The TSA screws up again: makes mother fill up empty bottles of breast milk

This is absolutely unbelievable.  According to MSN’s Today Travel (and many other sources), the TSA (Transportation and Security Administration) detained Amy Strand, an American mother of four flying home to Maui from Kauai, for having EMPTY bottles that would normally contain breast milk that she pumps herself.  They wouldn’t let her through security unless the bottles contained liquid, and so humiliated her by making her go into a crowded women’s restroom and pump breast milk into the bottles:

“He said I couldn’t go through because there was no milk in the bottles,” Strand told TODAY.com. “But I was not going to leave a part of the breast pump behind — it cost over $200. He told me (however) that my option was to leave it behind or to put milk into it.”

When she asked where she could pump, the TSA officer took her to a restroom, where the only outlet to plug the pump into was by the sinks.

“There was a TSA agent in there using the restroom and I asked her if there was a private place to pump, and she said no,” Strand said. “I had to stand at the sink in my heels and dress pumping as travelers came and went. I was humiliated and fighting back tears. It confuses me why an ice pack and breast pump were a threat to national security.”

Right: empty bottles could be used to blow up a plane.

The TSA’s own website says that bringing breast pumps, breast milk, or empty bottles that would contain breast milk are all perfectly fine:

Breast milk is in the same category as liquid medication and mothers parents flying with, and without, their child are permitted to bring breast milk in quantities greater than three ounces as long as it is declared for inspection at the security checkpoint. Additionally, empty bottles and ice packs are permitted under these conditions.

The TSA has apologized to Strand, but that’s not good enough.  She should sue their butts off to make sure this doesn’t happen again.  However, I don’t think the TSA is sue-able. And they should get rid of that clueless TSA agent.  I can’t avoid the impression that not only are the TSA agents poorly trained, but enjoy exercising their power over travelers in arbitrary ways.

More ridiculous and humiliating security theater, and with not even a scintilla of a rationale.

Amy Strand and her child (photo from MSN site provided by Strand)

h/t: Neph

130 Comments

  1. lamacher
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    If you think you have seen and heard all the possible foolishness from the TSA, just wait a day or two.

    • Linda Jean
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      the tsa people that did the milk mishap is as dumb as anyone in the “work force” (academia, us, football players)…i wonder if one should not think of the deterrent effect against potential terrorists…ok…make them pay the empty milk bottle lady for damages..and move on…you make it sound as if the TSA is the devil herself…

      • Mary H
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        The TSA might be as dumb as anyone, but they are given far, far greater power than just anyone. With more power must come more responsibility and less dumb.

        The organization is also considered by many to be unconstitutional, what with the unreasonable searches and seizures.

        • Linda Jean
          Posted May 7, 2012 at 10:19 am | Permalink

          power because they search you? common..be sensible..unreasonable search if ur a terrorist??..please

          • Mary H
            Posted May 7, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

            Just in the off chance that this Linda Jean character isn’t a troll, I will respond.

            You have a constitutional right as an American to go about your business without being searched or having your property seized, unless there’s good reason to believe you are breaking the law. Wanting to travel on an airplane is not illegal and does not make you a terrorist or a criminal. Therefore, in no way is it okay to search people or take their property just because they wish to travel via airplane.

            If you feel that security is more important than our constitution, then you should quit wasting your time here and start a movement for a constitutional amendment, or to repeal the Bill of Rights.

            Otherwise we’ll all know that you really are just a troll. You wouldn’t want that known, right?

            • Linda Jean
              Posted May 7, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

              you sound like a tea partier…i doubt if the founding fathers contemplated terrorism in airplanes …to be a constitutional issue..see what i mean???.and how does make me a troll??..because i dont agree with you.???..good lord….

              • Orsonroy
                Posted May 7, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

                An airplane is nothing more than a carriage with a different means of propulsion. The Founding Fathers WERE a bit smarter than the average bear, and they DID know what they were talking about when they penned “secure in their persons”.

                And while the Tea-Tards ARE a bunch of dimwits, some of their points are very valid. Adherence to the US Constitution, especially BY the government, is one of their few useful points.

          • Mark Joseph
            Posted May 7, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

            In addition to Mary H’s comment, let me repeat for the umpteenth time: “A society that will trade a little liberty for a little security will lose both, and deserve neither.”

            Also, this is an intellectually respectable blog. Please learn how to capitalize, spell, and punctuate. Thank you!

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

        What deterrent effect? You’re in just as much danger from suicide bombers blowing themselves up in the security line as you ever were from terrorist hijackers on the plane. Which is still a whole lot less danger than you voluntarily sign up for every time you take your car on the freeway.

        Airport security is not about keeping you safe. It’s about keeping politicians’ jobs safe.

        • Linda Jean
          Posted May 7, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

          fine.. drive to istambul next time..your examples are really off base. the tsa is not to stop a terrorist to blow itself up before screening..their role is to screen..get it??

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

            The point is that screening doesn’t make you any safer. It just moves the danger from the airplane to the security checkpoint (or to the freeway, for those who prefer not to endure the indignity of air travel). If you think that’s worth spending tax dollars and getting patted down for, then you’re the one who doesn’t get it.

