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Four Year Old Child Not Accused of Concealing Firearm

Tuesday, April 24, 2012
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I’ve seen some headlines stating that TSA Officers accused a 4-year-old child of having a firearm. This wasn’t the case, and I wanted to take a few moments to explain what happened.

TSA has long had a security procedure where if somebody has contact with a person who is undergoing additional screening, they must also undergo additional screening. Why you might ask? You’ve probably heard the old saying that the hand can be faster than eye? Well... that’s the reasoning behind this procedure. There’s always the chance that a prohibited item could be traded off during contact. I’m sure you’ve watched the scene play out in more than one movie where two people collide or shake hands and an item is traded off? Same thing...

We did recently roll out new procedures that reduce the need for pat-downs of children. These new screening procedures include permitting multiple passes through the metal detector and advanced imaging technology to clear any alarms as well as the greater use of explosives trace detection. These changes in protocol will ultimately reduce - though not eliminate - pat-downs of children. But... this is one of those examples where a pat-down of a child was necessary.

It was explained to the family why the pat-down was needed and at no time did our Officers suggest the child was carrying a firearm. We’ve reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures.

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. You can also view our blog post archives or search our blog to find a related topic to comment in. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

The child's mother has a very different view of what happened. So who is lying?

Should that issue turn out to be misunderstanding, aren't there any parents in the TSA? Giving forceful orders to, separating a 4 year old from her parents and family members, and threatening something (Depending on who's story you believe) is guaranteed to cause a 4 year old to cry and be scared. This could have been handled with some soft words and kindness and improved TSA's image.

Perhaps making the video available to corroborate your story is in order.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So you are saying that someone might have *gasp* exaggerated something!!!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why the need for the patdown? Why not just let the kid go through the WMD again?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob,

1) You'll have to remind me of which movie featured a scene where a grandmother was able to transfer a device capable of bringing down a commercial airliner while hugging a four year-old child. I don't seem to recall having seen that one.

2) If the concern was that the grandmother had slipped something to the child, why didn't you just have the child go through the scanner again? What necessitated a pat-down?

3) You continuously confuse the statement "our policy mandates it" with the statement that "it was necessary." Those of us who have more than two working brain cells can see that this was not necessary in any sense.

You should be ashamed of yourself.

Submitted by Laura Monteros on

Bob, you said that the four-year-old was not accused of concealing a firearm, yet he had to undergo a patdown. What sort of weapon did TSA suspect? Because you also said the reason for the patdown was contact and a possible exchange of...something.

I'm not quite sure why we are now suspecting four-year-olds who may be frightened and clingy of passing contraband. That's just going overboard.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So it is proper procedure to attempt to forcibly separate a young child from her mother? It is proper procedure to berate a child until she cries? It's proper procedure to chase down passengers and demand their boarding passes after they've been cleared? The mother's account sounds very different from your spin here. I also think your policy that young children can't touch their caregivers at the checkpoint is one of the most sinister parts of your screening process. Your people perform administrative searches; they do not have the right to nullify parental rights during screening. People absolutely should not comply when you demand they stay away from their own children.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, will you be releasing the surveillance tapes that show that all proper procedures were followed?

Readers may wish to read the mother's account of the incident here --

https://www.facebook.com/notes/michelle-brademeyer/my-daughter-was-mista...

«A TSO began repeating that in the past she had “seen a gun in a teddy bear.” The TSO seemed utterly convinced my child was concealing a weapon, as if there was no question about it.»

So, Bob, you are calling the mother a liar then? Again, please release the tapes that show the mother was making this all up.

[Screenshot captured. There will be consequences if this post is not approved for publication.]

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob,
The TSA obviously thought the grandmother possibly passed along something sinister to the young child.

Whether they used the word 'gun' is irrelevant.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob,

This would have been a perfect time to employ TSA's vaunted BDO's.

