Nightmare at National Airport -- an update
When I wrote about Monica Emmerson's story (click here to read the original story) and how she said she was harassed at Washington, DC's National Airport I didn't anticipate how much attention this story would receive. But perhaps I should have anticipated that reaction -- airport security touches a nerve in all airline passengers. And airport security is so very important for everyone's security.
In this update, I want to present additional information, and talk about the role of citizen journalists in reporting a story like this. When I wrote this article, I just planned to get Monica's story out there. But now I'm drawn into it in ways I didn't expect.
I received a call just a short while ago from the Washington Post asking if I had seen the TSA video of the incident. The reporter told me that TSA had taken the unusual step of posting the video on their website to rebut Monica Emmerson's story, to dispel it as a myth, click here to see the video on the TSA site. TSA has also posted an incident report on their website, which contains a different narrative from what Monica Emmerson told me. In the report, TSA says:
On June 11, 2007 at approx. 13:45 TSO responded to a CIC check on lane four at center pier checkpoint. A female passenger traveling with a child in a stroller had entered the checkpoint with a 16 ounce bottle of Deer Park water and a plastic children’s drink cup with approx. 6 to 8 ounces of fluid inside. TSO asked the female if the children’s cup had formula or juice in it and she stated no. TSO gave the female her options of placing the 16 oz. Deer Park water in her check baggage or have TSA dispose of the bottle and he informed the passenger that the child’s container was too big and would have to be poured out. TSO stated the female passenger became upset and stated she was an officer and flasher her Secret Service badge and credentials and said that she should be exempt from all this and this was a stupid policy and this whole thing was XXXX.
I've watched the video, and you might want to, too. There's more in the TSA incident report, as well. (If the link is no longer there, look for a link to "Mythbusters" on TSA's site.) While the video does raise some questions about Monica's story, it doesn't seem to explain everything in her narrative. Is the video itself the full story?
So what did happen? What are the full facts? And if some details in Monica Emmerson's accounting --or the TSA's report-- are incorrect, does that mean that the way Monica Emmerson described the incident is incorrect? Monica Emmerson was upset, angry, worried about her son (who can be seen in the video running away from her), and could have gotten some of the details wrong, while the truth of her story remains intact. Few people can recall all the details of what happens to them perfectly during an this kind of incident.
I wish I had all the answers to these questions. I'm glad that TSA has posted their videos and incident report. And I'm looking forward to seeing the final conclusion to this story.
What's missing from the TSA's video and incident report? What's missing from Monica Emmerson's narrative? What other facts, details and information do we still need? The videos that TSA posted don't show the entire time-line; they're only selected portions of the incident. And they don't include sound.
Which brings me to a question: What is the role of citizen journalism with a story like this? Can citizen journalists report an entire story with the complete truth? The answer is, in part, that stories like this that citizen journalists report sometimes are the beginning -- the first chapter. And the interest --and scrutiny-- that they generate helps produce a fuller picture. Citizen journalists don't always have the resources to uncover the entire truth, but if the full truth comes out that's what's important.
Click HERE to read an analysis of the TSA video.