TSA and the Sippy Cup Incident

This story is pretty disgusting:

"I demanded to speak to a TSA [Transportation Security Administration] supervisor who asked me if the water in the sippy cup was 'nursery water or other bottled water.' I explained that the sippy cup water was filtered tap water. The sippy cup was seized as my son was pointing and crying for his cup. I asked if I could drink the water to get the cup back, and was advised that I would have to leave security and come back through with an empty cup in order to retain the cup. As I was escorted out of security by TSA and a police officer, I unscrewed the cup to drink the water, which accidentally spilled because I was so upset with the situation.

"At this point, I was detained against my will by the police officer and threatened to be arrested for endangering other passengers with the spilled 3 to 4 ounces of water. I was ordered to clean the water, so I got on my hands and knees while my son sat in his stroller with no shoes on since they were also screened and I had no time to put them back on his feet. I asked to call back my fiancé, who I could still see from afar, waiting for us to clear security, to watch my son while I was being detained, and the officer threatened to arrest me if I moved. So I yelled past security to get the attention of my fiancé.

"I was ordered to apologize for the spilled water, and again threatened arrest. I was threatened several times with arrest while detained, and while three other police officers were called to the scene of the mother with the 19 month old. A total of four police officers and three TSA officers reported to the scene where I was being held against my will. I was also told that I should not disrespect the officer and could be arrested for this too. I apologized to the officer and she continued to detain me despite me telling her that I would miss my flight. The officer advised me that I should have thought about this before I 'intentionally spilled the water!'"

This story portrays the TSA as jack-booted thugs. The story hit the Internet last Thursday, and quickly made the rounds. I saw it on BoingBoing. But, as it turns out, it's not entirely true.

The TSA has a webpage up, with both the incident report and video.

TSO [REDACTED] took the female to the exit lane with the stroller and her bag. When she got past the exit lane podium she opened the child's drink container and held her arm out and poured the contents (approx. 6 to 8 ounces) on the floor. MWAA Officer [REDACTED] was manning the exit lane at the time and observed the entire scene and approached the female passenger after observing this and stopped her when she tried to re-enter the sterile area after trying to come back through after spilling the fluids on the floor. The female passenger flashed her badge and credentials and told the MWAA officer "Do you know who I am?" An argument then ensued between the officer and the passenger of whether the spilling of the fluid was intentional or accidental. Officer [REDACTED] asked the passenger to clean up the spill and she did.

Watch the second video. TSO [REDACTED] is partially blocking the scene, but at 2:01:00 PM it's pretty clear that Monica Emmerson -- that's the female passenger -- spills the liquid on the floor on purpose, as a deliberate act of defiance. What happens next is more complicated; you can watch it for yourself, or you can read BoingBoing's somewhat sarcastic summary.

In this instance, the TSA is clearly in the right.

But there's a larger lesson here. Remember the Princeton professor who was put on the watch list for criticizing Bush? That was also untrue. Why is it that we all -- myself included -- believe these stories? Why are we so quick to assume that the TSA is a bunch of jack-booted thugs, officious and arbitrary and drunk with power?

It's because everything seems so arbitrary, because there's no accountability or transparency in the DHS. Rules and regulations change all the time, without any explanation or justification. Of course this kind of thing induces paranoia. It’s the sort of thing you read about in history books about East Germany and other police states. It's not what we expect out of 21st century America.

The problem is larger than the TSA, but the TSA is the part of "homeland security" that the public comes into contact with most often -- at least the part of the public that writes about these things most. They're the public face of the problem, so of course they're going to get the lion's share of the finger pointing.

It was smart public relations on the TSA's part to get the video of the incident on the Internet quickly, but it would be even smarter for the government to restore basic constitutional liberties to our nation's counterterrorism policy. Accountability and transparency are basic building blocks of any democracy; and the more we lose sight of them, the more we lose our way as a nation.

Posted on June 18, 2007 at 6:01 AM • 145 Comments

Comments

MarkJune 18, 2007 6:22 AM

Wonder if they got permission from the Discovery Channel to use the name "MythBusters".

Mike SchiraldiJune 18, 2007 7:28 AM

Note also that she claimed she should be exempt from the rules because she works for the Secret Service. Washington insiders letting each other be exempt from the rules makes me sick -- Beltway insiders should be the last ones to get an exemption from airport security. Everyone who helps move the machine that is the federal government should experience what the rest of us slobs have to go through, so that they know what parts of the machine need changing.

In programming, we call this "eating your own dogfood".

(BTW, she wasn't even an active agent; she quit but kept her badge so she could keep pretending to be one)

GabrielJune 18, 2007 7:34 AM

"Why is it that we all -- myself included -- believe these stories? Why are we so quick to assume [...]"

Sorry Bruce, but people believe what they want to believe. If you are accusing the TSA of making people believe stories, you're going a bit too far away.

We should all use some healthy skepticism. In fact, that's what Bruce always advocates...

PhillipJune 18, 2007 7:37 AM

"Accountability and transparency are basic building blocks of any democracy; and the more we lose sight of them, the more we lose our way as a nation."

Amen, Bruce!

NostromoJune 18, 2007 7:37 AM

Wait a minute. The TSA is NOT "clearly in the right". The quote from the incident report is selective and thereby misleading. Immediately before that section is: "[TSO] informed the passenger that the child's container was too big and would have to be poured out." That's a child's drink cup containing 6 ounces of water. Yes, TSA is acting like jack-booted thugs, and you can conclude that by reading TSA's own incident report.

Andy DingleyJune 18, 2007 7:40 AM

It's not what we expect out of 21st century America.

On the contrary, it's _exactly_ what I (white, liberal, non-Muslim European) now expect out of 21st century America. I know I've certainly no intention of returning to the USA for the forseeable (and certainly not by air!), until it stops being like this.

PeterJune 18, 2007 7:44 AM

I applaud Ms. Emmerson for standing up to the absurdity of the TSA. I wish I had the cahones to do the same.

I recently flew for the first time since 9/11. The current set of bans is absurd and a pointless waste of time for everyone involved. I can't bring a sippy cup of water on board but I can buy all the water, juice, gel or just about anything else I want once I get past security. I REFUSE to believe that all those liquids and gels available beyond security have been thoroughly checked and screened. They haven't. That's what makes the whole thing a sham.

We are no safer now than before, but the point is we weren't unsafe to begin with. Sure there have been no attacks in the past 6 years, but there weren't any attacks in the 6 years prior to 9/11 either.

No matter what anyone says or does, terrorist attacks are an extremely rare event. They are also like car theft and graffiti in that you can't reduce the incidence to zero. You just have to put up with some occurrence of it. We are wasting an inordinate amount of money trying to reduce to zero something that was exceedingly rare anyway.

Not to belittle the 3000 people who were killed on 9/11, but there were only 3000 of them We lose 40000 people EVERY YEAR on our roads and another 30000 to influenza. In the six years since those 3000 people were killed, more than 400,000 people (more than 10 TIMES AS MANY) have died from those other two causes alone, and what are we doing about reducing those deaths? Nothing.

We should be spending money where it benefits the most people, not on trying to prevent some rare event that would only effect a small number of people on the off change it even happens.

At the end of September 2001, I said to someone that the events of 9/11 were tragic, but they were an anomaly, not the beginning of a "new paradigm" and the only thing we would be left with is long lines at the airport. I believe I was correct in my prediction.

Clive RobinsonJune 18, 2007 7:54 AM

Unfortunatly it is not clear what happened prior to the first video the TSA have put up.

Did you notice that the face of the TSA person coming out of the "sterial area" is removed from the first video but not those in the second video...

Also the TSA paperwork lacks any kind of detail of the number of people involved etc.

Interestingly the report does say that she was told the cup would have to be poured out...

What is the betting that there is nowhere to pour the cup out or any other liquid in the so called "sterial area" or anywhere else (except the toilets) for that mater...

Also the TSA paper work indicates that the childs cup was to big to be disposed of but the bottle of water which appears to have been twice the volume was not...

For the TSA to only show part of the incident is effectivly at best "selective honesty".

Also you think that they would have checked the paperwork for consistancy. After all some areas are redacted where it makes no sense to.

People do act in odd ways when they have been put under stress and apparently idiotic behaviour.

Also many many studies have shown that people under stress have at best minimal recolection of events, and very often get them out of sequence.

Anonymous CowardJune 18, 2007 8:07 AM

@Andy Dingley: Actually, a lot of us in the U.S. feel the same way. We just can no longer speak up, if we want to keep our jobs to support our families. I hate to sound like a coward, but these people scare me. A lot more than any "terrorist" ever could.

Bruce SchneierJune 18, 2007 8:20 AM

"If you are accusing the TSA of making people believe stories, you're going a bit too far away."

It never occured to me to blame the TSA for making people believe these stories.

What an odd thing to even suggest.

chabuhiJune 18, 2007 8:22 AM

It seems to me (as with most such events) only two people (or a handful) know what truly happened, and the rest of us looking on from afar cannot possibly know the true story.

So I think it's kind of foolish and unfair for us remote observers to pass judgement on EITHER side of the affair.

Sure, we can have our opinions and are free to express them, and I suppose it's even fun to "solve the mystery" of events like these. But sometimes people seem to get way too emotional about things they can't possibly know the full truth about.

(Not necessarily here, just speaking generally about some of the feedback I've seen regarding this story.)

bobJune 18, 2007 8:27 AM

Theres enough jack-booted thuggery to go around here - everybody seems to be overlooking the fact that the female in question is a Secret Service agent (or at least claims such and TSA does not deny it) and expects to be treated better than everyone else because of it. Nevermind the fact that the security BS is BS; its the rules and unless she is in her official capacity as a SS agent (which I suspect does not allow her to bring her toddler along while protecting the president or busting counterfeiters or whatever) then she is just a face in the crowd and should line up with the rest of us peons.

Once you pass a certain percentage of 'police' (FBI, DHS, SS, State Patrol, Federal Marshal, County Sheriff, City Police, NCIS, OSI, Texas Ranger, College Campus Security, others still too numerous to list) in a society - a number I suspect we passed in around 1966 if not earlier - they reach a 'critical mass' and become a society of their own and the rest of us become second-class citizens of their world.

Sez MeJune 18, 2007 8:29 AM

I know part of why people believe these stories. I'll use two polarizing political examples--many (certainly not all, or even most) Republicans believed that President Clinton had people murdered in Arkansas, and many (certainly not all, or even most) Democrats believe that President Bush orchestrated 9/11.

The rellevant point is that it is easy for people to believe the worst about people or institutions they already don't like or distrust. In the case of the TSA, there is a large contituency since most who have flown have a frustrating experience with the TSA, often feeling their tactics are silly. This makes it much more easy to believe a wild story because of our pre-concieved opinions.

Best,
sm

sooth_sayerJune 18, 2007 8:30 AM

Joy .. welcome to bitchy American's and their outraged defenders.

Come off it Bruce .. here is a nut job who got upset and in her anger may have either: thrown water at someone or at the very least emptied in front of them making a mess .. and calls it accidental .. I don't know why she would be unscrewing the sippy cup to drink from it.

If I was there i would ask her to clean it too, she could do it standing up or be on all fours .. her choice.

At the very least she is lying in her story, what else happened is unbelievable for this lack of candor.

"I was detained against my will ... " what is this load of crap .. I doubt anyone is EVER detained because they want to be held .. cuddled and befriended by law enforcement.

Yes TSA are dumb ass nuts .. but she is a dumb f**k .. who complains about her 19 month old in a stroller without shoes !!!


I am telling you .. you can't defend/attack either side in these outrageous stories .. the are both equally bad .. let's talk some SHA or prime-numbers.

BTW if you are still looking for that watch .. he was flashing it yesterday .... point is: stop being a medium for 3rd .. nay 4th rate stories ..


bobJune 18, 2007 8:32 AM

@peter: Its "cojones" - if you want to live in the US should learn to speak spanish like the rest of us...

samiamJune 18, 2007 8:49 AM

Of course, it would be even better if the video was not in a propriety format.

Wouldn't it be nice if government agencies and their party providers had to use open standards when providing content.

ifonlyJune 18, 2007 8:54 AM

If only the sippy cup had been securely locked so that only authorized individuals could gain entry, then this entire incident could have been avoided!

CleverSharkJune 18, 2007 9:02 AM

Personally I find it disturbing that the TSA is evidently keeping archived footage that it can then dig up and post on a web site in order to embarass people who talk against them. Clearly in this case the footage is used to clarify a PR issue, but what's to keep them from holding on to footage of, say, someone whose pants fall off after removing his belt, or someone removing his shoes and causing people around him to pinch their noses, or yet someone else's embarrassment at having something such as a sex toy found in their luggage, taken out and displayed in public view?

Someone pointed out that this was impossible given the amount of footage taken on a given day, but evidently the TSA can and did do exactly that. This fits even more the bully stereotype than the alleged sippy-cup incident!

But people don't realize that. I suppose it's a side-effect of learning to live with those cameras around. Not that they let the public take photos at screening points, though, the TSA strictly forbids this.

MarkJune 18, 2007 9:04 AM

"Not to belittle the 3000 people who were killed on 9/11, but there were only 3000 of them We lose 40000 people EVERY YEAR on our roads and another 30000 to influenza. In the six years since those 3000 people were killed, more than 400,000 people (more than 10 TIMES AS MANY) have died from those other two causes alone, and what are we doing about reducing those deaths? Nothing."
It's quite possible that risk from roads has actually gone up in the US. With people who would previously have flown using a car instead. Both due to fear of "terrorists" and wanting to avoid the unpleasent experience of "security".

MarkJune 18, 2007 9:13 AM

"Personally I find it disturbing that the TSA is evidently keeping archived footage that it can then dig up and post on a web site in order to embarass people who talk against them."
As other's have pointed out there appears to be some selective editing involved in the footage. Wonder if they'd be so keen to put up footage of TSA people behaving inappropriatly. Or how they'd react to a passenger filming them and putting it up on youtube...

Sez MeJune 18, 2007 9:14 AM

@Mark

Fair points, Mark. However, there is a significant difference. There is no concious plotting behind traffic accidents and disease. Not to mention, we can combat disease and traffic fatalities though research and regulation. Fighting terrorism is much more complicated (partly due to intelligence behind activies, partly because best dealing with state sponsors is difficult, etc.), and it is much tougher to be certain the return on investment--we can never truly measure what was prevented.

Case in points: Afghanistan and Iraq. Whether or not one agrees with these is not the point. The point is, in Afghanistan, the chorus was that if we did something sooner then 3,000 people might not have died. In Iraq, the chorus is that there was nothing to prevent. These could easily be reversed--if Afghanistan was bombed in August 2001, the chorus would have probably been even worse than the chorus against Iraq because it was pre-9/11 mindset. If Iraq never would have happened and Saddam would have given terrorists weaponry, the chorus likely would have been worse than the post 9/11 chorus because it was a post 9/11 mindset.

I'm not defending or condemning certain actions. I'm merely saying that answers are less obvious and tougher to measure. To compare medicine to terrorism is not a good comparison--there is a huge difference between random acts of nature and the plots of evil human beings.

Best regards,
sm

navJune 18, 2007 9:15 AM

'Not to belittle the 3000 people who were killed on 9/11, but there were only 3000 of them We lose 40000 people EVERY YEAR on our roads and another 30000 to influenza. In the six years since those 3000 people were killed, more than 400,000 people (more than 10 TIMES AS MANY) have died from those other two causes alone, and what are we doing about reducing those deaths? Nothing.'

Well, nothing, aside from developing influenza treatments and vaccines, providing said vaccines to people on an annual basis with said vaccine being chosen on the basis of epidemiological research. And nothing aside from ever continuing work by car manufacturers to improve vehicle safety, the introduction of speed cameras and the hard work every day by traffic police.

And 3000 people were killed in 9/11 - that's almost irrelevant. The important thing is how many people have not been killed as a result of security controls. That's a very different question, and one very difficult to answer because you'd have to compare it to some other non-zero level of security controls because it'd just be plain idiotic to let people on an aircraft without some checks.

Now, there are obviously well reasoned arguments that the current controls are excessive, but I think drawing comparisons to road traffic accidents and influenza or other diseases does not make for one of those well reasoned arguments.

ThinkerJune 18, 2007 9:17 AM

To "Anonymous Coward at June 18, 2007 08:07 AM". You need to speak up and fight them. Silence is acceptance. There are many among you who simply need a voice in the darkness.

CleverSharkJune 18, 2007 9:22 AM

"Wonder if they'd be so keen to put up footage of TSA people behaving inappropriatly. Or how they'd react to a passenger filming them and putting it up on youtube..."

The use of cameras is already strongly prohibited in security check areas and will earn you a trip to the security office. There are signs up everywhere. Clearly the TSA wants to remain in absolute control of what people can see and broadcast about the screening process.

Osiris7June 18, 2007 9:44 AM

I was doubtful about this story to begin with. It just didn't seem realistic that she would accidentally spill any large quantity of the fluid upon being challenged about it. I suspected that she poured it on the ground just to be defiant.

Clive RobinsonJune 18, 2007 9:56 AM

One quick question,

Scooter Libby is going to jail for 2 1/2 years for naming a CIA operative...

Are Secret Service Personnel likewise covered by the same law?

If so who named her....

FPJune 18, 2007 10:04 AM

We believe those stories because most people who have traveled by air recently have stories to tell about ridiculous screening procedures, and only a tiny leap of imagination is necessary to believe the original account.

@Nostromo: "That's a child's drink cup containing 6 ounces of water."

(Un-?)fortunately, TSA agents are required to leave their common sense at the airport door. Whoever lets 6 ounces of water slip through, just because it was a child's sippy cup, earns herself a quick pink slip.

It's the rules. If we don't like the rules, an airport security line is the wrong place to protest. And "I should be exempt" is certainly the wrong reason.

Memet BilginJune 18, 2007 10:13 AM

I find this story to be a non-story except for one little detail. That she got refused entry is beyond my interest, that it was for 6 or 8 ounces of water or milk is also beyond me. That she flashed an old badge... still don't care.

The thing is that this story (as you yourself point out bruce) rests on her willfully pouring the water and being threatened arrest. Now, the video doesn't give us that detail, so unfortunately, we won't really know if she was threatened arrest.

But as was the case with Kokesh's arrest on charges of "Unlawful Assembly – Loud and Boisterous" while he was completely silent, this one doesn't make sense. As far as I know, there isn't a law against spilling water yet, whether willfully or accidentally. The thing we should be fearing and standing up against is that they have an authority to arrest basically on *any* charges.

DudeJune 18, 2007 10:15 AM

TSA agents were quickly hired and poorly trained.

However, Monica Emmerson should be arrested and charged with impersonating a Secret Service Officer.

In the very least she must be charged with failing to turn in her SSA credentials.

Shame Shame Shame on the Secret Service for not collecting retired agent's credentials. These things could be altered and used in VIP assassination attempts.

The whole thing is disgusting.

AndrewJune 18, 2007 10:26 AM

It's about naked power, pure and simple. The power of a single petty person (the police officer on duty, not the TSA rep) to "make" them apologize profusely for a single act of non-violent defiance.

>> Wonder if they got permission from the Discovery Channel to use the name "MythBusters".

No. Why should they? They're the United States Federal Government, why should they respect anyone else's hard-earned intellectual property?

Ironically enough, I had an almost identical incident occur about a decade ago at Knott's Berry Farm on a Halloween night. Through poor planning, a booth selling $5 bottles of water was set up about fifty feet from a ride entrance in such a way that only those who had been standing in line for an hour could reach it.

So you just had time to take two swallows before a pimply-faced punk with the manners of a thug said, "Throw it away, or you don't ride!"

I politely explained. He said, "That's not my problem, either pour it out or you don't go on the ride!"

I asked for his supervisor and was refused. So I poured the bottle out at his feet.

"OK, that does it! You're out of the park!"

I just kind of looked at him.

"If you walk past me, you will be arrested. Don't make a bad situation worse."

So what could I do? I walked past him.

Notice he's not a security guard. He's a "J Random" park employee who was told, "Don't let anyone carry bottled water into the ride area."

Sure enough, he orders the ride shut down, reports that he has been assaulted, and calls for lots of security and the sheriff's department.

I changed sweatshirts, numbly slipped past a gauntlet of sheriff's deputies (one with baton out!) at the ride exit, and watched from about fifty feet away as he regaled them with the tale of how a "drunken" patron had "sent him sprawling."

Be very grateful that TSA has cameras. Be even more grateful that they are willing to release video footage.

I wonder if they will, the next time a video clip proves them to be in the wrong?

AnonymousJune 18, 2007 10:47 AM

The DHS is completely at fault for instituting a fraudulent ban on liquids. Whatever happened after that is irrelevant.

This *is* the face of 21st century America: brownshirted thugs pounding the face of humanity into the dirt. Forever.

godzilla808June 18, 2007 11:07 AM

I believe stories like this one because I've seen TSO's who are more than willing to abuse their power. The arbitrary nature of dealings with the TSA may add to my willingness to believe, but isn't necessarily the starting point.

We're all human; I can't say I'd do any differently if faced with a long flight and a cranky toddler. This lady's mistake was trying to pull rank, and then not admitting that she dumped the water on purpose. (We should *all* be dumping water in protest!)

Anyway, thanks Bruce for setting the record straight on this one.

derfJune 18, 2007 11:15 AM

Remember - the TSA agents are trained minimum wage earners that miss 90+% of the government's own test guns and bombs. They're there to intimidate you into compliance with their rules, not to actually make you more safe.

The partial video of the incident shows:
1) Data is being taken without your knowledge or consent.
2) That data will be manipulated to make the case more favorable to the government.
3) That manipulated data will be placed on the internet for all to see if the TSA doesn't approve of your behavior.

Conclusion: Your "naked" x-ray pictures can and will be used against you if you misbehave.

AnonymousJune 18, 2007 11:20 AM

In general there are only two reasons why we believe things are true: because we are afraid they are true or we want them to be true. It is very seldom that we believe things are true because they have been proven to be true. In this case I would say we want to believe it is true because we are all so frustrated with "security" these days that we are willing to jump to grasp at any story because we want to justify our frustration.

guisarJune 18, 2007 11:20 AM

Why would be be "plain idiotic" to allow people on planes without some sort of check? Have you ever ridden a subway, a train in Europe, a bus, a taxi? We have grown accustomed to harrassment at airports- that's it plain and simple. Beyond the verification of identity at borders which is a matter of international law current procedures are just reactionary- while the cost is apparent the benefits (if any) do not seem to have been investigated.

Safe AlreadyJune 18, 2007 11:24 AM

Couple things.

1) Travelling alone with a small child is already hell and the TSA just makes it hellx10. 99% of the time, the once calm child exits the checkpoint screaming her head off totally freaked out because of stupid insistence that the parent be separated from the child during scanning. The TSA should have special handling for people with small children.

2) I'm sick of taking off my fucking SANDALS to go through security. Its a dumb rule. One guy tried to build explosives into his shoes, he was caught without all this stuff by - wait for it - an alert passenger.

3) The prohibition on liquids is beyond stupid and does nothing but make certain we are unable to carry toiletries in carry-on - which totally screws the business traveller. The 3oz limit is particularly stupid in light of the fact that most travel sizes are 4 oz's. Furthermore, any chemist will tell you the threat is non-existent.

4) Frankly, I'd rather take my chances than put up with this shit any longer. I have confidence in my fellow passengers' willingness to confront and overpower any hijacker. 9/11 was only possible because it was unimaginable to most people. It cannot happen again.

To Quote Mary Shafer, NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA:

But, no matter what you do, it will never be perfectly, 100% risk-free to fly. Or to drive, or to walk, or to do anything.

One of our pilots here died when he waited too long to eject from a spinning aircraft. He was wrong; he should have jumped out earlier. He failed in his duty, IMO.

One of our engineers was walking his dog when a car driven by a kid jumped the curb and hit him. Only his leg was broken. But he walks his dog again, now. Who know better than him the danger?

There's no way to make life perfectly safe; you can't get out of it alive.

You can't even predict every danger. How can you guard against a hazard you can't even conceive of?
.....
Insisting on perfect safety is for people who don't have the balls to live in the real world.
------
Let's get real.

Ian MasonJune 18, 2007 11:25 AM

@Bruce: "It's because everything seems so arbitrary, because there's no accountability or transparency in the DHS. Rules and regulations change all the time, without any explanation or justification. Of course this kind of thing induces paranoia. It’s the sort of thing you read about in history books about East Germany and other police states. It's not what we expect out of 21st century America."

The DHS is resisting *Congress* on the delay of passport requirements for certain US broder crossings. Here's what DHS spokeperson Russ Knocke had to say on the subject:

"That is just simply not acceptable to us. There are very bad people in this world who want to find ways to get into our country and kill Americans, and it seems to me that equipping frontline personnel with every tool and authority we can … would be something that any officials at any level of government or in any party would want to do"

That's sounds like the old you're either with us or against us ploy. So if you don't want to give the DHS "every tool and authority" you're a bad person who by implication wants to aid "very bad people in this world who want to find ways to get into our country and kill Americans".

The DHS telling Congess what is and what is not acceptable is the attitude that causes a lot of people to view them with frank suspicion. When an agency of the government tries to dictate to the people's elected representatives you have to question quite what their agena is.

DrinkerJune 18, 2007 11:30 AM

Someone asked above about why one would open the sippy cup to drink from it -- Yes. I would and have. My daughter's sippy cups have spill-inhibiting valves in the nipples that try to limit backwash. I'd take the lid off to avoid her backwash or avoid adding my own.

To heck with them: If I opened it up, offering to drink it, and they told me I couldn't and would have to go out get re-searched, I think I'd be sorely tempted to spill it. In this case, she should have dumped it in a diaper and let TSA jam that up where they put the Deer Park.

TSA is asking for malicious compliance.

SamVRJune 18, 2007 11:31 AM

It takes two to Tango. She clearly pours out the content on purpose, but there is no sound and the video stops before you see the scene dissolving. My extensive experience with TSA is that they're like any positions with power - you have some folks that abuse it and some that don't. I have met very friendly TSA folks and just as many rude ones. I am sure she was also letting her ego get away with her too.

markmJune 18, 2007 11:34 AM

How fast did they get the video up on the web page? Compare that to how long it takes a passenger who complains about his treatment by the TSA to get a copy of the surveillance tapes...

Joe McGuckinJune 18, 2007 11:49 AM

Government hacks like Pelosi should be forced to
endure the public transportation system they have created, instead of being chauffeured around in
military jets like royalty.

AnonymousJune 18, 2007 11:53 AM

@Mike Schiraldi
(BTW, she wasn't even an active agent; she quit but kept her badge so she could keep pretending to be one)

That should raise several alarm bells in and of itself! A former Secret Service agent is allowed to keep their badge??? Seems the exit interview process needs a little tightening up....

...and in flashing the badge isn't she guilty of some offence of impersonating a federal officer or something of that nature?

joe McGuckinJune 18, 2007 12:00 PM

This story resonates with the flying public because
anyone who had travelleled via airlines soon after
9/11 would have encountered plenty of examples of boorish behavior by these petty tyrants wearing
TSA badges. I've missed a couple of flights because the TSA screeners were deliberately giving me a hard time at the checkpoint - delaying me until I'd missed my flight.

Congress encourages this behavior by giving TSA the power to fine travellers who object to their treatment.

A Specific Anonymous PersonJune 18, 2007 12:03 PM

I don't think it's just the lack of transparency. Anyone who files at all has witnessed small and petty acts of tyranny. Nothing you can't take, nothing that you can't live with, but annoying all the same.

They tend to react to anything that could possibly be seen as a challenge to their authority with a great deal of aggression. Much more so than, say, a typical police officer does.

And a lot of times, the things they react to aren't defiance -- they're confusion, or frustration, or whatever.

We don't like TSA because we've all had experience with them, and we've all found them to be unpleasant. That's really the beginning and the end of it.

TomJune 18, 2007 12:04 PM

I'm pleased this truth has come out. After reading the original article, it just felt _wrong_. I had decided independently that the woman must have displayed some nasty attitude to get a reaction like she did. My instincts were correct, as I suspect, were the TSA's. I'm not defending them, but I'd not want their job.

common senseJune 18, 2007 12:09 PM

Lady impersonated a Secret Service Officer + Lady lied about the water being spilled by accident = Lady should have been arrested, her child taken to protective services and the boyfriend should think twice before marring her.

Ok that might be excessive, but why would anybody take sides with someone who is impersonating a Secret Service Officer inside an airport terminal?

Rob MayfieldJune 18, 2007 12:12 PM

I think its great that the you guys are concerned enough about the next generation of 'murrigans that you have them protected by the secret service! Well done!

PeterJune 18, 2007 12:27 PM

Nav - "Well, nothing, aside from developing influenza treatments and vaccines, providing said vaccines to people on an annual basis with said vaccine being chosen on the basis of epidemiological research. And nothing aside from ever continuing work by car manufacturers to improve vehicle safety, the introduction of speed cameras and the hard work every day by traffic police."

And the numbers stay pretty much where they have been for decades, so whatever is being done is pretty ineffective. If we were serious about wiping out the flu, everyone going into a govt building would be subjected to a mandatory cheek swabbing and forced vaccination and/or confinement. At least a draconian measure like that would have real results.


"And 3000 people were killed in 9/11 - that's almost irrelevant. The important thing is how many people have not been killed as a result of security controls. That's a very different question, and one very difficult to answer because you'd have to compare it to some other non-zero level of security controls because it'd just be plain idiotic to let people on an aircraft without some checks."

The number not killed is impossible to know, but do you really believe it's anywhere close to 70,000 PER YEAR? Terrorist events are exceedingly rare so even when one does occur, not that many people are effected. (As shown on 9/11.)

My general point is that money spent on this, as Bruce calls it, "security theater" makes us no safer, wastes time and money, and inconveniences millions of people for no reason.

The previous checks for guns and other obvious weapons were more than adequate. How many terrorist events were there when that was the only check we made? Very few.

I think the bottom line is either you believe 9/11 was an indication that the amount of terrorism is going to go up and will stay high from now on, or you believe it was an anomaly in the normally low incidence of terrorist events.

I have believed the latter since 9/12 and I firmly believe more and more people are beginning to see it that way.

Geoff LaneJune 18, 2007 12:32 PM

No, the TSA was not in the right. It is their job to be polite even when presented with an annoying and uncooperative person. The woman, child, cup and water were no threat and behaving as if they were was stupid.

If a policeman had behaved in a similar manner they would rightly get a bollicking.

You have uncontrolled thugs running security in US airports.

unapologeticJune 18, 2007 12:49 PM

"I was ordered to apologize for the spilled water, and again threatened arrest"

You know... there's a lot of idiocy to go around here, but this one line jumps out at me - The puritinical idea of "You better repent or else!"

mystikphishJune 18, 2007 12:51 PM

So, could the fact that the TSA released this footage so quickly work against them as a "precedent" in future cases were a citizen is disputing something in court and requests the video of their own incident?

TJune 18, 2007 12:55 PM

.

Why do we ASSUME the TSA version is correct? Why do we ASSUME the video they have produced corresponds to the actual incident in question? Or even the actual airport in question?

It probably does. A lie exposed would be worse than the truth. But altering or forging video is something any kid can do...

.

Ian LamontJune 18, 2007 12:57 PM

The lady was wrong to do what she did. But it doesn't surprise me -- push 100 parents with small children over the edge with inflexible rules and bullying behavior and one or two of them are probably going to go over the edge.

The "jack-booted thug" comment is extreme. However, the uncompromising, unfriendly, and untransparent mission of the TSA is a fact. Protest anything that they do, and you'll either end up missing your flight and/or be threatened with arrest. Personally, I lost all respect for the TSA and its mission earlier this year in San Diego when I saw them forcing a quavering, wheelchair-bound senior citizen to get out of his chair and submit to an arms-apart pat search, then kept him standing for an additional 3-4 minutes while they waited for someone else to come to the scene to further harass this gentle man with wands or whatever. Meanwhile, every terrorist organization knows that the protected land borders are a joke.

And what is it that the DHS supposed to be doing?

WilliamJune 18, 2007 1:01 PM

I think the real issue here is: why in the hell aren't we allowed to bring liquids onto airplanes? This whole security thing is getting completely out of hand. It is ridiculous that American citizens have to be deprived of items like bottled water or scissors by the nanny state. If someone wanted to use a weapon on an airplane, they could use a pen, or a rolled-up newspaper (which if done properly can actually be used to stab someone), or any number of things. There are too many laws, too many restrictions, and many of them are silly. Bruce, you need to help lead the charge to get the TSA out of our faces! More security is not the answer!

shimmershadeJune 18, 2007 1:07 PM

One would thing that any liquid or solid ordered to be poured out would be containerized and labeled.

UNTERJune 18, 2007 1:07 PM

Bruce,

Isn't the "debunking" just as gullible as accepting the stories on face value in the first place?

The "debunking" of the law professors story is nothing of the kind - it's just a statement of personal incredulity. We don't know what happened in that incident - whether Murphy was actually singled out or not. And that is the frightening part - that the system is so opaque that we can't know if those kinds of stories are factual or not.

The same thing with this story. To believe either side with insufficient evidence is credulous. We don't have a decent process to handle cases like this. We don't know how the incident started, whether the passengers behavior was provoked by egregious behavior on security's part, and there is no good formal process to investigate (and gain access to the original, unedited video). So, we go by gut reaction, pro or con. But similar to Murphy's case, we have an opaque bureaucratic process where the bureaucrats are free from any disciplinary action in practice for abuses of power.

So, whether either story is true or not (which we cannot know), the fact that the system lacks the transparency for us to verify and investigate inevitable abuses is what's worrying. That's what we can verify by the existence of these stories, our responses and the frankly pathetic debunkings.

UNTERJune 18, 2007 1:55 PM

Bruce,

After watching the whole video, this "debunking" is even worse nonsense than I thought. The core of the story is true. You can see a security officer grabbing the passenger 2 minutes in by the shoulder for the crime of mouthing off (that would be charged as assault if it went the other way). You can see over-reaction by all the security folks over a minor incident, everyone on their walkie-talkies as if they were dealing with a "terrorist threat". The fact that the passenger with a one year old gets irate for being forced to re-queue over a few ounces of water is understandable - the fact that "professionals" over-react is not.

My question is the reverse: why do you want to believe the "debunking" Bruce? Is it that we are all conditioned to act like serfs before the king, but feel a bit bad about it? A little guilty for not doing more? This looks like the usual petty-bureaucrat behavior in third-world countries: the US is slowly being converted into a banana republic, where anyone with a badge requires ass-kissing.

GeorgeJune 18, 2007 2:03 PM

@It's because everything seems so arbitrary, because there's no accountability or transparency in the DHS. Rules and regulations change all the time, without any explanation or justification.

You liberals are so quick to attack America that you can't recognize what's going on here. What you insist on calling "arbitrary" is in fact a nimble, agile response to a wily and tenacious enemy. You liberals need to realize that there is a good reason for every Homeland Security and TSA rule. It only looks "arbitrary" (to those who always see the glass as half-empty, as whining liberals always do) because the valid reasons behind it are necessarily classified. If the hard-working heroes who work the front lines on the War on Terror had to explain everything they did to satisfy whining liberals, the Enemy would know everything and we could never win this War.