Why doesn't the TSA use BDO's to clear passengers in situations like this?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Did the screeners yell at a small child to stop crying? Is that part of their training and procedures?

Submitted by Anonymous on

"proper procedures were followed"

Of course, that's you guys saying they were "proper".

Submitted by PsiCop on

After reading about this and other, similar, incidents, I've noticed two things:

First, the TSA and the persons involved seem to tell two different stories. In the account of it I read, the family specifically says they were NOT told why the child's pat-down was needed. Thus, we (that is, outside observers) have the TSA saying one thing, and the folks involved saying something completely opposite.

What are we to think? Either TSA personnel or the family involved are lying. It can't be any other way. The question of how to resolve that, comes down to credibility. In a moment I will get to how I resolve that, myself, but for now, on to the next observation ...

Second, it's clear to me that the TSA lives in its own little universe, wherein its own methods make (apparent) sense to those within it, but not to anyone outside of it. The TSA's means of explaining its own insular thinking amounts to (in words made famous by the fictional Sledge Hammer), "Trust us, we know what we're doing" ... or worse, "That's just how we do things, because otherwise the terrorists will massacre millions of people!" Sorry, but for me, that's not enough. TSA personnel work for the American people and are accountable to them; it's not the other way around. It's TSA's job to explain its methods and reasoning to people ... without having to resort to "trust us" or "suck it up, that's just how it is."

As for how I resolve the lying part ... on the one hand I have a family that was involuntarily involved in an incident, and they have no particular incentive to lie about it. What happened to them is in the past and they gain nothing (aside maybe from a little attention) by misrepresenting it. On the other, I have TSA personnel who have every incentive to lie about what happened, so they can assure their superiors they followed "procedure" (whatever that might be, I have no idea). They have a future interest in what they say about the incident because they'd like to keep their jobs.

The TSA can either continue to live in its own insular little world and expect the rest of the universe to adapt to it, or, it can accept that ... perhaps, just perhaps! ... its methods and actions are a bit arcane and that people are not going to just take its word for things merely because it says them. If it chooses the latter, then it's going to have to crack open its tight little shell and allow some outside light to seep in to its precious secretive operations.

It's as simple as that.

What it boils down to is, I find the family's story far more credible than I find TSA's reassurances that nothing was done wrong and that the family was kept informed at all times. My own experience is that TSA personnel absolutely NEVER explain anything to anyone at any time because they do not believe they are required to explain anything to anyone, ever, for any reason; it never occurs to them to be necessary, because they all live in their own little world and see no reason to allow anything ever to penetrate it.

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

OK, so the kid touched/was touched by someone else undergoing 'enhanced screening.'

Your explanation of the reasoning was moderately acceptable to the masses. Not to me, but it is well known that I am very critical of your organization.

You lost me and many, many, more readers when you concluded your presentation with "...We’ve reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures."

You continue to miss the point that *you* can't write the rules and then *review* what some would consider a situation using your own rules. This is exactly why so many people do not like your organization. You write rules which you hold us accountable to, but you can't tell us those rules because it would spoil the surprise. There are actually laws and precedents and a bunch of other legal sounding mumbo-jumbo out there preventing you from doing exactly what you are doing.

Submitted by Anonymous on

um how exactly do you know they didn't accuse her of having a gun?? I don't think you have audio of the entire circumstance. btw I notice you have made no mention of the article by your former boss that states that liquids, knives and other items should be made legal immediately. Kind of a big story, but you have failed to speak on it.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I did read the mother's account of what happened and I believe what upset her was the demeanor of the TSA agents towards the child and their refusal to let her touch or comfort her child. If the TSA agents actually demanded that the 4 year old child stop crying, and stand still, then they should have expected her to panic and run. There are 2 sides to every story, but it is insulting when you respond to an incident by cherry picking the point(s) to dispute.

Submitted by The E on

Look, guys, you're really bad at this whole marketing thing.

