We have yet another case of passengers being thrown off planes because of a message on their clothing. Arijit Guha and his wife were returning from a funeral on Delta at the Buffalo-Niagara Airport when they were told that his tee-shirt mocking the TSA made passengers and employees feel “very uncomfortable”. Guha is an Arizona State University graduate student.
They were told that before they could fly they would have to allow a full search of their luggage because of the tee-shirt. He would then have to remove his tee-shirt. He was singled out by a Delta supervisor and three TSA agents as well as multiple Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority transit police. All over a satirical tee-shirt.
Even after having their belongings screened numerous times, Guha and his wife were still barred from the flight because they would alarm passengers.
They were then pulled aside for more questioning and Guha was questioned about where his brother lived since it was the brother who bought the mocking tee-shirt.
Notably, the police also said they were suspicious why Guha’s wife did not use his surname.
I have previously written about the legal myth that it is a crime to make a joke at an airport — the basis for thousands of passengers being arrested or placed in temporary custody.
This case adds a free speech dimension to the usual lunacy over airport security. Here TSA agents are interrogating a passenger over a tee-shirt critical of their own agency. Moreover, all too often the “discomfort” of passengers is cited as the basis for harassing or barring individuals. Even if true, it is grossly unfair to force passengers to meet the lowest common denominator of sensibilities of other passengers who may be reflecting their own prejudices or lack of senses of humor. Honestly, how likely is an Al Qaeda operative to seek to destroy a plane in Buffalo wearing a tee-shirt taunting the TSA?
The harassment of a critic of TSA should warrant the closest investigation of this case. If these allegations are true, there should be some discipline meted out by both Delta and the TSA.