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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  • cjr001

    “where do you think they’d put it?”

    So, I ask the same question I always ask and never get an answer to:

    You would have no problem then with receiving a cavity search?

    With people randomly receiving cavity searches? With grandmothers and babies receiving cavity searches?

    Shoe-bomber: stopped by passengers

    Underwear-bomber: stopped by passengers

    Liquids: stopped by passengers

    Printer cartridges: cargo planes, discovered through intelligence and forewarning by the Saudis

    Now, tell me again, where is TSA in all of those? How valuable and worthwhile has all the sexual assault and groping and pornoscanning been worth?

    Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

  • cjr001

    “Better safe then sorry.”

    Liberty, safety, etc. Oh, wait, you don’t care one whit about that, as your comments prove.

    But go on living in your little bubble of reality, where you think TSA is actually keeping you safe. But hey, if you think terrorists won’t hesitate to use a baby – even though they haven’t – don’t blame us when it’s your turn to bend over for your courtesy prostate exam at the airport.

  • Litofeit

    The amount of radiation received from the scan would be far less that a normal day outside exposed to the sun. They really do not pose a threat to your health. To small of an amount to be considered acute exposure and not frequent enough to be considered somatic(chronic).

  • Pauletteb

    What’s the big deal? The baby’s stroller set off an explosives alarm, which meant extra checks for the entire family. So what? More people blowing situations way out of proportion. Anyone who thinks that a terrorist would hesitate to use an infant to carry an explosive device is an idiot!

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

    Although please, let’s remember — it’s not about trains vs. planes, buses vs. malls, etc. It’s not about what al Qaeda supposedly did or didn’t plan to do. We didn’t need al Qaeda or bin Laden or whatever bogeyman-du-jour to tell us that life without risk is impossible. This whole stinking “security” mess is about power, control, paranoia, hysteria, passivity, fear-mongering, profit-making. But I’m so tired of saying it, in so many different ways. Let Glenn Greenwald say it:

    And if there’s a
    “no-ride” list for Amtrak, why not for subways and buses, too?
    If Al Qaeda is found to have discussed targeting restaurants, will we have a
    no-eat list? If Al Qaeda is found to have discussed targeting large
    intersections or landmarks, will we have a no-walk list? How about a
    no-shop list in response to the targeting of malls?But this, more or less, encapsulates the U.S.
    response to Terrorism since 9/11: the minute Al Qaeda utters a peep about
    anything, the political class collectively jumps to restrict our freedoms,
    empower the Government, and bankrupt ourselves in self-destructive pursuit of
    the ultimate illusion: Absolute Security. Al Qaeda has caused us to do
    more harm to ourselves than it could have ever dreamed of imposing on its
    own. And even in death, Osama bin Laden continues to serve as the pretext
    for all of this.
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/05/09/fear/index.html

  • america is dead

    you obviously are a sucker and if you truly buy that crap i have a bridge in arizona id llike to sell to you. TSA and homeland security do nothing to enhance the safety of this nation they are merely the tools of a out of control govt. who rules by fear and terror, submit to them and allow yourself to be violated and you will have what you desire, no freedoms and total police state

  • Annapolis2

    The big deal is that this makes us less safe. Grooming children to cooperate with pedophiles in blue buttondown shirts with plastic badges is just par for the course to these TSA monsters. Let’s run down allll the ways this makes us less safe, shall we? (1) We now have parents telling children it’s just fine for strangers to start touching the parts their bathing suit covers. (2) We now have responsible parents, who would never dream of lining their kids up to be irradiated and pornographically imaged and sexually abused by government agents, who have to drive instead of fly for their long distance vacations. Driving is far more dangerous than flying, with or without TSA sexcurity theater, and so the TSA is causing needless deaths on the road. (3) Sincerely traumatized people, those who have already been victimized in horrific ways by predators, are forced to graphically relive those assaults when TSA screeners touch their sex organs in airport hallways.

    This absolutely IS a big deal. “Doing something” isn’t always better than doing nothing, and the TSA’s abuse makes us much, much less safe. I will stop at nothing to stop them.

  • cjr001

    “Anyone who thinks that a terrorist would hesitate to use an infant to carry an explosive device is an idiot!”

    You are going to need to provide proof of this, or it’s going to be rightfully dismissed.

  • JJWeldon

    More name calling and screaming so people tune out. Keep up the good work.

  • JJWeldon

    After years of screaming, YouTube videos, and useless blogs the people decrying the TSA have been labelled as whackos. You folks are taken about as seriously as the folks putting up the billboards that the rapture is scheduled for May 21. And for what? The government isn’t even looking into the issue! You guys are the modern equivalent of the dude on the street in the toga with the sigh “the end is near”.

    Congress doesn’t care, the airlines don’t care, and 99% of the people don’t care because we know bad people are trying to get on jets with bad things. You folks have become theatre. Get over it.

  • dccooks

    This picture brought to mind how our three month old daugher was patted down in going through security. We were quite amazed at the time. The pat down happended in October of 1974 on a flight from Paris to London

  • Goldbar69

    TSA= feckless incompentents

  • cjr001

    The truth hurts.

  • cjr001

    Why do you support the terrorists?

    For all the patriotic crap thrown about in the last 10 years, people like you have given them exactly what they want and with open arms.

    “We, the sheeple…”

  • Heather

    A couple points:

    1) As others have mentioned you cannot carry an infant into the scanner and other people are unable to stand or raise their hands due to disabilities. By default these people will receive a patdown if they are pulled aside.

    2) If you have scarring or certain medical devices you will almost always receive a patdown.

    2) The scanner cannot be compared to sunlight; one is UV radiation and the other is ionizing radiation. They are not the same as far as the damage they do. UV radiation creates thymine dimers which is essentially the fusing of complementary base pairs. It happens every time you go into the sun and your body can repair it by excising those pairs, but if you have too many or the proteins responsible for repair have been denatured you can get skin cancer because the DNA now has permanent mutations. Ionizing radiation is more dangerous because it breaks the sugar- phosphate backbone of the DNA and can create free radicals. It has a higher risk of permanent mutations due to the greater damage caused and is not an environmental hazard that you body deals with everyday like sunlight.

    3) To those saying take the train, bus, or car; that may not be an option in the long run. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I do read the news and Mr. Schumer has proposed a “no-ride list” for Amtrack along with there being numerous TSA sightings outside of the airport.

    4) Lastly I’m sorry if you disagree with my point of view or other people’s. You are entitled to yours just as I am mine, so I ask that if you disagree please be courteous to myself and others as name calling or insults just make people sound less credible.

  • Heather

    lol my numbers are off, whoops sorry guys

  • David

    Didn’t some guy try to blow up a plane with a suitcase lined with explosives with his PREGNANT GIRLFRIEND on board? He was willing to blow up his unborn child and the mother of that child.

    So please, don’t tell me they wouldn’t do it. They find a hole – they climb through it.

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

    Fab comment from “yacko” over at The Consumerist:

    Yacko
    May 10, 2011 8:21 AMYou’re right! And any lethargic infants should automatically have their brains x-rayed to see if some has been scooped out and explosives planted.

  • Not

    Anything that might, even remotely, keep a baby off my fight is OK

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

    So let’s all get strip-searched. Yes, rectal exams for all!

    Better yet, rectal exams on the highway leading up to the airport! Because, ya know, those pesky terrorists could plant a bomb in their butts and detonate it on the exit ramp to the airport, or in the loading area, or the arrivals/departures concourse, or in an airport cafe. Rectal exams everywhere! After all, Gotta Keep Us Safe!

  • Chickenmama

    I’m not able to check right now, but I’m pretty sure I remember reading that TSA has found at least one pistol stashed in a baby’s diapers.

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

    No. 1, prove it. Provide the link.

    No. 2, who cares?! How can a pistol stashed in a diaper bring down a plane??

    No. 3, are we really so far gone in this country that we’re going off into fantasyland, with all these loony, outlandish, what-if scenarios? What if The Terrorists stash some kind of wacky bomb in their hair? Let’s all get shaved before we board. What if The Terrorists invent a retinal bomb implant? Let’s all gouge our eyes out before we board. What if The Terrorists put some explosives thingies under their fingernails? Let’s all get our fingernails pulled out before we board.

    Why not? You’re in favor of digging into people’s diapers, Depends, and sanitary napkins; why stop there??

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

    See my comment above. That was meant to go in this “Reply” thread.

  • Lglyspkng

    It is indeed sad that it has come to this….unfortunately,there is no end to how far people will stoop. I work in a correctional facility where employees are required to go through a security procedure that includes ion scanning, metal detection, wanding, and everyone’s favorite, the pat-down. This is required of visitors as well, and yes, infants wearing diapers must have their diapers searched. Seems like overkill on first blush, it isn’t. Despite the huge signs posted everywhere about the bringing in of contraband and the consequences therein, there will be, on a regular basis, someone arrested right in Front Reception because they thought they could cleverly conceal it in the diaper a baby was wearing. Guardians are taken into custody, the infant gets handed over to children and youth services. My point is, if it can happen where I work, it would be ridiculous to think that it can’t happen anywhere else. The baby is probably the first place I’d look, since that is where it happens for us with the greatest frequency. Sorry to say. Trust no one in this regard. You can’t tell what they are stowing just by visual inspection.

