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May 13, 2011 8:51 AM   Subscribe

The TSA has performed a "modified pat-down" of an 8 month old baby.

After the photo went viral, the TSA responded to criticism on their blog, titled: "TSA Searching for Poop Bombs?: Headline Not Up to Snuff":
We reviewed the screening of this family, and found that the child’s stroller alarmed during explosives screening. Our officers followed proper current screening procedures by screening the family after the alarm, who by the way were very cooperative and were on the way to their gate in no time. The child in the photo was simply receiving a modified pat-down which doesn’t even come close to what the headline implies.
( via /. )
posted by notion (109 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I have been the owner/operator of three 8-month old babies, and I can tell you that they can be quite explosive.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:54 AM on May 13, 2011 [61 favorites]


Well, I feel safer.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:55 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


To be fair, the baby made a threatening gesture when asked to remove his shoes.
posted by Aquaman at 8:56 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bad people hide stuff on babies all the time. I know I do.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:56 AM on May 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


Is this TSA filter? Or is there some larger point?
posted by blucevalo at 8:57 AM on May 13, 2011


I still don't understand why a terrorist bringing a bomb on an airplane and killing 200 people in an airplane is so much worse than a terrorist bringing a bomb into a shopping mall and killing 3000 people such that everyone attempting to get within 500 yards of an airplane has to be treated as a potential threat but no one anywhere else does. Are airplanes just really expensive? Why don't we say that?

TSA SECURITY SCREENING
SAVING AIRLINES FROM HAVING TO BUY MORE AIRPLANES

THANK YOU
posted by shakespeherian at 8:58 AM on May 13, 2011 [59 favorites]


My kids, their airplane seats and their stroller have been wanded and inspected every time we've flown anywhere, from the time they were 10 months old. Why is this suddenly news?
posted by zarq at 9:01 AM on May 13, 2011


Admittedly it would be difficult for someone to crash a shopping mall into a large and heavily populated building, though.
posted by elizardbits at 9:02 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


The only thing more feared than a dirty bomb is a dirty diaper.
posted by dortmunder at 9:03 AM on May 13, 2011


like another shopping mall?
posted by fistynuts at 9:05 AM on May 13, 2011


I was wondering why I was starting to feel light headed. It's been too long since I've engaged in some TSA outrage. Thanks for the dose, brother.
posted by perhapses at 9:05 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are airplanes just really expensive? Why don't we say that?

I don't think cost of airliners is really a factor (shopping malls are expensive to build, too) as it is people's baseline anxiety about flying (lack of control over one's fate plus packed in like sardines) combined with the obvious specter of the 9/11 event's use of airliners as flying bombs against heavily populated targets.
posted by aught at 9:06 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is why I always check my baby.
posted by Kabanos at 9:06 AM on May 13, 2011 [40 favorites]


Ok, if you want to pick on "modified pat downs" in general, I'm up with that, but within the context of "we are doing modified pat downs" I don't understand why you wouldn't pat down a baby. Well, other then just stripping it down would be more effective, I suppose.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:06 AM on May 13, 2011


Bombs on airplanes are not a big threat, the problem here is that we are checking people for explosives in the first place, not following up on potentially positive results.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:08 AM on May 13, 2011


Admittedly it would be difficult for someone to crash a shopping mall into a large and heavily populated building, though.

Clearly you've never seen the way I drive a shopping mall.
posted by quin at 9:08 AM on May 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't understand why you wouldn't pat down a baby.

Because it's a baby?
posted by grubi at 9:08 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is it impossible to plant a bomb or weapon on a baby?
posted by Bovine Love at 9:10 AM on May 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


grubi writes "Because it's a baby?"

And a terrorist wanting to kill a few hundred people is going to balk at using a baby to convey the explosive? Situational outrage in the case seems totally unwarranted.
posted by Mitheral at 9:11 AM on May 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


Any baby stroller that is pushed across a lawn could set off the bomb sniffers. Fertilizer. The TSA needs to get their minds straight.
posted by Gungho at 9:14 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because it's a baby?

People go through metal detectors and pat-downs those magic see-through-your-clothes detectors. Your luggage is checked with xrays.

You can't (well, you shouldn't) put a baby through an xray machine, therefore baby gets checked like everyone else.

If your argument is that a baby wouldn't personally be trying to smuggle things onto a plane, that's a given.

I'm not a fan of the TSA searches by any means, but I don't see why they shouldn't at least be consistent, rather than making tiny humans an exception for no reason other than they are tiny humans.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:15 AM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Our officers followed proper current screening procedures by screening the family after the alarm

I wish they would stop saying this. It's weirdly Orwellian that people think it's reassuring. "It's not just one asshole employee; being an asshole is actually proper screening procedure. Move along."
posted by eugenen at 9:19 AM on May 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Hello Daddy,
Hello Mom,
I'm your da-da-da-da-da-DIAPER BOMB!
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:21 AM on May 13, 2011 [15 favorites]


And a terrorist wanting to kill a few hundred people is going to balk at using a baby to convey the explosive?

