An 18-month-old baby girl had cleared security at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport and, along with her parents, had already boarded the JetBlue flight when an airline representative advised the family that the TSA wanted her to get off the plane (emphasis mine):
“And I said, ‘For what?’” Riyanna’s mother told only WPBF 25 News on Wednesday. “And he said, ‘Well, it’s not you or your husband. Your daughter was flagged as no fly.‘ I said, ‘Excuse me?’”
Riyanna’s father was flabbergasted.
“It’s absurd,” he said. “It made no sense. Why would an 18-month-old child be on a no-fly list?”
Why, indeed. (Though you can see that this moppet’s ringlets are definitely heartbreaking, if not exactly threatening.)
It’s not enough that the TSA is terrifying young children by separating them from their parents, disallowing hugs from grandmothers, and barking at caregivers that they MUST NOT TOUCH the frightened child the TSA is busily groping. Now they’re yanking families from airplanes after clearing them and issuing them boarding passes.
And as you’d imagine, there is a cultural component to this:
Riyanna’s parents, who asked not to be identified, said they think they know the answer to that question. They believe they were profiled because they are both of Middle Eastern descent. Riyanna’s mother wears a hijab, a traditional head scarf. That’s why they have asked to remain anonymous. They said they’re concerned about repurcussions. That said, they are both Americans, born and raised in New Jersey, just like their daughter.
Ah, the dreaded Terrorist Scarf of Doom. This incident is remniscent of celebrity cook Rachael Ray’s experience with Manufactured Fear American-style when she wore a checkered neck scarf in a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial, raising the hackles of an anti-Muslim blogger who promptly called for a boycott of the popular chain. (Alas, Dunkin’ Donuts caved and pulled the ad.)
As readers of this blog are well aware, however, the TSA is oblivious to public concern, anger, and even mockery, and they can always be counted on to take fear mongering to new, absurd levels. And then obfuscate as needed, or else lie:
WPBF contacted JetBlue and was told this was an issue with the Transportation Safety Administration. JetBlue also said both it and the TSA are investigating the incident.
But the TSA disagreed, telling WPBF this is an airline issue and therefore, it is not investigating.
So who called for the baby girl’s removal, when, and why? Why were her parents singled out and humiliated this way? If little Riyanna really was on a No-Fly list, error or not, why were she and her parents issued boarding passes — shouldn’t all No-Flys be stopped from getting on board a vehicle that does just that: flies?
While we wait for answers to those questions, perhaps the TSA and DHS could inform every American family whose ill fortune it is to be on this No Fly list without cause. That way, they can preemptively hire all the best attorneys before they make their summer vacation plans.
UPDATE: Erik Kain at Forbes, who also reported on this today, writes:
The TSA has reached out to me with a statement on this incident:
“TSA did not flag this child as being on the No Fly list. TSA was called to the gate by the airline and after talking to the parents and confirming through our vetting system, TSA determined the airline had mistakenly indicated the child was on a government watch list.”
“Individuals on the No Fly list do not get boarding passes,” the TSA also noted.
SECOND UPDATE: Apparently JetBlue is claiming responsibility, though in a rather CYA way: