Unless you've been living under a rock, you're hearing all the TSA horror stories. Whether you believe procedures are there to protect us or are just a show, the reality is that they're going above and beyond the call of duty -- and not in a good way.
To add yet another story about wasted manpower that would let real threats slip by, mother Stacey Armato tried to get home to Los Angeles and her 7-month-old son with the 12 ounces of breast milk she pumped while she was gone. She didn't want to put the breast milk through radiation, so she requested an alternate screening, which she had every right do to.
But what happened is completely unjust.
After repeated requests, she finally received a video of her horrible experience from TSA's security cameras ... well, except the parts they edited out first.
Armato did exactly what I would have done, and what I tell so many women to do in so many different situations -- she researched the laws protecting her, printed them out, and took them with her. The rules about carrying pumped breast milk on airplanes are found in multiple places on TSA's website. She had those rules printed out on a piece of paper right there WITH the breast milk.
Mothers flying with, and now without, their child will be permitted to bring breast milk 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. Now, a mother flying without her child will be able to bring breast milk through the checkpoint, provided it is declared prior to screening.
Armato had been through the Phoenix airport multiple times in the past, and because she'd previously filed a complaint, they were "waiting for her," as she was told by a police officer (who threatened to arrest her if she didn't "go through with the horse and pony show"). Her crime? Merely asking, as is her right, that the breast milk not go through the radiation of the object x-rays and be tested for explosives instead. If you aren't familiar with how the testing works, after you go through security, they walk right over to a little machine, run a cotton swab around all the seams/seals of your item, and then put it in the machine, which shows them a color, letting them know whether or not there was explosive residue. I've had it explained to me as they've tested my kids' items in the past.
But when Armato made her simple request and showed her piece of paper (once she was allowed to touch her own belongings) that showed the law, nothing mattered, and she was ushered into the special screening box where she stood for almost an hour -- so long that she missed her flight home to her baby.
She was told off by a cop, she had to watch as her breast milk was tossed around outside the cooler it needed to be in. Any mom who pumps or breastfeeds can understand this feeling. It's heartbreaking and Armato gets frustrated and upset.
She gets the TSA's favorite pat down and gets sent BACK to her box, and she eventually is told by the security manager that she had to go back out, pour all of her milk into individual containers less than 1.5 ounces each (despite TSA's own rules that exempts breast milk from this rule), and then go through security ... again. She says on her own posting of the video that she was even asked, "If it was really breast milk, where was the baby?" and "Why isn't the milk clear?"
This whole situation not only makes me extremely angry, but scares the crap out of me too: I wouldn't have done a single thing different than Armato. This could have been me, easily.
Check out the video ... or what TSA left of it, anyway:
TSA is entirely out of control: their own security manager refuses to abide by their own rules even when they're put right under his own nose, a woman misses her flight because she didn't want radiation to affect the live substance of her child's food, but wanted it manually tested instead. According to Armato, edited out was the security manager writing down all of Armato's personal information and putting it in his pocket, and even photographing the breast milk itself.
Armato, a lawyer herself, is still trying to find someone to represent her in a charge against TSA, but so far to no avail. There are other injustices, such as this mother who was separated from her severely-handicapped 10-year-old daughter and from their service dog, or the woman who was excessively patted down after going through the backscatter machine because she chose to wear cloth pads. I told the TSA my thoughts on their "Off-Topic Comments" section of their blog, though my comment still hasn't passed moderation, but I see comments from some of you all already on this issue there, and I encourage more.
Are you planning on flying with your children/breast milk any time soon? What do you think of this story?