a tumor on her brain stem, for which she had been treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee for seventeen years.
About a year ago, the tumor had finally been removed, and she and her mother Shirley were on their way back home to Harrison, a city not far from Chattanooga.
As Hannah and her mom were making their way through the airport security checkpoint, the alarm sounded, indicating to the TSA agents in charge that further screening was necessary.
Shirley tried to explain to the agents that her daughter had just been treated for a brain tumor, and that she is mentally impaired. In addition, Hannah is blind in her left eye, deaf in her left ear, and paralyzed.
The agents were not interested in what the mother was trying to tell them, so they proceeded to try to pat her down. Because of Hannah’s mental and emotional state, she wasn’t complying with the TSA agents’ orders. They called for backup. The Times Free Press reported:
“They were grabbing her from both sides,” Shirley Cohen alleged Friday. “One of them slammed her down, hit her head on the cement, and there was blood everywhere.”
As two agents thrust their knees into her daughter’s back and clapped handcuffs around her wrists, another agent grabbed Shirley Cohen and pulled her away from her daughter, she said.
In the interrogation room, a TSA agent accused Hannah of hitting one of the agents and indicated that they would be pressing charges.
It gets worse. The incident prompted police to arrest the girl, and after a night in the hospital – while two officers guarded her room – she was taken to jail.
Later, prosecutors dropped all the charges against her and refunded the bail money. But that was too little, too late.
On June 28th – almost exactly one year after the incident took place – Shirley Cohen sued the TSA, as well as other agencies, for $100,000.
It seems the only kind of security the TSA offers is job security for its employees.
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