Using that logic, let's check everyone, elderly and toddlers alike, making sure to finger their assholes BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW.
posted by grubi at 9:23 AM on May 13, 2011


I wish they would stop saying this. It's weirdly Orwellian that people think it's reassuring. "It's not just one asshole employee; being an asshole is actually proper screening procedure. Move along."

See, though, that just means they're officially assholes.
posted by grubi at 9:25 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any baby stroller that is pushed across a lawn could set off the bomb sniffers. Fertilizer. The TSA needs to get their minds straight.

I don't see the relevance here. There's a plausible reason for setting off bomb-sniffers without actually trying to carry a bomb on a plane. So? Any adult working in their garden before packing their bag could set off bomb sniffers. Should we also stop checking adults who set off the bomb-sniffers?

If the policy is to look for bombs, I can't think of any reason why you wouldn't check a baby just like anyone else. No, the baby will not be trying to bomb a plane, but if you set a no-baby-checking policy it makes a baby-bomb the obvious thing to do if you're intersted in doing that sort of thing.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:25 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Opinions on this topic here vs. the green are more disparate than I could have imagined.
posted by mkb at 9:26 AM on May 13, 2011


Wait, which assholes are we fingering?
posted by cashman at 9:26 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Better image of the baby in question.

Still so sure there was nothing to worry about?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:27 AM on May 13, 2011


Grubi, are you implying we shouldn't check the elderly either? I really don't see the logic here. Whatever the screening procedure is, it should be consistent for everyone. If you have a problem with the screening procedure, fair enough, but if you basically thing "Yes, we should pat people down if they set off the bomb-sniffers" it doesn't make sense to add "Except these people and those people.'
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:27 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


it makes a baby-bomb the obvious thing to do if you're intersted in doing that sort of thing.

Um.
posted by grubi at 9:32 AM on May 13, 2011


I wish they would stop saying this. It's weirdly Orwellian that people think it's reassuring. "It's not just one asshole employee; being an asshole is actually proper screening procedure. Move along."

The reassurance is that it's someone following a procedure with an objective trigger event rather than a pedophile making up an excuse to grope babies. If I'm reading between the lines correctly.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:32 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Using that logic, let's check everyone, elderly and toddlers alike

...Well don't they, though? There is no shortage of stories about TSA hassling people. Heck, even Wil Wheaton whined about it recently. I've not personally experienced one of these TSA horror stories, but it's pretty clear that flying is way too much of a hassle now. Even without the ever-present threat of pat-downs, probes, and interrogations, the lines are too long, the fees are too numerous, and the headaches too big. Screw that, I'll just drive.
posted by Jinkeez at 9:33 AM on May 13, 2011


i'll drive, too - or i won't go
posted by pyramid termite at 9:34 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a new dad, I'm honestly not sure I'll be able to fly with my daughter once she's old enough to know what the hell is going on. I don't think I have the right to consent on her behalf to intrusive touching, and I certainly won't be teaching her to make exceptions to "no touching" in cases of authority, especially shite authority like TSA. The only conclusion I can make is to avoid it entirely. How are other parents handling this?
posted by odinsdream at 9:35 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, I really hate the way TSA applies security theatre to the erosion of civil liberties, but I'm not really down with "other mothering" or "other parenting" either. The kid's parents were right there, they were apparently comfortable with this situation, and they get to make this kind of call for their own child. You want to make a huge stink about your own TSA pat down or that of your children, please be my guest and I'll be on your team, but this is a very awkward public invasion of this family's privacy.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:36 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


grubi writes "Using that logic, let's check everyone, elderly and toddlers alike, making sure to finger their assholes BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW."

This is of course where the whole TSA screening procedure breaks down. It's possible to smuggle several pounds of explosive and detonators in body cavities. Now that the the TSA is using porno scanners and full body pat downs it seems the only vector available to would be plane bombers is transport via rectal or vaginal cavity. What the heck is the TSA going to do after even an unsuccessful ass bomb attempt? Past policy extrapolation (shoe bomber, multi part explosive, box cutters, nail clippers etc.) would mean body cavity searches for everyone. If they don't yet keep all the other searches then the theatre aspect of the security screening process would be obvious to all but those with the most powerful cognitive dissonance ability.
posted by Mitheral at 9:36 AM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've got kids all over the country, and I'm not seeing them again until this shit is over (or they decide to humiliate themselves in front of strangers and fly here).
posted by tomswift at 9:38 AM on May 13, 2011


Just 'cause the boogeyman is dead doesn't mean the War on Terror has to let up. More patdowns! More more more!

Why all of a sudden this unrest
and confusion. (How solemn the faces have become).
Why are the streets and squares clearing quickly,
and all return to their homes, so deep in thought?

Because night is here but the barbarians have not come.
And some people arrived from the borders,
and said that there are no longer any barbarians.

