UNITED NATIONS - Hardeep Singh Puri, India's ambassador to the United Nations, last month ran headfirst into a controversial new Transportation Security Administration inspection policy for many foreign travelers.
At the airport in Austin, TSA agents demanded to inspect his turban. Puri is a Sikh, whose religion requires that the turban, or dastar, be worn in public to cover uncut hair. Puri refused the TSA order, citing an agency exception that allows Sikhs to pat down their own turbans to avoid intrusive searches and then have their hands tested for possible explosives.
The situation escalated when TSA agents initially ignored Puri's protestations and said they would decide what the rules are, according to an official traveling with the ambassador.
The episode involving Puri has roiled sensibilities in India, where Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna complained this month about the TSA's pat-downs of Meera Shankar, the country's ambassador to the United States. Krishna said Shankar was frisked twice in three months, most recently when she was pulled aside at the Jackson, Miss., airport and subjected to a body search by a female TSA agent.
"Let me be very frank that this is unacceptable," Krishna said.
I have no problem with TSA ignoring their own rules. In fact, I wish every single passenger over the Christmas holidays would get a pornscan AND a 'feel-up'. It would help end this stupid charade sooner. The TSA agents here in Austin actually have a Holiday chorus to entertain you while they cop a feel. I don't know if they take requests, but I'm sure they could belt out a few stanzas of the Horst Wessel Song if you asked.
If you happen to be one of the timid Americans who has felt more relaxed about flying after someone else's grandma or teenage daughter got their breasts squeezed, I especially hope you get the treatment - just think of it as a Christmas embrace from Michael Chertoff.