Transportation Security Administration authorities are looking for a 1-year-old believed to have been, in the words of one official, “a mule” in a complex scheme to smuggle combustible liquids on board a Lufthansa flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to Frankfurt yesterday.
Officials would not immediately confirm whether al Qaeda was behind the plot, but one source inside the investigation, who spoke to Gadling on condition of anonymity, seemed to give some credence to that theory. “They have crossed over to a whole new phase with this one,” he said.
“People wonder why we scrutinize little children,” the source added. “We get criticized for that. Well, now you know. No one gets a free pass.”
Authorities are calling the infant “Baby Jack,” though it was not immediately clear why.
Witnesses tell Gadling that a young couple and their baby boy held up the security line at JFK’s Terminal 1 for nearly 20 minutes as TSA workers passed the infant between one another.
“They had him practically in the X-Ray,” one witness said. “He was crying.”
Said another onlooker: “Two screeners came over and took turns lifting the kid and putting their noses to his ass.”
The family was eventually led away, witnesses said.
According to Gadling’s source, the threesome was detained for questioning and were photographed. “The kid’s diaper was way too full, and they wouldn’t change it in front of us,” he said. “We got someone putting the family in the bathroom near Starbucks 10 minutes before, changing him. Now you tell me, how does the kid fill a diaper like that in 10 minutes?”
Airport authorities were coordinating with local police and the Department of Homeland Security when the family escaped. Sources say the interrogation room’s door had not been secured. “They looked like a family,” another source said. “Get them out in this airport, good luck finding them.”
Officials have acknowledged few leads, though the Associated Press is reporting that a woman saw the family “walking briskly” out of an unmarked door. At one point, Baby Jack was seen on his own, crawling toward an as-yet-unidentified older man in sunglasses, who scooped him up and “just vanished,” the source said.
“I can only say that this is an open, active investigation,” a TSA spokesman told Gadling. “We are using all available resources to find that baby.”
Asked to comment on the family’s escape, the spokesman said, “They did not board the plane. That is the news here today. They did get aboard that airplane.”
Another source inside the TSA added: “I’ll tell you this, they weren’t that boy’s parents. We need find him and get answers.”
Asked what the adults looked like, the source said, “They didn’t look like you or me, that’s for sure.”