            • Linda Jean
              Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:32 am | Permalink

              the indignity of air travel is a sine qua non condition, just as driving in a “freeway” is.(why one is more dignified?).it would be difficult that 9/11 repeats itself because of the patting down right? we might get blown away by a different protocol, but not by terrorists in the plane..get it?

              • truthspeaker
                Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

                The 9/11 terrorists didn’t bring weapons through security checkpoints. Increased passenger screening would not have stopped them.

              • S A GOULD
                Posted May 7, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

                Then to hell with it all and just fingerprint, photograph and compile extensive data bases on every American from birth and be done with this halfway stuff.

                Would it prevent terrorism?

                From the CITIZENS, probably.

              • Linda Jean
                Posted May 7, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

                truthspeaker
                the terrorists went tru security and were stopped…didnt get their paper cutters.or knives or somethings…increased patting down would have got them…

              • Orsonroy
                Posted May 7, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

                According to Linda Jean, we all need to fly nekkid, strapped to our chairs like Hannibal Lecter, with a “security probe” carefully inserted into our rectum, so the “good guys” can monitor us while we’re being afforded the privelige of flying. Because, of course, we’re all security threats……

              • Gregory Kusnick
                Posted May 7, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

                A repeat of 9/11 would be difficult even with no screening whatsoever. The trick of taking over airplanes and flying them into buildings was a one-time deal that stopped working the moment the passengers on the fourth plane heard about it.

              • Thanny
                Posted May 7, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

                The 9/11 terrorists did not take their weapons onto the planes through security. They were planted on the planes by others.

                Get a clue, and also some spelling and grammar lessons. Seriously, “common” instead of “come on”?

              • Posted May 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

                Sheep mite bee ewe swing voice wreck ignition soffet wear.

                b&

              • daveau
                Posted May 8, 2012 at 7:13 am | Permalink

                I was off line yesterday, but thank you for making me snort my tea out my nose this morning, Ben.

        • Posted May 7, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

          I never thought of that. I flew out of Sky Harbor Terminal 4, C gates last month and they had modified the security checkpoint area to accommodate the new nudy-scanners and hundreds if not thousands of people were packed into a relatively tight area with little room for egress. If someone got caught with a bomb strapped to their chest, or in their flip-flops, or even in their empty milk bottles, and they decided to hit the trigger early rather than be caught, that entire area would have been toast. Not to mention that area was two floors up and over traffic, the casualties would have been staggering. If terrorists are going for maximum casualties, let’s just cram everybody into one place in order to keep them safe.

          • Dave X
            Posted May 8, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

            That’s what happens at effective checkpoints in places with non-imaginary terrorists.

            TSA is a complete waste of time and resources. I see it as a continuing monument to our loss of the war on terrorism. Think about the economic coast that 20 suicidal terrorists and maybe 200K$ cost us in 2001: 2,000,000 person-hours per day and $6B/year works out to about 20 working life spans and 16M$ each and every day. What a Terrorism Return On Investment (TROI).

      • Posted May 7, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        Another prime example how ungoverned power corrupts.

        • Filippo
          Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:28 am | Permalink

          Just curious, are private corporate tyrannies included under “ungoverned power”?

  2. Jesse
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    TSA = Traitors Scattered Around

    • Linda Jean
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      good golly…..why dont you direct your nger to terrorism…?

      • Linda Jean
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        anger

      • ritebrother
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        Poe, right?

        • Linda Jean
          Posted May 7, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

          in this case angry jesse

          • Mary H
            Posted May 7, 2012 at 10:42 am | Permalink

            That’s a relief.

            I confess to not really getting the whole Poe thing. I see far too many stupid crazy people around IRL to ever trust that someone is just pretending.

        • Mary H
          Posted May 7, 2012 at 10:35 am | Permalink

          One hopes.

      • Whiteman Sayeth
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        Hey, that may be better than “Thousands Standing Around!”

  3. cf
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    This is off topic, but any comments on Wall Street Journal article about dinosaur belching and climate change…not a joke!

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303630404577390042359268690.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFTTopStories

  4. Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    That’s horrifying. It makes me not want to travel at all. Too bad I can’t really drive from Louisiana to Ottawa…

  5. Mattapult
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    People like her need to stalk congressmen–in a political sense–and ask, “Why does a government agency do this to citizens on your watch?”

  6. Rudi
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    That poor woman.

    What were they thinking? How do people this stupid even get jobs?

    • Mattapult
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      It’s a crappy job with high turnover and insufficient training.

  7. morkindie
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Another issue is that there was no place to pump but in the bathroom.

    I feel that a woman should be able to breastfeed or pump any damn place they please, but they shouldn’t be forced to.

    I find it hard to believe that there wasn’t someplace where she could have gone.

    The empty bottle thing, is almost too ridiculous to comment on.

    • eric
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      Its a state-by-state matter. Since they were in Hawaii, it appears TSA acted illegally.

      “HRS §489-21, HRS §489-22

      §489-21 Discriminatory practices; breast feeding.
      It is a discriminatory practice to deny, or attempt to deny, the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of a place of public accommodations to a woman because she is breast feeding a child.”

      From: http://breastfeedinglaws.uslegal.com/state-laws/hawaii-breast-feeding-laws/

  8. fly44d
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I hate calling for the firing of someone for crappy or insufficient training or management. I suspect they are all told to display confidence and control for some psychological reasoning and that probably leads to the excesses in addition to the giving power to those not really trained to handle it. But then maybe this agent needs to be fired. Hard for us to tell.

    • eric
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      I think both firing and rethinking agent training is appropriate.

      Millions of people fly every day. Even if only 0.1% of them are women with infants, that’s thousands of such incidents every day. If it were purely a training mistake, we’d actually expect to see it happening at a lot more airports, a lot more often. The fact that it doesn’t means this particular agent or set of agents is more incompetent than normal.* Fire them.

      *Alternate explanation: women don’t report it. I find that hard to believe in this particular case; I’ve been around a lot of new mothers recently, and my anecdotal personal experience is that they tend to be fairly well educated about, and protective of, their legal right to breastfeed in public.

      • fly44d
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

        Good point.

    • Kassul
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

      I’m not a big fan of calling to fire people like this either, but in this case I think it demonstrates a profound lack of threat analysis, problem solving and halfways decent common sense.

      If you ID empty breast milk bottles as a threat while full ones are not, then you’ve demonstrated that you do not have the appropriate skill set to be an effective screener. I’m not sure that a person who makes that sort of call is a good person to invest additional training into. One should have good mental flexibility and imagination to be in this position and I just don’t think they have said qualities.

      They’re not necessarily a bad person(though humiliating this lady like this is a point in the negatives column), but I think they’re a bad fit for this particular job.

    • cesiumfrog
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      So fire their supervisor.

  9. emmageraln
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on emmageraln and commented:
    The more and more I read about this organisation the more vile they appear.

  10. Posted May 7, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I would think there should be a rule book at every check point so rules could be confirmed in questionable cases.

    • Kassul
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      While yes not everyone has a smartphone it’s the sort of thing I expect one could look up there? Actually, now that I think about it that wont work. TSA agent could just claim that you have a modified set of rules that you’re looking up on your phone, or that you’re faking their website, etc…

      Having one of THEIR laptops or two at all the screening areas to access said rules would be better I suppose, and not much more money given the sacks of cash already thrown at TSA. Electronic searches can be quite a bit quicker than slogging through a book by hand.

      Search:*breast pump*

      • Filippo
        Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:34 am | Permalink

        I wonder how the TSA handles ostomy bags and urinary catheters with collection bags? I gather it’s OK if they contain contents, but not if they are empty?

  11. Hempenstein
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Beyond lunacy. When I started to read this I expected the opposite – that she was made to empty her bottles. I routinely take a clear hard plastic water bottle with me when I fly (hardly different from a formula bottle save for the nipple, I guess), dump or empty it before going thru security, and then re-fill it from a water fountain once thru. Never seems to cause a problem.

  12. Posted May 7, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Can we please stop pretending that the purpose of the TSA is to keep airliners from getting blown up? They’re jackbooted thugs, pure and simple, no more and no less. That they have the power to force a pretty young woman to humiliate herself by publicly lactating into a bottle is an intended feature, not a misfortunate bug.

    It makes no difference that the general public, including, it would seem, virtually all who frequent this Web site, have no memory whatsoever of the Stanford prison experiment. Yet I can assure you that those who make public policy are fully aware of it and implement their policies with it in the forefront of their minds.

    b&

    • Sunny
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      The reference to the prison experiment is apt with regard to the TSA. Remarkable how having a little bit of power over others can transform ordinary people.

      • Posted May 7, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        It’s not just the TSA agents falling nicely into their role as jackbooted thugs. It’s also the passengers falling into their role as sheep, the media falling into their role as shepherds, and so on.

        I could mention Milgram at this point, too, but that’s a pretty obvious package deal.

        b&

        • Linda Jean
          Posted May 7, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

          and us talking about it..right..just to be fair…

      • Filippo
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

        Abu Ghraib (sp.?) comes to mind.

    • Linda Jean
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      it is not the airliners that matter it is us…i think….even if may not be fully aware of the stanford experiment (how does it help not dying?/)

      • Posted May 7, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        So, just out of curiosity, what on Earth made you such a coward?

        I mean, you do know, don’t you, that every month as many people die in car wrecks as died on 9/11, and as much property damage is done as well? Yes, it’s horrible that those people died, but the whole thing wasn’t even a blip on the radar in terms of transportation fatalities.

        And here you are, so terrified of something that doesn’t even rise to the level of “kill yourself by slipping in the shower” in terms of hazard, and you’re cheering on the uniformed assholes who sexually assaulted a young mother in pretty much the worst possible way they could without leaving a physical mark.

        What gives? What makes a coward like you tick?

        b&

        • Linda Jean
          Posted May 7, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

          happy hour comment? sounds like it…have some crackers

          • Posted May 7, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

            No, I’m serious. You’re a coward selling the rest of us and the Constitution up the river so you can feel protected from the monsters under your bed. What on Earth has driven you to such fear and desperation?

            b&

            • steve oberski
              Posted May 7, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

              They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

              Benjamin Franklin

              • Linda Jean
                Posted May 7, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

                essential liberty?: not being touched by a tsa guy? what about just airfares? just foodprices? free education? equality before the law, income justice, decent jobs for all.. …so forth..temporary safety?…my ass..so much for franklin

            • Linda Jean
              Posted May 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

              too many moronic idiots…selling the constitution???..the same one that allows widespread abuse other than being patted down..? whos the coward now? have more crackers

              • Posted May 7, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

                You’ve clearly never even pretended to actually read that goddamned piece of paper. Either that, or you’re one of those subversive pinko commie terrorists we were all warned about.

                The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

                Tell me: what percentage of TSA searches are conducted with a properly-executed warrant? Or even a cup of alphabet soup with the letters “a,” “n,” “r,” “t,” and “w” in it?

                Oh, and before spewing any more bullshit about how 9/11 was special, do take a moment to read the Declaration of Independence, will you? You might notice that one of the charges against King George was that he did to us exactly what the 9/11 attackers did — kidnap our people on the high seas and force them to fight against their brethren. The American response was to fight for our lives back then. Your modern cowardly approach is to embrace the Tory thugs and salute the Union Jack.

                Newsflash: even the British wised up and got sick of that shit, even if it’s making a comeback of late.

                b&

              • Linda Jean
                Posted May 7, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

                i think you had one too many bg…have one more and hit the sack…sleep well mate….look under the bed though….jajajaja

              • Posted May 7, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

                Good to know you think gross violations of the Constitution and gratuitous assault of nursing mothers (and the rest of the traveling public) is a laughing matter.

                Why don’t you move to Saudi Arabia? They’ve not only got a perfect match for your values and sense of humor, they’re far more secure than we are here, too. You’ll love it there, I assure you. Why, it’s almost as good as the former Soviet Union.

                b&

            • Filippo
              Posted May 7, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

              Kind Sir, I’m pretty much with you on the TSA stuff. But, just curious, what is your perspective on the rectitude of the U.S. Constitution vis-a-vis Native Americans, African slaves, and women? The best any reasonable person could get at the time?

              • Linda Jean
                Posted May 7, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

                arivederci ben goren…sleep tight..somebody will tuck you in…just like parents tuck in their children in the bolivian shanty towns dilapidated by american gold..adio..vero veo

              • Posted May 7, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

                No, those are pretty clearly shameful mistakes. They should have known better, and there’s good reason to think they did. It’s especially frustrating considering how close they came to getting it right.

                Fortunately, the failure of the passing of the ERA notwithstanding, those failures have (at least on paper — the real world is lagging by a depressing factor) all since been remedied.

                One can make a bit of a case for political expediency at the time, but I think the mind-numbing insanity of the Civil War lays clear how misguided that was and badly it backfired.

                b&

          • whyevolutionistrue
            Posted May 7, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

            That’s enough trolling Linda Jean. Either say something constructive or go elsewhere.

      • steve oberski
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        Speaking of not dying, analysis of post 9/11 travel patterns has shown that as more people are now travelling by car due to airline security concerns, the travel related mortality rate has actually increased.

        This is due to the fact that travel by car is much more dangerous than travel by airplane.

        In the US about 5,000 people per month are killed in automobile accidents, which is the equivalent of one 9/11 incident per month every month.

        Recently the chief medical officer for the Toronto Board of Health recommended a 10 km/hour reduction in speed limits which studies have indicated would result in 100 fewer fatalities per year. But there does not seem to be a lot of interest in this and in fact some active opposition.

        I think these interesting facts point out how poorly equipped humans are to deal with modern civilization, as Ben Goren alluded to in his reference to the Stanford prison experiment.

        Our intuitions do not help us and in fact actively cause us to make bad decisions.

        It is only through the application of reason and evidence, and in the cases pointed out above, the application of simple statistics would suffice, that we can make informed choices.

        But this is hard work and many people allow themselves to be swayed by simplistic appeals to emotion.

        • Eric Welch
          Posted May 7, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

          Yes. We are terribly schooled on risk and how to rationally make decisions based on relative risk. We panic when we read that eating something might cause a X% increase in the risk of cancer without even knowing what the base rate is.

          As far as TSA and searching, I suspect their right to do much of this stems from the contract you agree to when you purchase an airline ticket. I bet most of us have never read the terms, but if you do you will see you are agreeing to all sorts of things.

          It’s all theater, an attempt to show us sheep that our government is doing something even though by congregating everyone together in one place would substantially increase the risk should a bomb go off there. And it’s impossible to screen *before* arrival at the airport. We always attempt to act based on what happened in the past.

          The irony is that 9/11 would have never happened had the airlines been forced to install steel doors (which they now have obviating the need for much of the screening nonsense) and a cockpit crew trained to *never* open the door. El Al had that and they are a much greater target. The airlines had resisted for years because of the expense. It’s also funny because there was never such terror when all the hijackings were going on (40 in one year) during the seventies.

  13. steve oberski
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Sam Harris responds to criticism of his article on profiling of airline passengers – http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/on-knowing-your-enemy29

  14. SmoledMan
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    I’d like anyone to prove me that TSA has foiled a single terrorist attack. But I do know they’ve put countless law-abiding citizens through HELL.

