TSA Head Apologizes To Traveler Whose Bladder Bag Burst During Pat-Down

Yesterday, the TSA got yet another public-relations black eye when a man in Michigan said airport screeners in Detroit refused to listen to him about his medical condition and accidentally ruptured a bag full of urine under his clothes.

In an attempt to calm the media storm, TSA chief John Pistole contacted the man after seeing his story on CNN.

The passenger said Pistole was friendly — they even joked about each of them having to deal with the flurry of public interest in the topic — but that the TSA head had to be corrected in his understanding of some of the details of the incident.

The man, a survivor of bladder cancer, volunteered to meet with Pistole and his associates to help educate them on how best screeners can deal with travelers who have similar conditions and other medical devices.

“I’m a good American. I know why we’re doing this, and I understand it,” the traveler told CNN. “But this was extremely embarrassing, and it didn’t have to happen. With educated TSA workers, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Doctors question TSA’s use of pat downs, body scans [CNN]


Edit Your Comment

  1. RxDude says:

    Did Pistole pose naked on a bearskin rug as he apologized?

  2. Alvis says:

    “I’m a good American. I know why we’re doing this, and I understand it,”

    Well crap; I don’t understand at all how any of this makes us safer. I must be a /bad/ American?

    • ap0 says:

      I’m a terrible American.

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        I’m a terrible EVERYTHING. Not even Israeli air travel security does what the TSA is doing.

        • Straspey says:

          And the reason for that is…

          As far as the Israelis are concerned, if the bad guy makes it past the outer perimeter and onto the airport grounds, their security has failed.

          These checkpoints should be done outside a security perimeter which encircles the airport.

          • CookiePuss says:

            It would be even safer to have layered security, say a 10 mile radius(with toll booths every mile like the NJ parkway to pay for all of this much needed peace of mind). Each checkpoint becomes more and more progressive. By the time you reach the plane your completely naked, have been full body x-rayed, anally probed, sniffed by dogs, and given a mandatory tranquilizer so all passengers are unconscious before the flight takes off.

            If at any time the passenger refuses an anal probe or any other security measure they will be arrested because, you know, they must be guilty or hiding something man.

            Free ball massage and/or titty rub with every flight. Thank you for flying Prison Airbus 393.

          • Veeber says:

            And that model would not scale very well with our airport system

            TSA and the government are in a bad position overall. A lot of us refer to it as security theater but if anything gets through we are all going to be up in arms about the government not doing enough. They need to do a better job though of saying “Here are the risks we are actually worried about, these are the things we are going to implement to reduce that risk, and we can’t stop everything.” Beyond that the terrorist threat seems scary but ultimately it’s more dangerous for us to drive than fly and the public needs to understand and accept that fact.

            • ktetch says:

              I hear that argument all the time, and it’s as true as a $9 bill.

              Just tell me, what happens when [the fabeled, extremely rare] attack happens, WITH these scans?

              What people are up in arms about is their constitution torn to shreds for a minuscule risk. If you’re THAT worried about a terrorist attack on an aircraft, go buy a Powerball ticket, you’ve got better odds of winning at least $1M (and thus can afford a private flight, with none of this security theater) than you do of being on a flight targeted by foreign terrorists.

              I say foreign terrorists, because every single flight is targeted by domestic terrorists, or as they’re better known, the TSA.

      • The cake is a lie! says:

        I thought we were supposed to be good little socialists? Do we get to be American’s again? I must have missed the memo…

    • Red Cat Linux says:

      I know why we’re doing it, but I don’t understand it. The government has to do a hell of a lot more than say “Because we said so,” to explain why this horsehockey is necessary.

      All this is is a gratuitous slap and tickle. People who are prepared to blow a plane to glory don’t seem like the sort to get squeamish about swallowing things. Hijackers in the worse case in US history achieved their ends with items allowed by current regulation at the time.

      Is the solution now really to allow nothing, not even your damn dignity?

      This just makes me one of the many confused Americans. And just when did questioning government become something a bad American does?

    • miss_j_bean says:

      It makes us safer because remember the ol’ propaganda “Terrorists hate us for our freedom.” The tactic is to “get rid of freedom until they don’t hate us ‘meruhkins no more. (I cringed typing that)

  3. nbs2 says:

    It also wouldn’t have happened if John Pistole hadn’t been confirmed.

    It also wouldn’t have happened if we implemented intelligent transportation security.

    Finally, it wouldn’t have happened if we had disbanded the TSA, jailed the past and present top leadership, and used the would-still-be-just-as-effective-as-the-crap-we-have-today-but-not-violate-the-Constitution screening system in place on September 10, 2001.

