Patting down toddlers, security failure and whistleblowers: It’s been another interesting week for the TSA

By | March 25th, 2011

It’s been another interesting week for the TSA.

Let’s start with this unbelievable story about a 17-month-old being patted down at at the Minneapolis airport last Saturday.

The metal on his overalls set off the magnetometer. TSA protocol is to give the child a “modified” pat-down.

Mom tried to record the procedure but was ordered to put the phone away. The report was posted, but later removed from a North Dakota TV news website. How odd.

What’s even odder? That agents would pat down a baby. I’m willing to bet good money that the only thing about that youngster that was explosive was his diaper. (As the father of three, I’m allowed to say that.)

Next up: more TSA incompetence.

Last week, the New York Post — which has some of the most aggressive TSA coverage in old media — reported that a Miami Lakes, Fla., mom inadvertently packed a steak knife in her carry-on bag.

TSA agents in Newark let her breeze through the checkpoint.

So the TSA lets a deadly weapon through its screening area, but forces a baby to undergo a pat-down? You don’t have to be a TSA critic to know something’s wrong with that.

And there’s more, lots more. But I want to spend the rest of this post talking to the TSA agents and supervisors who have contacted me in the last week.

Some of you have sent me internal memos that show just how troubled your agency is. Another TSA employee shared his personal story of falling ill after working next to a millimeter-wave body scanner — a scanner the TSA assured him was completely safe, but then said may emit more radiation than previously thought.

Related story:   And the award for America's worst hotel goes to ...

I want you to know that I hear you.

I want to report your stories, because your problems are our problems. I’m not afraid of publishing your memos and having another special agent show up at my doorstep with a subpoena. I’m ready.

Here’s what I want you to know: You are doing something very brave by reaching out to me, and trying to right an agency that is out of control. By becoming a whistleblower, you are demonstrating that you truly care about the security of air travelers.

I commend you for that.

To those of you reading this, get ready for another interesting week. I will probably be publishing these memos. And then they will probably show up at my door.

  • y_p_w

    I probably should have learned from this, but we recently went through with overalls. The TSA screeners actually argued about what to do next, and eventually I got my hands swabbed. Not sure what would have happened if someone had planted a weapon on a kid wearing overalls, but I’ve learned that little seems to make any actual sense these days.

We want your feedback. Your opinion is important to us. Here's how you can share your thoughts:
  • Send us a letter to the editor. We'll publish your most thoughtful missives in our daily newsletter or in an upcoming post.
  • Leave a message on one of our social networks. We have an active Facebook page, a LinkedIn presence and a Twitter account. Every story on this site is posted on those channels. The conversation ranges from completely unmoderated (Twitter) to moderated (Facebook and LinkedIn).
  • Post a question to our help forums or ask our advocates for a hand through our assistance intake form. Please note that our help forum is not a place for debate. It's there primarily to assist readers with a consumer problem.
  • If you have a news tip or want to report an error or omission, you can email the site publisher directly. You may also contact the post's author directly. Contact information is in the author tagline.