Is my 15-year-old son a terrorist?

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. You arrive at the airport to fly home from your family vacation, and something goes wrong — terribly wrong — at the TSA screening area.

It happened to Susan Bruce recently when she flew from Phoenix to Dallas with her husband, teenage son and daughter.

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“When we got to security, my son went first in line through the X-ray machine and TSA flagged him for the hand swab test,” she remembers. “While the rest of the family was stuck on the other side of the X-ray machine, my son was pulled aside for supposedly having a positive result for explosives.”

Bruce, who lives in Dallas and is a mathematician by training and a homemaker, is certain it was a misunderstanding. Her son is no terrorist, she says. He’s a clean-cut honor student.

“The air in Phoenix is very dry and we all had put some lotion on our hands that morning — maybe the cause of the result,” she speculates. “Or it may have been fertilizer from the grass he touched. After all, he’s 15.”

But the TSA treated him like Richard Reid’s son.

“All eyes were focused on my son as the rude agents threw accusations at him,” she recalls. “One agent asked him if there was anything sharp in the luggage. His response was, ‘What?’ Keep in mind he is 15, so his Mom packed the luggage. He had no idea what was in each bag.”

The agents were impolite and accusatory. They ordered him to stay away from the luggage while they tested it. He felt as if he’d failed some kind of test.

“He just stood there in shock,” says Bruce.

And that wasn’t the worst of it.

The TSA’s teen problem

The TSA may have figured out what to do with kids under 12 and passengers over 75, allowing those low-risk passengers to go through the screening area without removing their jackets or shoes. But something happens when that 12-year-old turns 13. He or she becomes a high-risk air traveler who’s scanned, prodded, and interrogated at the checkpoint. His only crime is coming of age, and from one day to the next becoming part of the feared “terrorist” demographic.

Bruce’s incident is hardly an isolated one. The TSA reportedly botched the pat-down of a 17-year-old girl in 2010, who also happened to be the niece of a U.S. congressman. During the exam, the girl’s sundress slipped, revealing her breasts in public. An internal investigation released late last year concluded the whole thing was an “unfortunate” accident.

Agents also recently gave another girl such a rigorous once-over that they broke her insulin pump. Savannah Barry claims TSA agents in Salt Lake City were rude and abrupt, even though she tried to warn them that she was wearing the pump. Clearly, the agents thought she was up to no good. Diabetics are such a menace.

Some of the worst stories are the ones that don’t make the news. One concerned mother contacted me a few weeks ago after the entire family flew out of Washington’s Dulles airport. The rest of her family walked through the metal detectors and full-body scanners without incident, but when it was her teenage daughter’s turn, the male screener asked her to back up and walk through again. He said the scanner “needed to get a better look” at her.

Yeah, I bet it did.

Is my son a terrorist?

While most of the incidents that capture the public’s attention involve teenage girls, probably because the cliche of the lecherous male screener preying on an innocent virgin is just too irresistible, the boys may have it worse. Bear in mind that young men do indeed fit the terrorist profile; all of the 9/11 bombers were young men, which means any TSA agent worth his training will be extra vigilant when it comes to anything young and male.

“It took every fiber in my son not to burst into tears,” remembers Bruce. “The agent continued to badger him until they whisked him away for a private pat-down, where they brought my husband to witness them groping him, including his genitals.”

Nearly half an hour after they approached the security screening area in Phoenix, it was all over. The Bruce family had been cleared for takeoff.

“We led our shaken son and sobbing daughter to the gate where boarding was already under way,” she says.

Bruce blames herself for allowing this to happen.

“I’m so upset,” she says. “I’m mad at myself because I feel like I failed my son by not protecting him. But I was totally unprepared for this.”

We are all unprepared for this. My oldest son turns 11 this year, but he’s taller than many 13-year-olds. What will the TSA do to him the next time we go through security? What will they do to your son or daughter?

Do we really have to trade our dignity for security? I don’t think so. The agents who barked orders at the Bruce family, who disrobed the congressman’s niece and broke Barry’s insulin pump would have benefitted from some basic customer-service training. Instead, they’re traumatizing an entire generation of air travelers.

We deserve better.

Does the TSA screen teenage passengers appropriately?

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206 thoughts on “Is my 15-year-old son a terrorist?

  1. if TSA wants to act like police it needs to be held to the same standards as police.
    imagine if a police officer pulled over a car groped a suspect so hard he tore her cloths of broke a medical device. — it would be WAY more then an “unfortunate accident.”

    It just seems like ANY TSA complaint is met with “TSA acted according to protocol.”

    1. I’d rather them be held to the standards that anybody would be held to if they groped another person. Each and every one of them are sex offenders. They should be labelled accordingly.

    2. The insulin pump wasn’t broken in a pat down. She asked for a pat down but was told to go through the body scanner instead. It stopped working after she went through the scanner.

        1. Chris/Jack, you can click the link Chris Elliott provided in this post. Of course, you might still not believe the news account, but other than questioning Savannah Barry ourselves, I’m not sure what else we have to go on.

          1. I have an insulin pump and the manufacturer clearly states that the pump cannot go through any scanner other than a plain metal detector. They can’t go through the full body scanners or the x-ray machine your carry on bags go through. They WILL damage the pump. I have traveled about a dozen times since I started using my pump and always opt-out of the scanner and never have been given a hard time or “extreme” pat down. I don’t question other people’s accounts of abuse, I just have not experienced it (and hope I don’t ever).

          2. varflow, yes, I know. I know the scanners damage the pumps. I was responding to commenter Chris (who now has changed his name to Jack) who seemed not to believe Savannah Barry’s account. I’m glad you’ve never had a bad experience with the TSA; alas, many other people have.

          3. I think part of this misunderstanding is that Chris wrote “Agents also recently gave another girl such a rigorous once-over that they broke her insulin pump.” If you don’t click the link to read the article, it sounds like the pump was broken because of a rough pat down. That’s what I thought until I got this far in the comments and then went back to click the link and watch the new story video.

  2. There are a lot of innocuous things that could create a positive result with the swab test. Novelty noisemakers like party poppers or snappers contain small explosive charges. Some types of fireworks are legal for personal use in some jurisdictions. Target practice with firearms can leave a residue on hands.

      1. Peroxide based products as well. Only the very sophisticated explosives detection test machines can distinguish different forms of the molecule.

  3. Does TSA screen teenagers appropriately? The answer is easy. TSA does not screen anybody appropriately so the answer is a resounding NO!

  4. No amount of training can fix this problem. The arrogant petty tyrants who “barked orders at the Bruce family” and the perverts who “disrobed the Congressman’s niece” and the callous sadist who “broke Barry’s insulin pump” would not have benefitted from “basic customer service training.”

    The totalitarian power that has been placed in the hands of these low level clerks must be removed immediately. TSA employees must be required to obey the law like everyone else in this country.

    Training cannot repair these broken defective people. Training has never yet stopped a thief, a pervert, or a terrorist from doing whatever they want. But job loss, fines, and jail time often curb criminal behavior.

    Only when there are real consequences for their actions will these criminals change their behavior. Training is an utter waste on them.

    1. Training won’t make an unconstitutional search any more constitutional.
      Training won’t make a crime (coerced touching of genitals is a crime in all 50 states, ranging from misdemeanor to felony, depending on state statutes) legal.

