TSA Frisks A Baby; Says The Stroller Set Off 'Explosives' Alarm

from the younger-and-younger dept

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the TSA groping a six-year-old and then defending it because it was “standard operating proecedures.” Once again, the TSA is getting attention for a questionable patdown, this time going much, much younger, with a photo being shown of a patdown of a baby:

Once again, the TSA is quick to respond on its blog, insisting again that there’s nothing out of the ordinary here:

We reviewed the screening of this family, and found that the child?s stroller alarmed during explosives screening. Our officers followed proper current screening procedures by screening the family after the alarm, who by the way were very cooperative and were on the way to their gate in no time. The child in the photo was simply receiving a modified pat-down which doesn?t even come close to what the headline implies.

I’m curious how the family being cooperative makes this okay? After all, didn’t the TSA just admit that complaining about the TSA may subject you to further scrutiny? It seems like everyone who doesn’t want to get that extra special attention is going to be friendly and cooperative.

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Comments on “TSA Frisks A Baby; Says The Stroller Set Off 'Explosives' Alarm”

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TechnoMage (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Perhaps you should insert “Congressional Member who uses the ‘Terror-boogie-man’ to pass anything they want” in that statement instead of “TSA agent”
… come on…
These people don’t like their jobs as much as you don’t like their job. They don’t make much money, and they are only doing it to be able to support their families, etc.

Mike42 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You’re right. And neither did most of the people who worked in Nazi concentration camps.
I’m not saying the TSA is killing people, or comparing airplane safety to genocide. I’m saying that YOU are ultimately responsible for your actions. Not your employer, not congress passing laws. Until the 1960’s, it was illegal for black and white people to marry. Did that mean that it was morally OK for the sherriff to arrest a couple just for getting married? Authoritarianism doesn’t work if subordinates refuse their orders.
By the way, if these people found this work so distasteful, and they are getting low wages, why not find another low-paying job? The pay would increase if they can’t find people to do the job. Kinda ruins you argument…

Howard the Duck (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Your argument sucks. You start by making a comparison to concentration camps, then say it’s not, then compare it to Black and White people not being able to marry. The TSA is no where near as immoral as your comparisons, (which really aren’t comparisons), and jobs are not abundant, low paying or otherwise. Is it immoral to feed your kids? Is it more immoral to be employed by the TSA? Please don’t compare this to Triblinka.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Is it immoral to remove others rights, to actively participate in the removal of others rights, to actively defend the removal of others rights? Is it immoral to remove other rights and use a child as a shield against those who would point it out?

Dude, even the Army has rules against following orders that violate human rights.

TechnoMage (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Yes, but the Army has better situation than the TSA

The Army has rules against that, but you will be immediately put in the Army’s jail for refusing an order, and only after a (non-civilian)trial will you be possibly found not-guilty, if others find your orders were illegal.

The same is true of civil person leaving a job, you “can” do it if you want, but you still have to face the immediate consequences of being without a job (vs being in jail in the military). However, unlike the military, you do not even have a chance at ‘justice’ because you don’t have the trial to look forward to. Potentially the moral justice might be a win, but…

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“The Army has rules against that, but you will be immediately put in the Army’s jail for refusing an order, and only after a (non-civilian)trial will you be possibly found not-guilty, if others find your orders were illegal. “

Uh… No… You can be outspoken in the Army or any other military branch. You just have to know your battles.

And TSA agents make $13-$20 an hour in some places. It’s not a minimum wage job, but it is a highly stressful one with what they have to put up with.

Howard the Duck (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

How long have you needed a passport to travel to another country? Longer than you’ve needed to watch out for the evil genocidal TSA? The TSA so far has not used any race to forward their ambitions, as Americans think that profiling is against their civil rights, no matter that profiling is more effective. Should we do nothing?
We should stop the democratic process entirely as it is responsible for politicians, wanting to be re-elected, trying these asinine protection schemes on the American people. We should move the TSA employees out onto the tarmac with brooms to sweep up the bits of wreckage. What is your solution?

Anonymous a-hole says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Americans think that profiling is against their civil rights, no matter that profiling is more effective.

Profiling based on factors such as race, country or origin and/or manner of dress is against civil rights. Profiling based on and individual’s behavior is not.

Are you so fucking dense that you’ve missed this in the last year or two’s discussions of the TSA and why what they’re doing demonstrably does no good?

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Racial Profiling doesn’t work; profiling, however, does.

