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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

How did he get there?

Delvonte Tisdale didn't put up with virtual strip searches or the TSA grope when he boarded a Boeing 737 jetliner from Charlotte on Nov. 15. It appears he made it into the plane's wheel well without attracting the attention of the blue shirts charged with protecting our air travel system.

If the 16-year-old had not fallen from the sky into a quiet residential neighborhood when that jet approached Logan Airport we may never have known about one of the most serious security breaches -- one with shuddering ramifications -- since the Transportation Safety Agency started telling us to talk off our shoes and belts and submit to demeaning searches.

Says Norfolk County District Attorney -- and Rep.-elect William Keating -- TSA has some explaining to do:
“It appears more likely than not that Mr. Tisdale was able to breach airport security and hide in the wheel well of a commercial jet airliner without being detected by airport security.’’
We've just experienced another massive round of what's been derisively known as "security theater," full body X-ray scans that leave little to the imagination and pat-downs some equate with sexual assault. All because a ticketed terrorist was able to get on board with explosive underwear.

But what about the apolitical runaway who was able to sneak past the blue-shirted checkpoints, through supposedly locked doors where baggage and material is stored, across a tarmac and hop into the underbelly of a waiting jet?

We don't know if he had somehow commandeered the paraphernalia that would have enabled the ruse, although I would actually be comforted in knowing he was just a determined teenager who was able to slip through the cracks on guile.

Nor am I comforted by the thought that the temperatures in an aircraft wheel well during flight are cold enough to kill. We are talking about suicide bombers after all.

Charlotte/Douglas Airport is a major hub for US Airways. I recall running through it a number of times trying to connect from Boston for another flight to Florida or points south. A security lapse of this proportion is nothing to laugh off.

Tisdale's former neighbor and "uncle" thinks it sounds all pretty off-the-wall:
“It seems pretty far-fetched to me,’’ said [Norman] Brown, questioning how he could have made it across the tarmac and onto a plane with the increased scrutiny of the TSA. “He would have to go into the terminal, find out where the plane is, and he’d have to go to TSA to get to where that plane is. Then he would have to orient himself once he got on the field. That’s just too much for a child to do."
Good questions all. Yet somehow it appears that he did just that, at a time that TSA was cranking up the Thanksgiving security theater -- and maybe not looking at the obvious holes in its net.

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