Terrorist Toddler JetBlue Incident Shows What's Wrong With TSA

The Transportation Security Administration implemented several changes since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, including cautionary surveillance on airline passengers who are suspected terrorists. 

On Tuesday, eighteen-month-old, Riyanna was removed from a JetBlue flight at Fort Lauderdale airport because her name was flagged in a no-fly list.  No, she didn’t smuggle any weapons in her diaper. This may very well have been an inane error, but foolish mistakes like these indicate that it is time for the TSA to change its narrow mindset and get their regulations act together. 

Riyanna’s parents, who are of Middle Eastern descent, believe they were profiled because of their racial and religious identity. Riyanna is an American, born and raised in New Jersey, just as her parents were. After they were made to stand in the terminal by the TSA for 30 minutes, the baby’s parents were told they could re board the plane. Out of embarrassment, the family refused and left the airport. "We were put on display like a circus act because my wife wears a hijab," Riyanna’s father said. 

Riyanna’s parents have stated that they were not even offered an apology initially following the incident. JetBlue released a statement of apology on Thursday, reporting that Riyanna’s name was flagged because of a computer glitch. Riyanna’s father, a computer engineer, response to the statement was, "I highly doubt that it would have been an automatically generated computer glitch." What are the chances of an automated computer defectively selecting another Muslim name to flag on a no-fly list? Slim. 

In 2010, a USA Today/ Gallup poll released that 57% of adults who flew two or more times that year were bothered and disapproved of the pat-downs, and 42% disfavored the machines.  The TSA argued that their new security measures were necessary to fly safely.  Safety is important, but it isn’t 9/11 anymore and we need a new security mindset that doesn’t racially profile or target individuals.  

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Sifat Azad

Sifat is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Kingston University in London as the first-ever recipient of the Hilary Mantel Creative Writing Scholarship Award. She is a CUNY Baccalaureate graduate with dual concentrations in Literature and Creative Writing. Her piece, "Covered," was featured in John Jay's Finest and her short story, "Brownstone," was published in J Journal: New Writing on Justice.

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