    • lyllydd says:

      Actually, we’d need to jail the screeners too. They’re the ones who are guilty of sexual assault.
      If I need to fly, I will be prepared to press charges as a matter of course.

  4. mannyvel says:

    But – all the terrorist has to do now is pack his colostomy bag full of C4 and we’re done for.

    • k8supergrover says:

      Here’s a question…if there is more than 100ml of liquid in the bag can they tell him that he can’t take it on the plane? I mean, clearly, the whole thing is horrible and makes me glad that I don’t fly into or out of the states very often but I can see fallout from this for years.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        Medical liquids aren’t limited, and they DO test the liquid. I had to take some face lotion through security in Kalamazoo and they opened it up, swabbed some and ran a test on it.
        TBH if they can do that and it took less than 30 seconds (didn’t even boot me out of line) they can let me take my damned soda through.

    • miss_j_bean says:

      When colostomy bags are outlawed, only outlaws will have colostomy bags.

  5. blinky says:

    “I’m a good American. I know why we’re doing this, and I understand it,”

    Me too. We’re a country of cowardly little girls (and boys) who prefer safety to freedom.

    • macruadhi says:


    • gerrylum says:

      Correction: “perceived safety”

    • lchen says:

      Does wanting safe clean water make us not free? Your statement is over-reaching.
      What the TSA is doing however does not ensure our safety anymore than it did before these procedures. They can’t really prove whether or not the ‘threat’ has really gone up or down, and the over reaction in the name of safety does infringe on our freedoms.

      • MrEvil says:

        If anything the threat is reduced since sending our troops overseas. Why travel across an ocean to kill Americans when you can just shoot/blow up the ones next door? I’m not saying we should be using our soldiers as human shields. It’s just that that’s what’s going on.

        Still, I think it’d work out better if Law Enforcement did their goddamn job and investigated tips they get in about a possible attack on an airplane. The Undie-bomber’s dad contacted the authorities warning them about his son. And there was intelligence that this was going to happen. But what did they do? They just sat on their asses and did nothing thinking the TSA would handle it.

    • jbandsma says:

      Who prefer the APPEARANCE of safety…

  6. ycnhgm says:

    The terrorists have won. This country is full of sissies.

  7. cmdr.sass says:

    “I’m a good American. I know why we’re doing this, and I understand it”

    This statement pisses me off more than the original incident, pun intended. This kind of complacency and blind trust in authority is what leads to our rights being trampled by the government in the first place.

    • Runner says:


    • dolemite says:

      Me too. He might as well just said “Baaaa–aaaaaa”, and the meaning would have been the same.

      It’s almost like Sarah Palin’s “real ‘merican” comments…as if you don’t hunt, vote republican and read the bible daily, you are a “false American”.

  8. Cicadymn says:

    “We’re Sorry…”


  9. NewsMuncher says:

    Washington Post also carries story about a solution for the “strip search” backscatter machines. “[H]e was rebuffed when he offered the concept to Department of Homeland Security officials four years ago.”

  10. ellmar says:

    If anyone intends to protest by stripping naked at a checkpoint tomorrow, could you please write the phrase “I’m a good American” in sharpie on your naked torso first? Thanks!

  11. Bativac says:

    I don’t have a medical device attached to my abdomen, but this kind of security stuff is why my wife and I drove from Florida to Maine a couple weeks back. Flying would have been quicker and not too expensive but neither of us wanted to submit ourselves to these absurd “security measures.”

    It seems like we are becoming subjects of this government who is telling us what to do while sidestepping the rules themselves. What happened to government “of the people, by the people, for the people?”

    • dolemite says:

      I find it strange that they are able to fondle children and take nude photos of them (as well as molesting adults), yet…no laws are broken? I’m still not quite certain how the TSA is immune to things like that, as well as the rights afforded to us by the Constitution (like how they can seize your laptops, personal items, etc. without just cause, when you are an American citizen on US soil).

      • outlulz says:

        Doctors are allowed to touch the genitals of children. I’m not saying that TSA are anywhere near the same level as doctors, but just that there are specific situations where it’s not considered a crime.

        • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

          only in a situation where the doctor is being called upon to provide medical care for that body part. if your child goes to the doctor for an earache and the doctor starts touching the child’s genitals, that’s still a crime.
          but you’re right, the TSA agents are not on the same level as doctors at all. which is why i won’t be putting myself in a situation where my medical devices or my body will be touched by them.

          • outlulz says:


            And your statement reminded of the doctor in Scrubs that asks everyone to drop their pants, no matter their ailment. Somehow you can diagnose diabetes by making someone take their pants on.

            • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

              you never know, my diabetes stumped 5 doctors i had gone to, and all the doctors in the ER. i was diagnosed by an orderly.

        • jessjj347 says:

          Yes, however, doctors are held to strict liabilities concerning safety and health. Will the TSA / makers of these machines be liable if anything happens to our health in the long-term? Probably not.

        • Not Given says:

          I’m pretty sure this is not that situation.

    • jbandsma says:

      What happened to ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’? The supreme court declared that corporations are ‘people’.

    • sonneillon says:

      Because it is hard to get the police to move on the issue. I personally like opt out day and just grind the system to a halt. I also think that we should do the same thing where everybody in a month who gets a speeding ticket pleads not guilty.

  12. areaman says:

    “…another public-relations black eye…”

    I’m going to ask the same question I ask about corruption/cheating boxing… What do you mean another black eye? The whole thing is a wreck.

  13. daemonaquila says:

    Urostomy bag busted – ” We’re sorry.”
    Child kidnapped from his mom – “We’re sorry.”
    Little girl hysterical after pedo-grope – “We’re sorry.”

    APOLOGY NOT ACCEPTED. The government has learned that it can get away with most anything as long as it says “We’re sorry.” Sorry fixes nothing. It’s time to say “If you’re sorry, you’ll never do it again.” “Oh, what, you ARE going to do it again? Then you aren’t sorry – you’re a lying sack of s**t and you’ve just made the situation worse.”

  14. TerpBE says:

    The passenger’s name was Thomas Sawyer.

    Rumor has it, he convinced other passengers that it was fun to spill the contents of your urine bag on your clothing. In fact, he traded the opportunity to spill urine on one’s clothes in exchange for an apple, a kite, in good repair, a dead rat and a string to swing it with, twelve marbles, part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn’t unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a dog-collar – but no dog – the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash.

  15. rdclark says:

    “Good Americans” are willing to take risks in the course of defending their Constitutional rights, That’s patriotism. Everyone who submits to the TSA chooses the opposite.

    We, as a nation, are terrorized. This ‘war” has already been lost; the only winner is the Fear Industry and its congressional lackeys.

  16. jbandsma says:

    The only education they need is in LISTENING to the person standing there in front of them telling them what the problem is and how to work around it.

  17. Hoot says:

    File this under probably TMI… and that maybe I should have read the original article?

    But how could this have happened unless the TSA agent was smashing around the person’s body or doing it with something sharp? Did parts become detached and allow for the spill? Even then, that would have to be an EXTREMELY aggressive and grabby pat down, or the device perhaps was not sturdily put together.

    Don’t get me wrong – I think this kind of thing as well as the prosthetic breast grabbing is unnecessary and awful for the victim. However, wouldn’t the problem be the method of overaggressive pat down rather than the particular case of medical devices or prosthetics (though lord knows the TSA agents should be more educated on that topic as well).

    I couldn’t find the original article – correct me if I’m wrong.

    • jbandsma says:

      Ostomy bag seals can be very tricky. I worked with a girl once who had both colostomy and urostomy bags and was pregnant. (Rape case, family wouldn’t let her have an abortion) When the baby would kick in certain ways one or both seals could be dislodged and when the seal is broken, contents leak.

      At least this man’s was ‘only’ urine. It could have been worse.

      • levelone says:

        Wow. Just wow. She was that bad off and they got to decide whether she was allowed to have an abortion? How was that in any way their right to decide?

  18. Miraluka says:

    Isn’t “educated TSA worker” an oxymoron?

  19. notgoodenough says:

    “With educated TSA workers…” = Oxymoron. When it comes to the TSA, it works with or without the “Oxy”.

  20. RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

    CNN is all over damage control today. I read at least 2 articles there about how there aren’t really any problems, and these very few minor incidents have been hyped by the news. So, you know, nothing to see, move on.


  21. Difdi says:

    Good American: The next version of the Good German?

  22. Groanan says:

    “I’m a good American. I know why we’re doing this, and I understand it,”
    This makes me feel bad.

    It makes me feel as if this man was pressured by the head of the TSA, or that he was scared of a backlash from people who actually think these security procedures improve security.

    Even if he genuinely buys into the new security measures (which I see as an abuse of government power to put tax dollars in the personal bank accounts of government officials and their friends) this still needs to be a public spectacle until the injustice is corrected.

    Is it as bad as the war in Afghanistan / Extraordinary Rendition / or Assassination Drones Killing Americans? No, but I think we might actually be able to stop the TSA via public opinion.

  23. Razor512 says:

    Instead of only making him apologize, why not also make the TSA worker do it also. These problems wont stop unless the workers are also called out on their actions.