It's time for liberals to wake up and realize that we're at war against an unprecedented evil. Liberals could once get away with whining about "accountability and transparency," but in the War on Terror we can't afford to reveal our strategy and tactics to the Enemy! Secrecy is the most potent weapon we have against the evil Terrorist Enemy. Those of use who love America need to do everything possible to help our Leaders protect that secrecy, so they can keep us safe and free. The diabolical minions of al-Qaeda make their evil plans in secrecy, so those who work day and night to protect us should have the full advantage of secrecy as well. Openness is something that evildoers can easily exploit. Secrecy keeps us safe!

As loyal citizens, we have an obligation to let the TSA and other officials who strive to protect us do their jobs without questioning, challenging, or whining about "arbitrariness." Those of us who want to see America emerge Victorious in this terrible War will recognize our duty to help all officials do their job through UNQUESTIONING OBEDIENCE. Liberals may see the shoe removal and the reasonable limitations on dangerous liquids as "arbitrary" or "stupid," but loyal Americans will have complete faith and trust that these measures are necessary and justified-- and a way that we loyal patriots can personally contribute to Victory!

So next time you fly, don't be a whining stupid liberal. Remove your shoes proudly, knowing that you're making an essential contribution. And if the Transportation Security Officer makes the decision to confiscate something he or she determines is dangerous (perhaps for classified reasons based on the latest intelligence), surrender it GRATEFULLY because it's the Right Thing To Do For America. And instead of whining like a filthy liberal about the small inconveniences our Leaders have instituted to keep us safe, take the opportunity to THANK the hard-working screeners for their tireless but often unappreciated efforts at the front lines of the War on Terror.

God bless America, and Viva Bush!

jenJune 18, 2007 2:18 PM

I think the reason ppl are so willing to believe the TSA stories we see is that so many of us have stories of our own. Even before all of this happened most recently, I was on crutches for 6 months and while many of the TSA agents were very polite and nice, there were more bad apples than in many occupations to make me think the worst of them.

Recently, two TSA agents had me crying in line because I read the TSA site and had separated my medications out (more than 3 oz) and also had a sealed bottle of water (for medical purposes). All of this is stated as correct and legal on their website. The agent was rude and condescending and told me I must have been reading a fake site; he knew about them from a television show. It was obvious from talking to them that neither of them had ever seen TSA's own website.

Each subsequent airport treated me differently, wanted me to have meds packed differently, and wanted to look at different things (2 airports let me take mini-bottles of liquor on board).

We've all got a story which is why we are so willing to believe someone else's.

acefearlessJune 18, 2007 2:28 PM

"It seems to me (as with most such events) only two people (or a handful) know what truly happened, and the rest of us looking on from afar cannot possibly know the true story.
So I think it's kind of foolish and unfair for us remote observers to pass judgement on EITHER side of the affair."

I'm Sorry but this is a cop-out. We ask people every day to make decisions on things they didn't personally experience. And in the case of TSA they are with a near universal rule drunk with there own power. I have flown at least a dozen times and I have only had 1 agent ever act in a reasonable and respectful manner. It is totally reasonable to come to a conclusion that TSA has acted improperly.

ParentJune 18, 2007 2:29 PM

@sooth_sayer:

Here in the US we commonly have sippy cups with two sets of holes, each with its own valve. This completely prevents spills--you can even shake the cup upside down and usually not spill a drop.

Have you ever tried to drink quickly out of one of those? It's impossible, and attempting it is uncomfortable and frustrating (and seems likely to spread germs).

So unscrewing a sippy cup is exactly what I do when I want to drink the contents. I unscrew the cups my children use as a matter of habit whenever I want to do anything with the contents, and I would expect any reasonable parent to do the same.

AnnoyedPersonJune 18, 2007 2:33 PM

On the TSA site, they say "Decide for yourself." Too bad they don't provide a voting feature to see how public opinion stacks up.

NickJune 18, 2007 2:35 PM

TSA rules are arbitrary, constantly in flux, and are not consistent from airport to airport. This is what’s upsetting to frequent travelers – I’ll follow the rules, but stop changing them on a whim. It’s like every airport get’s to set it’s own rules and every TSA officer get’s to decide for themselves what each rule means, and how polite (or rude) he/she wants to be in enforcing it. There is no consistency in training of TSA officers and apparently demeanor and communications skills are not part these programs.

Just to be fair - all TSA officers are not the same, I (as a passenger) mostly deal with decent levels of professionalism; however in certain airports the rules (and their enforcement) are more arbitrary than in others, and some TSA officers are just plain rude.

I travel frequently all over the US and have been doing it since before September 11th. Actually I was in the air on 9/11. So I speak with lot’s of experience of what Security was before 9/11and after. Before 9/11 security personnel were hired by the airport/airlines and were answerable to those entities. The passenger complaints of rude behavior were taken seriously. Once the TSA took over this became like dealing with DMV on steroids - there is no independent entity to complain to.

BTW, children’s milk, water, juice, etc is supposed to be exempt from the container size restrictions – last Friday I saw this listed on an official TSA poster in Phoenix airpor.


My .02 cents

Nick

anon123June 18, 2007 2:39 PM

Recently I travelled through San Francisco with my wife and baby son. The TSA agent at the checkpoint noticed my son's ~8 oz cup, and asked what was inside. I replied "tea" (it was). He said only juice or milk is allowed - no water, or anything else! After debating him for a minute, he grabbed the cup and dumped the contents out into his garbage can.

We proceeded through the screening and passed with no further questions. When I got on the plane to take off I realized that in the bag that was screened (and the tea seized from) also had a large tube of toothpaste, a set of nail clippers and an apple juice box (full)...

What a joke.

(I travel frequently internationally and always have two lighters in my carry-on bag. Never have they been discovered in the US. In Japan they opened my bag one time (as part of the random screening) and found them. I think it's best to seem oblivious to the various regulations and hope for the best...)


JonnyJune 18, 2007 2:53 PM

"betting that there is nowhere to pour the cup out"

Seven months ago I approached the screeners with a nice large Nalgene bottle full of water. Knowing that i couldn't take it through, I asked if i could pour it out into the nearby trashcan. They said "no, that is against the law". I had to stand there for a few minutes and gulp down a half-gallon.

JoeJune 18, 2007 3:00 PM

I had a run in with TSA at Logan. When I pointed out an unattended bag near the screening post, I became the object of the agents' interest. I was threatened with further scrutiny and was asked if "I was going to be a problem." For several minutes I thought I was about to be hauled off. They never acknowledged the unattended bag.

After clearing security, I complained to a supervisor who clearly had no interest in my protest of either my treatment or the unidentified bag. As I was leaving the area, a man came running back to the screening area to retrieve the bag he had left outside the secure area.

Total time I observed the unattended bag was about 15 minutes. As a former airline crew member, noticing unattended baggage is an instilled practice. I find it very easy to view TSA as jack booted thugs answerable to no one!

anonymousJune 18, 2007 3:03 PM

@shimmer ... gee if the TSA used a communal pot for dumping liquids think of the fun the terroists could have. Binary and ternary reactions!


Hopefuly they've been given a safe disposal method.

RichJune 18, 2007 3:05 PM

I would argue that the TSA made a mistake in escalating the situation by forcing her to clean up and apologize. I'm sure it can be frustrating for the TSA staff, but as the service provider in the situation, they should make allowances for the frustration and stress of their customers.

The whole thing could have turned out quite differently if they had been quiet, polite, and firm. And ignored any temper tantrum tactics that don't really matter. Dealing with an irate customer is like dealing with a two year old. If you meet them head on, the situation just escalates.

RustyJune 18, 2007 3:07 PM

Only a few other posters have mentioned this, but to me the fact that there was a clash between ignorant TSA staff and an ignorant American is not news, it probably happens x times every day.

The real story (and it relates directly to security) is how a former Secret Service agent is able to keep her credentials, and what was she thinking carrying them and flashing them around?

That is poor physical security of the highest order, and really does make me wonder what this civilian (for if she isn't active, she is indeed a civilian) is doing with federal law enforcement credentials?

Is it common or allowed in America for ex-"fill in your agency here" people to keep their credentials? What the hell is that all about?

Ed T.June 18, 2007 3:43 PM

Actually, the fact that the woman's account wasn't entirely true, doesn't mean it was entirely *false*, either. I can see some TSA screener giving this woman the standard sense-free speil about having to dump the water out of the sippy cup, then since she wasn't used to this sort of treatment things escalated until she thought "OK, you want me to dump the cup... THERE, I dumped it!" and emptied the thing on the floor. At which point of course the TSA freaked and went into SWAT mode, yada yada yada. This would be quite in character for both sides (especially if this woman was FORMER Secret Service, and not used to being treated like a potential terrorist.)

Normally, the truth is to be found somewhere in the middle.

You are right, though, the problem is more basic than one woman vs. one TSA screener. As Americans we aren't used to being treated with the "guilty until proven innocent" mindset that flourishes in the TSA, DHS, and law enforcement communities today. And, until some people pull their horns in, we are going to see more of this type of confrontation - possibly with tragic results.

~EdT.

AnonymousJune 18, 2007 3:45 PM

Following orders is not an excuse for outrageous behavior.

First, the thugs are not slaves or draftees, no one forced them to harass people.

Second, following orders was the defense of the Nazi concentration camp officers, they even had written laws, etc that they were strictly obeying, but the Nuremburg Trials, including the American jurists, said following orders was not an adequate defense.

These sorts of incidents just illustrates that the US is, and has been for some time (see Aaron Zelman's & Claire Wolfe's "The State vs the People: The Rise of the American Police State" written before 9-11 and published just after. 9-11 and the Department of Homeland Security (or is it Committee of State Security) have just let them get more public with it.

UNTERJune 18, 2007 3:46 PM

@Peter:

Can't recognize that George is a parody?

I know, I know, it's hard nowadays to distinguish parody from nutcases - our world keeps lapping any attempt at satire!

UNTERJune 18, 2007 3:49 PM

@anonymous: @shimmer ... gee if the TSA used a communal pot for dumping liquids think of the fun the terroists could have. Binary and ternary reactions!


Hopefuly they've been given a safe disposal method.
====

Yup, you could predict a dangerous reaction from a random assemblage of water and n different chemicals --- the terrorists are geniuses!

How about putting in sinks?

FutilityJune 18, 2007 3:59 PM

@George:

This is a truly frightening post. I can only hope that this kind of unquestioning servileness to authority is not prevalent in America these days. Otherwise, I am afraid, that America has traveled a considerable way down the path to fascism already. As an European living in America, I am also appalled by the abusive tone political discourse in America often descends to and the often displayed tendency to label dissenters as 'anti-American' or to deny them the status of patriots. (It is only a small step from there to also deny them humanity. The ensuing results of this can readily be seen in European history or recent deeds of Islamic terrorists.)
As everybody with only a cursory knowledge of cryptography knows secrecy is very often the death to a secure algorithm. To promote secrecy as a means of defense is simply inane (as if the opponent will not assume that certain measures will be put in place). Also, evidence that the current administration is using secrecy to cover up failures, corruption and crimes comes in by the truck-load (without any consequences, though). No evidence, whatsoever, has been provided by the authorities that their overreaching security measures actually prevented a single attack. Given the administration tendency to trump up the slightest success, it is fair to assume that their boasting about such a success would be gargantuan. Instead, we hear, over and over again, from diverted alleged attacks (latest example the JFK-pipeline plot), that later turn out to be laughable at best.

The writer of this post might find it useful to think a little about the following quotes from
James Madison, a father of the US constitution:

"It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad."

"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

"If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy."

It would appear that Madison would side with the 'liberals' in questioning the usefulness and
lawfulness of the 'security' measures.

One last comment: After doing the security check a while ago (after 9/11), I decided to have a smoke before the flight would be nice, but preferring to smoke outside I shortly contemplated to get out of the security zone without my luggage and returning through security one more time. So, I asked the security guard if there are lockers in the security area so I don't have to take my stuff through the check again. The answer: No, after 9/11 all lockers were removed. What does this tell you about the TSA's own confidence in their own security measures?

ForRealJune 18, 2007 4:12 PM

@UNTER re: George
I would hope "george" is a parody (as his namesake as President is), but it's hard to be sure. I've gotten arguments real close to "george's".