  15. Filippo
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    ” . . .flying home to Maui from Kauai . . . .”

    How far is that? 100-150 miles more or less? Depending on how often it’s necessary to make such a local run, worth it to spend some more (nominal?) bucks to hire a local, well-known trusted small plane pilot/service? Or does the long arm of the TSA extend there?

    Empty bottles . . . . Once she got on board, did they think she would fill them with some liquid they overlooked?

    • lamacher
      Posted May 9, 2012 at 6:46 am | Permalink

      Heh! Perhaps she’s learned to lactate kerosene.

  16. George
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    You can pick on TSA all you want but they pay minmum wage and what do expect, you get a bunch of dim bulbs. We also contract out the work.

    I suggest we pay these people better and expect more from them.

    Otherwise you get what you pay for.

    • Posted May 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

      In that case, I propose we eliminate the entire budget for Homeland Security, TSA and all.

      b&

    • Filippo
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      ” . . . they pay minmum wage and what do expect, you get a bunch of dim bulbs.”

      So is compensation the sole criterion by which to assess competency?

      Does that mean that someone making in the seven- or eight-figures in professional sports or pop music (i.e., a reasonable chance someone who is a functional illiterate) – or a billionaire hedge fund manager (working a job as opposed to investing but whose income is taxed at approx. the 15% interest income rate) is a blazing sun in comparison?

      After the playoffs one year, Shaquille O’Neal took a break from basketball, made a rap album, and vacationed in Greece. On his return, when asked by a reporter if he had visited the Parthenon, he said: “I can’t really remember the names of the clubs that we went to.”

      • Filippo
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

        I also meant to ask on what basis flesh-and-blood humans enter the military to go in harm’s way, possibly to be killed or maimed for life? Is that basis one solely of financial compen$ation?

      • Posted May 7, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        Quit badmouthing Shaquille O’Neal. He’s got a PhD. You don’t get those things by being a dim bulb, you know. /snark

  17. greg byshenk
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    “The TSA has apologized to Strand, but that’s not good enough. She should sue their butts off to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

    This is something of an aside, but I continue to be fascinated by the American fascination on lawsuits.

    In this case, how is it that “su[ing] their butts off” would actually “make sure this doesn’t happen again”? Someone made a mistake, and perhaps that person should suffer consequences, but how would suing the TSA accomplish anything, given that the rules are already clear on this matter? There may be some cases in which punitive lawsuits are in order, but in this case, a suit wouldn’t punish the TSA in any meaningful way, but at best would only cost the taxpayers.

    • Thanny
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

      If you don’t implicitly understand how a multi-million-dollar lawsuit could provide incentive at the TSA to not overstep bounds, from the top down, I’m not sure it can be explained to you. It’s not in any way an American concept.

      • greg byshenk
        Posted May 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

        As I pointed out, I understand how punitive lawsuits can work; what I fail to see is how it would work in the case of the TSA. If there were a lawsuit, then by the time it was settled the current management of the TSA will have long moved on, and the TSA isn’t a for-profit entity, so such wouldn’t actually end up punishing the TSA itself or its management.

        • Posted May 7, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

          The lawsuit would come with Congressional hearings and quite the press spectacle. This incident is about the only sort of thing that could actually topple the TSA, or at least begin to reign it in…except that it won’t. The woman is (understandably) more interested in raising her children than in righting injustice.

          All she can do is sue, and that suit would bring with it all the rest. But she’s not going to sue, and so the whole thing will get relegated to the “news of the weird” section and soon be forgotten.

          Such a pity, to waste such a wonderful opportunity for a peaceful revolution.

          <sigh />

          b&

          • greg byshenk
            Posted May 8, 2012 at 12:20 am | Permalink

            Whether or not the incident might be a catalyst for change, such change would be the result of congressional action or some such thing, which is independent of any lawsuit.

            • Nathair
              Posted May 8, 2012 at 6:57 am | Permalink

              So, let me get this straight, incident results in expensive law suit, expensive law suit results in Congressional hearings, Congressional hearings result in changes to TSA policies and practices… but you think step 3 would somehow be “independent” of steps 1 and 2?

              Why?

              • greg byshenk
                Posted May 8, 2012 at 7:48 am | Permalink

                Why? Because said lawsuit is neither necessary nor sufficient for hearings and possible changes to TSA policies. A lawsuit is not required for Congressional hearings, and even a successful lawsuit does not guarantee them.

                Even -if- things were to work out as suggested, the “lawsuit” part of the equation would have been nothing more than a waste of resources, because the hearings could easily have occurred without it.

                Of course, in this scheme, even the hearings are probably a wasteful excuse for political grandstanding.

              • Nathair
                Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

                So… since the lawsuit is distasteful to you and doesn’t directly result in change and since hearings leading to change could possibly happen without the lawsuit therefore a lawsuit leading to hearings leading to change didn’t.

              • greg byshenk
                Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:25 am | Permalink

                Whether it is ‘distasteful’ is beside the point, which is that it is -wasteful-. What does a lawsuit add to the process?

              • Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

                Ever heard of Roe Vs. Wade? That was a lawsuit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade

                It’s how we get shiz done up in here.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:36 am | Permalink

                Losing a lawsuit would provide an incentive for the TSA to follow the law.

              • greg byshenk
                Posted May 8, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

                Justin, Roe v Wade is a completely different thing, having no relation to the scenario proposed here.