And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
Those people were some kind of solution.

posted by jhandey at 9:38 AM on May 13, 2011


I think it is a huge issue that children are getting so thoroughly searched at airports. This is because these children will grow up, thinking it is normal and appropriate, to be thoroughly searched by a governmental agency in the normal course of life. This terrifies me.

I don't like what it says about the state of the USA when I stand in line so I can be either viewed naked or near-fondled just so I can get on a plane (as is required for my career -- I can't choose to not fly without significant problems). But, I understand the wider context. I know this is all a response to 9/11, and I know my country is still reeling, psychologically and politically, from that tragedy. I know the TSA is crazy. I put up with it because I have no choice, but I do so begrudgingly. I put up with it, while hoping that sometime soon the craziness will recede.

Children don't have that wider context. Children won't see these screenings in terms of the wider context, relating to 9/11. Instead, it will just be What It Means To Travel. It will just be The Sort Of Thing Government Does. It makes me worry.
posted by meese at 9:41 AM on May 13, 2011 [50 favorites]


All the people not having a problem with this: The baby is in a onesie. Where are you going to hide anything??? Letting me open the diaper so you can glance in it or maybe even squeeze the diaper makes sense, but if you attempt to perform a pat down of my infant that is traveling with me, somebody better have a camera ready because my reaction is going to be on the internet. And I will need some bail money.
posted by Big_B at 9:42 AM on May 13, 2011


The reassurance is that it's someone following a procedure with an objective trigger event rather than a pedophile making up an excuse to grope babies. If I'm reading between the lines correctly.

Well, except that's been their response to just about every charge of overreaching, whether or not a baby was involved.
posted by eugenen at 9:45 AM on May 13, 2011


To be fair, the baby made a threatening gesture when asked to remove his shoes.

The lack of taser use is being questioned. "Clearly, we need to retrain our agents. Any threat like this must be subdued immediately. We're developing a special program to get them up to speed on our new infant sized threats", said Michael Smith, TSA representative.

"Our new training includes a taser and gun course where our agents practice hitting the small, but fast moving targets. If you can hit a baby, you can hit a jihadi! - is our motto. We've also developed new Concrete Cradles- concrete bomb disposal containment units for the wee ones. It's easier to assume they have bombs and detonate them, before they detonate you. Is that a teething ring, or a detonator? You can never know."

Witnesses reported that the child may have been screaming "Allahu Akbar", while other witnesses said that the child may have simply been crying to be fed. Authorities are analyzing tapes at this time.
posted by yeloson at 9:48 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I saw this comment somewhere else, and fully endorse it: The world in which the appropriate response to this situation is to frisk the baby, and not to assume that perhaps the explosive detection equipment might need some re-calibrating, is well and truly a fucked up world.
posted by griffey at 9:49 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


The TSA Rights bust-card (pdf) is a single-sheet list of all your rights at a TSA checkpoint.
posted by gman at 9:51 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


griffey writes "I saw this comment somewhere else, and fully endorse it: The world in which the appropriate response to this situation is to frisk the baby, and not to assume that perhaps the explosive detection equipment might need some re-calibrating, is well and truly a fucked up world."

There is no way to fix this with re-calibration.
posted by Mitheral at 9:51 AM on May 13, 2011


This is because these children will grow up, thinking it is normal and appropriate, to be thoroughly searched by a governmental agency in the normal course of life.

Don't worry about the airport searches. It's the metal detectors in the schools that will acclimate your children to the new normal.
posted by ryanrs at 9:52 AM on May 13, 2011 [16 favorites]


Those terrify me too, ryanrs. We just don't have them in schools around where I live.
posted by meese at 9:54 AM on May 13, 2011


"Modified pat-down"? Really, TSA? It's no wonder you're constantly having p.r. disasters.

Why go with "modified pat-down" when you could have called it a "courtesy pre-flight burping"? Problem solved.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 9:59 AM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is that a bio-weapon in your diaper or are you just happy to see me ?
posted by y2karl at 10:05 AM on May 13, 2011


I still don't understand why a terrorist bringing a bomb on an airplane and killing 200 people in an airplane is so much worse than a terrorist bringing a bomb into a shopping mall and killing 3000 people such that everyone attempting to get within 500 yards of an airplane has to be treated as a potential threat but no one anywhere else does. Are airplanes just really expensive? Why don't we say that?

Because it's not about protecting citizens from bombs or terrorists. It's about controlling the movement and organization of citizens. It's about setting up checkpoints at the critical nodes in the transportation network.

Airport TSA security provides a very efficient method of searching and restricting the movement of any enemies of the government, domestic or foreign. Look at the Jacob Appelbaum controversy.

It's paranoid, but that's what people thought about people's concerns about ECHELON in the 80s. Now look at what we've discovered with the NSA spying scandal.
posted by formless at 10:06 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I still don't understand why a terrorist bringing a bomb on an airplane and killing 200 people in an airplane is so much worse than a terrorist bringing a bomb into a shopping mall and killing 3000 people such that everyone attempting to get within 500 yards of an airplane has to be treated as a potential threat but no one anywhere else does. Are airplanes just really expensive? Why don't we say that?
Or just blowing up the TSA security line.