      Only the President approving the actions of the Secretary of Homeland Security and the TSA administrator allows this to go on.

    2. No further comments necessary – this sums it up perfectly. There is no debate, Daisiemae is dead on. I don’t want to hear any more industry or government crap about how they are dealing with the “problems”. Government needs to do exactly what she said here, and do it NOW.

  5. I think I need to side with the TSA on this one. This kid needs to grow up a bit. Near tears? really? Why was his mom still packing his luggage? And so what if he’s an honor student? Anyone happen to catch the credentials of the Boston bombers? Dartmouth people.

    1. I’m confused as well. They told him to stay away from his bag while they checked it? OMG – horror of horrors. He had to stand 15 feet away from a bag he didn’t pack and he didn’t know what was in it while somebody looked at his socks and undies that mommy packed?

      Really, how could a 15-year old be near tears that somebody’s looking in a bag that they didn’t even pack? The screener who was going to look thorough the bag asked if there was anything sharp in it so they wouldn’t accidently get cut or injured — and that reasonable question is so traumatizing why?

      And the daughter was ‘sobbing’ why???

      If this story is supposed illustrate a problem with the TSA, try again. In summary, a person tested positive for something that’s not supposed to be there. The machine said it’s there – not the TSA, and the OP seems not to dispute that (she makes excuses why there’s a positive indication.) So they look in his bag, ask him some questions, and because he’s a minor they do a pat down in the presence of his parent. Then they get on a plane and leave.

      Am I missing why this is a story, other than maybe this 15-year old needs to grow up a bit?

      1. Apparently what you just recounted is “every parent’s worst nightmare.” But I say if that’s the worst thing that ever happens to one of your kids, you have a lot to be thankful for in life.

      2. Nah… you’re not missing anything, David. The only reason this is a story is to keep a small group of readers fired up about TSA’s “tyrants,” “perverts,” and “sadists.” Sigh.

        1. A small but very vocal group…

          Edited: apparently the same ones who are down voting any posts not vilifying the TSA.

      3. Strangers put hands on the genitalia of a 15-year-old boy, for one thing. He’s too young to consent to sexual contact. No one can consent to it for him. This is a sexual assault, and those screeners deserve jail time for it.

          1. Short answer: I can say no to what a pediatrician asks to do to a child, without being threatened with arrest or intimidated into submission or denied my right to travel.

            If you are sincerely placing physicians with a decade or more of training in the same category as a TSA pizza-box recruit, I must conclude you are not familiar with the field of medical ethics. In examinations involving a child’s private areas, the parent must consent, and the child must also assent. Consent can never be given in coercive circumstances, such as those that exist at the checkpoint. These are very serious issues of medical ethics, and a full answer requires reference to the larger body of work on consent and trust within medicine.

          2. I forgot that commenters on this site get to decide what is and isn’t sexual assault based on Chris’ reporting of a mother’s second hand account.

          3. Do you deny that TSA enhanced patdowns include genital touching? Because there are literally hundreds, maybe even thousands of people who have attested to this experience publicly. While it’s true that the TSA tries to play cute with phrases like “where your leg meets your torso” (that’s where my labia are) or “until I meet resistance” (the anatomical terms are penis and testicles), I don’t think the facts of TSA’s genital touching are in dispute. Can you clarify?

          4. No one is coerced in a doctor’s office. It’s a situation from which one can walk away any time one chooses. Please don’t even try to compare a trip through a checkpoint with a visit to the doctor. It makes those who do look really foolish.

      4. At 15 years old I nearly had a full-time job and packed my own bags. I think mom is overreacting and/or exaggerating what really happened.

  6. I’m sorry, but a 15 year old should be packing his own bag. Long before 9/11 everyone still had to answer the security questions, had anyone else packed their bag, given them anything to carry or had their bags been out of their control. Unfortunately, helicopter mommy packing a teenager’s bag is a security fail. Personally, I wouldn’t care if all eyes were on me while the TSA swabbed my hands or asked me questions about the contents of my bag. If that causes a family to start sobbing, maybe they needed to be better prepared for what happens at the security check. Oh, and I’m sure no kid who brought a gun or weapon to school was ever a “clean-cut honor student.” Let’s all start flying with our transcripts.

    1. You are being way to critical. Packing for vacation in our house is a group effort. The youth gather their cloths (just like the adults) and bring it all to a central location where everyone’s clothes are split between all the bags. So, even though the youth are responsible for their own “stuff” they have no idea what is in their “own” bag….

      1. If you knew for sure in advance that everyone would be questioned about the contents of their “own” bag would you make sure everyone knew what they were carrying? The question about what was in his bag was a common question even before the TSA, it’s not unreasonable that his parents could have adequately prepared him to answer it.

  7. This is so funny! A Caucasian kid gets screened and there is big hue and cry about it. Imagine what thousands of innocent brown people, including kids go through everyday at airport screenings. Rules are suppose to be made equally for everyone you see, so stop with your idiotic rant!

  8. First, a 15 year old kid tests positive for explosives, I don’t care how they innocently came in contact with what ever substance caused the false positive, it still rcame up positive, and I would want that individual screened intensely, even if it was me.
    Second, the agent asked if the kid had anything sharp in his bag and said he didn’t know my mom packed it. What kid doesn’t pack his own bag and clothes at 15? If this kid had been pulled over by a state trooper in a car or asked by a school police officer if there were any drugs or weapons or anything sharp in the car or in his bag or on his person, and he said “I don’t know” it’s my moms car, or my mom picked out my clothes o and dressed me, or my mom packed my back pack, that LEO would search the kid too, and that’s what TSA did. Since the child was a minor they performed the search in the presence of his parent. What part of the law did TSA NOT follow? That scenario would have been the right thing to do with ANYONE who exhibited that behavior.

    Third, I don’t believe it happened, not a chance, what 15 year old MALE is going to be balling in a public airport in front of girls over someone searching his bag. Unless the TSA agent took a baton to the kids groin and went too town, no 15 year old boy is going to be sobbing in public.

    Lastly, I KNOW it didn’t happen, because if if was Opposite Day and this actually changed the laws of reality and this 15 year old male kid was crying in an airport over having his bag searched, then someone would have videos that on a smart phone and post it to youtube and I searched for that and it ain’t there, so it didn’t happen.

  9. Funny how people are jumping on how the kid should have packed his own bag. My 12 year old has been packing her own bag for years and is well aware that you cannot carry liquids on a plane. She inadvertently left a bottle of water in her backpack and when the TSA screened it and asked about it…she looked at me and said “Oops.” Funny thing was that I was the one chastised by the TSA agent for NOT packing my daughters bag.

  10. People complaining about his mom packing his luggage are missing the entire point. WHO CARES if she packed his luggage! It would not have changed what happened in this situation at all! I have kids and I certainly would pack or at least oversee my 15 year olds packing if for no other reason than to make everything needed was packed. The way the TSA goes about pushing around the flying public is terrible. Remind me of any thwarted attacks they stopped since 9/11? That’s what I thought.

    1. Exactly. Packing for vacation in our house is a group effort. The youth gather their cloths (just like the adults) and bring it all to a central location where everyone’s clothes are split between all the bags. So, even though the youth are responsible for their own “stuff” they have no idea what is in their “own” bag….

