Security Breach! | California | Living in Mexico

Security Breach!


San Francisco, CA—

Alert security agents at San Francisco International Airport recognized and captured notorious terrorist suspect Jean Wood, long sought by the Department of Homeland Security for questioning in regard to possible connections she might have with Osama Bin Laden, shadowy leader of Al Qaeda. Here she is pictured in booking photos taken last year when arrested at the Franklin Indiana home of Mullah Wajih al-Shamit, alleged radical Muslim cleric.


Wood drew the attention of an agent while attempting to pass through an airport security checkpoint while apparently secreting what appeared to be an IED—an Improvised Explosive Device—in her jeans...


Jean and I presented ourselves for security screening for our flight from San Francisco to Houston. I went through my routine of emptying my pockets of wallet, passport, Mexico permanent resident visa, change, keys, pen, pencil, notebook and cell phone, removing my belt (a problem since my apple-like shape leaves me no hips to impede the descent of my pants), my shoes, hat, camera bag and carry-on luggage, placing all on the entrance to the x-ray machine, and then signaling to a security agent that I could not pass through the metal detector because my implanted defibrillator would set off the alarm, and would they kindly send someone over to pat me down.

Meanwhile, Jean confidently walked through. Unfortunately, she herself set off an alarm. A discussion with a security agent ensued. Was it her wristwatch? Did she have keys or change in her pocket?

Another agent took me over to a section of floor that had two footprint outlines on which I was to stand, and began to frisk me—rather thoroughly, I might add. Many of you have had to be taken aside and wanded, in order to localize whatever it was that set off the alarms when you walked through. We pacemaker and defibrillator people can't be wanded because the wands will (briefly) shut down our implanted gadgets. So for us, getting through security is an intimate experience.

How frisking works is a rubber-gloved person of the same gender as you runs his or her hands over your body—your
entire body. Interestingly, when they get to your groin, they say, "back of the hands," and then rotate their palms downward before administering a less-than-memorable hand job.

Frisking completed, and having shyly said goodbye to my agent, I looked around for Jean. I saw her standing in the middle of the security zone, surrounded by agents urgently talking into walkie talkies and cell phones. Not good. I tried walking back into the security zone to ask her what was happening, but the same beefy guard who had frisked me, the man with whom I thought I had reached a sort of understanding, blocked my path. No, I wasn't allowed back in. Even to rescue my wife. Who at this point, appeared to be some sort of suspect, to be kept carefully isolated from other passengers
and her husband.

I found a chair and sat down. I watched Jean negotiating with the agents. She didn't seem to be making any headway. Twenty minutes passed. Much negotiation. Much cell phoning. Much walkie talking. Much standing around.

Finally, a supervising agent broke away from the group and came over to brief me. She told me that Jean was wearing one of those elastic knee braces, and it was that that had set off the alarm. Must have had some wire in it or something.


An Improvised Explosive Device?

Her jeans were pegged, so she couldn't roll up her pant leg to show the brace to the agents or to remove it. The agent told me the things they could not do at this point:

• They could
not just frisk her, confirming by touch that it was only a knee brace.
• They could
not make a reasonable judgment that she was probably not a terrorist, and just wave her through.
• They could
not allow her to go to the ladies room and remove the brace. In fact, they couldn't even ask her to do this. I have no idea why not.
• They could
not alllow her to go back out the entrance of the security area, there to make any adjustments needed before trying again.

After bucking the problem up toward Michael Chertoff, here's what they were told they
could do:

• They could call the police who would take her into custody. The officer would then escort her out of the security area, after which she would no longer be the agents' problem. He, the officer, would then use his own judgment as to whether she had committed a crime, or simply to allow her to go on her way.

In other words, the Federal Department of Homeland Security, unable to deal with a grandmother wearing a knee brace, passed the buck to an SF Cop.

After a short wait, a policewoman arrived. (What is it with the same gender thing?) She took Jean firmly by the arm, and escorted her to the ticketing area, where she was allowed to attempt to clear security again.

this time she made it.

Jean doesn't seem particularly concerned about the incident. Clearly she fails to realize that her brush with the law may be the beginning of a slide into a life of international conspiracy and crime. Even now, her name and other information is undoubtedly in some DHS database, soon to be scrutinized by a clandestine operative with an eye toward "turning" her and inserting her as a mole into a terrorist cell. Like maybe the Al-Badhr Mujahidin Quilters' Group.

This is a Dick Cheney thing, isn't it?