Airport Security Searches Of Children & Children As Legitimate Threats

As airports security screening around the world has become stricter, and new protocols are put into place, there are been an increasing uproar when it comes to the search of children.


In the United States the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has repeatedly come under scrutiny when it comes to performing ‘enhanced pat downs’ on children. Recently TSA Administration John Pistole announced there would be changes to its policy when it comes to searching children who ‘alarm’ while passing through security … but why?


Children are unfortunately ideal for smuggling weapons are able to go undetected as human bombs.  Less than two weeks ago the Taliban used an 8-year-old girl as a human bomb in Kabul, Afghanistan, killing dozens of people.


Days before then 8 year old girl was sadly used as a suicide bomber, a 9 year old girl in Pakistan was kidnapped, sedated and strapped into a ‘suicide vest‘ loaded with explosives.  This girl was lucky as she was intercepted, the vest was disarmed and she was returned to her family …


… but the use of children as weapons delivery systems is not new. Children are naive, unassuming and blend in, often without a second glance from law enforcement, security or passers by.


Given the wide range of potential weapons available to terrorists, and the ways in which these weapons can be disguised, should children receive a less through security screening than adults?


While airport security needs to be changed in many countries, as agencies such as the TSA failing to adopt fully effective security procedures, creating a known gap of overlooking any type of traveler … including children … creates an opening that could very easily be exploited by those seeking to do harm.


It is unlikely the debate over whether performing full security searches on children will cease any time soon, but as the debate continues on the legitimacy of children posing a threat to security, the fact is that innocent children are being used to smuggle weapons and as method of delivering weapons for detonation.


Happy Flying!



  1. […] Back in July 2011 I wrote about the TSA adjusting its pat downs of children, and questioned by child….   Why should children, adults and the elderly all be screened equally? Because terrorists have been known to use children, and those who are not fully in control of themselves, as explosive delivery systems many times for a very long time.  In the month leading up the TSA adjusting its policy for patting children down a 9 year old girl in Pakistan was kidnapped, sedated and placed into a suicide vest. This girl was luckily intercepted and the bomb-laden vest disarmed. A few days later in Kabul Afghanistan an 8-year-old girl was not so lucky. In Kabul, the 8-year-old girl was used as a human bomb by the Taliban killing dozens of people in a crowded area. […]


  1. At last a sensible riposte to all this populist nonsense that children pose no threat to airliners.

    Yes, the TSA are heavy-handed, rude and frequently less than competent. However, they are absolutely right to subject ALL passengers to the same standards of checking.

  2. I agree that children have been used to smuggle weapons or used as weapons. From a security point of view all should be screened, even grannies may be revolutionary activists. The problem lies in how the screening is done and more importantly where. All children screenings should be done in private and away from the public with the parents present.

  3. Not disagreeing about children as risks but what’s the answer?? Fondling everyone? Giving the body scan operator a thrill by looking at nude passengers all day (must be horrible)? Seriously? As your other column… testing for explosives that will not show up when sourced from a place more likely then average to source and use that material in terrorism?

    I am miles and miles away from the religious right on pretty much any topic you can find but even I see that as pathetic. It’s certainly a symptom of failed procedures and failed strategies.

    It’s the inconsistency that bother me on a lot of levels… I stood there and watched some TSA “security” person steal my sons 2 inch long lego sword (a shaped bit of plastic with only a threat of chocking) and felt pens while the man in first class just ahead of me got to keep his fountain pen…. The TSA “security” person didn’t want to discuss what is common sense (in that holier then now do as I say tone) – both contain liquid and the fountain pen was metal and sharp. What am I left to believe… money buys you a different set of TSA rules?? I know which of those I would use…….

    The non pc thing is that most of the 9/11 perpetrators all came from the same country and the rest from a similar world geography….. as much as that sucks, I fail to see how that is something to deliberately ignore with security. Reminds of old skit… dropping something in room#1 and looking in room#2 because the lights are off in room#1……

  4. I’m in favor of no exceptions. Otherwise honest people can still be coerced via threats to their loved ones and children can be tricked into acting against their own interests. TSA and its international equivalents needs to do two things.

    1. EXPLAIN THE NO EXCEPTIONS POLICY in simple terms, as above. Get buy-in from press and public.

    2. Find a way to be thorough without being intimidating or thug-like. Projecting an attitude of “we’re in this together” will be far more effective than the current, “you’re guilty of something, but I’ll let you through this time.”

  5. Rob,

    The answer is not fondling. The answer starting security procedures long before passengers arrive at the airport. For those who purchase walk up tickets, or who buy tickets in less then a 48 hour window, a second layer of physical security must be instituted.

    Profiling must not be based on race, gender, or nationality, because those factors change constantly. Profiling must factor in unpopular aspects, such as travel history, travel purchase history, basic background checks … skipping basic FBI NCIC systems and delving into further information from the FBI, DHS, CIA, Interpol, etc etc etc. Layers of security must use human security assets, but not the way the current BDO system is in place. Human profiling can’t be effectively executed in the way the TSA is executing it.

