Indian Ambassador Frisked by TSA

Ambassador vows never to return to Mississippi after incident.

December 09, 2010, 2:56 PM

Dec. 9, 2010— -- The Indian government is fuming this week after its ambassador to Washington was subjected a TSA pat-down at a Mississippi airport.

"This is unacceptable to India," said External Affairs Minister SM Krishna, according to the BBC. "We are going to take it up with the U.S. government, and I hope things could be resolved so that such unpleasant incidents do not recur."

According to the Indian embassy in Washington, Ambassador Meera Shankar was selected for secondary screening Dec. 4 at the Jackson-Evers International Airport, where she was catching a flight to Baltimore after attending a conference at Mississippi State University.

A university official quoted the ambassador as vowing never to return to Mississippi as a result of the incident, according to the Associated Press.

"The U.S. State Department has reached out to the ambassador and has regretted what had happened," Virander Paul, a spokesman for the Indian embassy, told ABC News.

Some reports have suggested that Ambassador Shankar was selected for the hands-on pat-down because she was wearing a sari, a traditional Indian wrap-around dress. Today, the Transportation Security Administration defended the actions of its officers.

"After a review of this passenger's screening experience, we determined that the TSA officers followed proper procedure," the TSA told ABC News.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters today that Ambassador Shankar had not followed proper procedure.

"We do have protocols in place if there is forewarning before somebody gets to an airport that they have special credentials, that we can work with them on that," Napolitano said. "But in this particular instance, that protocol had not been utilized."

She added that the TSA officer's actions were "appropriate under the circumstances" and "by the book."

The State Department said today that it only recently learned of the incident and had not received a formal complaint from the Indian government.

"We will be looking into it and not only responding to the Indian foreign minister but also reviewing the policies," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today when asked about the incident. She said the U.S. will be "trying to determine both what happened and what we can do to prevent such incidents in the future."

Ambassador Shankar was one of several Indian officials who met with Secretary Clinton earlier this week. Clinton said that the incident was not raised during that meeting.

Foreign diplomats are subject to basic security despite their diplomatic status according to guidelines that have been distributed and posted online. You can read them HERE.

The instructions to diplomats say, in part: "If, for some reason, you are designated as a selectee for secondary screening, you should request to speak with TSA supervisory screener at the checkpoint and present your valid diplomatic passport AND your valid blue-bordered ID card issued by the U.S. Department of State to the TSA supervisor. The supervisor will ensure that special procedures for the screening of diplomats are complied with."

This is not the first time U.S. airplane security procedures have drawn the ire of foreign officials. Last year, Indian members of parliament were outraged after former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam was frisked and required to remove his shoes before boarding a flight in Delhi.

Earlier this year, an official Pakistani delegation was removed from a Tampa-bound flight following a long day of travel on multiple planes from Pakistan after one member remarked how he hoped this would be his last flight.

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