Blog of Rights

Stranger Danger: TSA Frisks Another Little Kid

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 4:05pm

I think most people would agree that little kids shouldn't be subjected to pat-downs at the airport, like little Mikey Hicks was last year. Well, it's happened again.

The TSA's latest victim? Six-year-old Anna Drexel, who was selected for a pat-down after she and her family went through the naked machines in a New Orleans airport last month. That's right: as though the naked machine scan isn't mortifying enough, little Anna got the full body pat-down.

[Anna's mother Serena Drexel] told The Associated Press in an interview on Wednesday that her daughter began to cry after the search and said, “I’m sorry mommy. I don’t know what I did wrong.”

[…][Serena] Drexel said she’s concerned because she and her husband Todd, a Bowling Green doctor, have taught their three daughters to be wary of strangers.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) responded quickly to this horrible story by introducing legislation yesterday (!) that would require parental consent before patting down a little kid. Rep. Chaffetz noted in a statement that TSA broke its own rules by patting down little Anna: “This conduct is in clear violation of TSA’s explicit policy not to conduct thorough pat-downs on children under the age of 13.” *

In fact, in that same statement, Rep. Chaffetz noted that something even worse happened last year:

In 2010, full committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., wrote to [TSA Chairman John Pistole] after the screening of a four year-old disabled boy who was forced to hobble through a metal detector with neither his leg braces, nor his father’s assistance.

Currently pending before the House is another great bill: H.R. 1279: Aircraft Passenger Whole-Body Imaging Limitations Act of 2011. A bipartisan bill, H.R. 1279 strikes a nice balance between airline safety and protecting our privacy. The bill ensures that body scanners would only be used as a secondary screening by passengers that have failed a metal detector. If a passenger does fail the metal detector search, they will be given the option of a pat-down if they are uncomfortable with the scanner.

Sounds reasonable, right? We think so too. Let your Member of Congress know how you feel: tell them to cosponsor H.R. 1279!

UPDATE: The TSA disputes that a policy prohibiting pat-downs for people under 13 exists. Which, um, TSA, that's even worse.

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