TSA still harassing children

TSA Orlando 3-yr-old boy
Many readers reacted to the recent story of the crying three-year-old girl in a wheelchair who was searched and harassed by the TSA at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (after she had already successfully cleared the checkpoint) as though this were an uncommon incident. It should probably come as no surprise that in today’s 24/7 news cycle relatively recent incidents quickly fade into the past.

It’s been nearly 27 months since the TSA instituted its invasive pat-downs and scanner searches, along with supposedly reduced searches of children under 12. Searches of children, however, have been a staple of TSA security long before October 30, 2010.

Stories of TSA harassment of children before then were seldom reported unless they were outrageous (ironically, that link contains a quote eerily similar to that stated by the 3-year-old girl recently reported: “Immediately after this happened I hugged my son and he started crying and saying ‘I don’t want to go to Disneyland.'”) Such reports were more often about the sheer inanity of the agency, such as grade-school children being on a terrorist watch list, than about the harm to the child.

That dynamic changed during the 2010 holiday season when suddenly parents found themselves — and worse, their children — being subjected to searches of their bodies previously limited to the private and professional confines of a physician’s office.

The most invasive and outrageous searches occurred immediately after the change in procedures. The earliest report was the search of a six-year-old boy by a female TSA screener in Charlotte that left many incredulous. The parent related the following details, details that would become all too frequent in years to come:

En route home through Charlotte, our 6-year-old son was subjected to an aggressive pat down by a female TSA employee. He was pleading for me to help him and I was admonished for trying to comfort him. His genitals area was groped. He walked down to the plane in tears. When the stewardess asked why he was crying, I explained my frustration and I was further admonished for not being more compliant.

(So even the flight attendant got in on the act. Nothing like doing the TSA’s dirty work for them.)

After substantial public and political pressure, the TSA ostensibly amended its policy in mid-November 2010, and TSA spokeswoman Kristin Lee announced: “After a thorough risk assessment and after hearing concerns from parents, we made the decision that a modified pat-down would be used for children 12 years old and under who require extra screening.

The TSA Blog went into great detail to deny that children would be searched to the same degree as adults. A post titled “TSA Myth or Fact” made several pronouncements that in retrospect could be kindly categorized as whoppers:

Fact:  TSA officers are trained to work with parents to ensure a respectful screening process for the entire family, while providing the best possible security for all travelers. Children 12 years old and under who require extra screening will receive a modified pat down.

Fact: Only passengers who alarm a walk through metal detector or AIT machine or opt out of the AIT receive a pat-down.

Fact: (Updated 11/23/10 to show percentage) (Updated 3/30/2011 to include random pat-downs) No. In fact, less than 3% of passengers receive pat-downs. Only passengers who alarm a walk through metal detector or AIT machine or opt out of the AIT receive a pat-down.

While the policy was being changed inside the Washington beltway, the searches of children continued in airports, including searches of a three-year-old, a six-year-old, and a nine-year-old in a wheelchair.

While the TSA claimed to be adjusting its searches of children, these expanded into inexplicable searches of a nine-year-old in February of 2011 as he and his family were leaving an Amtrak station that was nowhere near an airport.

A spate of abusive searches of children in April 2011 included an adolescent boy, a three-year-old girl, and an eight-year-old boy. But it was the video of search of a six-year-old girl in New Orleans that went viral and ended up in a Congressional hearing that may have turned public opinion against the TSA and inflicted the most damage to the agency. In a strategic faux pas, the TSA scrambled to defend its screener, claiming she had “followed procedures,” further infuriating lawmakers and critics.

While the TSA attempted to offset criticism, a more outrageous search of an infant in Kansas City made headlines in May 2011, revealing the level of absurdity that the agency and its supporters had reached.

The searches of children continued through the summer of 2011, and in September TSA Administrator John Pistole instructed screeners to make every effort to screen young children without giving them the new, invasive pat-down. The TSA officially announced that it would stop harassing children under 12, presumably forgetting that the agency had promised the same thing ten months earlier. Perhaps they expected everyone to believe that they actually meant it this time and decided they would allow kids to keep their shoes on as a goodwill gesture.

The honeymoon didn’t last long. The search of a three-year-old in January 2012 was followed by yet another series of child searches that made headlines. These started with a fifth-grader who was groped, and a four-year-old girl who was bullied, screamed at, and surrounded after innocently hugging her grandmother.

