On August 13, 2008, I reported to McCarrin International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada after attending the 2008 National Disabled American Veterans Convention. A female TSA agent approached me immediately after I had presented my identification and boarding pass and cleared the preliminary checkpoint. She asked to see my U.S. Government issued identification and then scrutinized my Texas state issued identification in an act that I felt targeted me based upon my attire (DAV Chapter Uniform), my rank (Major, U.S. Army - Retired) and more specifically my race (African American).
I was not up to the challenge of confronting the agent on-site and discovered that I had a kidney stone and cyst on my kidney, as I reported to the VA emergency room within 24 hours of the incident. Yet, the situation stayed on my mind, prompting the following letter to the TSA and Michael Chertoff, Director of Homeland Security:
August 28, 2008
Transportation Security Administration Homeland Security Director
Office of Civil Rights and Liberties (TSA-6) Attention: Michael Chertoff
External Compliance Division Washington, D.C.
601 S. 12th Street
Arlington, VA 22202
TSA Civil Rights Manager:
Please consider this letter my formal submission of complaint against an unknown female staffer at the McCarrin Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada. Contrary to the TSA's Overview of Passenger Civil Rights, I do not envision the TSA's 43,000 member staff to be a reflection of me, as under no circumstances would I have placed any member of the traveling public. I am also requesting that the TSA provides me a formal written letter of apology for the incident that follows.
I had arrived at the McCarrin Airport at approximately 5:45 on 13 August 2008 and proceeded to the security screening area upon checking in my luggage. Upon clearing the initial TSA checkpoint agent with my boarding pass and a U.S. Government issued VA Pictured identification card, I was immediately halted by a female TSA staffer. I do not know whether or not she was a supervisor, as there was a third TSA agent, an elderly gentleman, who was also present and directing people to the various checkpoints. The female agent asked for my now checked boarding pass and for additional identification.
I provided my Texas Drivers License to the agent and became somewhat puzzled, as she scrutinized the license for what seemed to be no less than 2 minutes, delaying other travelers at the initial checkpoint. She then returned the driver's license to me and stated that it was the preferred form of identification. Because I was not feeling well, I did not question the female agent as to why she did not ask any other travelers to show their identification, yet she simply walked right up to me and asked for mine. Yes, I do believe that I was targeted by the female agent.
To add insult to injury, I opted to wear my Disabled American Veteran (Roy B. Hodges, Chapter 128) sponsored uniform that included: my DAV service cap and a DAV name badge from the recently adjourned National DAV Annual Convention held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Relating this incident to several others upon returning to Texas, many agreed with me and my feeling of being singled out. Some even suggested that the fact that my DAV service cap showed that I had been a major in the Armed Forces could have been the contributory factor in my being singled out. This one act was a great disservice to one who had served this country honorably for more than 20 years.
I do not take lightly the important role that the TSA place in these times in which we are living. However, in considering myself to be a Voice of the Veterans, I would be remiss to overlook the actions of the female TSA as a mere isolated case. How telling it is of her actions with respect to the actions of all TSA agents - all 43,000 of them? At a time of heightened emotions and valid concerns of governmental agencies overstepping their legal boundaries, I think it prudent that I ask for an investigation into this matter. I am not seeking this as a retired officer but as a concerned U.S. citizen.
I find it somewhat ironic that an organization whose very existence began as a counter to terrorism can easily transform into an organization that terrorizes the very individuals that it was intended to protect. It is also ironic that early morning on the day after this incident, I went into the VA emergency room with a kidney stone and a cyst on my kidney.
During the hours that I spent in the emergency room seemed to strengthen my resolve in generating this letter. I did phone in some concerns to the TSA telephone operator and did receive a return call from the McCarrin Customer Service Officer. At this time, I made it known that it is important that issues such as the one at the McCarrin airport be widely disseminated in the event that others have experienced similar situations. I now hold the TSA in the same category as American Airlines for the poor treatment rendered to those who have faithfully served the nation.
I now find myself compelled to invest the following:
Stamps 6 x (.42) = 2.52
Envelopes 6 x (.07) = .42
Paper 12 x (.040) = .48
Ink 12 x (.090) = 1.08
Typing 3 x (12) = 36.00
Headache = Priceless
I ask that the TSA provides me a letter explaining their rules governing the use of an appropriate identification along with the formal letter of apology, as the things that now stick in my mind are:
- The immediacy of the female agent's request to see the additional identification
- The female agent's failure to ask additional travelers to see a second form of id
- What was the female agent looking for as detailed information was with the airline?
- Where are notices that U.S. Government issued id cards are inadequate forms of identification, as the information provided on the TSA's telephone message is vague.
Thank you for your assistance in resolving this situation.
cc: File Copy
Commander, Roy B. Hodges Chapter 128 DAV
Congressman Lamar Smith
Scott Huddleston, San Antonio Express News
I submit this report on behalf of "Real People facing Real Issues within Real Communities." It is my intent that individuals facing a similar situation will be able to merge their experiences with mine to paint a clear picture of a concern that impacts our community. In no way does this incident reflect on all of the staff of the TSA, as I wholeheartedly believe that there are good people that work for bad companies and companies that tend to forget the sharters of their existence. I have had no contact with the addressees since submitting the letter.
San Antonio, Texas