Anyway, the "logic" is that airplanes make attractive targets for terrorists for a couple of reasons 1) you don't need much explosives to bring it down (it would take a LOT to bring down a whole mall) and 2) airplane crashes are just terrifying to people for some reason, the loss of the control and the fact that you're going to be falling for minutes, either in the plane or in the air makes it scary to people. And AQ has tried twice (and failed) to bomb planes since 9/11.

I think some of our security procedures would only catch stupid terrorists, but frankly AQ has proven itself to be quite stupid.

That said, a lot of the TSA stuff is pretty moronic. When it comes to patting down babies, though, it does make sense to search them because OBVIOUSLY terrorists would have no problem putting a bomb on a baby if they knew they could get it through security
This is of course where the whole TSA screening procedure breaks down. It's possible to smuggle several pounds of explosive and detonators in body cavities. Now that the the TSA is using porno scanners and full body pat downs it seems the only vector available to would be plane bombers is transport via rectal or vaginal cavity.
Yeah, that's the thing. Before the undie bomber people used to joke about how the pat downs wouldn't stop anyone who had just stuffed something in their crotch, so of course AQ has a guy stuff stuff in his crotch.
posted by delmoi at 10:06 AM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


still don't understand why a terrorist bringing a bomb on an airplane and killing 200 people in an airplane is so much worse than a terrorist bringing a bomb into a shopping mall and killing 3000 people such that everyone attempting to get within 500 yards of an airplane has to be treated as a potential threat but no one anywhere else does.

I'll bite.

A bomb that goes off in the air kills everyone 99.99999% of the time. This is both due to the initial shock kill, as well as the plane crashing/airplane cabin being breached. It also kills anyone on the ground it, or the shrapnel, or the bodies hit. There are a variety of ways this bomb kills you, only one of which is direct.

The same bomb that goes off in a shopping mall kills a few people in the immediate area, but most people in the mall live. The reason is the environment doesn't kill you.

It would take a magnificent bomb, larger than a person, to kill everyone in the mall.
posted by dflemingecon at 10:09 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Then I guess we're lucky the only two places to put bombs are airplanes and shopping malls!
posted by shakespeherian at 10:15 AM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm not the mother of a child, but if I were, and this happened to me and my baby...well, I can't think of another situation where I'd be more proud of my little one if he or she decided to exercise the right to FLIP THE FUCK OUT.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:19 AM on May 13, 2011


Now that there's massive paranoia about explosives on planes, all terrorists need to do to shut down air travel is start leaving fertilizer on the sidewalk around airports. Large number of people will walk through it and trip off the explosive detectors en masse. Same goes for putting a little fertilizer in the hand washing stations in the bathrooms. We've set ourselves up for panic. Practically zero risk, and huge lulz for the terrorists.
posted by mullingitover at 10:27 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frankly I'd rather risk being blown up by a terrorist, which EFFECTIVELY NEVER HAPPENS.

I'm pretty sure at this point these practices and techniques are engineered to cause the populace to demand racial profiling, opening up law enforcement across the country to be allowed to do same.
posted by rhizome at 10:28 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


In other news, my husband was flying Huntsville to Dulles this morning. Some dude in line in front of him was incensed because TSA took his chainsaw away. It takes all kinds.
posted by wildeepdotorg at 10:28 AM on May 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Now that the the TSA is using porno scanners and full body pat downs it seems the only vector available to would be plane bombers is transport via rectal or vaginal cavity.

This is not just a speculative threat; in Saudi Arabia, there was a suicide-bomb attempt on one of their numerous princes using a rectal bomb. Apparently the bomber got "a half kilo" of explosives up there, which seems like it's probably enough to bring down a plane if you did it just right. (It was not enough to do the job vis-a-vis the prince, but this was probably because the bomber's own body absorbed much of the blast, which wouldn't be an issue in a plane if the bomber went to the lav, shat it out, and then blew himself up.)

There is part of me that is really interested to see what the TSA does when someone finally tries to do that. This is part of my general morbid curiosity into exactly how far the American public is willing to debase itself in the name of security: first we had to walk without shoes, then hold our pants up without belts, then the pornoscanners, then the "enhanced" happy-ending patdown ... when they break out the specula, will it be too much? Or will we collectively bend over and spread 'em for that, too? I have no idea.

A bomb that goes off in the air kills everyone 99.99999% of the time.

This is not true. See, if you want, this list of fatal US and Canadian bombing events. (Which is a bit of a misnomer as it does include some non-fatal events.) But of the 12 fatal events, several did not bring down the aircraft, making the odds something more like 75%. That's a long way from the "seven nines" odds you're claiming ... and modern aircraft, as they get larger and are designed with bombings in mind, will probably become harder to bring down.

Personally, I think if you look at that list what you'll see is that the majority of bombings weren't carried out by suicide bombers, but rather by people planting stuff in luggage. Thus the biggest preventative measure in terms of preventing aviation bombings is 100% luggage screening (and also probably pulling luggage off of the plane if the passenger isn't onboard).

