TSA baby pat-down photographer: “I’ve never seen anything quite that bad”

Jacob Jester is the Kansas City pastor who took the infamous “poop bomb” photo of two screeners at Kansas City International Airport patting down an eight-month-old baby on Saturday. I spoke with him about the incident, and the ensuing firestorm, this afternoon.

Tell me what happened.

I was flying from Kansas City to Albuquerque, NM, on Saturday, and I had already passed through security. There was a woman with a baby behind me — she was about the same age as my son, and that caught my attention. So I looked back.

And what did you see?

I saw them patting the baby down from top to bottom. The mom was holding the baby, and she was being very cooperative.

I travel every week, and I’ve never seen anything quite that bad. I took out my phone and took a picture, and I tweeted it.

What happened then?

It’s been blown up more than I expected. It was on the Drudge Report. So far, I’ve had 143,000 hits on [the photo]. Kansas City airport tweeted me, and they said it would be up to TSA to offer a response. I haven’t heard anything from TSA, and I don’t expect to.

I’ve also asked TSA for a statement, but haven’t heard anything. What was the reaction in the Twittersphere?

A lot of the tweets I’ve received have been nasty. They’ve been very critical of the government and the TSA. I think at some point, we have to turn town the rhetoric.

How did you feel about what happened to the baby?

I was thinking, what would I do if this happened to my son? I understand that my security is at stake. I appreciate TSA trying to make flying more secure. But I wouldn’t want it to happen to my son.

Should babies ever be patted down?

Some people who have tweeted me said they should be, and that there are people with extreme ideals who might try to use a baby. But I think in most cases, babies don’t pose a threat to security.

As a pastor, do you have any perspective on this?

It’s always my objective not to get political. There are too many pastors that get political. I don’t think there’s a reason to preach politics.

This is a personal preference issue to me — whether you decided to go through a scanner or get patted down.

And which do you do, if you don’t mind me asking?

I go through the scanner.

Update (6 p.m.): TSA has sent me the following statement about the incident.

TSA has reviewed the screening of this family and determined that the officers involved followed proper current screening procedures. After the child’s stroller alarmed during explosives screening, officers followed protocol to conduct additional screening on members of the family, who were very cooperative.

While children are not exempt from security screening, Administrator [John] Pistole has tasked the agency with exploring additional ways to focus its resources and move beyond a one-size fits all system while maintaining a high level of security. As part of this effort, TSA has been actively reviewing its screening policies and procedures to streamline and improve the screening experience for low-risk populations, such as younger passengers.

TSA has also blogged about the incident.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at . Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Waynebollman

    The next buck-toothed moron that tells me to “tone down the rhetoric” for getting angry about the tyranical and deceptive manner in which our government is increasingly conducting itself is going to get cussed out and possibly injured.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Clare, I doubt it. When has he or Napolitano ever apologized for anything? Oh, that’s right — once. When the TSA assaulted that man with a urostomy bag and broke it, thus dribbling urine down his body. That’s the only time Pistole apologized. Then called the man to try to placate him and flew him and his wife out for a personal meeting — can anyone say “damage control”? Not that anything changed after that.

    The ABC-TV producer who was gynecologically groped at Newark International, the man who had his surgical scar poked and prodded “to see if you had anything sewn into your stomach” (you can’t make this sh*t up), the women who were victims of the strip-search ring (yes, an organized ring) at Reagan National, the parents of the 4-year-old with cerebral palsy who were forced to remove his leg braces so that he could crawl through the metal detector, the thousands upon thousands of other people who’ve been assaulted by the TSA? Suck it up, folks; that’s the message of John Pistole and Janet Napolitano.

  • cjr001

    With apologies to Christopher, but to life from another article of yours that was just posted on BNet, since it applies so well to this article as well:

    “5.
    Make your customers think they asked for all of this.
    The real genius behind the (TSA)
    initiatives is that it’s managed to convince a significant portion of
    its passengers and the press that this is exactly the way passengers
    want it.”

  • privacyfirst

    If he posted a picture of my kid on the internet without my permission…..he would be in court so fast it would make his head spin.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Or, to quote a monster from the past, “The more we do to you, the less you seem to believe we are doing it.” -Josef Mengele

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    What we’re getting for all our billions — more incompetence (and more fear-mongering):

    GAO: Investigators drove ‘explosive’ into secure port — CNN
    http://www.cnn.com/2011/US/05/10/port.security/

  • cjr001

    I’m sorry, but It doesn’t seem like ‘privacyfirst’ is really your objective here.

    You would go after the guy for taking the photo… but not the stranger working for the government putting his hands all over the kid?

  • Howard

    I wouldn’t put it past the terrorists to try to get something through security by hiding it in a baby’s clothing, so I’m in favor of this type of search as long as they are respectful and careful. If you want security you have to allow these sorts of things. If they had found some sort of an actual threat this would have been a very different story, and they would have been applauded for properly doing their jobs. The parents’ cooperation and even holding the baby for TSA to inspect is very telling. Kudos to the parents who realized that this was the right thing to do, and to the TSA agents for a job well done.

  • Former Nuke

    I heard a similar argument from the TSA guy giving me the pat down when I opted out of the additional radiation exposure. More people need to realize that radiation damage, however minute, is cumulative. Yes, you are correct that it may be minimal and you also get radiation damage from the sun, however damage to your DNA does not go away, or “heal”. Any extra radiation adds to the possibility that you will suffer some form of cancer or other illness.