The child search reports in April 2012 culminated with a particularly disturbing incident involving a seven-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. The family was initially cleared following a search at the checkpoint, and after arriving at the gate was confronted by the TSA and forced to return to the checkpoint so TSA agents could inspect the child’s crutches. During the incident screeners berated and screamed at the child and parents. The multiple searches resulted in the family’s missing their flight

In December of 2012, in an incident similar to the most recent one, a 12-year-old, wheelchair-bound girl was detained at a checkpoint in Dallas after a screener’s claim that she tested positive for explosives. According to reports, other passengers traversing the checkpoint became vocal upon seeing the sobbing child and began chastising TSA workers. The mother reported that after passengers began speaking up for the child, they were quickly told they were free to go.

This year opened with a blog report of a diabetic child who was searched in Denver after opting out of the scanner to avoid damage to her insulin pump. The TSA had instructed screeners to halt excessive searches of travelers with insulin pumps or supplies following an incident in June 2012, in which a 16-year-old girl had her $10,000 insulin pump destroyed after being forced into using a scanner.

Which brings us to this most recent incident and yet another child traumatized by abusive TSA screeners without providing a shred of benefit in return. It remains to be seen if the publicity from this incident will finally result in improved treatment of children, or if the endless cycle of airport horror stories followed by agency propaganda will persist. Recent history would indicate that the media will be revisiting these kinds of stories for years to come.

(Photo: courtesy of Gateway Pundit)

  • http://www.facebook.com/fang.reaper.9 Fang Reaper

    I feel so much safer flying because of all these children disabled or not being frisked

  • baruchzed

    Child molesters need to experience physical force sometimes to make them get the message. One of these days someone is going to haul off and belt one of these TSA perverts.

    • Hivewhacker

      I’m surprised it hasn’t already happened. I’ve had to stop myself on a couple of occasions…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000025282812 Dee Jaye

    Pure Tyranny that is what it is. The future of the USSA is much worse than Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union combined. The only solution is 1776. The is a bill in congress to mandate military service at the age of 18 and it may go younger into the scout organizations so they can “program” or “brainwash” the youth of out nation to “not question your government”

  • CelticWhisper

    Stories like this reinforce my conviction that I’m doing the right thing by not reproducing. I see it as a cruel act to bring a child into a world with agencies like this. I suppose it’s a sort of bonus that by refusing to have kids, I take away a potential victim from TSA. Can’t molest what doesn’t exist, blue-shirted, goose-stepping, child-raping Nazi pigs.

    • Daisiemae

      I too am very grateful that I have no children to leave behind for these monsters.

  • RonBonner

    Someone should ask Bloviating Bob to comment on this article.

    • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

      You could send it to him, but you know it’s a waste of time.

      “Proper procedures were followed,” “we regret their experience wasn’t what they expected,” blah blah blah.

      • CelticWhisper

        That “man” needs a shock collar that goes off every time he uses passive voice.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705915465 Deborah Newell Tornello

          THANK YOU! I am always pointing out the use of the passive voice to “disappear” either the culpable party (“Mistakes were made”) or the person or entity who’s expected to do something unpleasant or time-consuming without actually giving him or her credit for so doing (“This house needs to be cleaned.” “There’s a lot of paperwork waiting to be done”. “I was out of town, but the problem was handled.”)

          BY WHOM? I always ask. I recommend doing it as often as you can–firmly ask who carried out the action, or who is supposed to.

          “Procedures were followed BY WHOM?”

        • Daisiemae

          Perhaps the same bracelets TSA has in the planning stages for us.

  • FulanoZutano

    “The mother reported that after passengers began speaking up for the child, they were quickly told they were free to go.”

    Civil action! Civil disobedience! That is the only way to stop these abuses. Take back your rights. Forget the corrupt, stinking Congress – they are all bought and paid for by the “security” industry.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002152481201 TestJeff Pierce

      Sorry – this defeats the purpose of security. Terrorists will then use children to smuggle their bombs.

      If we start letting certain groups forego illegal searches and criminal touching, then we are making the ‘security’ ineffective.

      • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

        If I’m reading correctly, Jeff, what you’re saying is that no one, regardless of age, size, background, etc. should be criminally touched and searched, right?

      • Bob

        Jeff the security is already ineffective all around. Airports are wide open to employees and the TSA themselves. Neither of which are screened.