Unless we in all seriousness do go down the speculum route for passenger screenings, it's going to be nearly impossible to prevent suicide bombings. You could put explosives in somoene's rectum, in breast implants, or surgically implant them if you were really dedicated. (After all, if you're going to blow yourself up, you can probably get by on half a liver and one kidney.) But, luckily, there really aren't that many would-be suicide bombers in the world. At a recent lecture I went to on this topic, a former head of the Israeli bomb squad discussed the very high "chicken rate" among Hamas bombers. Even in Palestine it's not that easy to recruit people willing to blow themselves up, and that's with the enemy oppressor right next door. Many bombers are depressed people or mentally handicapped, and Hamas frequently resorts to not letting them even blow themselves up -- instead, they get into position and a handler does the deed, in order to keep them from having any second thoughts. Pretty sad, but it's a very different story than what we get from the media in the US.

By making a person have to kill themselves to bring down an airplane -- a result of luggage screenings, very basic gun screens for passengers, and post-9/11 passenger awareness -- we've raised the bar significantly, and I doubt that we're going to do a whole lot better than that. Everything else is just theater to make people feel better about flying; it's a PR subsidy to the aviation industry.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:43 AM on May 13, 2011 [17 favorites]


dflemingecon writes "he same bomb that goes off in a shopping mall kills a few people in the immediate area, but most people in the mall live."

The flip side is you can smuggle a much larger bomb into a mall. IF I was AQ wanting to target malls I'd low bid the pictures with Santa service. That would allow me to bring a massive bomb or series of bombs right into the mall without scrutiny and plant them next to a dense queue of children. There is no doubt that the 1996 Manchester bombing for example would have been very deadly if warning had not been given that allowed for evacuation.
posted by Mitheral at 10:44 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's now vanishingly unlikely that a terrorist could take control of a commercial jet and smash it into anything. Now that the passengers and crew would all rather see the plane deliberately go straight into the dirt than to give a terrorist control of the aircraft, that dynamic is over.

So, a terrorist can either (a) go to great lengths to tray and smuggle enough explosive onto a plane to blow it up hidden in a baby's diaper, or (b) roll a baby carriage loaded with 60 lbs of dynamite and 60 pounds of bearings, screws and nails into the middle of a packed shopping mall food court. Devoting our resources to continually (and fractionally) ratcheting up the difficulty of (a) does not make us safer. And we do so at great expense and at the uncounted cost of alienating all tourists and many of our own populace from flying to, in or through the US. The money and time and goodwill available to fight terrorism is finite. It would be better spent trying to stop radioactives in cargo, or developing action plans for biowarfare attacks, or creating intelligence nets to have some warning before they hit 4 food courts across the country on the day after Thanksgiving.
posted by tyllwin at 10:46 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


> Well, other then just stripping it down would be more effective, I suppose.

TSA Security Manual, Chapter 18

"Field Stripping a Baby"
posted by mmrtnt at 10:47 AM on May 13, 2011 [4 favorites]




In an ideal world we have a better appreciation of risk.

Since we're not in that ideal world, a world where we don't pick on brown-skinned fellow-citizens with beards is probably better than one where we do, even if it means scanning babies and old ladies in wheelchairs.

Gosh, what a horrible choice. Can we just ban flying?
posted by alasdair at 11:02 AM on May 13, 2011


Can we just ban flying?

It wouldn't matter. The TSA has started showing up at bus stations, train stations, subway stations and highway road blocks. If you do not want to be screened you should just stay home and not go anywhere. Ever.
posted by ryoshu at 11:08 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this TSA filter? Or is there some larger point?

Well the Blue isn't posting things like Unchecked Executive War Power Could Slip Through the House because either Obama will veto or supports it or something, but the TSA is still a visable part of the past leadership effort and therefore is still fair game.

But having the TSA do more outrageous stuff means that President Obama can get a bump in the polls in October when he surprises with an announcement that 'TSA is out of control and if re-elected I'll get rid of it' Then the Blue will have a 500+ comment post about it, with a few posters pointing out how the more outragous things happened under his watch and the post that links to the most outrageous stuff the TSA ever did will get the highest number of favorites. The second most favorite will be to a link of President Trump having to remove his hairpiece at a TSA checkpoint.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:08 AM on May 13, 2011


The reason is the environment doesn't kill you.

But the primary point isn't to kill, if we're distinguishing murder from terrorism. That almost trivializes the difference between killing 200 people and killing only ten. Throw in other factors (e.g., people consider airplanes to be dangerous, and shopping malls to be safe) and the mall almost makes more sense.

That's a theoretical argument, though. Truthfully I don't think these acts are really about "terrorism," conceptually. I think these people care far more about what's going on inside their own heads than what goes through ours. If they wanted to terrorize us, it would be easy. Put 30 guys in 30 different cities and towns across the United States. Every morning at 9:30 am, one of them gets into a car, places a Koran on the dashboard, then accelerates to 90 mph and crosses the yellow line into oncoming traffic. Every day, this happens in a different city. Every day at 9:30 am for a solid month.

