The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is an easy target for the public, pundits and “TSA Nabs Suspected Al Queda Terrorist At Chicago Airport, A toddler in a wheelchair” is an easy headline for blogs and news outlets … especially when relevant facts are left out.
Yesterday a video uploaded by Matt Dubiel, of Naperville, IL, of his son three year old son Rocco being screened by a TSA Transportation Security Officer (TSO) at Chicago O’Hare Airport went viral, and sparked significant outrage against the TSA. The video itself, while fueling the public backlash against the agency, is misleading and misleading in a number of ways.
If the video had been shot yesterday everything conducted by the TSA TSO would not set off any red flags, the TSO acted professionally, was quick, properly engaged the child and followed procedure … not to mention he had no problem with Mr. Dubiel recording the entire process.
TSA front line screeners follow policy and protocol, which is created at a much higher level than them. The release of Mr. Dubiel’s video hit a raw nerve with many about the agency patting down and explosive trace detection (ETD) swabbing a little boy in a wheel chair. While the father, and many others, are outraged that the casts on young Rocco’s legs were ETD swabbed, and the wheel chair swabbed, the fact is this, TSA TSO procedure is to fully swab any places explosives could be hidden. The process of ETD swabbing needs to be handled in a specific manner to ensure that the TSO is thorough in their search. While many argue that no U.S. flight has been taken down by explosives, attempts have been made, and not screening for explosives would be a significant gap in the agency’s security procedures. Furthermore terrorists outside of the United States have not only used children as walking bombs repeatedly, including on board methods of transportation, but also used faux casts to conceal flat weapons, weapons that have been used to commandeer commercial airliners.
Why was Mr. Dubiel unable to touch his son to comfort him and touch him as he was being screened? The same reason passengers are unable to touch their bags while they are searched. Searches are carried out in a ‘sterile’ way, the only thing allowed to touch the person or properly are the gloves on the screeners’ hands and the ETD swab. The policy that nothing person may touch an item or person being ETD swabbed, aside from the screener’s gloves, is the same throughout the world … not just the TSA in the United States.
For those who are still upset with the TSA for their screening of young Rocco, rather than waiving hi through, keep this in mind … the video Mr. Dubiel uploaded is two years old. The video was shot roughly a year before the TSA publicly changed its policy regarding the screening of children aged 12 and younger . Children may now leave their shoes on and are not subjected to the same ‘enhanced pat down’ adults encounter.
Would the modified screening for children change the way in which Mr. Dubiel’s son was screened? Not really, given that his child had a cast on each leg that needed to be screened and was in a tubular-metal wheel chair that needed to be cleared before being allowed to pass through security.
Change within the TSA needs to happen at the upper levels. The agency needs to reevaluate its policy and procedure to ensure complete security against real threats in a proactive manner … but children, and the elderly for that matter, need to undergo the same security as every other traveler.
Why must the very young and very old be screened in the same manner as everyone else? Keep this in mind, they are easy ‘mules’ for smuggling harmful items unassumingly past security. When legitimate threats have been known to strap a bomb to an eight year old child and send them into a crowded area, killing dozens of people, we block it out as “it happened over there.” If a child is used as a weapons delivery device in our front yard the public outcry won’t be that security agencies need to relax their screening of children, the outcry will be focused on why security agencies were not thoroughly screening children.
Below is a copy of the video Mr. Dubiel uploaded of his son Rocco being screened at Chicago O’Hare two years ago.