  11. I’m feeling this family’s traumatization right now. My heart is racing because I know what that feels like: accused, singled out, yelled at, sexually assaulted, and then sent on your way. As if anyone could enjoy a trip or even contain one’s emotions after being treated that way by government thugs! I’ve been there, and I’m feeling very angry on behalf of this family.

    I have a slight impulse to say to them: we warned you! We told you the TSA gauntlet gets ugly fast! We told you these blueshirts were fondling penises and testicles! Why didn’t you prepare yourself and your family to fight this filth?

    Until each individual is victimized, it seems like TSA’s grabbing groping goon squad is nothing but a punchline, and the joke isn’t funny to me but it is to others. I’m losing hope of reigning in this catastrophe.

    1. Careful, Sommer. The fact that you used accurate terms to describe human anatomy is likely to get you flagged. They don’t like those terms here. (Now watch this comment get flagged because I pointed out the Emperor is wearing no clothes.)

          1. We had a discussion about that yesterday after someone flagged a comment that referred to a sexual act. It used a vernacular term for onanism that some of the moderators felt was inappropriate on this site.

          2. What the TSA does is inappropriate. It also precisely mirrors my experience as a sexual abuse survivor. It’s the reality I have to live with every day of my life, and it’s the retraumatization I experience every time I’m near an airport. I’m sorry your moderators are such panty wastes.

            Oops! There I go again.

  12. I want to know why a positive ETD swab requiring a trip to the private room does not require LEO intervention. It is, after all, a probable cause search, that cause being the positive swab.

    Why is the TSA allowed to get away with this action?

  13. From the link about the broken insulin pump….

    So, I said, Are you sure I can go through with the pump? It’s not going to hurt the pump? And she said no, no you’re fine.”

    And they also say that the scanners will not hurt us either. Right.

  14. If I was a passenger on the flight I would have been happy that someone who tested positive for an explosive substance was searched further regardless of their age, skin color, gender, honor status, medical condition, attractiveness etc…

    1. Glycerin in hand lotion and garden fertilizer cause false positives all the time. This has been well reported. But I, too, am glad that the TSA is protecting us all from the terror of soft hands and green thumbs!

          1. No she didn’t. All she said was that the TSA has no way to resolve the result. That means nothing to me without context. Is this true? If I say they can resolve the result through further testing does that make it true?

          2. Here’s the context, Bill. TSA did NOT perform any secondary test on this boy. After the false positive on the ETD, TSA went straight to rubbing the boy’s genitals.

            If a second exclusionary test exists anyplace except in your mind, why didn’t TSA perform this test on the boy before proceeding to rubbing his genitals? If a second exclusionary test exists, why didn’t TSA perform this test on Shelbi Walser? If a second exclusionary test exists, why hasn’t TSA performed this test on the hundreds of people who have reported false positives from ETD and subsequent abuse from TSA personnel? Oddly enough, none of those hundreds of people have reported this second exclusionary test that can magically resolve the false positives produced by ETD.

            If a second exclusionary test exists that can differentiate between bomb residue and soap, hand lotion, fertilizer, fireworks, lighter fluid, and many other commonly used items, why doesn’t TSA use that test in the first place instead of the flawed ETD which produces countless false positives? Why bother with the ETD at all if TSA has this fabulous test that can do that? Why bother rubbing genitals if TSA can rule out false positives with this magical exclusionary test?

            If a second exclusionary test exists that can resolve the false positives produced by ETD, why doesn’t Blogger Bob mention that test here in this article while he is bragging about the glories of ETD? Many people posted questions here asking Bob how TSA will resolve the false positives that ETD will produce. Oddly enough, Bob does not even mention this magical second exclusionary test that you keep talking about.


            The context here is that this imaginary second test does not exist. There is absolutely no documentation anywhere that this test exists. There is not even a hint of it anywhere. The only place this second test exists in is your mind. If you have any evidence to the contrary, please provide it.

            Is that enough context for you, Bill?

        1. And there in lies the problem. They have no further testing they can perform to resolve the issue, as far as I know. If the only test produces an inordinate number of false positives, and they have no further tests that can be performed to determine if it is a false positive, what’s the point in doing the test in the first place?

          1. Are you sure of that or just repeating something that you have heard? I have no idea whether or not they can do further testing. Perhaps someone could link to a credible site or document that can tell us whether or not the test is reliable.

            I think that Chris should be able to dig something up.

          2. The “further testing” is a sexual assault in a private room. That’s the TSA’s only response to a “postive” ETD.

            Which is why as I stated earlier today a positive result should become a matter of probable cause and require the intervention of the police.

          3. Applying a little common sense. If they had another test method to run on a false positive, why are they not using it? I have never heard of the TSA using any sort of secondary testing. If you have, I would love to see references to it.

            So, as to your question of how do I know? I don’t. That is why in my response I said, “as far as I know.”

          4. Actually, they are checking if that RESIDUE has a SOURCE – and that source is something you are bringing onboard!

    2. Tell us that again after you’ve been taken to the private room and felt up. One grope at a time, people who formerly supported the TSA no longer do after experiencing a private room grope.

    3. So let’s see…..Passenger A used hand lotion before he came to the checkpoint. He tested positive. He gets detained and harassed for a while. TSA has no way to resolve the test and determine whether it is hand lotion, soap, fertilizer, or bomb residue, so eventually they tell Passenger A that he can go to his plane.

      Passenger B was building a bomb before he came to the checkpoint (and he was too stupid to wash his hands–probably didn’t want to risk getting soap on his hands). He tested positive. He gets detained and harassed for a while. TSA has no way to resolve the test and determine whether it is hand lotion, soap, fertilizer, or bomb residue, so eventually they tell Passenger B that he can go to his plane.

      I’m glad this makes you happy, but I fail to see the point of this charade. The so-called bomb residue test is completely worthless. It does nothing to prevent terrorism. It is nothing more than a means of harassment of innocent people…like most of TSA’s procedures.

      1. Not being a chemist I have no idea what they can or cannot test for. Perhaps you are better informed than I am. I would still be happy that further testing was carried out.

        1. So the question is, even without being a chemist, do you think rubbing someone’s genitalia is a good way to find out what substance is on the person’s hands?

          1. What does this comment have to do with what I was saying? Nothing. I guess I can wait for tomorrows post.

          2. Well, you said you would be happy that further testing was carried out. The further testing was that they rubbed the boy’s sex organs. Does that further testing make you happy? Or can you see that the TSA chose improper methods for further testing, even though you are not a chemist? I think my post was directly relevant to your comment.

          3. “I would still be happy that further testing was carried out.”

            Dr. Gentry was asking for clarification of the above sentence, which to me says that
            you are happy that the boy was subjected to what amounts to a sexual assault in a private room at the hands of the TSA.

        2. What further testing? There is no further test. TSA did not perform any further testing.

          Unless you call rubbing the boy’s sex organs further testing. Not being a chemist, I can’t be 100% certain that rubbing a boy’s sex organs is not a reliable scientific test, but as a reasonably intelligent and educated person, I feel pretty confident saying that it is not.

          Are there any chemists on this blog that can verify that the rubbing of sex organs does not constitute a legitimate scientific test?