                Truthspeaker, how is it that you suppose this would occur? Fines or punitive damages are assessed against private companies as an “incentive”, but this works by putting pressure on profits, which can result in decreased compensation for managers, or even action by owners against managers. But this sort of incentive is inapplicable to government agencies.

              • Nathair
                Posted May 8, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

                So your “argument” is that, contra Ben, a lawsuit would not, could not possibly lead to hearings? Because otherwise I don’t understand what it is you are trying to say other than “You Americans are too damn litigious”.

              • greg byshenk
                Posted May 8, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

                Nathair, certainly hearings could follow a lawsuit. My point is that even if such were to occur, the lawsuit itself would be an irrelevant (and wasteful) aside. Should a congressperson choose to have hearings, then there will be hearings; otherwise not. But in neither case would a lawsuit against the TSA have any relevance. At most there would be a judgment that a TSA screener did not follow proper procedures… but that is already established.

            • Nathair
              Posted May 8, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

              “Should a congressperson choose to have hearings, then there will be hearings; otherwise not.” If there is a single creature on the planet more susceptible to pressure than a politician I have never heard of it, but you want us to believe that they just “choose to have hearings” in a complete vacuum? By your logic nothing, absolutely nothing leads to hearings and change, nothing exists, no pressure applies, no lobbyists matter to the process until the magic instant that some member of congress “chooses”.

              That doesn’t even rise to the level of silly.

              • greg byshenk
                Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

                Nathair, your response supports my point. If someone wishes that there be hearings, then one should apply pressure to a congressperson. A lawsuit against the TSA does not do that.

              • truthspeaker
                Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

                Congress sets TSA’s budget. If they have to allocate money to pay off lawsuits, eventually they’ll take notice.

                You don’t get anywhere with politicians by reasoning with them or asking them nicely. You have to manipulate them with fear, fear of losing their jobs or their bribery income.

              • Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

                truthspeaker is exactly right.

                A single individual has absolutely no pull whatsoever with Congress, except in extraordinary circumstances.

                The most common such extraordinary circumstance is a billion dollars in the market, but this woman has the opportunity to actually influence Congress all by her lonesome.

                Were she to sue the TSA for tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, she’d get Congress’s attention. Were she to win, she might actually be able to get Congress to do something.

                You could get a hundred thousand people to march on the Mall demanding Congress do something, and Congress wouldn’t even notice. But a pretty young mother with a multimillion dollar sexual harassment victory over the TSA after a TSA perv forced her to lactate in the entryway of a public restroom? That’ll wake them up, no question.

                But only if she sues. If she doesn’t sue, she’s got exactly as much of a voice as the other hundred thousand marchers. That is, none whatsoever.

                b&

              • Filippo
                Posted May 8, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

                Perhaps she ought to pump breast milk on the Capitol steps. Or a Million Mammaries March?

              • darrelle
                Posted May 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

                Well, okay. Right there is the problem. That is where you are mistaken. A high profile law suit complete with media circus, and lots of citizens, various groups and whatnot, getting involved, sure as hell can lead to, and has, pressure applied to congresscritters. Now, which specific thing did the trick may be too difficult to figure out, but it certainly could start with, and has, a lawsuit.

              • greg byshenk
                Posted May 9, 2012 at 12:28 am | Permalink

                Truthspeaker, even under your assumption that “[y]ou have to manipulate them with fear, fear of losing their jobs or their bribery income”, a lawsuit remains irrelevant, as a lawsuit doesn’t actually do that.

                Ben Goren, you say that “truthspeaker is exactly right”, and the same point applies to your comment. If indeed the way to make congress take notice is to influence via elections and income, what is a lawsuit supposed to accomplish, given that it doesn’t do that.

                Darelle, it is perhaps true that “[a] high profile law suit complete with media circus, and lots of citizens, various groups and whatnot, getting involved, sure as hell can lead to, and has, pressure applied to congresscritters.” The problem with this schema is that the -lawsuit- part is irrelevant, as all the work is done by the “groups and whatnot” putting pressure on congress.

  18. musubk
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    I don’t even understand this. An *empty* bottle is a threat, but a full one isn’t? Are we presuming it’s impossible for the terrorist bogeyman to dump the liquid out of the bottle after making it through security? Surely this isn’t official policy…

  19. Roz
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    STUPIDITY REIGNS!

    • Achrachno
      Posted May 7, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

      And citizens have little recourse. No one pays a price for harassment, whether due to malice or stupidity.

  20. NelsonMuntz
    Posted May 7, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    The TSA is a jobs program for morons and criminals.

    • Filippo
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:22 am | Permalink

      Just curious, for whom is the U.S. military, for example – especially frontline battlefield positions – a job? The top 1% or 0.1% of U.S. income earners?

      • Schenck
        Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        You do realize that the TSA is not part of the military, and that soldiers are not in the bottom-most part of the country, which is a pretty bastardly thing to suggest.

        • Filippo
          Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

          For the record, I have always realized that the TSA is not part of the military.

          Further, having served in the military myself, I can confirm your statement that military servicemembers “are not in the bottom-most part of the country . . . .”

          Kind Sir, a thousand apologies if I have been insufficiently clear about what I was suggesting.

