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Federal Eye
Posted at 01:40 PM ET, 04/13/2011

TSA, Congress vow to review pat-down of 6-year-old girl

Updated 1:40 p.m. ET

The Transportation Security Administration and lawmakers are vowing to review policies regarding airport screening of young children amid an uproar over video of a TSA screener giving an enhanced pat-down to a 6-year-old girl.

The incident, recorded and posted on YouTube by her parents (see above), is “another example of mistreatment of an innocent American at the hands of TSA,” according to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), a leading critic of the security agency’s passenger screening policies.

Chaffetz chairs a House subcommittee responsible for national security issues and he is asking TSA chief John S. Pistole to explain why the agency instructs screeners to so carefully inspect young children.

In his letter Chaffetz said the incident violated TSA’s policy on not conducing pat-down on children under the age of 13.

No such policy exists, according to TSA spokesman Nick Kimball. He said the agency has reviewed the incident and believes the screener “followed proper current screening procedures.”

Agency officials began reviewing last fall whether to move beyond TSA’s current “one-size fits all” passenger screening system, “while maintaining a high level of security,” Kimball said in an e-mail.

Part of the review includes finding ways to “improve the screening experience for low-risk populations, such as younger passengers,” Kimball said. Significant changes could be announced later this year.

Pistole has said he is considering the concept of a “trusted traveler” program that would speed passengers willing to provide detailed personal information in advance through airport security checkpoints.

The child’s mother, Selena Drexel, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” Wednesday that her family was in the New Orleans airport returning to their home in Kentucky when the pat-down occurred. She said there should be different screening procedures for young children.

“We struggle to teach our kids to protect themselves, to say ‘no, it’s not ok to touch me in this way in this area,’” Drexel told ABC. “Yet here we are saying it’s ok for these people” to touch others, she said.

TSA permits passengers and the press to photograph and videotape at airport security checkpoints as long as it doesn’t interfere with the screening process. But photos and video of security monitors used by screeners are prohibited.

Staff writer Ashley Halsey III contributed to this report.

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By  |  01:40 PM ET, 04/13/2011

Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Oversight

 
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