The Islamic Post Blog

Transport Security Administration Tries to Boost Image After Death Of New York Woman Last Year by Khalida
August 18, 2008, 3:52 am
Filed under: August Volume 1 - 2008, National | Tags: , , ,

TSA forges ahead with behavior detection policies: reading faces to detect suspects; although the same methods were of little use to Carol Anne Gotbaum, whose erratic behavior was treated in much the same manner as if the mother of three were a terrorist.

By Khalida Khaleel, Islamic Post Staff Writer

Philippe Leroyer, Creative Commons License)

Protest arrest in Paris (above) depicts also the excessive force used against Gotbaum when she was wrestled to the ground by multiple officers. (Photo: Philippe Leroyer, Creative Commons License)

The late Carol Anne Gotbaum (left), who passed away last year in a state of panic in airport custody, is shown here with her son Tobias, aged 3.

The late Carol Anne Gotbaum (left), who passed away last year in a state of panic in airport custody, is shown here with her son Tobias, aged 3.

The Transport Security Administration’s (TSA) public image has been of primary concern since Carol Anne Gotbaum, a relative of New York public advocate, Betsy Gotbaum, suffered from self-asphyxiation last September in the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on her way to a rehabilitation clinic for alcoholism.
Along with the behavior detection procedures, which did not seem to work at all in the case of Mrs. Gotbaum, the TSA now sports a new look. TSA officials have recently been allotted police-blue, professional uniforms as part of an effort to boost the national perception of the workers, whom Time Magazine rate as being “down in the depths of hell with the IRS” in the minds of American travelers. Along with the standard rubber gloves, microphone headsets, and metal detector batons, these officers also now have crisp shirts, pants, and badges.
Despite all these attempts, it seems the TSA has still not been able to effectively deal with the overwhelming fear people have been experiencing at the thought of being taken into custody.
The effectiveness of the screening out and handling suspected terrorists came into serious question with the airport death of Carol Anne Gotbaum, an emotionally distressed, but otherwise law-abiding citizen who, in an overwraught state after having missed her plane to rehab, resisted arrest. Mrs. Gotbaum had flown out of control in the Phoenix airport, ranting and raving. Betsy Gotbaum declared in a prepared statement, after her daughter-in-law Carol’s tragic death, that police officers assigned to the Phoenix airport had manhandled the mother of three. This move seems to have escalated her already emotional state into one of sheer panic.

Carol Gotbaum is the second airport fatality since 2001 blamed on airport officials. In December 2005, missionary Rigoberto Alpizar was shot to death when he changed his mind and tried to disembark a Miami plane.

As police officers wrestled her into custody, eyewitnesses relate the 45 year old mother of 3 resisted arrest and began to scream, “I am not a terrorist! I’m a sick mom! I need help!”
In February, the TSA web-log made an attempt to lightheartedly educate the public that TSAs are, as of late, being trained by psychologists in behavior analysis to discern potential terrorist threats, although the training actually began in July of last year, 2 months before Gotbaum’s death. Although disarmingly frank in their approach, the new program still drew heavy criticism from those arriving at the web-log for more information on flight rules. The overwhelming majority of people denounced the program as seeking to detect ‘thought-crimes,’ being somewhat totalitarian, and a definite promulgator of fear.
“Bob,” a behavior detection officer, and author of the above-mentioned article entitled “Evolution of Security: The Truth Behind the Title ‘Behavior Detection Officer,’” attempted to diffuse the uproar, but succeeded only in creating more well-informed malcontents, with the comments roster, which totaled 99 pages of detailed objections, ending in 5 for and 26 against the use of behavior detection.
While Gotbaum’s behavior was very much perceived as a danger at the time, her husband Noah responded to her distraught cell phone calls before her arrest. He pleaded with airport security that if his wife, who suffered from depression, were to take her medication, she would calm down.  Less than an hour after being shackled with a long chain in a holding cell, Carol Anne Gotbaum was found strangled by her own restraints in what was claimed to be an attempt at escape, although this has come into question as she was not a known contortionist.
Behavior detection officers hope to weed out those who display signs of nervousness due to concealment or guilt, instead of excessive fear. It remains unclear whether the TSA attempted to interfere with the arrest of Gotbaum, even with their new therapy training, although a good part of the raucous took place under their watch. The Gotbaums, in turn, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Phoenix police department a full eight months later.

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