Another TSA screening is in the news -- this time, of a six-year-old girl in New Orleans. On April 5th, 2011, TSA screeners gave Anna Drexel a thorough patdown while she and her family were preparing to board a flight. The parents, Todd and Selena Drexel, recorded the incident and are outraged; they discussed the incident of ABC's Good Morning America on April 13th. Additional stories in the New York Daily News and the Daily Mail. First, the full GMA interview is embedded below, then the YouTube video of the screening:
Surprisingly, there are an equal number of "likes" and "dislikes" on the video; TSA has their defenders.
The Drexel parents, their nine-year-old daughter Grace, and six-year-old Anna all went through the scanner; their two-year-old daughter Caroline was exempted. However, for reasons that are still unclear, TSA singled out six-year-old Anna for a follow-up patdown. Although Selena Drexel asked the screener to re-scan her daughter, TSA refused and proceeded with the patdown. The behavior of the female TSA screener appeared to be professional; she spoke in a polite tone to the child and moved her rubber-gloved hands down her arms and legs. Then she then ran her finger along the waistband of her pants, using the back of her hands to touch the girl's sensitive areas. Todd Drexel said Anna was confused by the search and started crying afterward because she thought she'd done something wrong.
It should be noted that the girl was NOT drug-tested; this was a rumor inadvertently triggered by a comment by Selena Drexel who wasn't quite sure what was going on.
But while the parents don't dispute the professionalism of the screening, they do dispute the propriety. Selena Drexel said such searches are inappropriate for children because they're usually told not to let adults touch them in sensitive areas. TSA acknowledges the problem; although they said the screener did exactly what she was trained to do, they said they are working to move away from a "one-size fits all system" when it comes to addressing security and children. But they're concerned that issuing a blanket exclusion for children or any other low-risk group from intensive searches could be exploited by terrorists.
Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz is also outraged. Chaffetz, whose House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security oversees national security issues, said he was personally outraged and disgusted over the security patdown, claiming TSA violated their explicit policy not to conduct thorough patdowns on children under the age of 13. Chaffetz announced his intent to introduce legislation later this week requiring parental supervision during the patdown of a child. In March 2011, Chaffetz held his first in a series of hearings on TSA policies, where Alaska State Rep. Sharon Cissna (D-Anchorage), herself a victim of TSA misconduct, spoke to the impact invasive patdowns have on sensitive populations like children and survivors of sexual abuse. Read the transcript of Cissna's testimony HERE.
Online unscientific media polls indicate the public shares Chaffetz' point of view. KSL's poll shows that of 825 respondents so far, 68 percent are either completely outraged or at least disappointed. A New York Daily News poll shows 54 percent of respondents don't think TSA should ever pat down a small child.