Philadelphia airport screener disciplined over prank


DETROIT — A University of Michigan student boarding a plane in Philadelphia to return to Detroit Metro Airport from winter break got a big fright in the form of a prank by an airport security screener.

Rebecca Solomon, 22, a U-M psychology student from Wynnewood, Pa., said she was going through security at Philadelphia International Airport on Jan. 5 — less than two weeks after the failed bombing attempt Dec. 25 on Flight 253 from Amsterdam, Netherlands, to Detroit — when a screener stopped her, wouldn’t let her take her bags and pulled a baggie of white powder from her computer case.

“Where did you get this from?” the guard asked her, according to an article she wrote for the Michigan Daily, the U-M student newspaper.

Solomon wrote that she panicked, thinking a terrorist or drug smuggler had slipped something into the bag.

“Tears streamed down my face as I pleaded with him
to understand that I’d never seen this baggie before,” Solomon wrote.
“But as I emotionally tried to explain that I couldn’t explain, he
started to smile, an odd reaction to such a monumental find in my
things. Then he waved the baggie at me and told me he was kidding, that
I should’ve seen the look on my face.”

Solomon declined an interview request Friday through her family.

Ann Davis, spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration,
verified Solomon’s account and said the employee is no longer employed
by the TSA, although she couldn’t say for privacy reasons whether he
was fired.

“TSA viewed this behavior to be completely
inappropriate and unprofessional,” Davis said. “The employee was
immediately disciplined by TSA management at the Philadelphia airport.”

Solomon wrote that she was shaken but still asked to
speak with the airport’s security director and filed a complaint. The
airport notified her Jan. 7 about disciplinary action against the employee.

“As passengers and patrons of airports, we have a
lot of responsibility to comply with airline security,” Solomon wrote.
“Our safety depends directly on how well we follow the rules. This same
standard needs to be applied to the staff.”

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