RoxanneJune 18, 2007 4:20 PM

I guess they're expecting terrorists to be middle-aged ladies traveling with toddlers.

Why do we believe that they're jack-booted thugs? Because they have been given a blank check to search us at will, without probable cause. They are the SS, the Stasi, the not-very-Secret Service who get to accumulate dossiers on everyone, period, end of sentence. They have extreme authority, and apparently, no one in a position of oversight. Why wouldn't we expect them to be jack-booted thugs?

In twenty years, they're going to be facing indictments, and using the defense, "I was only doing my job." Yep, so were the guards at Auschwitz.

This just shows that TSA agents are idiots that over-react; we already knew that.

So, should these surveillance cameras go live, so all of us can watch what's happening at all of them, all the time? I think that may be the solution, actually. If we're going to be under surveillance, it should be public and available to everyone.

The next time I have a problem - hopefully not any time soon - I'll be sure to ask for copies of the surveillance video. :-)

UNTERJune 18, 2007 4:21 PM

@ForReal:

Yes, it's tough to identify parody nowadays, but this line sticks out: "Those of us who want to see America emerge Victorious in this terrible War will recognize our duty to help all officials do their job through UNQUESTIONING OBEDIENCE." (emph. in original)

Even the fascists have more subtlety than that - they only say it outright (in bold) when they're drunk. It's just downright un-American to say it that boldly (even if you believe it).

yoshiJune 18, 2007 4:24 PM

some annoyances:

@Clive Robinson

Scooter Libby wasn't sentenced for exposing the name of the CIA agent. It was sentenced for lying about it.

@William

You can bring liquids on airplanes - but they must be purchased after the security checkpoint. Personally I think the beverage industry bought the rights to liquids from the DHS. It would make more sense.

about @george

This is called a parody people

IgnatiusJune 18, 2007 4:38 PM

The story about the Princeton Prof being on the watchlist because of a speech he gave isn't debunked by the link given; it is merely "questioned." The fact is that no one knows why he is on the list. There have been incidents in which activists have ended up on the watch list in curiously coincidental ways - for instance, why did Jan Adams and Rebecca Gordon, two 50 year old anti-war activists who run a peacenik newsletter, BOTH end up on the watch list? Blind coincidence? Random happenstance? See http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/...

Sez MeJune 18, 2007 4:41 PM

@Roxanne: "I guess they're expecting terrorists to be middle-aged ladies traveling with toddlers."

Probably not. They know it's unlikely. But one problem is that if you exempt one group from security measures because they are less likely to be terrorists, you are opening the door for that person to be misused by those they might expect to be a terrorist. If they know they will be searched, they may trick or blackmail someone who they know won't be.

Granted, i don't think stopping all liquids is necessarily effective, but i do see the dangers of treating one group differently than another.

AnonymousJune 18, 2007 5:03 PM

@nav: "...aside from developing influenza treatments and vaccines, providing said vaccines to people on an annual basis with said vaccine being chosen on the basis of epidemiological research. And nothing aside from ever continuing work by car manufacturers to improve vehicle safety..."

Well, let's examine the cost-benefit proposition, here.

2003 through 2007, aproximately 150,000 people killed by Influenza. Same period, approximately 3000 people killed by airline-based terrorism attacks of the kind TSA is intended to combat. So Influenza is about 50 times more dangerous over this time-frame.

TSA Budget History:
2003: 4,648 Million
2004: 4,405 Million
2005: 5,297 Million
2006: 5,561 Million
2007: 6,299 Million
-------------------
Total: 26,030 Million over 5 years

NIH Spending on Influenza:
2003: 57 Million
2004: 113 Million
2005: 164 Million
2006: 207 Million
2007: 222 Million
-------------------
Total: 763 Million over 5 years

So, we spent 34 times more money on a condition that has 1/50 the fatality rate.
The priorities are clearly well-balanced.

NickJune 18, 2007 5:06 PM

To clear up any confusion on DHS and it's purpose:

I’m just making sure that everyone realizes that “Department of Homeland Security��? translated into Russian government speak means Committee for Government Security, or as it is more popularly known in the “west��? KGB. Chertoff is a Russian last name meaning “Devil’s son��? or “Devil’s own��?. Hmmm….. Coincidence???

So, we created the KGB and put the Devil in charge. :-)

Nick

bobbleheadJune 18, 2007 5:27 PM

This is clearly nothing but an authority-drenched pissing match.

The TSA agent asserts its power to limit the amount of liquid.

The passenger, being former Secret Service, doesn't take orders from some TSA flunky.

Each side ends up asserting its own authority, or defying the authority of the other. Happens all the time. Just ask any cop who's ever pulled over a legislator or city administrator.

It's nothing but people displaying how drunk each one is on their own authority. Plain and simple.

bzelbobJune 18, 2007 5:28 PM

The reason so many people view DHS negatively is that the rules banning liquids are incredibly stupid and were seemingly put in place because there were a group of "liquid bombers" out to get us. HA!

As far as I can tell, the entire plot liquid bomber plot was a huge sham even on its face
(not to mention the government infiltration of the group.)

DHS is just the most visible enforcement arm for the policies created by a government hell-bent on getting control of society before society wakes up and gets control (back) of the government.

And remember, WE THE PEOPLE should have control of our government!

Tim FullerJune 18, 2007 5:30 PM

The TSA refutations seem to follow a pattern I've identified in most all rightwing skullduggery to date. It's been borrowed/adapted from their Dominionist seeking anti-evolution crowd. It's called the wedge strategy or teach the controvery. In the case of evolution they've created 'intelligent design' as a useful (but ultimately worthless scientific) tool to use as a wedge.

In all matters rightwing politic, we see the same at play. No WMD? Keep a few nutjobs saying we really did find them and the debate shifts from why were we lied to in the beginning to one of whether they really are/were found.

In this case, the TSA seems to be manufacturing a counter argument (through edited video if what I'm reading here is correct) so that the issue will not be on the arbitrary and idiotic rules they've created, but on the SPECIFICS of this one incident.

Pretty sweet the way they work the refs (media) using this blatant bullsquat. If you travel much at all thru airports, you're much more likely to believe what this lady is saying. Whether she went 'off' and spilled the water is kind of irrelevant when you consider the insanity involved in asking her to do so in the first place.

Enjoy.

NoName321June 18, 2007 5:35 PM

@Peter: "And the numbers stay pretty much where they have been for decades, so whatever is being done is pretty ineffective. If we were serious about wiping out the flu, everyone going into a govt building would be subjected to a mandatory cheek swabbing and forced vaccination and/or confinement. At least a draconian measure like that would have real results."

With international travel and legal authority that stops at national borders, even that wouldn't be enough. Even so, keeping sick kids out of school would cut the spread of diseases immensely.

As for the TSA, Bruce's suggestion of transparency and constitutional limits on authority would definitely help. As for their DHS parent organization, dissolution is really necessary, as it has too much power concentrated in too few hands.

Recent_flightJune 18, 2007 5:39 PM

Having flown out of Orlando recently, I have first hand experience with the no more than 3oz rule. A small, factory sealed bottle of water and even smaller factory sealed bottle of apple juice were confiscated. If these items cannot be trusted in an airport, why do 300 million fellow citizens trust them elsewhere every day? Does the government know something we don't about the reliability of factory sealed items? Or is that just stirring the pot?
I was angry at myself and at the rule. I had to purchase water to take a decongestant so my eardrums wouldn't explode. Which brings up the question; I wonder if retail sales in airports are supporting the American economy all on their own?

AnonymousJune 18, 2007 5:47 PM

@George
Thanks for the chuckle - that has to be some of the best written satire I've seen in a long time....

...er, that was meant to be satire, wasn;t it?

Formerly shimmershadeJune 18, 2007 5:55 PM

I just did a web search for the name I've been using (I thought I'd done that before I started using it). It's used by others, and I'm letting it go.

Dumping liquids and possibly some solids into a common container could indeed cause danger. Storing separately, labeling, and analyzing prohibited liquid or solid materials would be a huge undertaking. Sinks, while expensive to install, would be useful for the discarding of harmless liquids, but if they're known to be harmless.... Well, there's always the floor.

JohnJune 18, 2007 6:01 PM

If the TSA didn't insist on creating and enforcing arbitrary rules that serve no security purpose aside to demonstrate their power over the public, this wouldn't be an issue.

We know that shoes aren't an issue, yet we are forced to take them off.

We know that liquids and gels aren't an issue, yet we are forced to put them in little bags.

TSA is deliberately inconveniencing people for zero security payoff, and they know it, but don't care because it allows them to demonstrate authority.

We know that there are secret rules and lists that are being applied, yet there is no way to know or contest the details.

And the knee-jerkism to any criticism has potentially permanent impact.

And to think we used to pride ourselves on being the "good guys".

X the UnknownJune 18, 2007 6:17 PM

@George: "It's time for liberals to wake up and realize that we're at war against an unprecedented evil."

An ultra-conservative "strict constructionist" interpretation of the Constitution categorically refutes your claim. We are *NOT* "...at war against..." anything. For our country to be "at war" explicitly requires Congress to declare war.

Not pass some mealy-mouthed resolution about supporting the President.

War has *NOT* been declared. Ipso Facto, we are *NOT* at war, despite all the rhetoric.

That said, you could certainly make a case (based on Supreme Court rulings on Vietnam Veterans qualifying for wartime benefits) that we may in fact be "at war" in Iraq and Afghanistan. But you still can't make any case for being "at war with Terror".

As for "unprecedented evil"...wake up dude! All Moslem fundamentalist terrorist attackers combined still have a long way to go to catch up with:

Adolph Hitler - a Catholic.
Mao Zedong - an Eastern Secularist.
Genghis Khan - As many as 0.5% of the world's population may be descended from him, through rape.
Joseph Stalin - a Western Secularist.
Pohl Pot - presumably a Buddhist.

Heck, the Albigensian Crusade can mostly be laid at the feet of Pope Innocent III - about 1 million (arguably "good" Christians) dead.

VatarJune 18, 2007 6:31 PM

...and in flashing the badge isn't she guilty of some offence of impersonating a federal officer or something of that nature?

It worked for Valerie Plame...

Jon SowdenJune 18, 2007 6:46 PM

@ Formerly shimmershade:
"Dumping liquids and possibly some solids into a common container could indeed cause danger. ... Sinks, while expensive to install, would be useful for the discarding of harmless liquids, but if they're known to be harmless.... Well, there's always the floor."

It's quite recursive, isn't it. These items are apparently too dangerous to take on a/c, but not too dangerous to take _anywhere_ else. They are also not so dangerous that dumping and mixing them in high density, high traffic public areas apparently poses no danger either.

So, the danger is that the liquids and/or gels might be mixed into something dangerous, but mixing them presents no danger.

Yeah. That makes sense.

JenJune 18, 2007 6:58 PM

If she spilled the water, give her a ticket for littering. I don’t even think spilling water is a crime, because it evaporates and there is no litter. Don’t grab her arm and threaten to arrest her. The security has no right to put a hand on anyone who doesn’t look like they would physically harm anyone. The security at Reagan National is worse than the criminals they are supposed to protect us from.

PS Mythbusters on the TSA website, should be called "Spin Control"

JennyJune 18, 2007 6:59 PM

If she spilled the water, give her a ticket for littering. I don’t even think spilling water is a crime, because it evaporates and there is no litter. Don’t grab her arm and threaten to arrest her. The security has no right to put a hand on anyone who doesn’t look like they would physically harm anyone. The security at Reagan National is worse than the criminals they are supposed to protect us from.

TrevorJune 18, 2007 7:02 PM

It was clearly not explosive water or it would have detonated when poured on the floor. I can sympathize with the woman. There is nothing worse than trying to get through an airport with all your crap. Add a baby to the mix and tempers will flare, especially when you are subjected to the idiocy we pretend is some sort of security.