    The answer is adapting more effective techniques and focusing more on effective security than a show of force security. The agencies, in the US, and elsewhere, need oversight, and not oversight based on political gain, but oversight that is neutral of politics, allowing for legitimate security to be implemented.

    Happy Flying!


  6. They may be legitimate, but the way that the TSA goes about looking for the threat is not effective nor appropriate. The whole body scanners don’t detect anything, they merely render the body naked. It is up to a human to “figure out” what they are looking at. This introduces a whole lot of error and as we know the GAO has walked guns through them undetected when if they had used a traditional metal detector they would have been picked up. The “patdown” in it’s current form we are told is to detect objects on the body, and for trace detection of explosives. First part i can understand, but swabbing the gloves for a trace again leaves a lot of room for error… Dogs at least are somewhat effective at this, yet the TSA has shown an unwillingness to use them. The other option for trace detection is swab on a stick (much more accurate) and hand held vacuum units. The hand held vac units is really what they should have deployed. They look like an old dustbuster and you simply run it over the clothing and it dislodges any loose particles. I look at the procedures in place and it leads me to believe that the patdown is indeed a punishment for not going through the scanner, and whomever came up with the whole procedure has no idea how to find explosives.

  7. Children should be search and are sadly not. When I went flying weeks after the new security measure were implemented my brother, 15 at the time, was subjected to the metal detector rather then scanner simply because he appeared young. I think if screeners were harsh with every race age and religion we would ot be hearing an uproar every time something like this happens. In fact we should never be mad at the TSA for searching someone only upset for not doing so, especially if it is due to one not wanting to create controversy.

  8. What was used as a detonator in these children’s suicide vests, presented in the examples? Would it not have been detected by a WTMD? The last two most famous examples in the US (shoe and underwear) failed because they couldn’t get a detonator through the pre-scanner and fondling security regime.

    Some people (TSA included) have read too many Tom Clancy novels.

  9. Ridiculous.

    By this logic, anal and vaginal probing should be immediately commenced as they are perfectly viable threats. One could easily imagine using PETN to be shaped to look like a Maxi-Pad, not just needing an internal cavity.

    There are 3 major issues really though.

    1) What is the true risk? It is a vulnerability, but we are specifically talking about the general risk of a US-based airline passenger getting a viable working non-metallic based bomb on a plane, being willing to commit suicide to set it off, and having it actually work. Adding a child means finding the mythical James-Bond level suicidal terrorist and then enhancing them with a child who is willing to stay with them onto a plane (i.e likely not a kidnapping victim as alluded to in the article.)

    The last non-metallic bomb in the US was in 1962, a dynamite bomb set off for insurance purposes.

    Today, we know not all passengers are strip searched or have their genitals examined. Therefore, unless 100% applied, the vulnerability remains. Despite this, there have been no incidents. So, zero incidents despite being vulnerable since 9-11 (almost 10 years) is not a serious threat.

    2) The Constitution. More people are killed by handguns – over 8,000 Americans a year in the US. Since this is immeasurably more threatening, we should remove all handguns from the US and create a non-police force to search people in public places (sidewalks, streets, parks) to fight this threat. But, thankfully, the 2nd Amendment says we can’t do this and the Courts seem to support this right for now. It is a risk in a society where a founding right includes the right for citizens to own weapons. We deal with it. If we can live with this, we can certainly live with non-metallic bomb threats that have never been successfully carried out in over 48 years in the US. Any fear about this threat is certainly unreasonable…and it wouldn’t matter as we cannot use non-constitutional methods of anything in our country. I might want a test for all voters before they vote, as I hypothesize and could probably find academic research that supports the conception that literate, educated, well-informed on public policy voters may provide better informed voting and press politicians to be more responsive. But, that would violate the constitution as has already been ruled in the past.

    3) The children sited above. First, provide reliable news link URLs. For example, I will provide as reliable link to all airplane incident data for over half a century. Second, these children used METALLIC bombs…I am fairly certain of this, but it wouldn’t matter to me. Third, these children live OUTSIDE the US across thousands of miles of ocean and are not a reliable threat to be recruited and/or kidnapped, be easily brought into our country, armed with a reliable non-metallic bomb, and also be boarded on a US-originating flight. Could it happen? Not impossible, but less likely than someone being shot to death in a Grocery store in Phoenix over the last 8 months.

    Do I believe children should be subject to security? Yes, using legal reasonable means. Strip searches and genital exams don’t even begin to approach reasonableness. Metal detectors are only viable legal means for passengers, combined with ACTIONABLE INTELLIGENCE (via legal means). If passengers are too scared with legal means, then airlines should offer advanced security screenings with strip searches, anal probes, groping of men/women/children as a option for those folks. That is a private, voluntary, non-rights infringing approach that is legal for a private company to offer (with possible exception that some states do not let a parent give consent for any genital contact of their children…think about parent who prostitutes their young teeenager for money).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.