  • Stacey

    I flew from Portland, Oregon to Ontario, California and my dog, a pug, was given a pat down from TSA security. He didn’t seem to mind it as it felt like a massage. I thought it was kind of strange……

  • B J Antigua

    The scanners have never been properly tested for safety, especially long term side effects. It is outrageous that it should even be allowed for infants and children, since it is absolutely proven that radiation causes DNA damage. It is not sunlight, there are different types of radiation, Mr. Shill Troll.

  • B J Antigua

    911 was indeed an inside job. There are over a dozen very professional videos that present some much information that it cant be refuted. In terms of security, the Pentagon does not use body scanners. Nor any other government building as they value their DNA! The most effective way to find explosives is with dogs. Period. But you cant make billions from manufacturing dogs. The TSA scanners were ordered months before the underware incident that was used to demonstrate a “need” for them.

  • cjr001

    Well, airplanes certainly feel like maximum security cells at times, but there’s no excuse for treating innocent people like the criminals who belong in such cells.

  • Kweed

    You do realize it is NOT SAFE to spend a day outside in the sun, right?

  • Clare

    I’m trying to imagine whether there is ANYTHING that a TSA-er could conceivably do that Fuhrer Pistole would acknowledge is excessive? Seriously, can anyone envision him ever saying frankly, “Yes, we concur that the TSA Agent in question acted improperly and will be disciplined…”?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZWHUDLZJAJUSU7EK7EF24UKSTM Cowboy

    In the interview it was stated….

    “I understand that my security is at stake. I appreciate TSA trying to make flying more secure.”

    Are you really that gullible to believe the TSA is making airline flights safer? If you do, then you’ve been drinking too much of the TSA Kool-Aid! What the TSA offers is not “security,” but simply ridiculous theatrics designed to make the gullible feel safe.

    If you think having private parts squeezed and felt up by strangers is perfectly OK, then go right on ahead and continue helping the TSA with their little charade
    … but I’ve more dignity than that!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZWHUDLZJAJUSU7EK7EF24UKSTM Cowboy

    There’s a B I G difference between going into a correctional facility…. and taking a flight from here to there. If you can’t see that difference by now…. you never will!

  • http://gspirits.com/ Zod

    Did they find out why the scanner alarmed for an Explosives screening? What on that stroller or baby could be construed as an explosive?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZWHUDLZJAJUSU7EK7EF24UKSTM Cowboy

    From what I understand the baby was a male. Need I say anything more about his “big gun”? (wink)

  • http://gspirits.com/ Zod

    I doubt that the radiation from the scanner is not any greater than the cosmic radiation everybody on an airplane receives while it is flying without the protection of the full atmosphere above it.

    Here, read this and educate yourself on cosmic radiation on airplanes:

    http://www.epa.gov/radtown/cosmic.html

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZWHUDLZJAJUSU7EK7EF24UKSTM Cowboy

    How many “bad people” has the TSA ever caught at the groping station trying to get on jets with “bad things”? I thought so. Exactly NONE!!

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

    An airport isn’t the same as a prison! (Though god knows plenty of Americans are treating it like one.) Of course people bring all kinds of contraband into a prison. Good grief, it’s practically de rigueur.

    If you want to hand over your rights — and your body — to our security overlords, then do so. But don’t force the rest of us to do it with you.

  • Lglyspkng

    There is absolutely no difference. How many terrorists boarded planes on 9/11 carrying box cutters? How did Richard Reid board a trans-continental flight with explosives in his shoe? It is just THAT easy.

    Why should a nun or a priest entering a correctional facility be subject to a search? Things are NOT always what they seem. Do you really think that someone who wants to complete a terroristic event on the airways is wearing a sign on his/her head? They will employ those methods that would arouse the least amount of suspicion. How do you know that the woman in front of you carrying the child hasn’t been paid off to mule drugs from New York to San Francisco? You don’t. Spend a little time researching how many times TSA standards have been breached by average looking folk who are now doing time because they were caught. Very few of them reach front-page news
    .

  • auntbee

    I think everyone, down to babies and their diapers, as well as pets’ collars should be inspected. You never know where some subversive will plant a device.

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

    Hilarious! You obviously haven’t been reading any of the comments.

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

    You’ve been watching too much TV. And drinking too much Kool-Aid.