Who am I going to believe? The woman who was personally there and was forcibly separated from her child? Or the agency with a history of doing horrible things to people in violation of their civil rights?

Guess what? I believe the woman was probably exaggerating a bit. But I also believe that your "proper procedures" are pretty terrible.

Folks, the big crime was forcibly separating a four year old child from her mother while she screamed and cried and you surrounded her with MORE strange and imposing agents. Not some nonsense about the child had a handgun -- and they thought the child might have SOMETHING, or else there was nothing to search.

You completely fail to address any of the very real and very serious accusations that were actually made.

The original account does not say that the TSOs said the child had a gun. They did a lot of implication and threw their weight around and did nothing to calm a very terrified young child. Again, if your procedures say that a screaming four year old can't be comforted by her mother, then your policies are inhumane and terrible.

You'll notice that I keep using words with the root word of "terror." Yeah, that's intentional. The TSA has done a much better job of spreading terror than anything else in the modern world.

I seriously cannot comprehend how you continue to exist.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The TSOs are just doing their jobs. Separating and causing anxiety through fear of the unknown is a method of effective personnel control. Most parents are cowed when their children's well-being is threatened and become docile. We see this in security forces the world over.

Professional crowd control.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The article describing the incident says the four-year old girl was detained by TSA security agents. Your post does not deny this.

The article describing the incident says the TSA agents shouted at the four-year old girl. Your post does not deny this.

The article describing the incident says TSA told the girl's mother that the airport would have to be shut down and every flight cancelled if the four-year-old girl did not co-operate. Your post does not deny this.

The article describing the incident says TSA agents called for backup because, they told the four-year old girl's mother, "the suspect is not cooperating." Your post does not deny this.

The article describing the incident says TSA officers said the family would have to leave the airport if the TSA was unable to frisk the four-year-old girl. Your post does not deny this.

The article describing the incident says TSA issued a statement declaring that "TSA has reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures in conducting a modified pat-down on the child". This is what most knowledgeable people would immediately recognize as "The Nuremberg Defense".

Submitted by Anonymous on

Conspicuously absent in your explanation, Bob, is how your officers treated the child, screaming at her and refusing to allow her mother to comfort her. Is that part of your standard procedure? Because if it is, there's absolutely no way I will ever fly with my preschool aged daughter.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"It was explained to the family why the pat-down was needed and at no time did our Officers suggest the child was carrying a firearm."
-TSA

This directly contradicts statements by the girl's parents, as reported by MSNBC News, '"It was implied, several times, that my mother, in their brief two-second embrace, had passed a handgun to my daughter," Brademeyer said.' (http://overheadbin.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/04/24/11371144-tsa-pats-down...)

Submitted by Anonymous on
There’s always the chance that a prohibited item could be traded off during contact. I’m sure you’ve watched the scene play out in more than one movie where two people collide or shake hands and an item is traded off? Same thing…

No, Bob. I've never seen a movie where a granny hands off a gun to a 4-year old in an airport when the 4-year old impulsively goes and hugs her.

What kind of movies do you watch?!?
Submitted by Anonymous on

This shows TSA's typical lack of basic logic and compassion. The child cleared the metal detector. The child touched the grandmother and may have (by means of some awesome sleight-of-hand trick) acquired a prohibited item.

You're saying the only way to put your minds at ease is to pat down the girl??? NO! How about sending the girl through the metal detector one more time (or even two more times -- one to leave the area, and the other to re-enter). If there's no beep on the metal detector, then she's fine, just like she was 2 minutes earlier. If it beeps, then resolve the alarm in ways that are consistent with your new rules for resolving alarms for children 12 and younger.

The following paragraph is what your website says. THIS DID NOT HAPPEN:

Passengers 12 and under are now allowed to leave their shoes on during screening, are permitted multiple passes through the metal detector and advanced imaging technology and may be subject to a greater use of explosives trace detection technology to clear any alarms.