        The body scanners at best have a <50% detection rate. They also have no ability to discern what is on the side of a body. Because of this switching from metal detectors to WBI has actually increased the chances of weapons getting on-board an aircraft. And despite what has been claimed they also have zero ability to detect explosives.

        Pat-down is useless as one can simply stick explosives in a body cavity. It is simply a "feel good" measure. And that is exactly what the DHS is. A "feel good" department that does little but suck off the tax rolls.

        And any rational being would argue that subjecting a child to physical touching form a stranger is nothing less then abuse. Do you want a generation of Americans to be molested by the govt as a feel good measure of safety?

        Would you feel safer on that airplane trip to Florida knowing that a 3 year old was just molested by a govt agent? Yet at the same time none of the ground crew or catering trucks have been checked?

        TSA repose "It would be impractical to screen all airport personnel". Door wide open.

        Boots on the ground and intel is the only way that any terrorist plot has been foiled.

        And no a 3 year old in a wheelchair is not and never will be a terrorist as there are a million other ways to accomplish said goal.

        • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

          The problem with you Bob is that you’re too rational (sarcasm alert for those who don’t get it).

          The “anything for safety” folks aren’t interested in being rational. They like their fear and they like to lick the authoritarian boot. I’m not making that last statement sarcastically; I’m making a serious observation.

          This has been the most eye-opening aspect for me in all the years of trying to fight TSA abuse: that millions of people want to be subjugated. I guess I should’ve learned that about human nature a long time ago, but I didn’t. Now that I have, it’s depressing as hell.

      • FulanoZutano

        TestJeff Pierce:

        Bob has answered better than I can. I will just add that your reply is a perfect example of how paranoia destroys civil liberties. Once you accept that 3-year-old are potential terrorist weapons, you have lost the “War On Terror” because you have become totally terrorised.

        I have said it once and I will say it again (and no doubt many more times in the future): if you are that scared of flying in a plane full of unmolested 3-year-olds (and grannies), then it is you who should be walking.

        • Susan Richart

          FulanoZutano and Bob, I think TestJeff Pierce was being sarcastic. I have never known him to write anything in support of the TSA.

      • Susan Richart

        You are being sarcastic, are you not?

      • CelticWhisper

        I also believe this to be sarcasm. I’ve seen Jeff’s posts on Facebook and other venues and he’s never been a TSA apologist, not even close.

        Either this is sarcasm or Jeff got hacked.

  • Mark Lyon

    I was particularly struck by the screeners at ORD one day as they patted down EVERY SINGLE KID in a group of Chinese students who had been visiting. Welcome to America.

  • Susan Richart

    One comment about the picture: it must be several years old ’cause the screener is wearing a white shirt and the mom is touching the child. Would it be possible to find a newer picture of a blue-shirt. A blue-shirt with mom off to the side looking pained would be even better.

    • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

      Yes, that’s partly why I chose it — to present evidence of what Bill Fisher writes in his post — that TSA harassment of children has been going on for years, since long before the gropes were implemented as standard operating procedure. People need to know this. The fact that John Pistole has made this abusive practice mandatory is all the more sickening. It shows people can be habituated to anything.

      • CelticWhisper

        Maybe we need a side-by-side of a white-uniformed TSA clerk groping someone and a blue-uniformed TSA clerk groping someone, with the caption “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!”

  • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

    That photograph makes me ill.

    Over two years ago, even people who refused to acknowledge what the TSA was doing to adults said that they thought nobody would stand for what it was doing to children. They claimed that it was this — the government-sanctioned abuse of children — that would get people to rise up en masse and oppose the TSA.

    I didn’t believe it. Sadly, I was right.

    I simply cannot understand how parents can allow this to be done to their children.

    • Susan Richart

      I wonder if most parents have any clue that what these children suffer through at the hands of the TSA could stay with them for a long, long time and could very well influence their emotional well-being for years and years to come.

      We also have no idea how many of these children might have been sexually abused in this past or are suffering on-going abuse. As with adults who suffered sexual abuse, being fondled and groped by the TSA serves just to bring back traumatic memories in these children.

      • http://tsanewsblog.com/214/news/history-repeats-itself-with-tsas-strip-search-tactics/ Lisa Simeone

        Susan, even if it didn’t have an influence for years and years to come, it’s wrong. It’s wrong for the TSA to be pawing the bodies of children, and it’s wrong for parents to allow it.