    Box cutters didn’t bring down planes on 9/11. Breaching the cockpit and taking over the controls did. Richard Reid the Lunatic Shoe Bomber didn’t succeed in doing anything but arousing his fellow passengers to action; ditto the Crotch Bomber (false flag operation if ever there were one). And there you have it, in two sentences, the reason why we won’t have another 9/11. It has nothing to do with the incompetent, bullying, harassing, power-hungry, fear-mongering TSA.

    The TSA hasn’t caught one single terrorist or prevented one single terrorist act. We’ve repeated this, oh, only about a hundred times at this blog.

    How is it that there were no bombs going off on planes before 9/11? Or after?? Even before these inane, bogus security practices were put in place? Nobody was smuggling bombs on board even before the strip-search scanners and gropefests were implemented. The security cheerleaders refuse to acknowledge this.

    While Uncle Sam is putting his hands down your pants, he’s also letting most of the cargo go through UNscreened. There’s logic for you.

    And yes, I know potential attackers aren’t wearing signs on their heads. That’s precisely what I’m always arguing against the racist commenters here who are always screaming about “dangerous Muslims.”

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

    tech_ed, I don’t know if we’ll ever find out. But other people have been pulled aside and not only groped but harassed and prevented from boarding because of the obvious explosive-similar residue on their bodies — fertilizer.

    I feel sorry for landscape gardeners and ordinary backyard putterers — if they haven’t scrubbed every micron of fertilizer off themselves, they’ll be treated like criminals by the TSA.http://www.reuters.com/article/2010/01/05/security-airline-bakersfield-idUSN057258620100105

  • http://twitter.com/frachael Rachael / Frankie.

    Just doing their jobs, the end.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1556838763 Nancy Marine Dickinson

    DOGS! DOGS! DOGS! DOGS! DOGS!

    They are cheaper to maintain. They are much more appreciative of the care they receive. They don’t ask for two weeks or more vacation a year. They don’t steal things out of suitcases in the name of “searching for contraband”. They’re much more lovable than your average TSA agent. They are much less intimidating than either a porn-o-scan or a TSA agent having a bad day. They are able to detect a multitude of odors as well as differentiate between lotion and explosives. (http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/understanding-a-dogs-sense-of-smell.html) I had a dog trainer once that used to train dogs for the soldiers during the Vietnam War. He was able to train the dogs to differentiate between North and South Vietnamese people, based on their diet.

    If dogs are okay to use for the military, border patrol and other law enforcement agencies, why aren’t they good enough for airport safety? They could also walk them around the cargo areas to locate problems (smell like coffee? Could be a problem package).

    Finally, TSA (or better still, let’s use our guard or reservists, they at least take their job seriously and are actually TRAINED) can troll animal shelters across the country and help empty them out – in short, killing two birds with one stone.

    At least the worst that can happen with the dogs is them shoving their noses into someone’s “No place” and moving on. I had a dog that did that every morning while I made that first cup of tea. Annoying? Yes. Endearing? No. Easily managed? Absolutely.

    To reiterate – DOGS! DOGS! DOGS! DOGS! DOGS!

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

    Right. We’ve never heard that excuse in history before.

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

    Nancy, we’ve discussed dogs on this blog before. Problem is, they need to go out and play every half-hour. They can’t work constantly. And though the TSA is, in fact, training dogs right now (though would you trust their training, given the agency in charge?) — ads pop up all the time seeking temporary foster homes for these puppies — just think about how many thousands upon thousands of dogs it would take to staff every airport, train station, bus terminal, etc. I don’t think it’s realistic.

    Botton line: we need to stop wetting our pants about minuscule, infinitesimal threats, and instead go on about our lives like free citizens.

  • Mark K

    I had an “explosives” experience at the Anchorage, AK airport. I visited a gold mine that had been actively blasting a hill side and touched some of the ore that had just been blasted. I went to the airport right after the tour of the mine. I was selected to have my carry on swabed and it tested positive for TNT residue. So did my hands. My carry on was torn to shreds looking for the explosives I was trying to smuggle on the plane. I was also given the most thorough patdown ever right in front of the other passengers passing through security. Of course nothing was found and luckily I was able to make my flight. And I had to dispose of my carry on once I got home because of the residual explosive chemicals and the total destruction caused by the search. And this was in 1999 so we can’t blame the TSA for this.

  • Jack

    Trained scent dogs actually have a pretty high false positive rate – see this:

    http://reason.com/archives/2011/02/21/the-mind-of-a-police-dog

    But then again, human searchers aren’t much better, according to tests with decoy bombs and weapons. Turns out they’re great at finding bottles of water and nail clippers and shampoo that’s not in its little baggie, but all that is distracting them from
    honing in on actual dangers.

  • Twin_king2378

    What a crock of crap :-). Typical TSA rhetoric!

  • Waynebollman

    That is complete bullshit.