We want answers: why weren't multiple passes through the metal detector employed? Why wasn't explosive trace detection employed? Why did the agents (NOT officers) immediately commence the pat-down?

America wants an apology, and we want it now.

Submitted by Anonymous on

If your best defense of the story is "we didn't accuse the child of concealing a firearm," then you have a serious problem. Once again we see a complete lack of common sense or decency from the TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on
TSA has long had a security procedure where if somebody has contact with a person who is undergoing additional screening, they must also undergo additional screening.

Okay... makes sense.

We did recently roll out new procedures that reduce the need for pat-downs of children. These new screening procedures include permitting multiple passes through the metal detector and advanced imaging technology to clear any alarms...

But here's where you fail.

"The TSO refused to let my daughter pass through the scanners once more, to see if she too would set off the alarm."

So, why was the child denied a second pass through the scanners???

And, of course, there is this:

"...a TSO began yelling at my child..."

"...the TSOs involved still made no attempt to explain..."

"When they spoke to her, it was devoid of any sort of compassion, kindness or respect."

"The TSO loomed over my daughter, with an angry grimace on her face, and ordered her to stop crying"

"A third TSO arrived to the scene, and showed no more respect than the first two had given. All three were barking orders at my daughter, telling her to stand still and cease crying."

"When we arrived at our gate, I noticed that the TSOs had followed us through the airport. I was told something was wrong with my boarding pass and I would have to show it to them again. "

- if even 1/4 of this is true (and quite plainly I don't doubt any of it), these TSA employees should be fired. As with any job that interfaces with the public, certain behaviors are expected, even necessary. At a minimum, courtesy. These TSA screeners failed at that.

We are not only your 'customers', WE THE TAXPAYERS ARE YOUR EMPLOYERS, and as such deserve better than this!!!

Oh, and in reply to your claim that ":at no time did our Officers suggest the child was carrying a firearm": Are you claiming the mother is lying when she says:

"The TSO refused to let my daughter pass through the scanners once more, to see if she too would set off the alarm. It was implied, several times, that my Mother, in their brief two-second embrace, had passed a handgun to my daughter."
and
"A TSO began repeating that in the past she had "seen a gun in a teddy bear." The TSO seemed utterly convinced my child was concealing a weapon, as if there was no question about it."

Are you stating that those statements are lies?
Submitted by Anonymous on

For some reason I don't buy your story.

Why is that?

Perhaps because you've lied to us in the past. We don't trust you Bob. And until you address our concerns we never will.

Submitted by Anonymous on

No way, no how, should that be considered proper protocol. Maybe they followed procedures, but that is the problem. It isn't the TSA Officer at fault for doing their jobs, but how they are trained to do it is at fault.

Submitted by Geo on

Another among a long list of abuses at the hands of the TSA. Bob, how about responding the the accusations of threats and harsh language directed at this four year old? Does the behavior of the TSO's involved also meet the "high standards of respect and professionalism" in your agency?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Blogger Bob said:
"...at no time did our Officers suggest the child was carrying a firearm. "

Just to be clear then, you are clearly stating that the mother is lying about the comments and insinuations of the screeners. It is indicated that one of screeners indicated that a gun had been found in a teddy bear before - along with other implications per the mother. Implications of possible scenarios of why they needed to conduct additional screening... Or, as I requested clarification are you explicitly stating that the mother is lying?

Blogger Bob said:
"We’ve reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures."

Again, to be clear, it's considered proper procedure: To yell at a 4 year olds? To yell at them to stop crying? To label the 4 year old as non-compliant when they don't stop crying when commanded? Refusing to allow the parent of a 4 year old to try to explain the situation to the child so that the child could be calmed down?

As well, since there is a conflict of whether the child could be picked up, which is proper procedure? A) that the child can't be picked up, B) that the child can be picked up, C) that the child can only be picked up after the manager (FSD?) says it's ok?

