NEW YORK – A man and his wife were treated as potential terrorists and kicked off a Delta Airlines flight over a satirical T-shirt because it made passengers and employees feel “very uncomfortable”.
Writing on his blog, Arijit Guha describes how he was flying out of Buffalo-Niagara Airport after attending his wife’s grandfather’s funeral. Having passed through security without a problem, Guha was approached by a Delta agent who informed him that his attire was making passengers nervous.
The t-shirt features a TSA logo along with text that satirizes the agency’s paranoid and overbearing approach to airport security.
“I was then questioned by TSA about the significance and meaning of the shirt,” writes Guha. “I politely explained that it was “mocking the security theater charade and over-reactions to terrorism by the general public — both of which we’re seeing right now, ironically.” The agents inquired as to the meaning of the term “ZOMG” and who it was that I thought was “gonna kill us all.” As best I could tell, they seemed to find my explanation that I didn’t think anyone would be killing us all and that I was poking fun at overwrought, irrational fears exhibited by certain members of the flying public to be satisfactory. And moreover, they clearly deemed my shirt to be no legitimate threat.”
Having been told by Delta agents that him and his wife could take the flight only if they submitted to another search of their belongings and if he removed the t-shirt, Guha agreed, but as he was boarding the plane he was pulled aside yet again by a Delta supervisor accompanied by three TSA agents as well as multiple Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority transit police.
“I was questioned some more and my wife was also pulled out of line for additional questioning and screening. Our bags were searched, my shirt was photographed, we were asked multiple questions about the cause of our visit, how often we make it to western NY, and our drivers’ license numbers were taken and radioed in for what seemed to be a quick background check,” writes Guha.
Despite having their belongings screened numerous times, Guha and his wife were still eventually barred from taking the flight after the pilot insisted their presence would cause consternation amongst other passengers.
Incredulous, Guha demanded to know why he was not allowed to take the flight, to which a Delta official responded, “Just use your imagination.”
Guha writes that his actions in being willing to “question authority” led officials to make the leap of logic in surmising that he was a potential terrorist.
“Why even bother with the bloated security apparatus — since Delta pilots have discretion to kick off passengers who’ve passed multiple checks, after all?” asks Guha.
After being booted from the flight, Guha and his wife were subjected to even more intense interrogation, with transit police demanding to know where Guha’s brother lived because he had originally purchased the t-shirt as a gift.
“You had to think about that one. How come?,” she asked. I explained he recently moved. “Where’d he move from?” “Michigan,” I respond. “Michigan, what’s that?,” she says. At this point, the main TSA agent who’d questioned me earlier interjected: “He said ‘Michigan’.” Unable to withhold my snark, I responded with an eye-rolling sneer: “You’ve never heard of Michigan?”
“This response did not please her partner, a transit cop named Mark. Mark grabbed his walkie-talkie and alerted his supervisor and proceeded to request that he be granted permission to question me further in a private room. His justification?: “First he hesitated, then he gave a stupid answer.” Michigan, my friends, is a stupid answer.”
Guha also states that the reason given by a Buffalo-Niagara transit police officer for subjecting him to extra interrogation was because “He looks foreign.”
According to the police, it was also suspicious that Guha’s wife did not share his surname.
“And she’s your wife? How long have you been married? And she refused to take your name? “WHY wouldn’t she?” the cops asked Guha.
After being searched yet again, this time with the aid of a drug-sniffing dog, Guha was told by cops that another reason for him being treated as a potential terrorist was the fact that he opted out of a naked body scan.
Guha was eventually told he would be put on a flight at 7am the next morning and was left to find his own accommodation.
“But the larger question remains: why’d this happen? Clearly, the problem originates with the paranoid minds of my fellow passengers who misconstrued a shirt mocking the overwrought security process as a terrorist threat,” writes Guha.