Sippy cup brouhaha

Adding to the “I can’t believe you haven’t commented on this” kind of list is the latest entry in the TSA’s ongoing War on Liquids. Odds are good you’ve seen some coverage of the ‘incident’ between a woman going through security at National Airport and the TSA who said she couldn’t take that sippy cup through – it had more than the magical three ounces of liquid in it. When she declined to simply surrender the cup she was told she’d have to go out and back through security again with it empty.

What makes this so sad is that it only became news when there was some kind of altercation as she was on her way out the exit hallway. The she-said they-said has actually escalated to the point where the TSA has put security camera footage on their website that they claim clearly proves the woman was the one in the wrong, not them. Sad, because this is about on the level of a security guard following a young black man around the record store for an hour then pointing to his losing his temper at the harassment as proof that he was right.

I’d like to see video on TSA’s website showing this woman waiting though the security line, passing through the metal detector and having her bags all fully screened and pronounced okay, then being told that she couldn’t just drink the water in the cup and keep on going – she’d have to go out and go through the whole process again. That might be more illuminating. Perhaps some supplementary material of a TSA expert explaining how her drinking the water on the spot is less secure than her stepping out, drinking the water, then going back through. Other than how it increases the wait time for people behind her.

Bonus points for explaining why the liquid would be allowed through if it was formula and not water and what capacity the TSA screeners have to distinguish formula from so-called hazardous liquid. My favorite fun fact is that “nursery water,” water with extra fluoride that is otherwise indistinguishable from tap water, is allowed through.

10 Comments so far

  1. David (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 12:02 pm

    What’s more worrisome, is the “joking” threatening motion one TSA agent makes towards another at about 2:00:30 in the exit hallway video.

  2. David (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 12:12 pm

    One other note… it’s NOT the TSA helping… those are the white shirts… the blue (and the biker) are local police. Basically they handed off their “problem” to local authorities.

    C’mon, she’s traveling alone with a 1-2 year old. I’m not believing the “baby bomb” idea.

    (As an “security aside”, the shift change should have been more official – clock in, sign in, etc…. anybody could have swapped places with one of the guards… irregardless of the harassment, I see poor physical security practices.)

  3. Wayan (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 12:42 pm

    Too add to the curious backstory, seems the woman was (or is) a Secret Service agent and may have identified herself as such during the process.

  4. David (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 2:29 pm

    Whoa (in my best Keanu voice)

    here’s another interesting airport read:

    Bicycling Violinist gets the business end of a taser (sic) at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport

  5. Anon (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 5:03 pm

    Ok, fine she has reason to be annoyed. But seriously, I rarely have to wait more than five minutes to get through a National security line. So the analogy to the black customer is not apt, in my opinion. This happened at 2:00 on a Monday afternoon. I doubt she had to wait more than five minutes to get through that line. Yes it’s a stupid policy, but it’s even stupider to end up getting arrested and missing your flight instead of taking five more minutes of your time.

    And seriously, this is what she should get for trying to flash her secret service badge when she’s not even working for them anymore.

    I don’t feel for her much at all because she took a bad situation and only made it worse through her indignation. The only person I feel sorry for is her kid, because if this is how she reacts to MINOR setbacks, he’s going to have a tough childhood.

  6. Don (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 5:42 pm

    My analogy wasn’t making a time comparison but a causation comparison. TSA’s pointless policies are what created the chance for this incident to happen in the first place. If they’d just let her drink the liquid on the spot and go on her way none of this could have happened.

    Instead they stick to a strange restriction on top of a policy designed to combat a non-existent threat that provokes this kind of ire. TSA talking about what happened in the hallway on her way out diverts attention to what sparked the confrontation in the first place.

  7. David Helms (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 8:46 pm

    Frankly, most of you don’t know what you are talking about.

    Security policies in the screening area must be simple and consistent in order to be managed and to ensure the validity of the steril area.