The story doesn't even imply the mother was rescreened, only the child - was that proper procedure then? After all, she touched the child who still needed further screening.

Guess it's also proper procedure to harass passengers who successfully clear screening by following them to the gate and demanding more information from them.

And why again did TSA need to see her boarding pass and ID again? And potentially a third time? Did they really think they changed from the time they entered the screening process? [Although I've yet to understand what difference it makes who the person is any way. Your screening for WEI - not revenue protection for airlines.]

To summarize and ask again... since all of the comments / questions above are based on the mother's first hand account -- Are you explicitly stating that she is not telling the truth?

[At this point, yes, I am a bit jaded. And since there is no exculpatory video to clear the TSA, I have to lend credence to the mother's account more so than Bob's 'official' TSA version at this point.]

Submitted by RB on

This is how Correct TSA Policy deals with a frightened Four Year Old Child.

“First, a TSO began yelling at my child.

I was prevented from coming any closer, explaining the situation to her, or consoling her in any way.

My daughter, who was dressed in tight leggings, a short sleeve shirt and mary jane shoes, had no pockets, no jacket and nothing in her hands.

That is when a TSO told me they would shut down the entire airport; cancel all flights, if my daughter was not restrained. It was then they declared my daughter a "high-security-threat".

The TSO refused to let my daughter pass through the scanners once more, to see if she too would set off the alarm.

My child, who was obviously terrified, had no idea what was going on, and the TSOs involved still made no attempt to explain it to her.

It was implied, several times, that my Mother, in their brief two-second embrace, had passed a handgun to my daughter.

The TSO loomed over my daughter, with an angry grimace on her face, and ordered her to stop crying.
When my scared child could not do so, two TSOs called for backup saying "The suspect is not cooperating." The suspect, of course, being a frightened child.

They treated my daughter no better than if she had been a terrorist...

A third TSO arrived to the scene, and showed no more respect than the first two had given. All three were barking orders at my daughter, telling her to stand still and cease crying. When she did not stop crying on command, they demanded we leave the airport.

we arrived at our gate, I noticed that the TSOs had followed us through the airport. I was told something was wrong with my boarding pass and I would have to show it to them again. Upon seeing the TSO, my daughter was thrown into hysterics. Eventually, we were able to board our flight.”

If any of these acts by TSA employees reflect Correct TSA Policy then I say TSA Policy is wrong, the TSA Employees involved are incompetent, and TSA Leadership does not exist.

While the chance that a Four Year Old child is a terrorist is not zero it is so close to zero that the child abuse heap on this Four Year Old girl by TSA Screeners should result in those TSA employees involved being locked up and charged. These TSA employees do not deserve to be employed by the government of the United States; they are unfit to serve the public.

So Blogger Bob, do you still want to maintain that Proper TSA Policy was followed?

Apparently Proper TSA Policy allows for Child Abuse.

Screen shot captured and message posted on other media to document full compliance with illegal TSA Posting Guidelines.

submitted @ 21:40 CST, 4/24/2012

Submitted by Gerry Hinton on

Bob,

Is your neck sore from continually ducking issues?

I suppose this "didn't happen" as usual An officer repeatedly said she had 'seen a gun in a teddy bear' in the past, in an apparent attempt to justify the situation. ?

I really don't know why you bother, nobody with a functioning brain believes you any more.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Thank you, Bob, for confirming beyond any doubt that shouting at passengers until they cry is part of TSA procedure.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Unbelievable -- TSA expects parents *not* to hold the hands of their preschoolers while passing thru airports.

Do you guys really never read the sides of milk cartons?

Submitted by Jared on

So this means that you guys are basing your security screening measures off of what you've seen in action movies? That makes me feel really good.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You terrorized a 4-year old. Congratulations. Give yourselves a big, ol' SSSS pat on the back.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You people disgust me.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Nope, you guys are evil. Gary Johnson is right when he says, "The TSA should take a risk-based approach to airport security. Only high-risk individuals should be subjected to invasive pat-downs and full-body scans.