    No, I am not a doctor, however I did operate a nuclear power plant for six years and went through the training necessary to do that, including constant radiation safety. The government went through great pains to make sure that my radiation exposure was minimal. In the civilian world I worked with medical diagnostic imaging equipment, and there are also great efforts taken to minimize unintended exposure. In both professions I was required to wear a radiation dosimeter to keep track of how much exposure I had received. (Interesting that TSA workers do not wear these.) Now I’m supposed to buy the fact that the radiation “isn’t that bad”?? Making statements like this is dangerous, or at the very least ill informed.

  • Sadie Cee

    Are you really serious? What evidence do you have? Your comment is preposterous and cannot be taken seriously.

  • MarkieA

    You know, I’m gonna get blasted for this, but I’m gonna say it anyway. I’m willing to risk being one of the terrorists’ “successes” if it means my rights are still intact. The chances of getting blown up on an airplane are miniscule; the chances of having my rights as an American violated by my own Government are getting larger and larger. It’s worth the risk, to me, in order to live in a country that doesn’t ask for my “papers” on a whim, or search my car because I’m within 5 miles of the airport. Find another way to make us safe without treating us as criminals. I can’t help but think that this was the easy way out. Stand up an agency, staff it with brain-dead automatons and run everybody through humiliating, privacy-invading procedures.

  • Harry

    it is sad that 3 people like this.
    You SHOULD tone down the rhetoric.
    Also threating people who disagree with you is troublesome.
    I guess you only like parts of the constitution, since last time I checked the first amendment allowed freedom of speech.
    Now before you cuss me out or possibly injure me i just wanted to let you know that I do not have buck teeth. I got braces when I was a teenager.

  • Annapolis2

    There’s no “respectful” way to force an unwilling victim to get to third base with you. Rubbing my clitoris against my will is disrespectful to say the least. I’ll call it criminal. And when the victim is a child? Horrifying to see people defend this filth.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    How can you be “respectful” and “careful” while digging into a diaper, Depends, or sanitary napkin? Oh, that’s right, they’re not actually digging in because they don’t want to touch icky stuff. They just want to humiliate people; that’s the point. What do you think they could possibly find by groping a diaper anyway?? Other than the obvious?

    Lemme guess — a gun. You people have watched too much TV.

  • cjr001

    How respectful and careful would a prostate exam at the airport be? A pap smear? After all, criminals make use of both orifices for drug trafficking, so why not terrorists and bombs?

    And TSA has never found this kind of threat, nor will they. They’re too busy looking for nail clippers that they can’t even find the guns and large knives (neither of which will bring down a plane), much less bombs (most of which would not bring down a plane).

    The threat is blown out of proportion, and the security theater, in response, has become over the top.

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    More false-positives, more idiocy on the part of the TSA:
    http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/Baby-food–121735884.html

    Not only fertilizer, not only heart medicine, not only flipping hand lotion, but now baby food can cause false positives.  And what does the TSA do?  Confiscate!  Confiscate!  I’m surprised they didn’t confiscate the baby as well, since he had already ingested baby food in the past.  Why, his entire body might’ve been primed to explode!  Can’t Be Too Sure!  Gotta Check Everything!  Gotta Keep Us Safe!

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    The hits just keep on coming!  2 Planes delayed, swept, all passengers RE-screened for “security” because a — gasp! — letter and a knife were found.http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/05/13/2292618/2-planes-searched-while-in-charlotte.html

  • cjr001

    What’s terribly ironic with the confiscation is that often just thrown in a trash bin… right there at the security line.
    Which means if there was a bomb, it would be allowed to blow up right there in a crowd of people in the middle of an airport.
    Maybe we could spend a few billion dollars and buy some common sense?

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Exactly, cjr.  But we can’t allow common sense to prevail because how, then, would paranoia and hysteria flourish?  Need those two to drive the War On Terror and keep it permanent.  Lots of money to be made, lots of civil liberties to shred.  Sigh.  So much idiocy to propagate, so little time . . . .

  • joshua82

    Let’s face it, the baby fit many of the characteristics in the profile of a terrorist:
    Young unmarried male
    No job or source of income
    Uncooperative
    Had a poor command of the English language

    (/irony)

  • Carrie Charney

     You obviously know what you’re talking about, so please enlighten us!

  • Carrie Charney

     Setting off an “explosives alarm” is the excuse that was given for the baby search. That doesn’t mean the stroller really did set off any alarm.

  • Carrie Charney

     You work for the TSA, don’t you? Or are you invested up to your neck in the scanning machines?

  • Carrie Charney

     5) The younger you are, the more sensitive you are to the harm of radiation.

  • Carrie Charney

     This happened in Israel, where, in spite of the incident, they do not scan or grope you. They do have conversations with everyone boarding a plane and they are trained to assess you psychologically. All luggage is screened by scanners, however, and some bags get manually screened. I’m sure, with really due cause, some people are taken into a private area and wanded, as everyone was during times of active war.

  • Carrie Charney

     In “the end” is exactly where they have been focusing their searches!

  • Anna

    My 4-year old has been patted down numerous times. And me too. I don’t get what the fuss is about? Don’t like it – don’t fly. 

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    Right, Anna, and when the TSA invades the trains, buses, and subways, as they’ve already begun to do, they can pat down your 4-year-old there, too.  And maybe before you get into your car.  Because your 4-year-old might be harboring bombs on the highway.  And when Uncle Sam starts sticking his fingers up your a*s, then you can feel really safe.  Don’t like it?  Don’t leave the house.