TSA Detains Young Mother Over Breast Milk
posted at 1:32 pm on December 5, 2010 by Howard Portnoy
Someone needs to feed Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole a reality sandwich. His presumption that the conversation over the invasive screening techniques used by his agency would become yesterday’s news after Thanksgiving reveals how out of touch he is.
Part of the problem for Pistole and the TSA going forward is that, despite the lack of ugly incidents attending the Thanksgiving rush, the majority of Americans have yet to experience the TSA’s warm hospitality at airport checkpoints. The Christmas holidays just a few weeks off will bring a whole new round of opportunities for undertrained agents to dig deep into the underdrawers of innocent grandmas and toddlers.
Another part of the problem is that each new day brings new examples of TSA incompetence. The latest outrage to become part of the national conversation is a morality play that took place in February of this year. The players were TSA airport screeners and a 30-year-old mother flying out of Phoenix with her 7-month-old son. When the mother refused to let TSA personnel x-ray a supply of breast milk she had expressed, she was detained, even though the law was on her side.
Prior to traveling to the airport, the woman, Stacey Amato, had consulted the TSA website, where the guidelines on breast milk are clearly spelled out:
TSA is also modifying the rules associated with carrying breast milk through security checkpoints. Mothers flying with, and now without, their child will be permitted to bring breast milk [emphasis theirs] in quantities greater than three ounces as long as it is declared for inspection at the security checkpoint.
Breast milk is in the same category as liquid medications. [Emphasis added]
Although the next several paragraphs are slightly ambiguous—they seem to suggest simultaneously that breast milk is waived but is subject to further inspection—the page stating the TSA policy on liquid medications is crystal clear:
We normally X-ray medication and related supplies. However, as a customer service, you may ask that Security Officers visually inspect your medication and associated supplies. [Emphasis added]
Which is precisely what Stacey Amato did. Not only that, but she presented the TSA agent with a paper copy of the rules, which she had printed out following an earlier run-in at the same gate at the airport for the same “offense.” The agent glanced at the paper, said “well, not today,” and then escorted Amato and her baby to a secure area, where they spent the next hour in confinement. As if to add injury to insult, the mother and child missed their flight.
During her detention Amato was interviewed by a Phoenix police officer, who, she maintains, told her that the agents had recognized her from the earlier incident and “had it out for her.” She further states that the officer recommended that she fly out of a different gate in the future. He also advised her that if refused to cooperate, he would be forced to arrest her.
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