Grandma: "I'm Not a Terrorist" (Another TSA Run-In)
As if the Transportation Security Administration needed any more bad press... Nobody's arguing that it's okay to bring knives aboard airplanes, but a little common sense is important in dealing with these situations. After all, the TSA needs its credibility to function properly, and that credibility is threatened by treating grannies as "national security threats". The TSA has not commented on this, so right now Ms. Beaman's account is the only one on public record.
Cecilia Beaman is a 57-year-old grandmother, a principal at Pacific Middle School in Des Moines, and as of Sunday is also a suspected terrorist.
"This is not right," she told us. It's not right!"
This past weekend she and several other chaperones took 37 middle school students to a Heritage Festival band competition in California. The trip included two days at Disneyland.
During the stay she made sandwiches for the kids and was careful to pack the knives she used to prepare those sandwiches in her checked luggage. She says she even alerted security screeners that the knives were in her checked bags and they told her that was OK.
But Beaman says she couldn't find a third knife. It was a 5 1/2 inch bread knife with a rounded tip and a serrated edge. She thought she might have lost or misplaced it during the trip.
On the trip home, screeners with the Transportation Security Administration at Los Angeles International Airport found it deep in the outside pocket of a carry-on cooler. Beaman apologized and told them it was a mistake.
"You've committed a felony," Beaman says a security screener announced. "And you're considered a terrorist."
Beaman says she was told her name would go on a terrorist watch-list and that she would have to pay a $500 fine.
"I'm a 57-year-old woman who is taking care of 37 kids," she told them. "I'm not gonna commit a terrorist act." Beaman says they took information from her Washington drivers license and confiscated and photographed the knife according to standard operating procedure.
She says screeners refused to give her paperwork or documentation of her violation, documentation of the pending fine, or a copy of the photograph of the knife.
"They said 'no' and they said it's a national security issue. And I said what about my constitutional rights? And they said 'not at this point ... you don't have any'."