  15. Most lotions will give a false-positive reading on these badly designed explosives tests. But y’know, since I’m sure some Congressman’s wife owns the company that makes the machines, they’re here to stay.

  16. Commenting on the pump section, my girlfriend will be traveling to the States in August and she wears a pump. I’m actually concerned at what will happen, how she will be treated, to her personally and to her first real impression of the United States. As a US citizen abroad, stories like this really embarrass me, especially when I go through security in other countries.

    1. My daughter has an insulin pump & has worn it for years. She also does a fair amount of flying & has never had any problems. She informs them about it & even offers to remove it. So far so good but there is always tomorrow.

      1. That’s the problem. There’s always tomorrow…and another screener who is completely ignorant or is a petty tyrant who feels like messing with you just because they can.

        My disabled husband and I used to travel a lot. We never had a serious problem…until we did. A screener in Phoenix roughed him up and nearly knocked him down. When I started to walk over and ask him to be more gentle, several screeners surrounded me and ordered me away. I asked one of those screeners to go over and ask the other screener to be careful because my husband has MS. She refused to do it.

        And that was before TSA openly gave themselves carte blanche to abuse and molest people as they desire. Now, we won’t even risk it because I know my husband will be a target. He will literally be a sitting duck.

      2. I’m happy to hear that your daughter hasn’t had any problems! My girlfriend is getting as much documentation as possible. When we fly out of the Netherlands (where we are based) we usually don’t have any problems and they just wave her through. So here’s hoping to a smooth ride to the States!

  17. Very sad to read so many commenters saying the boy should not have been so upset about his experience. Sounds like the typical societal reaction that boys should “man up” and not even be close to tears about anything, ever. Why is that? I’ve had those enhanced pat-downs (due to “anomolies” in my porno scanner photos) which made me close to tears, and I’m an adult. Why should he be OK with being touched in that manner just because his dad was in the room? He was swabbed, questioned, and groped for 30 minutes! He had every right to be upset. The TSA doesn’t just need a better way to screen teenagers. The need a better, less intrusive, way to screen everyone.

  18. I voted Yes, and here’s why:

    The people who wish to do us harm do not have the same values as we do. If they knew children were not checked, there wouldn’t be a moment’s hesitation to put a bomb on a youngster and consider the child’s life and their own a sacrifice in the name of religious fanaticism. In past years an Arab terrorist gave a bomb to his pregnant wife with the hope that British security would have the sensitivities towards a young pregnant woman that the writer wants for her young son.
    We mistakenly attribute the morals of our enemy to our own… at our peril.

    1. Miami510, so right. Human beings don’t have the values that — er — human beings have. Beware The Other!

      (By the way, how are those values of Adam Lanza, Jared Loughner, James Holmes, Joseph Stack, and Timothy McVeigh working out for you?)

  19. 1. Mothers always think the best of their sons. Do they have any choice? Watch the mother of the alleged Boston bombers on TV.
    2. One of the alleged Boston bombers is a teenager. Should we treat them as toddlers. Huh? Are you crazy?

    1. By this logic, then, EVERY time a minor son is falsely accused of something, the kid’s mother shouldn’t defend him, and we should ignore what she has to say–because she’s just lying OR living in a dream-world anyway…
      BUT thank you for rightly noting that legally, the Boston bomber is only “alleged.” Many have conveniently forgotten that already.

      1. What logic? Huh? I merely made the observation that mothers generally defend their family, and in this case, their sons. It is expected behavior. That’s it. You draw your own conclusions. I did not.

  20. I may be in the minority here, a mother of 4 and grandmother of 2; but if he tested for ANY residue, then further investigation is needed. Their rudeness, however, is NOT acceptable.

    1. I am with you, Linda. If I am treated with respect and dignity as a human being, I will gladly go through any additional screening that I am asked of.

      1. So here’s the question: does having a strange adult coerce a teenage boy into letting him rub his genitals through his pants mean that boy has been treated with respect and dignity as a human being? I don’t think so. I think respecting our bodies means hands off our private parts. Let’s be specific: do you think this boy was treated with respect and dignity when a stranger touched him that way?

        1. Absolutely not. I was merely stating I would agree to additional screening if warranted – that in no way gives the TSA a ‘free pass’ to borderline sexually assault anyone. It would absolutely horrify me if there was anyone who thought what had happened in this case was ‘ok’ or defend the actions of the TSA.

          1. It is a very fine line that is too often blurred by one extreme or the other.
            Additional screening was warranted due to the residue – and it went beyond the lines of even remotely being acceptable. On the other hand, not requiring additional screening would have set a dangerous precedent.
            It’s unfortunate, but I think too many people consider additional screening as humiliation. The idea behind the TSA is a great one (I think we can all agree on the fact keeping the skies safe is a great idea) – but the execution leaves A LOT to be desired.

          2. But the problem really isn’t that the additional screening “went too far”, the problem is that it is worthless.

            Does it make sense to you that to resolve a positive bomb test the TSA’s procedure is to grope that individual including running their hands up into the crotch and into the waistband of said presumed bomb-toting possible terrorist? What else could they possible mean by “I’m going to place my one hand on your upper outer thigh, and then with the other use a sliding motion on your upper leg until it meets resistance.” What is resistance bu the crotch in this scenario?

            THAT is how a “positive” test such as this one is resolved. And THAT is precisely the problem.

          3. Is is quite clear to me that you are very well-intentioned. You want to be fair and reasonable. Unfortunately, there is nothing fair or reasonable about TSA’s procedures in using this bomb residue test.

            Calling the test a bomb residue test is a misnomer. A more accurate name would be a soap-hand lotion-fertilizer-lighter fluid-fireworks-bomb residue test. ALL of those items and more can cause a positive result on this test.

            Once a positive result has occurred, there is no additional screening that can resolve the issue. There is no existing test that TSA or anyone else can perform to determine what item–bomb residue, hand lotion, soap, fertilizer, etc– is causing the positive result.

            And what does “additional screening” entail? How does additional screening resolve the issue and determine what caused the positive result? Well, let’s see.

            Barking orders at the passenger does not determine what caused the positive result. Detaining the passenger until he/she has missed their plane does not determine what caused the positive result. Stealing the passenger’s belongings does not determine what caused the positive result. Terrorizing 12 year old Shelbi Walser in her wheelchair did not determine what caused the positive result. Separating children from their parents does not determine what caused the positive result. Rubbing a passenger’s privates and breasts and placing hands inside the passenger’s clothing does not determine what caused the positive result. Ordering the passenger into a private room while carrying out all of the above does not determine what caused the positive result.

            The test is flawed and unreliable. A positive result of that test means nothing and definitely does not justify “additional screening” which is simply a euphemism for harassment and inconvenience at best or terrorism and sexual assault at worst.

        2. Its not always through the pants. More they onece they did a down the pants genital grab on me where they felt everything in detail. I filed an official complaint each time, and got an official generic form reply stating policy is always followed, etc.

          1. When a porno scanner found “anomalies” near my waist during screening, the TSA person stuck their hands in my pants and felt around the inside the entirty of my waist band. Then they stepped back, pulled the waist band away from my body, and looked down my pants. Then they did the rubbing, pat-down thing in addition to that. I was horrified and disgusted. This happens twice, with the same pair of pants, which don’t even have belt loops. I don’t wear those pants anymore when I fly.

