June 23, 2011
With much fanfare this week, TSA head John Pistole announced before the Senate that the agency is changing its policy to stop airport screeners intrusively searching young children. However, we heard almost the exact same announcement last November, yet pat-downs on children have continued regardless.
At a meeting of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee in Washington, Pistole told the members that TSA agents will be instructed to make “repeated efforts” to resolve security screenings without conducting pat downs on children younger than 10 years old.
Pistole added that the policy change was spurred by the emergence of the video of 6-year old Anna Drexel, of Bowling Green, Ky., who was subjected to a full grope down by a TSA agent in early April. As we reported at the time, the girl’s parents were forced to watch on in disbelief after being warned by TSA agents not to make a scene or face trouble.
During the hearing, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul had harsh words for Pistole about the TSA’s procedures:
“This isn’t to say we don’t believe in safety procedures,” Paul said. “But 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.”
Pistole responded by claiming that “terrorists around the world have used children as suicide bombers” and that children must be treated by TSA agents according to “risk based security assessments.”
The Drexel incident represents just one among many others recently where children have been repeatedly touched in intimate areas by TSA agents in the name of security.
In one case, the TSA defended the actions of two of it’s agents who were photographed conducting a full body pat down on an eight-month old baby at Kansas City International Airport, saying they were adhering to procedure.
All of these incidents and more have caused a wave of public resentment directed toward the TSA. Therefore, according to Pistole, influencing the agency to “change” it’s policy.
But hang on one minute here, haven’t we heard this before?
Back in November 2010, in response to a flood of complaints following the introduction of the TSA’s “enhanced” pat-down procedure, which instructed agents to touch around breasts and genitals, Pistole announced that the agency had “eliminated pat-downs for children under 12”.
“We’ve heard the concerns that have been expressed and agree that children under 12 should not receive that pat-down,” Pistole said on NBC’s Today Show.
On November 17, Pistole testified to Congress that “children 12 and under are exempt from the enhanced pat-down”:
If that was true, why the need for this latest announcement? Pistole was flat out lying.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Indeed, the only “change” to the TSA’s policy is that it now says it will “make every effort” to exempt children under 10, where as before it said all children under 12 were unequivocally exempt.
This is why this week’s announcement will ultimately once again mean nothing. Until it is written into law to make TSA grope-downs illegal, there is no safety net against TSA tyranny.
We cannot simply take the word of an agency that has repeatedly lied to the public about its actions over and over again.
The mainstream media, of course, has uniformly failed to bring attention to this fact, instead packing their articles on the issue with talking points about Osama Bin Laden.
Meanwhile in Texas, lawmakers acting to outlaw TSA pat-downs entirely have said that the policy “change” will not affect their efforts in any form.
“That’s a step in the right direction,” said Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, adding, however, that he still plans to go forward with his bill, which is scheduled to be considered by the House on Friday. “This legislation is going to protect people’s dignity, and it’s an effort to protect their freedom to travel.” Simpson said.
In addition, a lawmaker in yet another state, Idaho, has expressed a desire to follow the lead of Texas and introduce legislation to make intrusive TSA searches a felony.
FLASHBACK: No ‘enhanced’ pat-downs for kids, TSA says