Airport Pat-Down Of India Envoy Appropriate: US

December 10, 2010

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An airport pat-down in Mississippi of the Indian ambassador to the United States angered her government but the US Department of Homeland Security said it was appropriate under the circumstances.

US and Indian media reported that Ambassador Meera Shankar received a pat-down as she was leaving Jackson, Mississippi, where she had been invited by Mississippi State University.

Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna was quoted by Indian media groups calling the incident "unacceptable" and saying he planned to raise the issue with the US government.

"This is unacceptable to India and we are going to take it up with the US government and I hope things could be resolved so that such unpleasant incidents do not recur," Krishna told journalists, according to the Hindu newspaper.

The US State Department said diplomats are subject to the same basic screening as other passengers at US airports.

Following attempted attacks, including last year's attempt to blow up a flight to Detroit by a passenger with a bomb hidden in his clothes, US authorities have deployed hundreds of full-body scanners and two months ago began doing more physical pat-downs that many people find invasive.

Asked about the incident involving Shankar, US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she had looked into the matter and concluded that "it was by the book."

"It was a pat-down that followed our procedures, and I think it was appropriate under the circumstances," Napolitano told reporters.

She said there are protocols in which if US authorities are notified before a passenger with special credentials gets to an airport, they can try to expedite their security check.

"In this particular instance, that protocol had not been utilised," she said. "I think what was done by the... officer was done appropriately and by the book."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that she was "concerned" by the incident and would look into it "to determine both what happened and what we could do to prevent such incidents in the future."

(Reuters)