  21. Those of you that are excoriating the kid for not packing his own bag and for freaking out over the experience are missing the broader point of this post. To wit:

    – Yes, the idea that we waive people through after flunking an explosive trace test is troublesome. However, there is sufficient anecdotal evidence that the test produces a high number of false positives from substances such as lotion or garden/farm fertilizer. If so, then the government needs to redesign the test so that it weeds out “ordinary” uses. And don’t tell me this isn’t possible. As much as our government spends on research of all kinds, I’m sure there is a brilliant scientist or two at Los Alamos that can figure it out.

    – It is easy to tell this kid to “man up” and quit complaining, but for those of you doing so, you really know nothing about him, or for that matter, how different people react to situations differently. You might think getting orders barked at you by someone in a uniform and then getting your privates groped is no big deal. Good for you, but for all you know, the person being subjected to that treatment has emotional issues or is just a bit fragile, and will have a breakdown if this happens to them. Frankly, the implication that anyone who can’t handle it must be a “sissy” and needs to get over their hang-ups is disturbing and uncalled for.

    – Putting aside all of that for a second, there is also an allegation that the TSA screeners handling this incident were speaking to this traveler in a rude, abrupt manner. I don’t care what the situation is – a screener has absolutely ZERO right to be rude, period.

    – The kid was subjected to the dreaded grope. I have yet to see a logical, fact-based explanation from anyone on the pro-TSA side about how these aggressive, invasive gropings accomplish anything to keep the airport or an airplane safe. I have traveled extensively across the world, where many airport authorities require all passengers to be subjected to a frisking before entering the concourse. These have always been done in a respectful, non-invasive manner, and doesn’t involve getting your private parts felt up. Please explain why that isn’t good enough here.

    That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

    1. I would agree, except that many make shift bombs are made out of that everyday fertilizer. I don’t find it odd that mom packed the bag(s) for him as others do and I do feel for the situation, but what alternative do you suggest? There was a positive test for explosive residue. I don’t like the TSA, I feel like they are inept, as an agency policy quite rude, and highly ineffective, but they are what our elected leaders put in place. Want to change it, change who you vote for the next time you are at the ballot. Write your congresspersons and Senators. But if you do not like how you are treated by the TSA or what rights you give up by wanting to fly and subjecting yourself to them, then chose not to fly for the time being.

      Should agents behave like basic humans and be civil? Yes. Should they do a more thorough investigation? Probably. At least I would like them to, even if it was me. Should they just waive through the 15 year old because he/she is a teen? Nope. Should they be respectful during the pat down and maybe explain things calmly? Yes. Should we, as American Citizens demand better from our elected leaders? Yes, most definitely. Yet almost overwhelmingly, the incumbent wins. We (speaking of the general American public/voters) keep doing the same thing and yet expect different results…

  22. Thankfully, I have not had an unpleasant experience with TSA – there have been many many frustrations, but no real issues. I cringe when I read of other travelers experiences, because they clearly illustrate (from my own personal standpoint and belief) that the TSA is a broken machine with major inconsistencies. It is, however, a necessary evil in todays industry in the sense that we have no other choice when flying – we must accept the system as it is whether we agree with it or not, or simply not fly (which is why I prefer driving 15 hours, over a quick 2 hour flight).

  23. Now it makes sense the way my 20 year old daughter was treated when we traveled last summer. That explains all the extra screening she got. Pat downs,extra bag searches,questions etc.

  24. There should be proper, standard screening procedures and escalation procedures for every situation. These should be approved and standardized nationwide.

    1. The problem is that there are standardized screening procedures, and this story is exactly with the standard screening procedures are.

  25. I have had my share of ugly pat-downs. And, written about them in past posts. I am going to France for 3 months and require a bit of medicine and wonder how I will get it through. Several need refrigeration (for glaucoma) and I will probably pack them in the send through and hope no one decides to take them. Once my luggage tags were stolen — my name on them. I hate TSA.

    1. Please don’t let strangers touch your teenage daughter in her private areas. What exactly do you think you are teaching her when you allow this? That her body belongs to others? That she must consent to sexual activity when a uniformed authority tells her to? That strangers putting their hands down her pants is no big deal? I am eternally grateful that my mother protected me from being victimized by strangers – if you’re the parent it’s your job to keep these people’s hands off your daughter’s body.

        1. Perverts and predators have always thought that molesting young girls was a good thing. Looks like we have at least two of them visiting this blog.

  26. The poll question is so broad as to be appear to be push polling, and it would be a waste of time to bother voting on.

  27. OK. I am flying out of Pittsburgh this summer. I will not be taking off my shoes because of disability issues, I will be patted down, I will scream for the TSA manager and or police when I get “groped”, and I will get it all recorded by my flying companions that will not be standing with me at this time, I will get names, badge numbers, and anything else to file charges.

    Good advise as for you Chris as you fly with your family a lot – do not go thru TSA together. Go 2 x 2. You can’t yet be on the watch list, as you have made no threats, but you sure may be on the “gotcha” list for the insults that we through at TSA.

  28. I read every one of these stories and always ask myself, “should I feel sorry for what happened?” My answer is most always “no”. Why? Because it’s a lose-lose for the TSA. TSA is rarely, if ever, publicly applauded for what they are able to prevent. Most of which never makes the news. As a member of the news media, I know this to be true.

    Here’s where the problem is. After EVERY tragedy, Americans are reflex-quick to point the blame on somebody or something. Let a man with a box cutter make it on the plane and the TSA gets blamed. The moment some 15-year-old kid or 75-year-old wacko decides to take advantage of a relaxed TSA policy towards them and uses that liberty for an attack of some sort, the American public will point blame at the TSA.

    Unfortunately, a few bad apples messed it up for everybody else. Even if a large majority of the flying public wants to travel without incident, there’s always that one guy who has an agenda of his own. I would much rather want the TSA to keep me and other passengers safe than to unconsciously allow someone who appeared to not pose a risk make it through security with intentions of hurting others.

    The moment that individual makes it through security, you’ll understand the role of a TSA agent much more than you did before. My bet is that you will still criticize.

    1. Knight/SoCalDJ (your screen name keeps changing): so you’re a member of the news media? So are Chris Elliott and I. Care to tell us who you work for? We’re up front with our names and our opinions.

      1. Yeah I noticed the name changed on my original post. Yes, I am a member of the media. I’d rather not share my full name or news outlet as that isn’t important here. I’m sure you understand.

        1. “I’m sure you understand.” Maybe. According to Spokeo you’re 25 and in Lemon Grove, California. If you’re really a DJ, that’s not necessarily the news media. Regardless, we don’t have to know your real name for you to provide legitimately sourced stories of TSA successes, as EdB has asked.

          1. “provide legitimately sourced stories of TSA successes, as EdB has asked.”

            But Lisa, didn’t you see where he said the stories have never made it to the news? If it hasn’t, how can he provide legitimately sourced stories?

          2. Just like we are going to take his word for it that he is a news reporter, a DJ, and he was frisked by a rookie straight out of the academy.

            I know whoppers when I hear them…and they’re not from Burger King.