In the law enforcement community, this profiling is called behavioral or criminal profiling, and yes, it works very well. Pulling a person over because they are a particular race is illegal, and ethically wrong, regardless to the circumstances. However, pulling a person over because they are driving erratically, on the streets after 0200, and when you approach the car you smell a strong wiff of alcohol and the driver is slurring his speech and cannot stand up straight…well, that is behavioral/criminal profiling.

If TSA employed this better than the random, ridiculous process they have now, they would go a lot further in protecting the plane and its passengers from terrorists. However, implementing it isn’t easy, and putting it to practice doesn’t create the show that they call security now. TSA is about making people feel that they are secure (false-security) and not about making them secure.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

Actually, the ‘pulling someone over who is out after 2:00 am’ would be illegal as well, because there is no justification there.

Correct, being out after 2:00 isn’t justification, but coupled with the driving erratic certainly gives the reasonable suspicion required to make a stop. I’ve often been out, in areas where there is a lot of drunks on the road, after 02:00 and have not been pulled over. Then again, I am not weaving all over the place and driving on the sidewalk either.

If the officer approached the car, and could not find further evidence of a crime, they would have to let the person go.

TechnoMage (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actually _you_ have a couple failings in your logic, not me.

First, People who work low income wages do not generally have time to try and find other jobs… the term is called “working poor”, they are working, but they don’t make enough to be able to go to the grocery store and buy the food they want/need without worrying if they have enough money (thats my personal definition of having enough money)

Secondly, “YOU are ultimately responsible for your actions” is true, but if you have a low income job and do not have any money saved up you are essentially an indentured servant.. And thats the point, They can’t risk losing their job (especially in this market) because then they do not know if they will be able to provide for their family. (Personally, I believe this is why many companies pay working-poor wages, to keep their employees from being able to look for other jobs(or it might just be a nice coincidence for scum jobs, i dunno), I worked a job like this once) The moral question of: is it better to ruin someone else’s ‘rights'(which they have signed away by going to the airport and buying tickets… which is a whole other issue) or to allow your family to become desolate. That question I can not answer, and hope never to have to. So that is why I say the congressional members who approve/request this type of action be targeted (for political, legal action)

Third, Pay doesn’t increase if you get a few desperate people to work a job when the majority of the rest of the people have a moral blockade against it. This is why we have TSA agents in the first place with low wages. The same is true of the Rat killers in India, it is a sacrilegious act to kill rats, but the job needs done, so people go against their religion to get a paycheck to provide for their families.

And about the Sheriff arresting those who are legally unable to be married… I think we have a huge legal battles over that right now with the LGBT community. Unfortunately, many of our laws are/have not meant to be _truly_ morally acceptable, they are meant to be morally acceptable to those in power and often are actually religiously acceptable reasons and cloaked in the guise of other reasonings.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I would rather risk death by boot camp (I’m in horrible shape) then let my family starve. I will join the Army before working at McDonald’s again. As bad as it seems, it’s not impossible to make it better.

Killing rats is a valuable service as in it saves lives and helps prevent the Black Plague. TSA agents don’t prevent anything.

Laws are meant to be morally acceptable to the majority of the population, not the small number of rulers. How many people do you think would say it’s morally acceptable to pat down a baby? How many people do you think would say it’s morally acceptable to waste tax payer money on something that does nothing positive for the tax payers. Immoral laws need to be removed and immoral powers need to be fought.

Jim O (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is the second article in a row where commenters compared current US policy with Soviet downfall. I just read (on slashdot) that NASA is effectively banned from collaborating with China – which a couple of people compared to USSR practices.

Of course I doubt that anyone (domestic) is intentionally working towards the downfall of the USA… it just struck me as interesting.

Not willing to fly again says:


The TSA’s “Blogger Bob” – what a lousy job that would be. Having to apologize or gloss over every single mistake made by a universally-loathed Federal agency must be really tough.

When I read the blog entry, it had 33 comments, all but a single comment negative. That single comment pointed out that the terrorists the TSA defends against are so evil they wouldn’t be afraid of putting explosives in a stroller, or hiding them on an infant. Every other comment pointed out logical, legal or ethical lapses on the part of “Blogger Bob” and the TSA contractors doing the “modified pat down” of the infant.

The committee that comprises “Blogger Bob” must have thick skin. Nobody I’ve ever met could withstand the withering criticism that meets every “Blogger Bob” blog post.

DannyB (profile) says:


“Blogger Bob” sounds like a friendly euphemism invented by government.

Sort of like the euphemism “Big Brother” from 1984. Big Brother is a friendly image. Comforting. On your side. Here to protect and help you. But in order to do so, BB must know everything about you, track you, and understand even your inner private thoughts.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not willing to fly again

Blogger Bob probably is a contractor who is glad to have a job. There are always essentially mean and corrupt people who will do any dirty work for money. They are the types who would pull the cord on a guillitine of a child, if they could get a new television set.

