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TSA Screeners Take Toy From Mentally Disabled Man

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Just as Americans — or at least the American media — seem to have come to a wary peace with nudie-X-Ray screenings and junk-touching pat-downs in the airport security line, the always-inventive federal agents who safeguard our skies are finding new ways to enrage flyers.

In one high-profile case that forced Detroit's airport to retrain its entire attachment of TSA screeners, an overzealous agent took away a cherished toy plastic hammer from a young man with the mental capacity of a toddler.

Mandy, 29, and his family were on their way to Disney World and going through security at the Detroit airport when they encountered the anti-hammer TSA agents, who pulled him aside for a pat-down. According to Dr. David Mandy, Drew's dad, Drew had trouble following some of the agents' instructions. When Dr. Mandy tried to tell the TSA agents that his son couldn't understand what they were asking him to do, an agent allegedly told him, "Please, sir, we know what we're doing."

Yes, the glorified baggage porters who've been deputized as federal screening agents know exactly what they're doing. You can tell because they need to have a GED or equivalent, or, failing that, at least a year of experience as a security guard, to get the job.

Anyway, after our valiant screener forced the Mandy family to throw out the security-blanket-like trinket that hadn't left Drew's side in 20 years, there was some understandable consternation from the family and any reasonable human beings who happened to hear about the incident. The TSA, perhaps sensing this mentally-challenged-man's-hammer story wasn't the best PR, quickly apologized and pledged new training on dealing with mentally challenged passengers at the Detroit airport.

That's all fine and well, but elsewhere federal screeners, distinguished for their authority over flyers rather than their qualifications or efficacy, have shown behavior even more disturbing.

In Newark, the city where most everything bad is inexplicably even worse, the TSA's division in charge of behavioral screening has become the Office of Profiling Mexicans and Dominicans. A federal report detailing the abuses resulted in some retraining, but no firings.

Meanwhile, TSA agents in Orlando seem to be about as dumb as one might expect; here's the arrest report of one who was caught with a loaded gun in his own luggage last month. Not even our most beloved/despised former sci-fi child stars are safe from the scourge of invasive screeners, as Star Trek: The Next Generation alum Wil Wheaton shows in this blog post about his encounter with an overly touchy TSA agent.

The worst thing about all this demeaning, inconsistent, Kafka-esque security theater, besides the fact that federal tax dollars fund it, is that you can't vote with your dollars — unless you can afford to fly private, or you're willing to take Amtrak or drive cross-country, there's no alternative to going through TSA security to travel.

Perhaps it was that frustration bubbling to the surface that inspired one vindictive restaurant owner near the Seattle airport to make a policy of discriminating against one class of people: TSA agents. There's a sign and everything, and the owner says the vast majority of his patrons support it. "Until TSA agents start treating us with the respect and dignity that we deserve, then things will change for them in the private sector," one employee told travel journalist Christopher Elliott.

How do you really feel about TSA, though, restaurant employee? If we didn't know better, we'd say there are growing signs of an unhealthy relationship between the public and airport screeners.

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