          3. I find your logic interesting. A man gets pulled over and arrested for DUI…doesn’t make the news. Do I need to question the legitimacy there? I have a right to know – my tax dollars go towards that.

            And I took liberty of doing the search for you. Let me know if you saw this on the news (you’re welcome):

          4. Yes, I have seen that story before in other news media. I have also seen rebuttals that the screening used before 9/11 found almost twice the number the TSA is boasting about.

            And you claimed the TSA prevented something. Just finding a restricted item does not prove anything was prevented.

          5. Surely it does. You prevented the possibility of that individual using whatever weapon they had of potentially using it for harm. The opportunity has been stripped. Unless that individual finds another way to carry out the attack.

          6. You are assuming that anyone who brings a restricted item on board has nefarious intentions, which isn’t true, otherwise there would have been a lot more incidents from the items the TSA has missed. Again, just finding an object does not mean anything has been prevented.

          7. “Dear TSA, yes I had a loaded gun in my carry-on. I’m sorry it discharged on the plane and somebody was injured.” Is that OK with you? That’s prevented at the security gate. Whether or not the individual has ill-intentions or not, it was stopped.

            NY Giants Palexico Burress: Carries a loaded firearm into an NYC nightclub and he accidentally (emphasis on accidentally) shoots himself in the leg. The guy goes to jail for a year and misses a season in the league. Had he been frisked properly (or at all), would that have happened to him? By himself I might add.

          8. 1. For the umpteenth time, there’s a difference between frisking and groping. I’ve been frisked by the police. The TSA isn’t frisking; they’re groping.

            2. Funny that you bring up the example of a gun accidentally discharging (and no one here is arguing that loaded guns should be allowed on planes), because that’s exactly what has happened at the checkpoint — thanks to dunderheaded authorities, not thanks to Acme Terrorists, Inc. Though of course, if somebody wanted to blow up the checkpoint, he wouldn’t have to bother getting on the plane. As happened at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport. And as you know, El Al got shot up a few years ago at the LAX ticket counter.

            3. Guns are metal. They are detected by — um — metal detectors.

          9. 1. Who decides when frisking turns into groping? Me or the TSA? It’s semantics for crying out loud. Would it be better if they explicitly said “frisk AND grope” instead of just using the word “frisking”.

            2. In this case, Palexico did it to himself. Nobody else. Think the front door security went home without being addressed? I don’t think everyone is ill-intentioned, I believe we all want to do good. Having to take public transportation (taxi, bus, trolley/subway, plane, train, etc.) with complete strangers puts us in a state of vulnerability where we must be mindful. I wouldn’t dare trust a complete stranger whom I’ve just met. It’s earned. Like I said before…a few bad apples messed it up for everybody.

          10. Not semantics. As I said, I’ve been frisked. Have you? And why do you think real law enforcement — you know, cops, FBI, etc. — hate the TSA so much? I know. I’ve interviewed them.

          11. Been there, done that. Totally not fun! Frisked by the police as well because I happened to be driving one of the most popular stolen cars around and the officer was “fresh out of the academy” as I was told. I’ve built a bridge and have crossed over it. Cops/FBI don’t like TSA for the same reason people dislike bouncers…they accusation is they take their job “too seriously” and “act like the police” when of course they’re not.

          12. Again, you are assuming every loaded gun making it past security is going to have an accident. Based on that logic, the Air Marshalls shouldn’t bring a loaded weapon as it might accidentally discharge.

            But again, it is not proof that anything has been presented. How many of those missed weapons have accidentally discharge on the plane? I think the last count it was up to zero.

          13. In that case, let’s just allow loaded guns on planes because surely nobody is going to use them…ever! Good luck with that!

            How many times has someone carried a loaded gun into a nightclub, made it past security, and accidentally shot themselves or somebody else? We both know of it happening at least once.

            How many times has someone carried a loaded gun into a nightclub, made it past security, and shot somebody on purpose? Go ahead…take a guess!

            For what it’s worth: I know we’re talking about planes and not nightclubs. But the basis of my stance is to promote the safety of others.

          14. SoCal, straw man argument. No one’s arguing that loaded guns should be brought onto planes. And how many times do we have to repeat that metal is detected by metal detectors?

          15. According to EdB, just because someone has a loaded gun doesn’t mean they’ll have an accident. So, why not let travelers bring guns on board to prove him right? Why even allow someone the opportunity to have that liberty. Maybe he should look up the definition of opportunity risk. People lose their jobs because a situation presented itself with the opportunity of going awry.

          16. Do you understand the difference be ‘could be’ and ‘will be’? A loaded gun COULD BE used for harm. That doesn’t mean it WILL BE. Just because a gun makes it past security doesn’t mean something bad will happen, only that it could happen. Your claims that just because the TSA found a gun means something was prevented is just plain false. It only means they MAY have. You see the difference?

          17. Have you tried stand-up comedy? Familiarize yourself with Murphy’s Law and get back to me.

          18. Really? You are wanting to use Murphy’s law as a basis for your argument? That is only an epigram and has no scientific basis of truth?

            And besides, the actual quote from Captain Ed Murphy was, “if there is any way to do it wrong, he will.” (Bloch, Authur (1980 edition), Murphy’s Law, and Other Reasons Why Things Go WRONG, Los Angeles: Price/Stern/Sloan Publishers, Inc. Pp 4-5.

            Yes, I am very familiar with Murphy’s Law.

          19. Nobody but you has said that guns should be on planes. We are saying that rubbing men’s testicles and women’s breasts and vaginas will not stop any guns from getting onto planes.

            I guarantee your Palexico guy did not have his gun strapped onto his testicles. Or do you have personal knowledge that he did? So the bouncers could have been rubbing his privates all night and the gun would still be in the night club. But a metal detector would have announced the presence of the gun to everybody in the vicinity.

            Metal detectors can stop guns from getting onto planes. Rubbing privates and breasts can not. So TSA should stop rubbing privates and breasts looking for guns.

          20. Are you just not seeing the point or are you just ignoring it? The point is just because an object makes it past security does not mean something bad will happen. Saying that you prevented something just because you found a restricted object is crazy. How about all those guns in the nightclub that made it past security but NOTHING HAPPENED with them. Now go back in time and let’s say it was caught. So what was prevented? Absolutely nothing.

          21. EdB, so what do you make of Palexico’s situation? Is it OK that it happened? Of course not! And you know that. If the bouncer finds the gun and confiscates it, Palexico does not get shot by HIS gun at least. Are you OK with the fact that weapons made it onto planes and nothing happened? It’s called opportunity risk. People get fired for that. Sort of similar to loss exposure. The opportunity or exposure of such harm is enough.

            I understand your point more than you know. But right now you’re being naive and foolish.

          22. Enough of this side tracking. Let’s get back to the original question. You stated that you have seen stories of the TSA “preventing” an incident, to which you presented a story about the number of restricted items have been found. My point is just finding an item does not mean anything was prevented, only something MAY have been prevented. In order for your statement that the TSA has prevented something, every restricted item that got past security WILL create an incident, something empirical evidence has proven to be false.

            You can bring up all the isolated incidents where something bad has happened but that does not prove your premise that finding an item means it prevented something. For every case you present, several cases of nothing happening can be found thus disproving your position.

