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India has called the pat down of one of its diplomats “unacceptable,” and called for an apology from the U.S. 60-year-old Meera Shankar, an Indian ambassador traveling through Jackson-Evers International Airport in Jackson, Mississippi, earlier this week, was reportedly selected for a pat down because of her clothing.
According to USA Today, witnesses told a local paper “Shankar was singled out of a group flying out of the airport for a thorough pat-down, despite having shown her diplomatic papers. She was told she was chosen because she was wearing a sari, a traditional Indian robe. The witnesses included an entourage from Mississippi State University, which hosted the visit.”
Shankar reportedly asked for a private screening, but the pat down was completed in view of other passengers.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern and said the government was looking into the incident, but did not apologize. The TSA said its screeners simply followed established procedure.
Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said this is the second time Shankar has been selected for a pat down, and said he hopes “things could be resolved so that such unpleasant incidents do not recur.”
It’s difficult to tell if there’s anything here beyond the inherent invasiveness of the TSA’s new procedures. It does seem that perhaps Shankar was treated differently from her fellow travelers, based on witnesses saying she was “singled out.” What’s not clear is if there was a body scanner or metal detector at the checkpoint. If she passed through a metal detector without setting off an alarm and was still selected for a pat down, that would strike me as inappropriate and unfair.
Either way, let’s hope this doesn’t escalate into a full-scale diplomatic crisis. Who needs Wikileaks when you have the TSA?