          I hereby am not merely suggesting, but forthrightly saying, that precious few if any of the top 1% – and definitely the top 0.1% – of Amuricun income earners – or their trust-funded offspring – will ever enter the military to go in harm’s way, to possibly be killed or maimed for life, on behalf of their private corporate tyranny financial interests.

          There are U.S. citizens of modest monetary means who out of necessity look at the military as a way to rise up out of their circumstances. That can be part of the motivation for signing up. But their modest circumstances have no bearing on their moral character.

          Others in more secure circumstances nevertheless join (though they could very easily have otherwise opted to pursue and acquire high-five and low-to-moderate six-figure incomes in civilian managerial/professional fields).

          Some make a career of the military, knowing that they will never get rich. Their motivation is one of sympathy and solidarity with, and loyalty to, their country and countrymen, as opposed to “Gaining Wealth, Forsaking All But Self,” the mantra of the prospective, grasping, self-regarding One Per Center.

          Regarding your hypothesis that I am somehow in a “bastardly” way, so far as I know, that is not the case, if I can believe the putative prima facie evidence of my birth certificate. I don’t deny that it is not impossible; if the birth certificate of the President of the United States can be questioned, than surely so mine. I’ve never asked my mother to reconfirm my “legitimacy.” However, if it is any consolation to you, I was once given to understand from my hot-tempered matriarch that I was “a son-of-a-bitch” (apparently on account of my reasonably and appropriately standing my ground with her). (I did manage to refrain from responding that if anyone should know she would, or that she definitely got that right.)

  21. daveau
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    I was pretty disapointed in this story when I first heard about it. We had just been in Kauai on vacation in January, and Lihue was one of the more pleasant TSA experiences I’ve had. Along with an agent in St Louis with an actual sense of humor. So, that’s two in 10 years…

    It sure beats the hell out of my first experience at O’Hare: “Sir, I’m going to have to put my hand down the front of your pants…”

    • RFW
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      I hope when the agent said that you were able to reply “well, I’m not wearing any underwear.”

      Or did you offer to disrobe then and there to save him the trouble?

  22. ForCarl
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Anyone who thinks that the tactics of the TSA or those damn radiation machines do ANYTHING effective in protection from terrorism is as delusional as the pope.

  23. Schenck
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    This seems pretty ridiculous; if an agent thinks that by adding milk to the bottles that they’ve made the flight safer, then clearly the agent is dysfunctional and needs to be eliminated, just like a dysfunctional scanning device would be retired. Errors like this remind me that when the TSA first came out, they had badges, but they were made of yarn stitched into their shirts (they’re not authorities, iow).

  24. Posted May 8, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    The TSA flat out sucks. It consists of primarily perverts and wannabes that couldn’t make it into a real law enforcement agency or a good private security firm. Most of these people lack the training to be professional and they don’t care to get it. Most of the TSA employees are nothing more than bullies that like to abuse the power granted to them by the federal government. Replace the TSA with solid private security, in which customer satisfaction in key and you’ll see faster lines, more courtious officers, and more secure flights. Down with the TSA!

  25. Posted May 8, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    While this incident was stupid, and contradicts the regulations of the TSA itself, I think readers of this blog should note the logical fallacy of using this incident to criticize the TSA itself. I’m not saying that the TSA or its practices are AOK, I’m just saying that this incident doesn’t prove anything one way or another. Logically, it is on the same level as “some terrorists are Moslems, so all Moslems are terrorists”.

    The biggest logical fallacy I’ve come across is people who say, in all seriousness, that we don’t need any security at airports because terrorists have been turned away by the security constraints, as if they wouldn’t come back if security were relaxed.

    (It’s a different topic, but I also don’t understand why pumping breast milk in the john is humiliating. Uncomfortable, yes, but humiliating? And those heels were probably even more uncomfortable. (Why does she even mention heels?))

    • truthspeaker
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      This incident by itself does not mean the TSA is worthless.

      It’s this incident along with all the other ones.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      The biggest logical fallacy I’ve come across is people who say, in all seriousness, that we don’t need any security at airports because terrorists have been turned away by the security constraints, as if they wouldn’t come back if security were relaxed.

      I don’t see anybody here saying that. What I and others have said is that even if security were relaxed and terrorists did come back, the risk of death from a terrorist incident would still be much lower than other risks we face routinely every day without batting an eye. According to some analysts, even the radiation from the body scanners poses a greater health risk than the attacks they’re meant to prevent.

      In terms of absolute numbers, terrorism is a negligible threat to public safety. I’d be surprised if the total body count from terrorism in the past 50 years reaches as high as five figures.

      On the other hand, the careers of TSA administrators are very much at risk from a successful terrorist attack. So it follows that the primary purpose of TSA security policy is to protect those careers. Those administrators need to be able to say they did everything possible, even if what they did was ineffectual or downright harmful to public safety (never mind civil liberties).

