TSA Changes Child Enhanced Pat Down Policy…not really

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.


Happy Flying!






  1. This makes me wonder… if a person can go through the AIT scanner more than once, with possible different results with each time through, how effective are they, really?

  2. Jack,

    The issue of passing through an AIT scanner multiple times shouldn’t be done if an object appears on the scan, it should be done if the scans are blurry. Children move, a lot, and can result in a blurred scan.

    Last summer I traveled with my ankle in a brace, with a cane, after having a cast removed for a broken ankle. I passed through an AIT scanner, but couldn’t bring the cane through the scanner with me. I was quite unsteady and it resulted in a blurry image, resulting in a pat down.

    Had I been able to stand up straight, hands over my head, and not wobble, the results would have been different.

    Happy Flying!


  3. As a parent I find it difficult to explain to a child that it is ok for this nice man to touch you but it is not ok for another nice man to touch you. Therefore, the simple and best way is not to do air travel with children. Simple.
    If more people refused to fly, non intrusive methods may be used. Ah, remember family vacations in the car? Happy driving.

  4. Pistole is lying again! This is exactly the same statement he made in November after the initial uproar over the TSA goons began groping children. When subsequent reports of TSA strip searching and groping a three year old in Salt Lake City surfaced he again lied to Congress denying that it happened until the video showed up on You Tube. He again said they would stop groping children until the six year old girl groping in New Orleans was caught on video.

    Now he is trotting out the same lie to yet another subcommittee and rest assured that the groping children and adults will continue and be caught on video. He even admitted that the six year old girl in New Orleans was digitally strip searched by the whole body imaging scanner, producing what is essentially child pornography, despite TSA stating in November that children would not be sent through the naked scanners.

    Pistole is a criminal. He should be indicted for repeatedly lying to Congress while under oath and trafficking in nude child images.

    Five TSA screeners have been charged with child sex crimes since December. There is no way that people should be forced to subject their children to invasive groping at the hands of potential perverts in order to board to a plane.

  5. Nice slight of hand trick by Pistole. Your right, no change at all to current procedure. Basically you now can have your child x-rayed multiple times instead of getting felt up.

    People keep loosing sight of the fact that the machines do not detect anything. They simply render the body naked, then an operator has to try to interpret what is on the screen.

    There is a higher chance of someone smuggling explosives via a body cavity, then using a child as a mule. Screen everyone the same? OK body cavity searches for all.

  6. Going through the AIT multiple times without doing anything will yield the same result. Parents should be told what is causing the alarm, for them to remove or alter, under a TSO supervision, prior to the next scan.

  7. How many people are at risk if a terrorist blows up a plane? How about a cinemaplex? How hard is it to fly a cinemaplex into a building? Locking the cockpit has made airplanes no greater a target than the local cinema. And without 44,000 screeners protecting the movies, there have been no bombings as of yet. Maybe we don’t need security for planes either?

    Look it is sitcom plot easy to get a bomb or gun onto a plane. If your house leaves all the windows open, what good is a vault door? In most airports, the airport staff have a simple electronic door without any screening to get into the airport. Even if perfect background checks keeps the would be terrorist from these jobs, simply kidnapping a child will get swift compliance from most of them. Tell them you are smuggling pot or something other than the scary bomb you really gave them. They will deliver it and wrap it in a bow for you. Planes aren’t blowing up left and right because people aren’t trying.

    By the way, there aren’t any monsters under your bed either. It is amazing how scared shitless you law and order types are. What whimps.

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