ARLINGTON, Va. — The Transportation Security Administration is denying allegations that an airport screener seized a toddler’s sippy cup and mistreated his mother, taking the unusual step of posting security camera footage on its Web site.
The TSA said in a statement that the incident and the videotape demonstrate that its “officers display professionalism and concern for all passengers.”
At issue is whether Monica Emmerson, a former Secret Service officer, was improperly detained June 11 after she spilled water out of her child’s sippy cup at Washington’s Reagan National Airport.
TSA has banned most fluids at airport security checkpoints for nearly a year because of concern about possible liquid explosives.
“I was distraught. I opened my son’s sippy cup. I twisted off the top. I wanted to drink the water. It spilled out,” Emmerson said Saturday.
Story spreads through blogosphere
Emmerson said an officer threatened to arrest her after the water spilled, telling her she was “endangering the public.” She said there was no place to dump the water near the security area, and that she was worried when her son started wandering away from her.
The story quickly spread on the Internet this week after blogger Bill Adler, a Washington author, saw a note Emmerson wrote on a Web site for city parents. Adler interviewed Emmerson and relayed her account.
He wrote that a TSA screener seized her 19-month-old’s cup after asking if there was water in it, causing Emmerson’s son to cry. Emmerson was told she would have to leave the security checkpoint and dump out the water if she wanted to keep the cup.
Emmerson said she accidentally spilled the water because she was nervous and traveling alone with a toddler.
TSA, however, said Emmerson dumped, not spilled, the water on the floor.
A TSA report said Emmerson told an officer that she was a Secret Service agent, flashed her credentials and said she was exempt from the “stupid” policy restricting liquids on planes.
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But Emmerson denied that she flashed her badge, saying the video footage shows her digging in her luggage for identification.
“That’s a gross lie,” she said.
The video that TSA posted on its Web site Friday shows Emmerson being escorted from the security checkpoint as she appears to take the top off the sippy cup and shake it upside down.
It shows that after she was confronted by several officers, she used paper towels fetched by the TSA to clean up the spot as other passengers stream by her.
“The allegation here that we were out of control is absolutely false,” said Earl Morris, deputy assistant administrator for security operations with the TSA. “If you look at the report and the video itself, it shows she’s the only one who was out of control.”
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