That's easy to do and difficult to prevent, and would affect a larger number of people more constantly than the prospect of airplanes being flown into skyscrapers. (Most people don't spend much time in either.) But it lacks the dramatic flare. Maybe terrorism is more effective when it has dramatic flare, but I don't think so. I think the D.C. sniper was plenty terrifying. I think the appeal of dramatic flare is that these people get to imagine themselves to be heroes. I think they get to—and do—imagine themselves to be bad motherfuckers.

And that's also why I don't think they're likely to stash bombs on babies.
posted by red clover at 11:10 AM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Not to nitpick, but this is actually a security company, First Line, doing the screenings at KCI, and not the TSA. I don't know why the hell they've decided to search a baby, they've been pretty reasonable the half dozen times I've been through security. They're one of the few airports without pornoscanners, which makes going through security less tense by an order of magnitude.

I dunno. I hope I don't have to fly....ever. I actually looked into taking amtrack, and the prices are about the same, its 70 hours, instead of 4, to get to a destination. Tempting.
posted by hellojed at 11:12 AM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I tend to agree with not seeing the big deal in all of this. If we're going to search, search everyone. We can't say babies don't get searched, because then they will hide the stuff on babies. This is sort of why black drug dealers love having white girlfriends who can rent apartments in nice neighborhoods, or how the Air India -- I think -- terrorist got his suitcase bomb on a plane with his Irish girlfriend. Security must be universal, or at least potentially universal.

When I was a kid, we were in Washington, D.C. when His Excellency the Crown Prince of Spain visited, Juan Carlos. He was staying at some nice home with a sunken courtyard in front, and to get a better view the eight-year-old me sat with his feet under the railing and his arms on the middle railing, like a kid might, my feet dangling into the courtyard. A cop came over and told me to stand up behind the railing. My parents explained it was because I could be a [Basque] terrorist with a bomb.

This is an event I remember, but I don't feel particularly traumatized by it.
posted by dhartung at 11:15 AM on May 13, 2011


The reassurance is that it's someone following a procedure with an objective trigger event rather than a pedophile making up an excuse to grope babies

I know that there's been a lot of push-back against TSA in the last year or so (not actual push-back, where anything gets done, but people are being a lot more vocal of their discontent with the process), but I'd be curious of the epically destructive clusterfuck that would be a TSA agent using his position to fondle children,

The what-about-the-terrorists? crowd crashing headlong into pedophiles-want-our-children people would feed the news cycle for weeks and might create enough of a stink that TSA would be forced to reevaluate some of their processes (or at the very least, it would cause some massive flip-outs in airline security lines whenever an agent came near a stroller.)
posted by quin at 11:17 AM on May 13, 2011


curious of the epically destructive clusterfuck that would be a TSA agent using his position to fondle children,

How much has such hurt the churches accused of such?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:18 AM on May 13, 2011


Yeah, but people already really hate TSA.
posted by quin at 11:22 AM on May 13, 2011


Yeah, but people already really hate TSA.

Ahhh, but believe in it is working as practiced is religious.
posted by rough ashlar at 11:32 AM on May 13, 2011


The TSA Rights bust-card (pdf) is a single-sheet list of all your rights at a TSA checkpoint.
Is that information valid for me as a foreigner, or do only US citizens enjoy these protections?
posted by brokkr at 11:33 AM on May 13, 2011


ryoshu writes "The TSA has started showing up at [...] and highway road blocks."

Whole Lee Smeg. Along with the Border Patrol check points I'm amazed Americans put up with this kind of thing. And the amtrack link seems to say you need photo id to travel by train. Is that true?

hellojed writes "I don't know why the hell they've decided to search a baby, they've been pretty reasonable the half dozen times I've been through security."

Preliminary screening resulted in a positive test for potential explosives.
posted by Mitheral at 11:36 AM on May 13, 2011


Preliminary screening resulted in a positive test for potential explosives.

Yes, with babies being a source of material that used to be used to make Saltpeter...sure. They can throw things too!

(Foxfire 5 page 247 tells you about how outhouses were managed to provide material for gunpowder.)
posted by rough ashlar at 11:41 AM on May 13, 2011


I actually looked into taking amtrack, and the prices are about the same, its 70 hours, instead of 4, to get to a destination. Tempting.

Amtrak also lets you bring your own booze, if you're taking a sleeping car. (And frankly unless you're a real dick about it, you can get away with it in the regular seats too.)

