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Mar 24th
Home Columns A Cup O' Kapeng Barako A TSA Harassment at San Diego Airport, a Letter of Complaint, a Response and my Reply
A TSA Harassment at San Diego Airport, a Letter of Complaint, a Response and my Reply PDF Print E-mail
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Columns - A Cup O' Kapeng Barako
Thursday, 12 December 2013 17:13


By Jesse Jose

A Cup O' Kapeng Barako
I am a disabled veteran of America's armed forces and I've been harassed by TSA officers at San Diego International airport.
Yes, Dear Readers, harassed!  And this story must be heard by all disabled veterans of America's armed forces, or by any disabled person, for that matter. Also, by our nation's political leaders, especially those who vocally honor kuno, us, disabled war veterans. 
It happened a few weeks, on November 25, to be exact.  I flew to San Diego on that weekend to meet in person fellow U.S. Navy and Coast Guard retirees who I have met and became cyberspace friends with through prolific emails, namely: Ray Burdeos, Charlie Andaya, David Orolfo, and Nestor Enriquez. 
We connected, not only because we are all retirees with parallel lives in the military, but also because, these cyberspace friends of mine, are also writers.  Ray writes books.  He has written four books and is now writing his fifth one.  Nestor has a column on U.S. Navy history that he writes with a unique personal touch.  And Charlie, a retired Navy officer, and Dave, a retired Chief Warrant Officer in the Coast Guard, are both prolific writers themselves.  So, we all agreed to have a "get-together" in San Diego, where we all began our military careers....  But this is another story, Dear Readers.
My story today is about that harassment that I received from TSA officers at San Diego International airport on my return flight to Seattle. 
I was so bothered by this incident that after goggling how and where to file my complaint, I wrote and sent an earnest letter.  I supposed my letter hit the mark and a nerve that a few days later, I received a phone call from a TSA administrative official.  She said that my complaint was received and being looked into.  She also said that the TSA officers who screened me were correct and justified on what they did to me.
I told her that I think I was harassed and that those TSA officers "abused their authority" and went beyond their usual screening procedures.  We had a little bit of a shouting match on the phone.  I shouted that I am a disabled veteran with severe hearing loss, and I don't deserve to be treated with disrespect and even suspected as a terrorist and that my bag of VA-prescribed medications I had with me are items to blow up the plane with. 
AN EMAIL FROM TSA: Then ... a few days later, on December 5, I received this email from a certain Julie Dennis that reads:
Dear Mr. Jose,
I am the program specialist assigned to process your disability rights complaint.  I am very sorry to hear about your unfortunate screening experience.
I've reviewed your complaint and I had an additional question.
Can you describe in more detail the exchange that took place when your medications were examined?  Specifically did the officer verbalize their reason for wanting to take your teeth medication?
Thanks very much for any additional information.
Julie Dennis, Program Specialist
Disability Branch
Disability and Multicultural Division
Office of Civil Rights & Liberties, Ombudsman, and Traveler Engagement
Transportation Security Administration
Ms. Dennis,
Thank you for your email.  I am a U.S. Navy retiree, a disabled veteran, with severe hearing loss.  And I usually carry a tag holder hanging from my neck with a highly visible sign that reads: I AM DEAF.  And inside this tag holder contained also my Department of Veterans Affairs service-connected card and my retired military ID card.  When I travel by plane, this tag hangs from my neck, so as to identify me as such, and I usually carry with me my bag of medications for my other service-related disabilities.
I often fly to Florida to visit my aged mother and to Denver to see my son.  And when passing through TSA security and screenings in several airports in the United States, I don't encounter any problems at all with my bag of VA-prescribed medications, nor my medications getting examined and tested and ran through X-rays repeatedly.  This "unfortunate screening experience," to quote your words, only happened at San Diego International Airport.
Here at SeaTac International Airport, where my flight originated from, I was not even required to take off my boots.  I was processed expeditiously and courteously by TSA officers.
But at San Diego International Airport on my return flight to Seattle, my carry-on bag of medications were questioned and tested.  During the testing of one of my medications for my skin, I asked the TSA officer testing it: "why are you testing that?  That's one of my prescribed medications.  It's clearly labeled there that it's a VA-prescribed medication." 
The TSA officer said, "Because it's liquid.  And you can carry only a certain amount of liquid on board."  And added these words: "YOU SHOULD KNOW BETTER."
"That's not liquid," I said.  "That's paste."
And then she confiscated my tube of whitening toothpaste for my teeth that she said was "over the limit."  I told the TSA officer that that toothpaste was a prescribed "over the counter" medication from Walgreens Pharmacy for my teeth, as I gargle Chlorhexidine, a medicated oral rinse that stains my teeth.
If there was this issue on carrying liquid on board, how come my full bottle of cologne that was in my bag of medications was NOT questioned?  Why only my medications?
Also, I had a book with me to read on the plane.  That was also put into question and X-rayed TWICE.  Because according to a certain Carlos Rodriguez, who identified himself as a TSA supervisor, the book I was carrying "created a shadow" while passing through the X-ray machine.  The title of the book is: "ALL THAT IS" by James Salter. 
I think that was so ridiculous to suspect a book as something "dangerous" to carry on board.  I've traveled all over the United States and have always carried a book with me to read on the plane.  This is the first time I've heard that books could be considered as suspicious and dangerous items to carry on board with me.
I believe I was HARASSED by TSA officers at this airport.  I believe that this incident was an "abuse of authority" by TSA officers at this airport.  I believe what I went through was unnecessary and uncalled for.  I believe that this incident with TSA officers at this San Diego airport was clearly a violation of my civil rights as a disabled person, but most specifically, a form of harassment to a disabled veteran like me.
Thank you for reviewing my complaint.
Jesus B. Jose
CPO, USN (retired)
Disabled Veteran
PS: At this time of writing, Dear Readers, I haven't heard anything yet from TSA on my detailed reply to their request for added information.  As soon as I received a response from them, I'll let y'all know.  For now, that's all.  JJ

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Last Updated on Thursday, 19 December 2013 18:40

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