      • Posted May 8, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        “the risk of death from a terrorist incident would still be much lower than other risks we face routinely every day without batting an eye”

        True, but irrelevant. Suppose there is a government lottery (in which everyone has to play) in which the winner (or, in this case, the loser) is publicly drawn and quartered. Just one person per year, so the risk of this happening to you is much less than about any other potentially fatal risk one could think of. Does that mean it’s OK? Why would people be upset about this more (and rightly in my view) than about death from, say, traffic accidents? Because it is unnecessary. In other words, it is easily preventable (just don’t have such an event). I think most people are willing to put up with more security at airports in return for safety. Those who value “freedom” more than safety might think differently when someone close to them dies as a result of something (terrorist action or something else) which was preventable.

        An interesting experiment might be to have two flights at similar times to the same destination, one with security screening and one without. Tickets would be sold for the destination and people could choose which flight they want to take.

        If you can read German, read this. It’s not directly relevant, but has a similar theme (reducing unnecessary deaths): http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/polizei-schoss-2011-seltener-im-dienst-a-832037.html

        “85 Patronen verfeuerten Polizeibeamte in Deutschland im Jahr 2011 bundesweit auf der Jagd nach Verbrechern, 49 davon waren Warnschüsse. 36 Mal gaben die Polizisten gezielte Schüsse ab. Dabei wurden 15 Personen verletzt und sechs getötet”

        85 shells were fired by police officers in Germany in 2011 [in the whole year, in the whole country (population about 80 million), by all police] while fighting crime, 49 of which were warning shots. 36 shots were aimed [at human targets]. 15 people were wounded and six killed.

        The article mentions at the end that almost 9000 animals were killed by police, almost all of them victims of traffic accidents which were put out of their misery.

        • Posted May 8, 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

          The last paragraph should not be bold, as it is not part of my translation. Unfortunately, users can’t edit their posts. :-(

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted May 8, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

          In effect the TSA is conducting such a death lottery. Intrusive airport security policies deter people from traveling by air and encourage them to travel by car instead, putting them at greater risk of death on the highway. The number of travel-related deaths has increased as a result of TSA policy. By your own logic, such unnecessary and preventable deaths should be sufficient reason for relaxing or dismantling such policies.

          I would love to have the option of buying a ticket on a low-security flight. Unfortunately the government prohibits air carriers from offering them.

          • Posted May 9, 2012 at 12:50 am | Permalink

            The difference here is that the people themselves decide to travel by car. If they make the more dangerous choice, it’s no-one’s fault but their own.

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted May 9, 2012 at 9:04 am | Permalink

              You’re seriously going to argue that the TSA bears no moral responsibility whatever for implementing policies that cause more deaths than they prevent? That this in no way represents a failure of the TSA to fulfill its primary mission of making travel safer?

              Sorry, but I don’t see how that position is even remotely defensible.

        • janeplane
          Posted May 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

          I’d bet that if such choice were available most people would choose the ignominy/awkwardness/etc. of TSA screening because inconvenience lasts a few minutes/hours whereas disability lasts a lifetime and death lasts forever.

          That said, TSA does need quality control, as nothing is anywhere nearly perfect.

          I do feel bad for that lady, and for the children, elderly, handicapped, etc., who are scrutinized, but it’s part of doing the job and it’s based on intelligence data.
          We need to be patient with one another perhaps?

          • RFW
            Posted May 8, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

            What intelligence data?

            Do they have word that mothers will be taking exploding milk bottles on board as part of jihad?

            The TSA is pure theater, ad lib theater at that, where the agents in the front line make it up as they go along and god help you if one of them got out of bed on the wrong side.

            And it’s useless. I fully anticipate that terrorists, whether Islamic or home-grown screwballs, will succeed in carrying out another atrocity sooner or later, in spite of all the nonsense the TSA engages in.

            Everybody’s forgotten that in a democracy, government is with the consent of the people. If you had a vote today, should the TSA and DHS be abolished? it would win by a landslide because they’ve pissed so many people off.

            As for me, I simply won’t subject myself to the indignities imposed by the TSA and hence I no longer fly anywhere. Nor, for that matter, will I even think of traveling to the US.

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted May 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

            You can get just as dead from a bomb going off in the subway, shopping mall, sports stadium, or symphony. I don’t see anybody clamoring for grope-searches and body scanners at those venues. Airport security is a belated reaction to terrorist attacks that have already happened, not an effective deterrent to future attacks. At best it simply shifts the likely targets elsewhere.

            Why should we be patient with pointless security measures that actually make us demonstrably less safe?

  26. Peter Dunning
    Posted May 8, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Jerry said, “And they should get rid of that clueless TSA agent. ”
    No! No! No! When the people at the bottom of an organization make a mistake, the cause is poor training by managers, who were, in turn, not properly trained or appropriately selected to perform training by even higher managers.
    This is what should be done.
    The people at the top of the TSA should admit that these problems are the result of their mismanagement and take action to ensure that their agents at the front are well-trained.

  27. Posted May 8, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    In Asia, they use these security checkpoints as a way to take away drinks and perfumes they want to take home for themselves. In the US, meanwhile, they just abuse people because they’re angry at how their employers abuse them. It’s all warped.

    • Filippo
      Posted May 8, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      How does governments’ treatment of government employees compare to private corporate tyrannies’ treatment of their human “resources” – er, uh I mean employees?

  28. nazani14
    Posted May 9, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Doesn’t the passenger have the right to demand that the TSA agent show them the relevant rule before they obey?

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