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Reagan National Airport Security Screeners Threaten to Arrest Mom Over Son's Sippy Cup

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," June 18, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The "Big Outrage": "They took my son's sippy cup!" Airport security screeners confiscate a lot of carry-on items that could pose a threat to passengers like pocket knives or scissors, but does allegedly taking a toddler's beloved sippy cup and threatening to arrest his mother over it go way too far? "Big Story" correspondent Douglas Kennedy has the dramatic tape of this airport saga.

DOUGLAS KENNEDY, BIG STORY CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, John, airport security screeners are supposed to keep our skies safe, but critics say they're supposed to be safe from terrorists, not from sippy cups.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KENNEDY (VOICE-OVER): She was stopped by airport security, grabbed by the arm and surrounded by officers. But this woman wasn't bringing on box cutters. She simply had a sippy cup for her baby boy.

MICHAEL BOYD, AVIATION SECURITY EXPERT: What, again, it brings up the fact we really don't have professional security.

KENNEDY: The incident occurred at Reagan National Airport when former Secret Service agent Monica Emmerson attempted to get through security, her 19-month-old son carrying a plastic cup with water.

BOYD: Regardless of the circumstances, what the Transportation Security Administration just did is corner a woman and an infant with a sippy cup. That doesn't make me feel real safe.

KENNEDY: TSA rules restrict containers more than 3 ounces of liquid, and Emmerson admits her son's sippy had 4 ounces. Still, TSA critics say the rules are sometimes enforced arbitrarily and that TSA security personnel oftentimes overreact. Mike Boyd is an aviation security expert.

BOYD: The problem is we really don't have security. We're looking for things like sippy cups. We're not looking for terrorists, that's the real issue. So we have thousands of people in white shirts screening people looking for sippy cups and lip gloss and not trying to make us any safer, that's the main problem. The system's broken.

KENNEDY: In its official report, the TSA says the sippy cup had 6 to 8 ounces of water and that Emmerson called the prohibition "stupid" before, the report said, pouring the water on the floor. Emmerson says she was trying to open the top to dispose of the water when she accidentally spilled it out of nervousness. In either case, the TSA detained her, making her scrub the floor while her boy cries and runs away, causing them both to miss the flight.

BOYD: What we have to do is have professional security and we won't have professional security until we put professionals in charge.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KENNEDY: Boyd says airports need professional security teams and TSA officials need to be replaced with security experts. Until that happens, John, he says airport security will remain an embarrassment.

GIBSON: This one ought to be a real embarrassment. I mean, that's a former Secret Service agent, right?

KENNEDY: Yes, that's right.

GIBSON: She's not exactly the one to go around challenging authority, you would think.

KENNEDY: They say she, you know, she acted like she was a big shot and tried to flash her badge. But, you know, in the end this is woman who's carrying a sippy cup.

GIBSON: And they made her clean up the floor?

KENNEDY: And they made her scrub that floor while her kid is crying like 20 feet away.

GIBSON: Douglas Kennedy, thank you.

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