          23. When I go out in my car this morning, I could use it deliberately as a weapon to kill other people (as well as myself, most likely); I could get in a terrible accident and kill other people (as well as myself, most likely); my trip could be completely uneventful (as will most likely be the case).

            OMG, why was I even given a driver’s license if I could cause such mayhem with a motor vehicle?

            You’ve still not presented even one credible source of acts of mayhem prevented by the TSA. That’s because you can’t do so as there are none.

          24. You’re still not giving an example of anything that TSA has prevented. That’s because you can’t.

            Throwing out red herrings unrelated to the subject at hand does not prove your point.

          25. Well, I guess according to your logic I was prevented from blowing up my plane when my sun screen was confiscated in San Francisco.

            Funny, I had no idea I was planning to blow up a plane when I boarded in Honolulu with the sun screen. I guess I turned into a terrorist during the overnight flight when the pilot kept making announcements all night and waking me up.

            Thank God TSA stripped me of that opportunity to blow up the second segment of my flight home. I was simply unable to find “another way to carry out the attack.”

        2. “I’d rather not share my full name or news outlet as that isn’t important here.”

          Then how can your claim to be with the media be relied on? If you are going to use your position as part of your argument, as you did above, then it is very important.

          1. You said you have seen stories as a result of your position in the news media but refuse to provide any information to back up that claim. This has nothing to do with your organization but you credibility.

          2. Because you are puffing yourself up to be something you are not…that’s why you don’t reveal yourself.

          3. If it’s so unimportant and you’re not willing to share it, why mention it in the first place?

            Could it be because it’s not true? Could you be puffing yourself up to be something you are not?

            Since you’ve been changing your name so frequently, why not change your name to Burger King? after all, it’s the home of the Whopper.

    2. “TSA is rarely, if ever, publicly applauded for what they are able to prevent. Most of which never makes the news. As a member of the news media, I know this to be true.”

      Well here’s your chance to enlighten us as to the things the TSA has prevented but has not made it to the news.

      1. How much time do you have? Keep in mind that news organizations get a lot of their information from news/press releases and “news wires”. We wouldn’t waste our viewers’ time with “Coming up at 6, a man frisked at LAX for a pair of scissors in his luggage!” Think about how much of a waste of time that would be. We cover “anything that changes or attempts to change the status quo”. Comedian Katt Williams had a loaded gun in his luggage back in 2011, that made news ONLY because of who he is.

        If you’re looking for more enlightment, try contacting the TSA directly and I’m sure they will be glad to enlighten you.

        One more thing…controversy sells! What’s the “better” story? A Congressman’s niece being disrobed or a guy at your local airport denied boarding because they found a box cutter? You know the answer.

        1. SoCalDJ, please check the tab marked “Master List” at TSA News Blog (dot com), Chris Elliott’s sister site. Then come back and tell us how rare such “controversy” is.

          (As for contacting the TSA directly, ha! Thanks for a great laugh!)

          1. you’re a lot of fun, I like you! Seriously. I appreciate you being civil and engaging in discussion.

            Never said controversy was rare. But, I’ll check the link.

        2. “Keep in mind that news organizations get a lot of their information from news/press releases and “news wires”.”

          Like that news story that came over the wire yesterday about the explosions at the Whitehouse?

          Reliable wire stories will contain source of where the information comes from.

          So not to take up a lot of time, just give one example of a reliable wire story that didn’t get published where the TSA actually prevented something from happening. And just finding a restricted object like a gun is not proof they prevented anything. Lots of guns have made it past the TSA and nothing has happened.

        3. >>””Coming up at 6, a man frisked at LAX for a pair of scissors in his luggage!””

          Uh, news flash, Mr. Media Representative, they do do that.

          They also get all excited about the tubes of toothpaste that cause whole terminals to be evacuated.

        4. You refuse to give one example because you don’t have any. Just give ONE example. That doesn’t take a lot of time.

          You’re nothing but a DHS shill. What’s your job title over there?

    3. The tragedy is that TSA agents are rubbing sex organs to resolve a positive bomb test. You’re OK with that?

      1. If I know exactly where the TSA won’t touch, you think someone would hide something there? And say they do and make it on YOUR plane. You’re OK with that?

        1. SoCalDJ, yeah, because in 60+ years of commercial aviation in this country, planes have been blown out of the sky left and right thanks to bombs hidden in people’s privates.

          1. Good point. But the moment some wack job decides to do that because TSA won’t check there. Then what? I’m sorry, but with all that goes on these days, I surely can’t put anything past anybody (especially if I don’t know them).

          2. SoCalDJ, but that’s true of anywhere, not just airplanes. Are you also afraid of walking down the street? Driving? Taking a train? Subway? Going to a stadium? A sporting event (such as a marathon, for instance)? Shopping mall? Legitimate questions.

          3. You’re absolutely right. Am I afraid? No. Am I mindful? Yes. You can call it paranoia (I call it Social Anxiety Disorder), but whenever I am in large groups (like the ones you mentioned), I tend to be very aware of my surroundings and think about what my first move should be should anything occur.

          4. stevez, It’s sensible to be aware of one’s surroundings. And of course be as mindful as you feel you need to be. It doesn’t follow that, therefore, we should all be subjected to scanning and groping every time we leave the house.

            (And again with the name change! How many Disqus profiles do you have? So far, at this blog alone, you’ve been stevez, SoCalDJ, and Knight.)

          5. You’re right. Keep everyone safe and get them to where they’re going without incident and I’m OK. I just don’t think TSA is the “bad guy” here.

          6. What a sad expenditure of energy, energy that could be used to enjoy life rather than being paranoid.

          7. So the moment some whack job plants explosives in his teeth, is TSA going to start giving dental exams? I surely can’t put anything past anybody (especially if I don’t know them).

          8. I will have to draw the line when they start extracting teeth to look for explosives. But hey! At least I have a line I will not cross. Apparently, there are many people who do not have any line at all.

        2. ROTFLMAO!

          I know exactly they aren’t probing my innards. Guess we can expect fisting for safety next?

          Oops! Did I just tweak someone’s delicate sensibilities again. My bad.

        3. “If I know exactly where the TSA won’t touch, you think someone would hide something there?”

          What an absolutely ridiculous answer. Think about what you just said! Do you not see that you just admitted that you’re perfectly fine with having a cavity search–a full on, blue-gloved, bend over and think of the Homeland, wow-that’s-a-nice-prostate-you-have-there-would-be-a-shame-if-anything-happened-to-it cavity search–at the bloody airport? By minimally-educated, oftentimes sadistic, oftentimes with a little sex-predator problem in his or her past, thugs?

          Because yes, a suicide bomber has, in the past, placed explosives there. He won’t be the last, either.

          Yes, I am fine with allowing people on the plane without irradiating and groping them–just having them walk through the metal detector, and putting their bags through the x-ray machine as before. This seemed to work just fine in the decades before 9/11, when planes weren’t falling out of the sky. “Things changed after 9/11”, you’ll say. That’s right: cockpit doors are now reinforced and locked. Passengers won’t submit any more–as they did with the shoe bomber and the so-called undies bomber, they quickly overcome the threatening person.