    So you think she should have been given the option to stop in line and drink the contents of the cup? How much time should she be allocated for that? How much liquid should be the limit for allowing someone to stop the security screening process, take up a screener’s attention to do that? Is 8oz too much? What about a 16oz bottle? What about the folks standing in line waiting for her to finish? Is their time worth anything?

    No the answer is a consistent, simple and easily implemented policy. Escort the customer out of the sterile area and let them dispose of the liquid at their discretion and at their pace and then reenter the sterile area through the screening queue.

    The shift change was a security breach? Did you not notice the overlapping security monitoring by TSA, the WMAA and the video surveillance? Are you aware of the supervisory process occuring out of the view of the video surveillance? No, of course not. So once again. A negative comment who doesn’t know what they are talking about.

    Finally, the pointless policies of TSA. What is that, the liquids policy? The maintenance of the sterile area policy? Believe me, the threat posed by liquids is a real one. The policy is a reasonable one, and frankly has been implemented in a friendly traveler way. Once again, simple, consistent and implementable. Those are the watchwords for good security.

    I’m amazed at the venom targeted at TSA on the blogs. No one seems to remember the ridiculous security at airport checkpoints back when the airlines were responsible for it. Minimum wage, non-citizen workers contracted from foreign national companies with a bad attitude and ridiculous security practices. You all owe TSA employees an apology and should thank one of them for their good service the next time you pass through an airport security checkpoint.

  8. Don (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 9:17 pm

    Why should we believe you that “the threat posed by liquids is a real one,” David, when every chemist whose been heard from on the issue has stated that it’s not a credible threat?

    Claiming that someone drinking the water out of a receptacle they wish to keep is going to notably hold up the line is just silly. Security can tell someone with a gallon jug that they’re going to have to go outside. Aside from that, sending someone out to go through the line again ALREADY slows down the line by re-adding the time it takes for them to go through the metal detector and x-ray

    As far as this minimum-wage non-citizen nonsense… where to begin? First and foremost, the job of screener was never minimum-wage, though it did pay poorly. However, if you think it is better now then you clearly haven’t looked at the job postings for TSA screeners. The agency is suffering a serious and long-lasting shortage in no small part because their pay is so lackluster. People with aptitude can move out after their background check and security clearance is through since the demand for cleared employees is high.

    And if you’re really amazed at the number of people who think little of the TSA, well, maybe you just haven’t been paying much attention or they haven’t failed to protect your personal information and then lied about it. I’ll thank them for their good service the next time I get some. And by service I mean actually finding the real threats – which they seem unable to do, even with their new non-foreign well-paid employees that you think they have – rather than engaging in a pointless was on liquids.

  9. Anon (unregistered) on June 19th, 2007 @ 11:49 pm

    Are You really Dave Helm?

    (Any Stubbourn All-Stars Fans in the house?)

    “My analogy wasn’t making a time comparison but a causation comparison. TSA’s pointless policies are what created the chance for this incident to happen in the first place.”

    Listen, you can get frustrated at traffic caused by construction that you don’t think is being properly managed. Fair enough, but if you stop your car get out and start yelling at the workers because you don’t like their M.O. then it’s your fault when you get dragged away. This woman sounds a tad self-important (hence the non-active secret service name dropping) and too focused on making a point rather than just getting through the traffic, so to speak.

    Whether TSA’s policies are intelligent is another issue for a more appropriate venue, which does not include the security line itself.

  10. Flyboy35 (unregistered) on June 20th, 2007 @ 5:44 pm

    The interesting thing to me is that the TSA person made her wipe up the liquid and then made her apologize. The security personnel can stop you from doing things, detain you or arrest you — but do we want them to also be able to impose punishment? In an analogous case, there was a cop on Long Island who, when he found a female driving under the influence, made her park her car and walk home in her underwear. I guess it was an effective punishment, because there is no record of any repeat offenders. But come on — where’s the respect for division of labor? The cops arrest you and the COURTS impose punishment.

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