Raphael AlexanderJune 18, 2007 7:19 PM

Regardless of the spin doctors, TSA security is absurd and ridiculous power abusers who have apprehended a total of zero terrorists since 9/11. In fact the DHS (department of homeland "security") has charged 814,073 people since 9/11 and only 12 with terrorism. Guess how many convictions? None. Not one goddamned terrorist.

What a joke.

ZenithJune 18, 2007 7:42 PM

Good on her! These laws are foolish, we all know it. Scientists far more knowledgable than those in the federal govt employ have stated categorically that a device made from liquid explosives would require several litres of liquid mixed slowly over the course of several hours.

These laws are designed to give the appearance of control and to keep the masses subverted. Civil disobedience like that taken by this brave woman is the only way to rescue the West from the slipery slope we are on to a police state. If only there were a lot more people out there willing to show thier defience.

Brian CarnellJune 18, 2007 7:53 PM

I have never flown on a plane, so I'm not familiar with the particulars of what the rest of y'all go through, but ... if I did decide to fly, would TSA allow me to videotape my interactions with them and post said videotape on the Internet?

Anyway, I was kind of surprised to see the video appear at all. Does the TSA have carte blanche to publicize whatever security video it feels like? I could see them posting video if she had been arrested or committed a crime, but merely because they disagreed with her interpretation and account of an incident? Are there any rules at all covering release of security videos by the feds like this?

quuxJune 18, 2007 8:24 PM

I agree heartily with the person who noted that the TSA operates differently at every airport, and screeners are not always aware of their own rules - even when said rules are posted clearly 50 feet away!

As has been pointed out many times, much of TSA's strategy is based on multiple false premises. But that's an organizational problem; it makes no sense to get angry with any individual TSA official when all are essentially forced to march to the beat of a bad drummer.

Bruce is right. The arbitrariness and incomprehensibility of the TSA's MO leave all of us - including, I am sure, many TSA officials! - leaves all of us gnashing our teeth and waiting for someone to finally point out that the emperor is wearing no clothes!

TriciaJune 18, 2007 8:41 PM

Disgusting? Seriously? The policies and implementation thereof are nowhere near perfect, but this is sort of a ridiculous pole to lash yourself to, I think. Especially for someone like this woman, who from all accounts (except her own) was ready to make matters much much worse for herself -- and her precious tot.

UNTERJune 18, 2007 9:27 PM

Dumping liquids and possibly some solids into a common container could indeed cause danger. Storing separately, labeling, and analyzing prohibited liquid or solid materials would be a huge undertaking. Sinks, while expensive to install, would be useful for the discarding of harmless liquids, but if they're known to be harmless.... Well, there's always the floor.

Posted by: Formerly shimmershade

=====

Are you serious? Really? You think that in a large vat of a large number of chemicals, you could positively predict a "dangerous" combination, one that couldn't be more easily produced by say, leaving an open container that you mixed somewhere?

The odds are much greater that you would -- accidentally -- create a dangerous combination. The only real threat would be someone carrying a solid IA metal. And of course, it would be cheaper and simpler for someone who wanted to do that to simply strap on some explosives and pull the cord while in line.

And sorry, a sink with running water would clear out almost any chemical. If you wanted to drop something dangerous into a sink in quantity, once again you'd be much better off just doing it at home.

Lordy, the thought processes today! If the terrorists are just plain stupid like most of our citizens, we will be safe.

==============

@Tricia: So it's alright for "authorized personnel" to get all pissy, make a big deal out of nothing, and then put their hands on you, but it's horrible, just horrible when a regular civilian does it? Nice symmetry there. You know what that's called, right? Authoritarianism.

Jay SheenJune 18, 2007 10:55 PM

really, most of you miss the point. I have traveled with my 82 year old mother who is very often required to get out of line and be wanded, etc. -- makes me sick to see her already disoreinted, taking off her shoes with difficulty, thinking she has done something wrong, being humiliated, patted down, and for what? unthinking, unfeeling government employees following brainless rules and regulations. give me the freaking science on liquid explosives of 6 ounces! the terrorists have already won, sheep!

StormJune 18, 2007 11:48 PM

She should never have been harassed over the water in the first place. It's water, for crying out loud! I would be mad, too, if I was hassled over a sippy cup.

ReasonableJune 18, 2007 11:53 PM

The point is that the TSA was right, the woman was wrong. Which *weakens* Bruce's usual argument as to the TSA.
Bruce wrote:
>> but it would be even smarter for the government to restore basic constitutional liberties to our nation's counterterrorism policy

I think that's a cop-out. if the facts of a specific case weaken your point, summing up with 'and despite it, my point still stands' is disingenuous. Sorry - trying to present defeat as success is not what we expect of anyone except ad and PR agencies. The post would have been much better without that apologetia of the noral anti-TSA position. Aloha.

xyzJune 19, 2007 12:20 AM

Please don't lose sight of the fact that the TSA has an important "role" to "play" protecting travelers from imaginary dangers one sippy cup at a time. On the other hand there are real innovations in security including mobile phones and jumping attackers. Let's roll...

JeffHJune 19, 2007 2:57 AM

@George - I really hope this was a parody. Either way, I can't stop laughing...

@the various comments about liquids being emptied into a container -

First off, the need to confiscate and limit liquids really is seeming more and more silly as time goes by. It smacks of engineered hysteria, especially when the first apparent threat so conveniently tied in with various political events in the US and UK.

Secondly, assuming my first impression is false and we do need to screen liquids, a big container at some TSA screening point containing various liquids will be by default a) mostly vodka and water and b) not on an aircraft. If a terrorist wants to somehow contrive to put a liquid in a random container to make it explode (and good luck with that) then the (very theoretical) worst that can happen is it exploding at some gate. This is no different in threat and effect than any other bomb attempt at an airport, and certainly far less dangerous overall than an aircraft blowing up and falling out of the sky somewhere.

But seriously, look at the chemistry. I've yet to see any concrete evidence that making a stable liquid bomb that you can actually carry around without it randomly going off can be actually done.

@the original post - I couldn't agree more. Our faceless security organisations around the world are increasingly visible only as a bunch of rule-bound narrow-minded people on power trips. They aren't allowed (or perhaps capable) to make the necessary judgement calls, and they enforce their rules strictly through fear, and out of fear of getting it wrong.

Whatever happened to the well trained friendly police force that knows the letter of the law, and knows the spirit of the law, and which is more important?

AnonymousJune 19, 2007 5:03 AM

@quux - it makes no sense to get angry with any individual TSA official when all are essentially forced to march to the beat of a bad drummer

They are not slaves, no one forced them to sign on as government bully-boys.

Clive RobinsonJune 19, 2007 7:36 AM

@yoshi

"Scooter Libby wasn't sentenced for exposing the name of the CIA agent. It was sentenced for lying about it."

Sorry did I get you correctly a Politico sentenced to 30 months for lying?

Geesh I thought it was part of the job description...

Are there enough jails in the U.S. to take all the Politicos?

StormJune 19, 2007 8:23 AM

"Are there enough jails in the U.S. to take all the Politicos?"

There will be once the FEMA detention centers open their doors.

Mother of a 1-year oldJune 19, 2007 9:07 AM

Idiotic. If it is okay to have JUICE in a sippy cup when travelling with a baby (look at the TSA website, you will see that this is correct) why would it not be okay to have WATER? If it is okay to have liquids for babies, then it shouldn't matter what that liquid is.

And why on earth would TSA insist on taking the sippy cup unless the mother left the line, emptied it somewhere, and went through the line again? They gave this woman a choice of either missing her flight or forcing her child into dehydration.

Frankly, it is cruel and evil to require a small child to be in a long security line without allowing the child's parent give him or her something to drink.

I watched most of the video, and yes, the lady does pour the water on the ground. But I also notice that while the distraught mother was talking to the TSA agent, when the TSA agent had a better view of the kid than her mother did the child was allowed to RUN DOWN THE HALL forcing her mother to leave the agent and chase after her.

Yes, the mother should have had the foresight to chug the water in that sippy cup before she got to the front of the line, but I'm also willing to bet that most airports would have let her have it rather than making the TSA the object of international mockery. I don't care if the mother did flash as secret service badge, I don't care if she was defiant, the rule is wrong to begin with and needs to be repealed now.

MotherJune 19, 2007 9:09 AM

Idiotic. If it is okay to have JUICE in a sippy cup when travelling with a baby (look at the TSA website, you will see that this is correct) why would it not be okay to have WATER? If it is okay to have liquids for babies, then it shouldn't matter what that liquid is (so long as it is a beverage, of course).

And why on earth would TSA insist on taking the sippy cup unless the mother left the line, emptied it somewhere, and went through the line again? They gave this woman a choice of either missing her flight or forcing her child into dehydration.

Frankly, it is cruel and evil to require a small child to be in a long security line without allowing the child's parent give him or her something to drink.

I watched most of the video, and yes, the lady does pour the water on the ground. But I also notice that while the distraught mother was talking to the TSA agent, when the TSA agent had a better view of the kid than her mother did the child was allowed to RUN DOWN THE HALL forcing her mother to leave the agent and chase after her.

Yes, the mother should have had the foresight to chug the water in that sippy cup before she got to the front of the line, but why should she have? People flying with tiny children are supposed to be able to bring beverages for them. I don't care if the mother did flash as secret service badge, I don't care if she was defiant, the rule is wrong to begin with and needs to be repealed now.

UNTERJune 19, 2007 9:43 AM

@Unreasonable:
The point is that the TSA was right, the woman was wrong. Which *weakens* Bruce's usual argument as to the TSA.
Bruce wrote:
>> but it would be even smarter for the government to restore basic constitutional liberties to our nation's counterterrorism policy

I think that's a cop-out. if the facts of a specific case weaken your point, summing up with 'and despite it, my point still stands' is disingenuous. Sorry - trying to present defeat as success is not what we expect of anyone except ad and PR agencies. The post would have been much better without that apologetia of the noral anti-TSA position. Aloha.
=================

See, unlike George, that isn't a parody. That's just an authoritarian a-hole, who can't understand the difference between "reason" and mindlessly, slavishly following the rules. "Reasonable" is exactly the reason we are slowly being dragged into a police state. If we were just all "reasonable" and simply submitted, there would be no problem, would there?

ResistanceIsUselessJune 19, 2007 11:32 AM

Geez, shut up, follow the rules, stand in line and wait you bunch of cry babies.

I have yet to hear of a better alternative to the current TSA security requirements.

MaliciousComplianceJune 19, 2007 12:23 PM

I bet she followed TSA's stupid directions to the letter.

They told her she couldn't drink it, to dump it outside of security, and that she'd have to re-enter. She dumped it just outside their door and they chased her down and made her mop it up. Thugs.

"TSA Officers Hassle Female Passenger with Toddler at Reagan National Airport over Sippy Cup?" "Decide for yourself." I decide that it was about a hassle over a sippy cup. I decided that she spilled it deliberately, but out of malicious compliance to nonsensical arbitrary rules: "Discard it past this podium, then you can come back in." TSA agent number two in video two clearly points her towards the exit after she dumped the cup in the exit and tried to re-enter with him. Then it blows up.

Bill BaileyJune 19, 2007 12:46 PM

This incident is indicative of the level of training and experience necessary to become a TSA screener in the nation's airports. Let me explain first that I am a physical security specialist with a Master's degree in Security Administration, and over 30 years experience in anti-terrorism and physical security as a federal investigator. The TSA did not follow their own rules in this incident and the videotape does not show Ms Emmerson, a 14 veteran of the Secret Service, pouring water intentionally on the floor. At best it is unclear what her intentions were, but this incident is just another example of "you get what you pay for". The TSA screeners are low-payed with limited experience and physical security education. The guards working the Smithsonian are better qualified to conduct security screening. The suggestion that everyone needs to be treated equally is ridiculous, because we aren't all equally dangerous. I suppose the author of that imbecilic comment wants everyone to suffer the same torments he has suffered in boarding an airplane, and by keeping with egalitarian views and the share the pain idiocy, we would. The problem is that we as a country need to stop pandering to political correctness and start using the intelligence we have obtained about our enemies. I have watched with professional dismay as TSA screeners practically strip-searched grandma, while allowing the well dressed Arabic gentlemen to enter unabated, because they were just searching every 5th person. In one incident the TSA stopped an elderly man from boarding an airplane and detained him because they thought he was carrying a ninja throwing star, which turned out to be his Medal of Honor that he received in WWII. We are not all equally dangerous. Wasting time searching FBI agents, and Secret Service, and BATF agents as well as the thousands of other special agents and state and local police, prevent the TSA screeners from doing the necessary job of providing a first line of defense against those who would do us harm. It's not a matter of how inconvenient it is for you individually, but rather what is the best use of limited personnel and equipment to conduct airport screening. The TSA, a part of the Dept. of Homeland Security was born out of desperation, and has neer been funded properly or provided the leadership necessary to do its job.