          Whose plastic explosive, I will note for the zillionth time (and as military vets have told me, too), will merely smoke without proper wiring harness, detonator, and ignition devices (try getting those onto a plane). Merely smoke. Soldiers used to light C4 to heat their rations.

          As for something “making it on [my] plane”, as others have pointed out, countless weapons have made it through the nude-scanners. The stream of silly “ooh, look what we found this week” weapons at the TSA blog were found, almost every time, by the x-ray machine, not the nude-scanner or groping. What it comes down to is that a lot of people, for reasons that escape me, will put up with any amount of indignities, abuses, and crimes–and allow same to be perpetrated on their own children–if you tell them it’s to make them “safe”, even though logic, statistics, and facts prove otherwise. What does that say about such people?

    4. The TSA injures people every day with search methods that are not safe. The TSA traumatizes PTSD and assault survivors. The TSA trains children to cooperate with sexual predators. The TSA exposes people to carcinogenic radiation. The TSA creates vulnerabilities by concentrating huge numbers of people outside the secured area in lines. The TSA dissuades people from flying and pushes them into less safe travel modes, killing people on the highways who shouldn’t even have been there. The TSA damages people’s medical equipment. The TSA contaminates wounds and forces people with poor balance into stress positions. The TSA has exposed the breasts of teenage girls, destroyed insulin pumps, forced women to drink their own breast milk, and forced people to painfully remove permanent piercings.

      And what kind of safety do we get in return for being injured in all these ways? The TSA misses 5 out of 5 guns carried through a body scanner in Dallas, lets loaded guns and 5-pound blocks of C4 into the passenger cabins, and fails to search or do background checks on a million low-wage airport employees. Your argument doesn’t hold water because the TSA’s methods do not make us safer. Everything the TSA does makes us less safe.

    5. “Unfortunately, a few bad apples messed it up for everybody else”

      No, it’s far worse than that: a few ‘bad apples’ have gotten us to change our lives because of what they’ve done. They’ve gotten us to throw away our rights on a whim.

      In short: the bad apples have already won. And THAT should be what frightens the hell out of you.

      Oh, and since we’re here: how do you feel about cavity searches? After all, the bombs can go there. And if we’re going to give the thumbs up to sexually assaulting people, we might as well give the thumbs up to go full on thumbs up places nobody belongs, right?

      Better safe than sorry, right? Better arriving at your destination with no rights and no dignity remaining than sorry, right?

      Not that I expect an answer. The great TSA defenders never do.

    6. While I understand what you are saying, I still think that there are some things that the TSA needs to fix (well, maybe more than some).

      I myself have never had an enhanced pat-down. I was pulled over through “random selection” and the only thing they did was swab my hands and ask to look at my stomach (go figure).

      It would be nice if the TSA could publish something with some real numbers, facts, etc. to back up what they are doing, but I do not think the procedures they have in place right now help with capturing people who would like to do others harm. They do hold up lines, traumatize people, and for some, get a little to “gropey” with the pat downs.

  29. The problem is the definition of Terrorist. We are using it too liberally. A 15 year old can in no way be a terrorist because being a terrorist means intent. A 15 year old doesn’t have the mental faculties to understand intent as far as terroristic activities are concerned. Now, can a 15 year old commit terroristic activities? Yes, of course, all 15 year olds do, but usually with no mal-intent. Back in the mit ’70s my family was joined by another family to spend a few weeks in Acapulco. On the flight home, the other family’s 15 year old son was asked if he had anything to declare as he was going through customs. He though it would be fun to declare an imaginary bomb in his luggage. Needless to say, we all missed our flight home that day and I didn’t see their son for hours…Did he have a bomb? No…he thought it was just a funny prank…because he was a 15 year old kid with no understanding of his actions.

    As for the OP’s son being pulled aside with explosive residue on his hands? What kid hasn’t held a sparkler or tossed a firecracker or took apart a lighter. All of these things will flag one of these explosive testers. Kids will be kids!

    1. I don’t think you’re giving teenagers near enough credit. A mature 15-year old could definitely understand intent and would be fully aware of the consequences of his actions. There are gang bangers of that age shooting people every day with definite malintent. In the same light, pranks and bad jokes about something are a far cry from actual terroristic acts and 15-year olds are aware of that. I don’t think you were in any danger that the other family’s 15-year-old would have actually planted a bomb not realizing there was any difference between that and a prank.

      1. But what I’m saying is that while yes, a teenager does have the physical ability to kill, maim and reek havoc, and they may have the intent to do these acts, their brains are not equipped to understand fully the ramifications of their act. Here is an article about the development of the brain in teenagers that may be worth the read.
        I’m not making excuses, but instead attempting to give people insight on why a teenager may do the things they do. Just because they look and act like adults, doesn’t make them adults…parents need to understand this and need to make adjustments in how they interpret and understand the teenager brain development…that is, if the parent cared enough to make the effort…

  30. I have spent most of their lives reminding my daughters that nobody has the right to touch them, particularly in “private” areas. I am still struggling with how to reconcile that with “random” pat-downs. I do not believe denying them travel is a reasonable response, as it seems like it’s punishing them for the misdeeds of the agents. But I honestly don’t know what to do.

  31. I can totally believe the story about Dulles. I avoid that airport and DCA. I fly out of BWI if at all possible. TSA aside, everyone in the DC area knows how horribly inept the management is at those two airports.

  32. Well, here’s some news that should make defenders of the TSA happy: as was predictable, the groping that Keeps Us Safe has spread to other venues. The Coachella Music Festival, for example. Two sources:

    1. Reuters

    2. Colleague of someone who was there:

  33. It Takes All Kinds….
    This is not a comment on the subject, but a comment on a number of postings… readers will recognize those to whom these words are directed:

    There have been many TSA-related subjects before, but none have engendered the number of responses as this one. I wonder about the family and the upbringing
    of a 15 year old boy with parents who are so upset about, what they deemed to perceive as a sexual approach.
    Teenagers, especially in this 21st Century, are pretty perceptive. What I see is a youngster who’s receiving a terribly warped view of life and of his sexuality. Perhaps he has been made to dress and undress in the dark for fear that he view himself would be stimulated or provoked. If this country ever considers a universal
    military service, this young man is in for a shock.

    I’m astounded at those who would put a plane load of travelers in jeopardy rather than envision a touching. I’m astonished a the naivety of some readers who can’t appreciate the dangers of the world in which we live. My mother would have said, “Relax, it takes all kinds.”

    1. Could you explain why the shoving of hands in one’s crotch to resolve a faulty bomb residue test keeps a plane load of travelers out of jeopardy?

    2. I grew up in a very sex-positive household. I’m entirely the opposite of repressed, let me assure you. But that doesn’t mean my parents would have been happy with strangers putting their hands down my pants! Okay, it takes all kinds, and maybe you think it’s all fine and good to have people grabbing your genitals and putting their hands down your child’s pants. But I object. I’m a “kind” also. If it takes all kinds, what about the kinds of people who *don’t* think that sexual touching is no big deal?

      My objection is absolutely not “Don’t touch me there, that’s dirty.” My objection is, “Don’t touch me there, that’s MINE. Keep your hands off what is valuable to me.”

  34. Look at this point in society I feel that if a person is a minor or an adult they should be screened like an adult. You never know now a days. Parents may plant their kids with stuff. Better to be safe than sorry.

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