I understand the military and intelligence agencies are now using database assisted sockpuppet programs. So, Blogger Bob could be one of those.

Raphael (profile) says:

I love this:

“the child?s stroller alarmed during explosives screening.”

As Ross Anderson pointed out in his book Security Engineering, organizations often try to semantically shift the blame onto others for their own failings. So “Our screening process produces an unacceptable number of false positives” becomes “The stroller alarmed”. Likewise “Ouyr security procedures were compromised by a scammer” in bank parlance becomes “Someone stole your identity.”

Be clear. Your security measure failed in a way that hurt someone. If you lack sufficient respect for humans to be clear about that, you’re going to get steamrolled in the emerging economy of human-to-human, as opposed to corporate-to-human, commerce.

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Blogger Bob

He might as well just kick out that boilerplate as a daily post, the way things are going. He’ll just have to edit for specifics:

We reviewed the screening of this [child/invalid/sexxxy woman/prepubescent/quadruple amputee], and found that the [stroller/colostomy bag/breasts/Justin Bieber tee/hook(s)]alarmed during explosives screening. Our officers followed proper current screening procedures by screening the [see above] after the alarm, who by the way were very [cooperative/irate/confused/sexxxy/litigious] and were on the way to their gate in [no time/20 minutes/several hours/detained indefintely]. The [see above] in the photo was simply receiving a [modified/thorough/sexxxy/inappropriate/adequate] pat-down which doesn?t even come close to what the headline implies.

9lb Baby Jesus says:

Re: Re: Blogger Bob

Two problems…

1. These are minimum wage Neanderthals, hot quotient 0.

2. Any hot chick willing to grope random strangers can make a much better living at other, shall we say, “establishments” while add pretty much the same safety to air travel as the TSA grope points.

Hiiragi Kagami (profile) says:

I’m more concerned about the stroller setting off an alarm than I am of the groping.

Just what in the world could a stroller contain to set off the alarm? PVC? Rubber? Other normal compounds found in a variety of products which now require a special pat down should the item offend a sensor or two?

I can’t wait until we hear how “alarms” sounded because a tech wanted to grope that child. This will raise another set of alarms instantly.

Curious: I wonder if Greyhound and Amtrak have seen a greater rise in ticket sales thanks to news like this.

Greg G (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Curious: I wonder if Greyhound and Amtrak have seen a greater rise in ticket sales thanks to news like this.

Ugh, not Greyhound. I rode Greyhound from San Antonio to Dallas once, stopping at every little town with more than 20 people in it, and that was enough. ~20 hours to get there, when, if driving myself, would have been ~4.5 hours. Not to mention the bus stations were (probably still are) cesspools of humanity.

Amtrak? Maybe. At least to me, going by train just seems cooler than riding a bus. Just hope there are no derailments. You know, because that would make riding the train uncool.

Greg G (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I decided to check Greyhound’s fares to see travel times now (as opposed to when I actually used them, which was back around 1986)

Now it’s only ~5.5 hours travel time. Looks like fewer stops along the way, and they might actually use I-35 instead of the back roads. One I checked has no transfers and only 2 stops.. Much better than before, and a refundable fare is less than $50. Could be worth putting up with the dregs of society at the station for a fare about 1/4 that of flying.

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Most likely, the culprit was the family blowing bubbles.

The bubble blowing solutions sold in toy stores all over the western hemisphere are chemically similar to nitroglycerin explosives, to the extent that the current generation of explosives detectors cannot tell the difference without the sensitivity setting being reduced so far, the scanner cannot detect explosives residues, only large quantities of explosive material (which would permit someone with a vacuum sealing machine in their kitchen to make undetectable bombs if they wash the charges after sealing them). Security systems tend to err on the side of detecting residues, at a cost of vastly elevated false positives.

Even washing your hands won’t get rid of detectable traces, and people have set off explosives detectors 2-3 days afterwards. If a bubble lands on a stroller and pops, few people will wash it off the stroller (it’s basically soap, after all), which gives the stroller an even stronger residue than people’s hands.

New Mexico Mark says:

It's just logic

The stroller set of an alarm, therefore we should focus all our attention on the baby? Hmmm… a stroller has dozens of potential hiding places, some almost impossible to inspect without cutting it apart. Babies? Not so many hiding places, but easier to “inspect”.