The TSA should not have a monopoly on airport security. Airports and airlines should be encouraged to seek the most effective methods for screening travelers, including private sector screeners. Screeners outside of government can be held fully accountable for their successes and failures."

Submitted by Anonymous on

Please read the mother's account of this encounter:

http://consumerist.com/2012/04/4-year-old-gets-tsa-pat-down-following-hu...

Who cares if they thought the little girl had a weapon? Should they have told her to come alone and spread her legs? Should they have told her mother not to help her? Should they have ordered her to stop crying in order to proceed?

This blog post misses the point. It isn't following procedure that is the problem (though not everyone agrees with the procedure, myself included) it is the disregard for the health and well being of families, children, and the elderly. This is not the first story I have read where the TSA has crossed the line where children are concerned. It needs to stop.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You should be ashamed of yourself.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Proper screening like you did with Jonathan Corbett? Uh huh yeah sure. TSA is a joke. Trust your instincts people, because the TSA will not ultimately protect you when they can't even stop a guy from carrying a metal container all the way through security and to his destination. Instead the TSA will frighten and dare I say terrorize a child. Go ahead screen my comment, at least you read it.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You should have read the stories instead of just the headlines. Something is very wrong at the TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on

If this is proper procedure, then the procedure must be changed.

Submitted by S on

You did NOT actually explain a DARN thing about what happened!

Submitted by Anonymous on

People say the darndest things.

When referring to a hug between a frightened 4-year old child and her grandmother, a TSA blogger had this to say:

". . . If somebody has contact with a person who is undergoing additional screening, they must also undergo additional screening. Why you might ask? You’ve probably heard the old saying that the hand can be faster than eye? Well . . . that’s the reasoning behind this procedure."

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, Now you are outright admitting that you base your security measures on what you see played out in the movies? Bruce Schneier is smiling somewhere.

Submitted by Anonymous on
We’ve reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures.

That the TSA believes the procedure used in this situation is "proper" is an example of what is wrong with the agency.

The TSA made a 4 year old cry, for no security benefit.

There are numerous ways this situation could have been handled better. There are only a few ways it could have been handled worse.

Situations like this is why the TSA is or has lost the respect of the traveling public.
Submitted by Anonymous on

Reasonable considering a parent or other family member could plant a pistol, bomb, grenade, knife, etc. on a little kid's person in an attempt to sneak the weapon through security. Remember that any hole in security is a potential disaster waiting to happen (remember 11th September). Now the biggest problem is that there isn't security on board most planes currently. Since no matter what we do some things slip through I think we need four trained and fully armed guards on each flight passing over US airspace. A $150 per round trip surcharge on all tickets would cover the cost of having the air marshals on board every flight.

Submitted by Dan on

You have an audio recording of the incident to support your claim, right? Just as I am guilty until proven innocent by your agency, your agency is guilty until proven innocent.

Submitted by Adrian on

You send kids through the whole-body imagers for multiple doses of x-rays?!

Yet another thing TSA does that makes us less safe.

Submitted by Anonymous on

He said, she said. WE are choosing to believe the family not the TSA agents denial. Let's not put our head in the sands either and pretend TSA is POLITE or FRIENDLY in all cases, by the way. I had the displeasure of flying last weekend, standing on line at Atlanta, while a rep walked up and down the line YELLING that we need to put our boarding passes away, they aren't needed anymore, and then YELLING that people weren't listening. Then of course, I put my wallet and boarding pass away, and entered your little machine and was yelled at for not taking them out of my pocket and holding them. I'm sure THAT woman would deny yelling, too.

I think the TSA's main problem is that NOBODY wants them anymore. You can do no right because we're fed up past the point of no return. This blog makes us angry, your agents make us angry, your very existence makes us angry.

Screenshot taken.

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