Sadly they keep making modern train stations more and more like airports; not just in terms of security but by having "gates" instead of "tracks" or "platforms", which I find both revolting and bizarre.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:51 AM on May 13, 2011




furiousxgeorge writes "Airport passenger screener charged in distributing child pornography."
Federal agents also allege that Transportation Safety Administration Officer Thomas Gordon Jr. of Philadelphia, [...] uploaded explicit pictures of young girls to an Internet site on which he also posted a photograph of himself in his TSA uniform.
An obvious criminal mastermind this one.
posted by Mitheral at 11:59 AM on May 13, 2011


Well the Blue isn't posting things like Unchecked Executive War Power Could Slip Through the House because either Obama will veto or supports it or something

There's no evil groupthinking entity called The Blue. You have a Metafilter account: You post it.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:09 PM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Frankly I'd rather risk being blown up by a terrorist, which EFFECTIVELY NEVER HAPPENS.

This. Freedom means responsibility and risk. I'll be taking a train until (if) this headfuck ends.
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:34 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


if a woman has a right to a pat-down by a female TSA agent, can the baby get a pat-down from a baby TSA agent? Because I think that would be hilarious. And adorable.
posted by Eideteker at 12:46 PM on May 13, 2011 [21 favorites]


PRIOR ART
posted by Eideteker at 12:50 PM on May 13, 2011


This. Freedom means responsibility and risk. I'll be taking a train until (if) this headfuck ends.

Some people want to bring TSA style screening to the train system as well
posted by delmoi at 12:53 PM on May 13, 2011


When I was a kid, my friend's little brother was flying off to see his grandparents for a week or so, and was going through security with his mom, when the checkers noticed something suspicious in his bag - a grenade.

No, seriously, the 8-year-old kid had, without his mother's knowledge, packed a grenade into his carry-on. Mind you, it was a dead grenade that his dad had as an old war artifact, but Jeffrey had wanted to show it to his grandparents because it was so cool, and, well, even in the Halcyon days of 1992 this caused a bit of an alarm.

Really, really long day for his mother, there.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:57 PM on May 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


A similar scene took place when young emelenjr brought his trusty Walther PPK, Megatron, on a trip to visit the grandparents in Florida.
posted by emelenjr at 1:01 PM on May 13, 2011


As usual, people aren't making their opinion known as consumers by actually saying "fuck you" when they feel they should. Imagine how beautiful it would be if ticket sales went down to nil and the fuckers had to respond by uprooting their porn-or-grope policies?

Better yet, when will we see the first "terror" attack made by a U.S. citizen entirely because of how pissed off they are about the porn/grope policies?

(*hurriedly unwraps microwave popcorn)
posted by herbplarfegan at 1:02 PM on May 13, 2011


The consumers of air travel often don't have an alternative choice but to consume it if they want to do their business or see their families or go on vacation.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:26 PM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Right doesn't mean easy.
posted by herbplarfegan at 1:49 PM on May 13, 2011


...though I'll concede that thinking about it makes me too upset to really approach it rationally at the moment (as I'm.. sure you could tell), so.. nevermind, I guess.

Also lemme say for the record that I don't actually hope that anyone threatens or hurts people just because things currently suck (& for those very people as much as for anyone else, at that).
posted by herbplarfegan at 1:54 PM on May 13, 2011


Well, I mean business people have no choice. Trust me, my sister hates the TSA and would have been glad to take a train on her trips but it just couldn't work. No seeing family on holidays is a bit much to ask. You could choose a different vacation that didn't require air travel, but this is America and we don't get enough vacation and I really think people should do what they want with that time.

Right doesn't mean easy, yeah. We have some famous bus boycotts in this country that required a ton of sacrifice, but the TSA just isn't bad enough to motivate that level of action.

I hear you though.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:14 PM on May 13, 2011


This is not an isolated event. Last week my nine-month-old son and his mother were both subjected to a freedom fondle for carrying small container with breast milk through security. Then when the breast milk container tested positive for explosives, the screener shrugged and said, "Probably just your lotion." And we were allowed to pass (with the breast milk). On the return leg, they missed the breast milk entirely. The whole thing is just so ludicrous and pointless.
posted by gruchall at 2:55 PM on May 13, 2011




Baby food tests positive for explosives, seized by TSA agents

If the TSA did not give the baby food to a bomb disposal team then the explosives testing is a fucking farce.
posted by ryoshu at 4:28 PM on May 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Texas House bans "offensive" security pat-downs:
the measure makes it illegal for anyone conducting searches to touch "the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person" including through clothing.

It also prohibits searches "that would be offensive to a reasonable person."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 4:57 PM on May 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seriously, the baby food really bothers me. If you think you've identified trace explosives on some jars, do you just throw them away and let the owners board the plane? If you really think you've identified explosives, wouldn't you detain the people in possession of the suspected explosives until further lab tests indicated the test were a false positive or the baby food jars actually contained explosives?
posted by ryoshu at 5:28 PM on May 13, 2011


Secret Life of Gravy writes "the measure makes it illegal for anyone conducting searches to touch 'the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person' including through clothing.

"It also prohibits searches 'that would be offensive to a reasonable person.'"


