Yesterday the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Administrator, John Pistole, informed the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee that the TSA would be implementing policy changes regarding the enhanced pat down of children, aged 10 and younger. Details of these changes, and when these changes would be in place, are however vague.
In one statement Pistole indicates the policy change has not yet been implemented:
“Although it’s premature, I will be announcing something in the not-too-distant future about a change in policy as it relates to children.”
In another statement, during the same hearing, Pistole indicates the changes have been implemented:
“We have changed the policy to say that there’ll be repeated efforts made to resolve that without a pat-down.”
Regardless of when the TSA pat down of children policy is changed, the changes are as a direct result of a YouTube video of six year old Anna Drexel being patted down at New Orleans’s Louis Armstrong International Airport (MSY), after the child ‘alarmed’ while passing through a Millimeter Wave Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanner. The cause of Drexel ‘alarming’ was a burring scanner image due to her moving her body.
So what real changes will passengers encounter with the change in the TSA’s policy for patting children down? In all likelihood … none. The only real change that will be implemented will be Transportation Security Officers (TSO) now making multiple attempts to have a child satisfactorily pass through an AIT scanner. The number of times a TSO will attempt to have a child pass through the AIT scanner will be at the discretion of the TSO, and should the child continue to ‘alarm’ or produce an unsatisfactory scan, the child will be required to undergo an enhanced pat down.
During the Senate hearing, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) stated to Admin. Pistole “I think I feel less safe when we’re doing these invasive exams on a 6-year-old. It makes me think that you’re clueless, that you think she’s going to attack our country, and that you’re not doing your research on the people who would attack our country.”
While TSA procedures may leave numerous lapses for terrorists to slip through the cracks, history has shown many occasions in which terrorists and guerrilla fighters have used children as weapons, and viewed children as merely collateral damage.
The view point that children are merely collateral damage is not only found in far off lands, but in home grown terrorists as well, most notably Timothy McVeigh, a US Army Veteran, and Bronze Star recipient. McVeigh’s April 19 1995 attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Building, in Oklahoma City left 168 people dead, of which 19 were children. When speaking about the bombing, McVeigh showed no remorse and referred to the 19 dead children merely as ‘collateral damage.’
Given the number of ways weapons can be hidden, explosives can be concealed and how frequently children are overlooked by security, in reality, they must be screened in the same manner adults are screened. Unfortunately, children are a highly effective way to smuggle weapons and explosives past security.
Until more effective procedures are implemented … the TSA’s policy allowing children to attempt to clear the AIT scanner before undergoing an enhanced pat down should be extended to all travelers. It makes the process easier and less invasive for all … both traveler and TSO.