Cochese TontoJune 19, 2007 12:54 PM

"But one problem is that if you exempt one group from security measures because they are less likely to be terrorists, you are opening the door for that person to be misused by those they might expect to be a terrorist. If they know they will be searched, they may trick or blackmail someone who they know won't be."

@Sez Me ...which I think a lot of people aren't getting. One key to establishing (and understanding) good security is you have to think like a terrorist, esp how they will find ways around regulations.

How much of a stretch would it be to go from "suicide bomber" to "suicide nanny with baby in tow"? Not very far, I think...

Having experienced the back-alley neaderthal professionalism of the TSA personally, I get just as mad as the next guy about stories like this. But honestly, I believe the intrusive & aggressive stance of the TSA (as well as some of their "silly" regulations) is by design. The design isn't to catch every single item so much as it is to send a message to would-be attackers that its not worth the risk of trying. Just a thought.

AnonymousJune 19, 2007 1:32 PM

@Cochese Tonto

I agree with your post. And I don't think we cut our government enough slack as far as their CYA measures go. While, as an informed security professional, I do not think their CYA measures are the best use of resources, could you imagine the backlash from a less informed public (more importantly, voting public) against the TSA if someone used liquids to even attempt, let alone succed at, an airline terrorist attack? Headlines left and right would be that, despite the warning signs and history, they didn't "connect the dots" and prevent it. Of course, when they do "connect the dots" and nothing happends (except inconvenience) they are accused of being alarmists, fascist, any-other-kind-of "ist" that one can imagine. It's a no win for them, so they choose to cover their butts and tolerate the insults rather than be left explaining why they let the liquids through against those arguing with 20/20 hindsight. Again, I don't think they have the best approach, but considering voters will replace anyone who refuses to do CYA with someone who will do CYA, we can't really expect much different. As Bruce has said in other articles, CYA is often a waste of money, but also protection against other harder to measure risks (lawsuits, backlash, slander, etc.)

We're getting what we pay for (with our votes), so to speak.

AnonJune 19, 2007 2:20 PM

First, Ignorance is no excuse for the Law. Period.

Second, a Ban on Liquids is just that. There are no exceptions. Period. What is so hard to understand? If you are carrying a lighter or a metal nailfile expect that it might be taken away from you. If you are carrying a container of liquid, expect that you will have to discard it.

Third, granite + water = slip and fall = airport sued for $10 million dollars after someone slips and falls.

Fourth, as others have said, that woman should be arrested for impersonating a Secret Service Agent and for keeping her credentials after retiring.

Jon SowdenJune 19, 2007 4:40 PM

@ JeffH

" ...assuming ... we do need to screen liquids, a big container at some TSA screening point containing various liquids will be by default a) mostly vodka and water and b) not on an aircraft. If a terrorist wants to somehow contrive to put a liquid in a random container to make it explode (and good luck with that) then the (very theoretical) worst that can happen is it exploding at some gate. This is no different in threat and effect than any other bomb attempt at an airport, and certainly far less dangerous overall than an aircraft blowing up and falling out of the sky somewhere."

****************

Basically we agree, but I have a couple of points.
1) Typically, there are more people in an airport than on an aircraft, so the potential for casualties is actually worse in an airport. If the goal is minimising cas the TSA may be better off letting terrorists on board a/c rahter than mising their bombs for them in the concourse.
2) Presumably the point of removing the liquids is to preserve life, not airframes, so the TSA killing people on the concourse is about the same as terrorists killing people in an a/c
3) While the TSA killing people in a concourse is "no different in threat and effect than any other bomb attempt at an airport", presumably the TSA is supposed to be protecting life, not using "no worse than any other bombing" as their measure of success.
4) The potential exisits for accidental combinations in the bins to cause problems, with no terrorist participation. In fact, that has already happened at least once. I should like to think that the TSA is in the business of incident prevention, not incident creation.

Regards
Jon

Peter E TeperJune 19, 2007 5:08 PM

Maya on TSA Failures in the News: PROVES Bruce's POINT: in a unique way. If you don't want to search out Maya's comment first, here it is:
"Why don't you ask me, I am TSO [1] and I am doing everything possible to keep everyone on those planes safe. But I have message for you, simple passenger[2], not a terrorist, just a regular passenger; why do YOU have to make it so hard on us?[3] Why do we have to spend 30 minutes explaining [4] why you can't take liquids and or must take off your shoes, and in mean time we might miss out on real terrorist passing by[5]. Why do you simple and regular passenger[6] have to load everything you posses in your carrion[sic,7] so we have to spend another 30 minutes searching your bags? Why do you dear passenger have to put every piece of jewelry on you owe[sic,8] and we have to spend another 30 minutes trying to eliminate and clear all alarms you make by walking through the metal detector, just because you refuse to take of your watch, your belt, your bracelet and even your cell phone, you delay the whole process[9]. Why do you always run late[10] and try to blame us[11], why do you refuse to work with us and help us look out for real danger, but instead you are going to do everything possible to make it harder on us[12] just so you have something to write on blogs about.[13]"

Let's see what this reveals. This presumably artless comment demonstrates several things.

First, the gradually rising frustration which is expressed against available ordinary people going about their usual lives,

as secondly, they do so with no expectation of having to prove their innocence or alter innocent behavior

which, thirdly, is now regarded as hostile by frustrated Security Agents.

Fourthly, the word confusions of an (ESL) English as a second language speaker
that will strike some of you as quaint or amusing are both quite common,
and also reflect confusions on meaning,
that lead to thinking that distorts and transforms the meanings of both policy and instructions.
[Not making fun of, but to notice,]

[1] - "I am TSO" rather than "I work for TSO and am a citizen with duty to the Constitution" shows identification of self with the organization

[2] - "simple passenger" sounds like a plain statement, but in many languages it is a term of diminution

[3] - "Why do YOU have to make it so hard on us?" Note the presumption is that the innocent citizen 'should be working to establish their innocence" to ease the task of the state, which reflects a failure to comprehend the essence of the U.S. Constitution.

[4] - "Why do we have to spend 30 minutes explaining" because it restricts Liberty, it doesn't make sense to most persons, interferes with their ordering of their own lives, [the pursuit of happiness]

[5] - "and in mean time we might miss out on real terrorist passing by". - Notice the hostility generated by a frustration in mission resuling in a creeping shift of hostility away from terrorists, which they never/rarely see, to innocent persons they always see* while at work being asked to doing the thing they rarely or never can do.

[*- A similar shift occurred in the 1980's when the IRS forbade people, under penalty of $1,000 fine and or imprisonment from writing a note on the memo space "paid under protest" or including a letter with their check explaining the hardship the tax payment was causing, as this was "too destructive to the morale of the employee" until Congress found the nerve to stop fearing the IRS and to pass a law simply stating that IRS HAD to follow the Constitution in its processes. ** ]

[** - This of course was before the Clinton Administration presented the idea that the act that was a punishment in one context was not legally protected against as a punishment if you simply put it in another context, ["It's not a punishment because you haven't been convicted of anything, so stay in jail and be quiet." "It's not a cruel and unusual punishment because it's not a punishment." {Why? See previous}. "You are not a criminal, or being charged as a criminal, therefore you have no right to legal counsel before we (retain/inflict acts on/dispose of) you."] and therefore persons could be subject to the action without any Constitutional protections. The harm of this is still ratcheting through our system until it finally gets stopped or dominates all our lives.]

[6] - simple and regular passenger - note the distinction between simple as not being regular -

[Note the repetitive accusation of "an attitude of non-cooperation with the state" while and because people are trying to solve their own/other problems in their lives and NOT [shudder] putting the state first?]

[7] - have to load everything you posses in your carrion - [idea confusion with attendant meaning:] - carry on being confused with the term carrion which means useless to the living. This reflects Luis embracing of "I think therefore I am" as justification for NOT having to further justify state killings because "If you do not think as I [the King] do, you are not really a person".

[8] - jewelry you owe - [idea confusion with attendant meaning:] being in debt [for jewelry] is a terrible and disgraceful state in many of the world's largest cultures, and places you in bondage, and shows you to be a person of no personal character

[9] - Why do you dear passenger have to put every piece of jewelry on you owe and we have to spend another 30 minutes trying to eliminate and clear all alarms you make by walking through the metal detector, just because you refuse to take of your watch, your belt, your bracelet and even your cell phone, you delay the whole process.
Note that the imputed motive has become to frustrate the searcher by creating false positives, rather than to avoid the rampant theft conditions created by the failure of security over the baggage/luggage security becomes responsible for?

[10] - Why do you always run late - The functionary receives emotion and does not know how to assign it because this person has minimal education in terms of observing rights, and so few skills to assign responsibility and perspective for action.

[11] - and try to blame us, - in most cultures this is synonymous with treason against the state
why do you refuse to work with us - people are not allowed in these cultures to have independent lives from the concerns of the state

[12] - but instead you are going to do everything possible to make it harder on us - opposition to the state is in fact treason, and you are being warned hat we know it, and have the option on the future of taking action against you for that reason; you should be grateful to us that we don't

[13] - just so you have something to write on blogs about.- an irrelevant, selfish indulgent, pointless, idly selfish, and vain activity in most cultures, since they do not recognize the press function, nor its attendant first amendment guarantees.

As Anon Amous said, "Part of the reason we are losing the practice of our constitutional rights is because (a) we - collectively - don't know what they are, and (b) therefore we don't know what rights themselves are or mean, (c), or what loyalty to and responsibility for the social contract of citizen governance means and entails. Why? See the limitations of understanding that filter the text and the learning about it into the minds of many persons, without guile or malice." - (c) and by permission of Anon Amous 2007 All Rights Reserved

X the UnknownJune 19, 2007 6:17 PM

@JeffH: "... If a terrorist wants to somehow contrive to put a liquid in a random container to make it explode (and good luck with that)..."

On the other hand, it would be trivially easy to make it produce noxious and/or poisonous gases, forcing an evacuation of the building.

Of course, it's pretty easy to do that without the big bucket o' slops, too. You can literally cart in cases of almost anything to the airport - No security checks *before* you get to the security check.

MichaelJune 19, 2007 7:19 PM

Bruce,

a lot of the "I wanna believe" has to do with the way TSA agents behave a lot of times. I tend to fly down from Canada and the experience for flights within Canada or even to destinations other than the US is a lot more pleasent then going through US security.

While going through it (to the US) on the Canadian side is a pain the butt, the people doing it at least aren't unfriendly or outright acting hostile, the same I can't say when I board a plane on the US side of the border where it is made over and over very clear who has the guns and how everybody better toe the line.

Things like forcing people to xray shoes, drop bottles etc. etc. is an absurdity, the "stalwart behaviour" of most TSA agents doesn't do anything to lessen the anxiety that many people do feel.

Yeah, people hate flying, if not outright afraid of it, but not because of the fear of terrorists, but of the absurdity to actually get on the damn plane in the first place.