Still ok if you're visiting your relations in prison though.
posted by Mitheral at 5:35 PM on May 13, 2011


So, it's come to this, then. The TSA searching people in diapers. I suppose we can at least be thankful that Garry Shider died before the dawn of this hideous trend.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:46 PM on May 13, 2011


Expect more TSA fondling if this makes it through the legislative process. And goddamn am I pissed that this is will be claimed by the republicans as their victory.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 10:01 PM on May 13, 2011


There is no law that will pass by prohibiting some fraction of TSA behavior, I'm simply not that optimistic. Something has to be done to rein in the TSA's mandate itself, such that they can't touch anybody without probable cause, or something like that. If not to abolish the fucking shithole of an agency itself, that is.
posted by rhizome at 10:48 PM on May 13, 2011


What is the etiquette or protocol if I, uh, become aroused while my comrades are putting their strong hands firmly all over my body?
posted by fuq at 9:39 AM on May 14, 2011


The Viagra TSA Experiment
posted by homunculus at 10:26 AM on May 14, 2011


My mom got me and my grandma out of the USSR. We took a plane out of the country. I remember before we got to the plane we had to go to a special room in the airport so I could be searched (I was five). I remember my mom was really mad about that, but at the time I was like, no bigs mom, just let them look in my pockets and stuff.

I feel like if growing up in Communist Russia doesn't beat the angry out of you when your kids get searched, then growing up in the US definitely shouldn't.
posted by prefpara at 5:44 PM on May 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Expect more TSA fondling if this makes it through the legislative process. And goddamn am I pissed that this is will be claimed by the republicans as their victory.

I don't really get the anger; that article says that they're refusing to let the TSA buy more pornoscanners. Seems like a good thing to me. Those fucking things were a boondoggle from the start. They don't work, they're not regulated appropriately (ought to be a medical device, and oh by the way we were an order of magnitude off in estimating the radiation exposure), they're invasive but in a creepy panopticon-by-wire way, they're slow, and they're expensive as hell.

Everything about them screams corruption. I'd bet you anything that the only reason they showed up in the first place had to do with certain people inside the TSA and in Congress being in the pocket of the manufacturers. It's not about terrorism because it's never about terrorism -- it's always been about money. (And petty power and uniform fetishism, but mostly money.)

The most glaring bit to come out so far is that Michael Chertoff, the guy who got the ball rolling on the pornoscanners, is being paid via a consultancy by Rapiscan Systems, one of the two major manufacturers of the technology. Not a bad retirement plan if you can get it.

I'm sure L3 has their own pet politicians, and given that it's their hardware that seems to be turning up in airports lately, they've found the right palms to grease. Just as an e.g., Linda Hall Daschle is reportedly an L3 lobbyist, which makes sense as her husband probably would have been in a position to obstruct things a few years ago ... so there's a quid pro quo possibility in addition to whatever value she might have on an ongoing basis as the keeper of hubby's Rolodex.

So let's not pretend that any of this is actually about 'security'. Given that, anything that stops the TSA from pouring more money into this particular facet of the military-industrial complex is a Good Thing. (Even if, as I suspect it is, it's anger by one group of politicians at not being given enough baksheesh themselves. But if you wait for pure motives in Washington you'll be waiting a long time.) And if in cutting off the gravy train it pushes the TSA into doing something spiteful and vindictive to the public, like increasing the frequency of junk-fondling 'Enhanced' patdowns, so much the better -- the more public anger and attention are focused on the TSA, the less money will probably go walking out the door.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:08 AM on May 16, 2011


Not a bad retirement plan if you can get it.

Oh, Chertoff is far from retired. You can count on that.
posted by rhizome at 10:37 AM on May 16, 2011




That was like one of those Highlights magazines where you have to spot all the things that are fucked up. I think I maxed out around 12. Everything is broken at every level and that is beyond sad.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:26 AM on June 10, 2011


homunculus: "Dr. David Mandy: Special Needs Son Harassed by TSA at Detroit Metropolitan Airport"
"I realize they're trying to keep people safe, but come on, does he look like a terrorist?" said Dr. David Mandy.
The family was going through security when two TSA agents singled Drew Mandy out for a special pat down. Drew is severely mentally disabled. He's 29, but his parents said he has the mental capacity of a two-year-old, which made the experience that followed at metro Detroit's McNamera Terminal that much harder to deal with.
It should be obvious that a 29 year old with the apparent mental age of 2 (I'm assuming there isn't a state or federal ID identifying the mental state of the carrier) wearing padded undergarments is exactly the kid of attack vector the TSA screening are designed to thwart. The fact that Mandy's son is actually disabled and Mandy knows both he and his son aren't terrorists should have no bearing on whether screenings take place. The article says that retraining will be performed but I bet it only changes how the interaction happens not whether secondary screening happens in these cases.
posted by Mitheral at 12:37 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Tourism nightmare: The TSA gave 2000 mostly elderly British tourists a brutal 7 hour "revenge" security check that included fingerprinting, retina scans and lengthy questioning on deck of their cruise ship in the sun without access to food, water, or bathrooms. The extra lengthy process was added because a few passengers questioned the need for any processing at all; it was their 10th stop on U.S. soil
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:56 PM on June 10, 2011


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