Besides, if the baby was a concern (had that diabolical terrorist look in his eyes), would it have been too hard to simply divert the parents and baby to a private area, explain the situation, and ask them to change the diaper (and dispose of the old one locally)? As a parent, I can attest that’s probably a good thing to do immediately before a flight and most parents would welcome a semi-private area to do so.

That said, I still believe that effective security organizations, procedures, etc. can reduce security risks without introducing prohibitive costs, either monetary or to liberty. We’ll have to try it someday.


Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They’re hardly classified, just slightly obscure (unless you’re a security system nerd or geek, anyway).

Most likely, something that left a residue on the stroller contained glycerin. Lowest bidder explosives detectors use the presence of glycerin and nitrates to detect nitroglycerin based explosives. If you have just one, it usually doesn’t trigger an alarm, but having even trace residues of both will.

At the level of sensitivity required to reliably detect sealed containers of explosives, the nitrate residue on a diaper bag, combined with any number of lotions, or the bubble blowing solutions sold in most toy stores across the western hemisphere, will cause a false positive.

Thanatossassin (profile) says:

TSA Agents are the Walmart employees of government jobs. Speaking with quite a few of them, they area underpaid and a lot of them hate their jobs and are looking to move on elsewhere. I know LAX agents have to spend at least $150 a month to park without getting reimbursed.

That being said, if you want the system change, deal with the people truly in charge: the Airline Corporations. Of course, Americans are pushovers though; we’ll hit $8 a gallon, get butt-raped by the TSA, and take an increase in insurance premiums as long as we can get home in time to spend time in front of the idiot box.

wnyght (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You’re right, Americans are pushovers. Or, as I like to call them, sheep. Now, the thing about sheep is that they come in large numbers. My favorite t shirt for quite awhile use to be this one that said, “I fear stupid people in large numbers”. If we could just find the right herder to point the sheep in the right direction, maybe we could get some change. Where’s MLK when you need him?

AJ says:


They’re loud, they stink, they spew bodily fluids at you, and most of them are as stupid as the parent that’s carrying them on a crowded plane. If you want to transport your little trophy with you, it should be sedated, packed in a biological shipping crate, muzzled, and stuffed under the pilot in a pressurized cargo hold… If i can’t put my well-manor-ed, obedient, quiet, and faithful Golden Retriever in the seat next to me, you shouldn’t be able to put your stinky noise machine in that same seat…. lol.. just saying… 🙂

AJ says:

Re: Re: Bah...

“Babies or TSA agents?”

I’ll go with both…… But just to be clear.. I’ll put up with a good groping from a TSA agent long before I’ll ever fly from Florida to Hawaii again next to a “Golden Corral buffet groupie” holding a just hatched, colicky, biological “dumb bomb” in her lap the whole way….

AJ says:

Re: Re: Bah...

No, I’m not serious Coward. Babies can’t help that they were born to idiot parents.

I am however, taking a jab at a system that will let a burger eating fat ass with a 3 month old make everyone’s life miserable, while man’s best friend has to be sedated and stuffed into a hold under the pilot.

Frost (profile) says:

Oh come on

The searches themselves are pointless, especially since the “enhanced patdown” won’t catch any of the real problem areas, such as concealing things in a body cavity (which anyone who really wanted something through would do) but since the searches exist, they HAVE to look in unlikely places, like a child’s stroller, if they get some indications there is something there to check. Until all the searches are abolished as the pointless insult that they are, the TSA people have to at least try to check everyone – and in this case, they were checking the adults, just to see if they had hidden something on the kid.

Anyone who bleats something here about “feeling up a baby” is either seriously sick themselves or have a really warped idea about how many people in this world are pedophiles to the point of finding infants sexual; that kind of “sick” is extremely rare. The searches are bad enough, let’s not sensationalize them further with that kind of unworthy argumentation. Just because someone is male and pats down a baby to make sure some conscienceless adult hasn’t used the child to get something through a checkpint doesn’t automatically mean the male is sexually gratified by the act or even thinking along those lines. Let’s argue the idiocy of searches from factual sensible points of view, not a knee-jerk “omg they fondled a baby” bullshit routine.

Frost (profile) says:

Re: Why aren't these pedophiles being arrested?

You think that is sick? What’s really sick is that you think that touching a child is automatically child molestation and sexual in nature. The only thing the absolute craze in the US especially about “stranger danger” has done is convert every male and most of the women into potential sexual predators of children, even if a vanishingly small percentage of people actually have such leanings.

Anonymous Coward says:

A view from the outside. The U.S. is slowly giving up everything that made it special, admirable, noble and to be emulated because it’s been duped by the conservative “keep me safe at any cost” (here read “take away my rights and freedoms”) agenda. Which is really just about controlling Americans. Unfortunately I worry that we’ve just elected son of “W” to do the same to us in my country .