OSFJune 19, 2007 10:25 PM

I'm on the woman's side, even if she poured out the water deliberately. I've seen many times that TSA folks can escalate incidents at the slightest provocation, and fall back on the power of the badge to push people around unnecessarily. Not because they're "jack-booted thugs," but simply because it's a stressful job and they can understandably get very defensive. But why, I would ask, was the woman required to leave the security area to dispose of the water instead of just drinking it on the spot? If they had just been sensible and let her do that, this whole contretemps could have been avoided. I suspect that's what the TSA folks usually do.

Granted, TSA staffers have a thankless job, dealing all day with often difficult travelers, but they should be cutting a little slack to a woman traveling alone with a child. My wife and I frequently fly with our young twin sons, and getting us all through security is easily the most stressful part of the trip. If I was confronted with something as idiotic as having to leave the security area to dispose of a couple ounces of water (!) - and prevented from drinking it on the spot - I'd be in a pretty foul mood and looking for a way to retaliate, too.

There are rules, and there is reasonable enforcement of said rules. Putting this lady through this gauntlet doesn't strike me as reasonable.

ReasonableJune 19, 2007 10:52 PM

@UNTER
1. I refer to you using the nick you chose. Trying ad hominem (modifying my nick, for example, a sign of bad internet manners, or calling names) should not influence thinking people.
2. I also note that you did not answer any of my points, about the incidence weakening Bruce's point.
3. Arguments of the sort 'this is the kind of thinking that leads to ' are usually employed by those who do not wish to, or are unable to, refer to the points raised, and are really a way to hush people. Again, you fail to make any points.

ZapruderJune 19, 2007 10:59 PM

Meh. I call shenanigans. Watch the video.

Yes it looks like there is some kind of shaking-out maneuver with the cup, but whatever water was spilled on the floor, it couldn't have been much-- I don't believe it was six ounces.

Notice how no one seems to respect the "puddle." She walks through it. The TSA guy walks through it. The other departing passengers walk through it. The woman supporting the unsteady elderly lady walks right through it. That's not how normal people act when faced with a wet area on a smooth terrazzo floor. And while we are at it, why isn't the security guard helping the elderly person avoid this obvious hazard? (Many later passengers do go to one side, but it looks like they are trying to avoid the blockage at the end of the hallway.)

The woman uses about five paper towels to wipe up the floor later, but that may have been unwillingness to touch the dirty floor.

Also, I echo the sentiments expressed above. Why have a rule that a child's water must be poured out, but juice or baby formula may be kept? What makes water more dangerous? Surely any clear liquid might be explained as Pedialyte or other "permitted" baby beverage? There is the message above about the security screener's complaints-- surely his/her job would be easier if he/she could simply verify that there was a child to go along with the sippy cup and not worry about whether it contains water or juice? Look at all the extra work this makes even if the lady had been cooperative:

1) Verify that the amount of liquid in the sippy cup is more than 3 oz./that it holds more than 3 oz./is not in a zip-top bag.
2) Verify that there is a small child with the passenger. (Easily done in this case, the cup reportedly was in the kid's hands when confiscated.)
3) Determine that the liquid in the cup is water, and is not the permitted formula or juice.
4) Escort the passenger to the exit.
5) Completely rescreen the passenger.

If no one cared about water vs juice in the sippy cup, then the screener could have stopped at step #2, saving time and energy.

Watching the video of the whole mess with the cast of thousands supervising the cleaning of the spilled water, I could only think that this would make an excellent diversion for any number of evil activities.

DavidJune 20, 2007 2:52 AM

The woman is a bitch, acted like a bitch. A self important bitch.

Maybe she should have been arrested for disorderly conduct when she dumped the water.

JeremyJune 20, 2007 6:07 AM

Bruce is completely right. I blogged this and called the TSA "friggin idiots" for which one of my readers is feeding me crow now that the truth has come out.

However, there's a reason we believe badly of them so quickly and that attitude is justified. As I said in my response, even if this incident wasn't all it appeared to be, I'm still not ready to forgive the TSA for all the known instances of incompetence and abuse.

JeremyJune 20, 2007 6:12 AM

@Resistanceisuseless:

Except for everything that Bruce has always said (all of which are better alternatives).

GeorgeJune 20, 2007 11:07 AM

(No parody this time)

@Jon Sowden: I should like to think that the TSA is in the business of incident prevention, not incident creation.

Actually, the TSA is in the business of retroactively reacting to the failure of "airport security" on 9/11. Their strategy is an exclusive focus on preventing another 9/11-type attack; their tactics are to react as rapidly as possible to the specific details of subsequent terrorist plots against aircraft (viable or otherwise).

This myopic, purely reactive approach (by haphazardly patching the very same system that failed on 9/11) means they are inherently incapable of considering the context or overall consequences of their reactions. If their attempts to keep terrorists off planes create crowded checkpoints at airports that are even more vulnerable terrorist targets, that doesn't matter. If their ban on liquids create similarly vulnerable crowds at checkin and baggage claim, that doesn't matter. If confiscated non-conforming, presumably explosive liquids accumulate in a barrel right in the middle of a crowded checkpoint, that doesn't matter either. The incidents they create are outside their narrowly-defined mission, and are someone else's fault and someone else's problem.

The TSOs are in an untenable situation. Their job is to enforce a list of specific, arbitrary restrictions and prohibitions that continually grows and changes as their bosses react to "intelligence" (which possibly includes embarrassing incidents). They're also required to exercise discretion on innumerable items that aren't (yet) on the TSA's lists. That creates very frustrating arbitrary inconsistencies that make it unnecessarily difficult for "simple passengers" to comply with the requirements. Fortunately, their bosses have reacted to this problem by declaring arbitrary inconsistency a "security strategy" that adds a layer of protection by "adding unpredictability to the airport experience."

TSOs are also in the unfortunate position of constantly dealing with unpredictable members of the public. They're also dealing with an impossible task, of identifying a small handful of possible terrorists among millions of non-terrorists. Unfortunately, many of those non-terrorists fail to show the cooperation and respect for "security procedures" and the TSA that the TSOs feel they deserve. Many passengers are frazzled by the hassles of flying, and some of them even recognize that the TSA's rules and restrictions are a worthless, stupid crock of Bandini. TSOs thus have an unpleasant task of continually dealing with unpleasant, disrespectful people who may even have the colossal gall to put the safety and integrity of their property ahead of retroactively preventing 9/11!

So there are bound to be "incidents" where the TSA, acting in its perfectly legitimate capacity to protect aviation, comes across as a bunch of stupid jack-booted thugs. They're like meter maids doing a thankless job that nobody appreciates-- and for good reason. That's why they need to spend our tax dollars on "mythbusters" spin control (and warning us not to "over-think the guidelines"), and also why they need to emphasize their genuine successes such as their spectacular apprehension of a man who impersonated a military officer.

dhJune 20, 2007 3:52 PM

Hey, how about this TSA.

I am IN THE FIRST video, clearly identifiable, as a passerby.

Why can they post this without my permission?

Publishing the face and likeness of a non-famous private person to defend yourself against and Internet rumor is absurd.

NickJune 22, 2007 9:52 PM

Did we completely lose all perspective – We are seriously discussing relative merits of a situation in which two adults had an argument over the disposition of the water IN A SIPPY CUP! And both were perfectly convinced that the contents were WATER.

The sheer governmental stupidity and clumsiness boggles the mind …

BUT!!!!

The Founding Fathers, in their alcoholic haze, very accurately foresaw that a government that’s too efficient is not something that an average citizen wants to live with. They’ve thrown as many monkey wrenches into the “works��? as they could. Our government is deliberately complex, clumsy, inefficient, and at times downright hilariously stupid. This is actually good, just not convenient when we run up against it, like at the DMV or now at the airports. Look at the alternatives though, like Hitler’s Germany.

Another $.01

Nick

MarkoJune 23, 2007 2:58 PM

@Bruce: "It's because everything seems so arbitrary..."

That is a great point. The "Rule of Law" principle says that laws should be fixed and announced beforehand, and everyone should be treated equally before the law. The more a law allows for "discretion", the more arbitrary it gets applied.

The TSA is a good illustration of why it is bad to not follow the Rule of Law. The are numerous horror stories involving the TSA.

The irony is Ms. Emmerson attempted to take advantage of this "discertion" by showing her government credentials and asking for special treatment.

Apparently Ms. Emmerson is OK with arbitrary treatment if it works in her favor.

GET YOUR HEADS OUT OF YOUR ASSESJuly 11, 2007 11:47 PM

Jesus christ people. I can't even bare to read any more of your lame responses. 1st) did you write the SOP of your work place? because if you did, then you're held completely accountable. HOWEVER: WE DO NOT WRITE OUR SOP! WE FOLLOW OUR SOP AS TOLD PER ORDER OF THE DHS, TSA. The fact that it was a kids water. Well guess fucking what, you think a terrorist would hesitate to using a kid as a disguise? I'm so sick of all you fuckers ragging on shit because you can't read the signs, you can't listen to the loud speaker, watch the news, look around, or use common sense. just SHUT THE FUCK UP already and get with the fucking times. JESUS!

nickAugust 5, 2007 8:38 PM

of course I never saw this :)

someone taped containers of water to their legs under their pants and went right through security,

but Sippy cup is dangerous!

DocJNovember 24, 2007 10:16 PM

Meta-comments on 9/11...TSA...the war on privacy/oil/terrorism/whatever:

[the S/W Eng lemma: 1 bit wrong - observed - can be the clue to prevent desaster]
Mohammed Atta did not want to learn "landing" a plane, only flying.
After the fact, this was evidence, obvious. Before, not, the flight instructor can not
seriously be blamed for not informing FBI about this "unnatural" behaviour.
(Probably, he blames himself anyway: NO Sir, there was NO point in (at that moment OVER-)reacting to some friss of some customer).

To SAH in 2005: [regula aurea: Do unto ...as...}
The most obvious (and relatively democratic) way of singling out "weirdoes", is: Males!
Like it? No! (finally you yourself are included for resemblances to others)
Worth: Initially 100%, soon 0,
just watch Pakistani TV: crazy non-male women hating the US, ready for ANYthing.

[the paranoia(?)-Illuminati-CFR path]
The connections between the Bin Laden family (hopefully and probably excluding Osama)
and the Bush family, or the US economy and the Saudi/Faisal clan, are closer and denser and more important than we believe (and want to).

[altruism vs. minimizing loss]
Don't read this, if you are personally affected by 9/11:
How many people died aboard the airplanes and in floors 200+x and above;
how many trying to rescue these others;
how many US citizens (in fact they effectively loose citizenship rights, when entering the
US military system) in Iraq;
how many Iraqis in Iraq????
(you read it anyway, my apologies, of course counting deads against each other is no
ethical business)

[the glasshouse]
What was again the G.Walker.B definition of rogue/terror state?
something like...
impose their ideas/ideologies on other countries,
use military force/terrorism to (unwantedly!) enforce some role model on other people
... (you already know, what is coming) and Iraq?? (and V-Nam?)

[Texas rulez]
Maybe the clue is not in prohibiting nail clippers in Dulles/Reagan,
the center city is in fact Detroit: Less oil, less war, less terrorism.

@bob: así es - ¡frío,hombre! ;-)

El WhappoApril 10, 2008 4:41 PM

The TSA is clearly in the wrong here. If you will go to the TSA web page, the rules for carrying liquids are posted at the 3-1-1 link. The rules are very specific. I will quote them, sense you were too lazy to do so yourself. The rules state " 3-1-1 for carry-ons = 3 ounce bottle or less (by volume) ; 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. One-quart bag per person limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring. 3 oz. container size is a security measure.

Consolidate bottles into one bag and X-ray separately to speed screening.

Be prepared. Each time TSA searches a carry-on it slows down the line. Practicing 3-1-1 will ensure a faster and easier checkpoint experience.

3-1-1 is for short trips. If in doubt, put your liquids in checked luggage.

Declare larger liquids. Medications, baby formula and food, breast milk, and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint." You will note that there is an exemption for baby formula and food, breast milk and juice in quantities exceeding three ounces. What no doubt frustrated the passenger in question and countless others is TSA's inability to follow its own posted guidelines. These guidlines were in place well before this incident took place.

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