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actually, that would be the liberals here. Our conservatives are not like your conservatives. Only in America do the liberals want less rights, and the conservatives want more. It has to do with the founding principles of the US, maximum freedom, and that anything not explicitly forbidden must be allowed.

It causes odd terminology problems when describing political positions, relative to the rest of the world, where liberals want MORE freedom, not less.

Anonymous Coward says:

Is this really the foreshadowing of a future dystopian society in which no privacy exists beyond your own mind? Or another example of Americans tendency to make mountains out of microbes? If one day, imaginary-being forbid, someone does use a youth to smuggle/bomb/confuse the system. Who will be blamed? Probably the ineffective, minimum-wage earning idiots at the airport that weren’t needed in the first place. Comments about child-molestation and loss of human rights overshoot the mark and make it easy to dismiss any realistic,or insightful discontent. Then again it’s not as much fun to be open-minded and respectful as it is to be witty and inflammatory.

Anonymous Coward says:

If you don’t like the security procedures don’t fly! It’s not as if this is new or even news. TSA is going to pull people out of line if the alarm goes off. Anti-discrimination rules prohibit them from pre determining someone as either innocent or guilty. Take a car people. I have stopped flying with a now defunct airline because they put me on their list and I was still able to conduct my business around the country.

I don’t see that it would be too far out of the realm of possibilities for a stroller, wheelchair or even crutches to be packed with explosives. So search away! After all we have had guys packing their shoes and UNDERWEAR! Remember their point is not to blow the plane up but to bring it down and that doesn’t take to much explosive in the right location.

Either except that these people have a job to do and you are going to have to face it for the ability to fly or get in your car and pay $4 a gallon. You have choices.

Phillip Vector (profile) says:


You know.. this reminds me of a book I once read called, “The Prince”. The jist of it is here..

If you capture a providence, place someone terribly cruel in charge and leave for a few months. When you get back, show that you have an open ear for people to complain. Allow them to complain to you and you behead the person you put in power, winning over the people. You can now place restrictions on them that seem tame compared too what you saved them from.

Sounds like the TSA is going to be beheaded soon.

Graham says:

Voice of dissent

I’ll be honest, as a parent of two kids (one is an infant currently), and a security professional by day, I don’t object to this.
They didn’t just eyeball a baby and say “Hey let’s be pedophiles! yum yum”.
A quick test came back for possible explosives, you check the people who came in contact with that in a reasonable manner. Are there any strange bulges on the baby, no, okay great, just had to check. Being blind to bias makes you better at security. If a test comes back positive, you investigate further and make sure. They didn’t deny them access because the test came back, they did a follow up.
And the accusations that they they only agreed out of feelings of pressure just don’t hold up. No parent, No parent anywhere would say “I think TSA is molesting my child here, but I want to get on a plane so I’m not going to say anything.” This isn’t fascist pressure, this isn’t threats that they will be tortured or locked up, it’s plane ride. Sorry but that just doesn’t add up to “I’m scared for my child, but am afraid to speak up.”
I also have to seriously question the racial bias here.
If this had been a dark skinned Muslim family in traditional garb, I suspect TSA would get applauded for their thoroughness, but no they were white so this is a terrible breach.
I am not happy with many many things that the TSA has done, they amount to the illusion of security, or even worse, less security than before, but this really seems like a semi-reasonable approach to potential threat detected. Are their improvements, certainly, but this isn’t evil, and this isn’t pedophilia.

Alex von der Linden (profile) says:


So, from reading this thread, I’ve gotten the notion that the only thing the TSA does is grope children and harass people.

Did we miss the part where the TSA prevents people from bringing weapons and explosives onto airplanes? And then the people who want to bring explosives on find new ways to do it, and then the TSA has to prevent those, as well?

I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that since 9/11 we have had a definitve lack of exploding airplanes.

JMT says:


“Did we miss the part where the TSA prevents people from bringing weapons and explosives onto airplanes?”

Yes we did all miss that, because it’s never happened. The TSA has not detected and stopped a single act of terrorism.

They have however failed repeatedly at picking up items during testing, so there’s no gaurantee that they would prevent people from bringing weapons and explosives onto planes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe we can install a full body x-ray machine and MRI at the screening points while we’re at it. In addition to a body scan, you can get x-rayed and MRIed. The data can then be sent to a doctor of your choice.

It’s win-win. They make sure you’re not carrying anything illegal, and you can get a free medical checkup. Think how many tumours this will turn up.

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