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TSA agents are exempt from sex crime prosecution for feeling childrens' "sensitive" regions in an effort to find improvised explosive devices.  (Source: Corbis)

TSA frisk "little terrorist" Anna Drexel. Note, no child under six has ever participated in or been used in a terrorist attack.  (Source: YouTube)
Big Brother is touching you

Given the current “heightened terror alert” in the U.S., Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) officials find themselves staring at people in the nude via full-body scanners and executing new "enhanced" search pat-downs of peoples' private regions to ensure that our commercial airplanes are safe.

Just how far the U.S. government is willing to invade individuals' privacy in the name of counterterrorism was highlighted by a recent incident at a Kentucky airport.  

A 6-year-old girl named Anna Drexel was just returning home from vacation, with her parents Selena and Todd Drexel.  As they passed through the security screening checkpoint, to her parents' alarm, Anna was pulled aside for a special "modified" search.

During the search, the screener informed the parents and the girl, "[I'm going to] put my hand in the waistband."

She reassured the parents that she would only touch "sensitive" areas with the back of her hand.

The search left the child confused and in tears.  In an interview with ABC's "Good Morning America" program, Selena Drexel said her child "had a very bad feeling that what happened was wrong."

Alarmed by what was unfolding, the parents surreptitiously videotaped the incident on a cell phone, posting it on YouTube [video] as a warning to parents.  The video is now creating quite a stir, much like the infamous don't "touch my junk" screening video

Martin Macpherson, the director of the London-based Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers says that there are no known incidents in which terrorists have use children six and younger in an attack.  

But some in the U.S. government are defending the "modified" search policy in place for children 12 and younger.  They state the policy, which includes reaching inside the child's pants in an attempt to search for possible explosive devices, is clearly stated on the agency's website.

Children and adults are often extensively searched if they decline to go through the scanners, which show nude images of the passenger.

Jennifer Mitchell, co-president of Child Lures Prevention, a Shelburne, Vt., organization that works to prevent crimes against children, also seemed to defend the practice in an interview with the Associated Press.  While she admits the search is "a little invasive", she adds, "This is a hard issue because we have national security on one hand... and children's safety on the other. The only reason it would be allowed is the parents are right there, the clothes are not being removed, the parents are watching to make sure it's done ok."

It is unclear, though exactly how "national security" might hinge on reaching inside childrens' clothes, given that children as young as Anna Drexel have never been used in an attack.

U.S. Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is among a handful of government officials who have expressed outrage at the TSA and other officials' defense of the official involved in the incident.  He states, "This conduct is in clear violation of TSA's explicit policy not to conduct thorough pat-downs on children under the age of 13."

Rep. Chaffetz is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security.  He says he was "personally outraged and disgusted" by the video of the search.

Under Rep. Chaffetz's pressuring, the TSA has agreed to review the search policy for "low-risk populations, such as young passengers."  It said it may opt to "move beyond a one-size fits all system", though it gave no clue about what policies might comprise its new varied child search system or when it might replace the current policies.

In some states a stranger touching or feeling a child's groin/genitalia can be construed as a felony sex crime.  Sex crimes against children often receive stiff sentences, including years in prison.  The TSA has stated it will not pursue any charges or discipline against the agent involved in the search, as the contact was initiated in the interest of preserving national security.



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Government run afoul.
By mdogs444 on 4/14/2011 10:16:18 AM , Rating: 0
Can't blame the TSA workers here...it's coming from the top down. John Pistol and Janet Napolitano should be ashamed of themselves.

They should be profiling and patting down everyone who looks suspicious, including all Muslims. Leave the kids alone.

Perhaps DHS should be concentrating on the influx of illegals crossing our southern border rather than 6 year old kids flying to Disney World with mom and dad.




RE: Government run afoul.
By SunTzu on 4/14/11, Rating: -1
RE: Government run afoul.
By Shane McGlaun (blog) on 4/14/2011 10:31:34 AM , Rating: 4
What I realize is anyone that puts their hands down my 6-year-olds pants is getting knocked the fuck out. The TSA is starting to cause more feelings of fear and insecurity than terrorists. I can just see Osama laughing his ass off at us right now. We need to draw a line somewhere, and this is it.


RE: Government run afoul.
By xrodney on 4/14/2011 11:13:55 AM , Rating: 2
I would do same, plus put TSA and US Gov to International Court for sexual assault on my child.

Seriously US Gov is getting out of hand all in question of national security. Most of explosives can be detected by chemical detectors, most of weapons by metal detectors. As for non metallic weapons they are far to rare to get and cost more then rocket launcher.

Instead of this BS, they should invest money to improve plane systems to prevent hijaking which would have bigger success with no effect on customer comfort.


RE: Government run afoul.
By Sazabi19 on 4/14/2011 12:22:09 PM , Rating: 1
Lol, sexually assaulted? The TSA agent didn't finger the little girl or rub her button, she swipped the back of her hand over it. No matter what people complain about this stuff, if she didn't get a pat down there would be an uproar becuase she went through the scan and someone could see through her clothes. I don't know how people are picked for this and i don't care really, the option is deal with it or travel another way. They could have refused and walked out of the airport, sure they would have lost money and needed a new way home and had luggage issues, but it would have saved their little girl "trauma". There is always another option, funny how they didn't take it though...


RE: Government run afoul.
By thrust2night on 4/14/2011 2:02:23 PM , Rating: 2
"The TSA agent didn't finger the little girl or rub her button, she swipped the back of her hand over it."

Hmm... why don't you try doing that with a 6 years old and we'll see how quickly you get arrested for sexual assault.


RE: Government run afoul.
By Sazabi19 on 4/14/2011 3:04:37 PM , Rating: 2
My job isn't based solely on touching anyone like the TSA's is :) That is like saying you can't be strip searched or patted down at jail. Their job is to keep you there and keep it safe, not to feel you. Everyone here just seems like some weird fanatic about it or something.


RE: Government run afoul.
By Will7272 on 4/14/2011 11:19:51 AM , Rating: 2
I agree totally. If anyone puts their hands in the pants of my daughter, I'd rip them in half.


RE: Government run afoul.
By Occam's Razor on 4/14/2011 10:35:39 AM , Rating: 2
RE: Government run afoul.
By phantom505 on 4/14/11, Rating: 0
RE: Government run afoul.
By Motoman on 4/14/2011 11:15:14 AM , Rating: 2
Then again, ALL of the terrorists that perpetrated the 9/11 attacks were Muslim.


RE: Government run afoul.
By Argon18 on 4/14/11, Rating: 0
RE: Government run afoul.
By ChristopherO on 4/14/2011 11:42:10 AM , Rating: 2
Look, I don't want to start a religious flame war here, but.... When was the last time you traveled? The TSA has a huge board just inside *every* airport security checkpoint. And guess what, of the 30 most wanted, all of them are pictures of Muslim guys from the mid-east. Over the years I've seen the faces change, but they've never displayed any non-male, non-mid-eastern individuals. When they start posting the photos of toddlers I might be worried.

And yes, McVey was screwed up, the bombers were screwed up, anthrax nut jobs, etc. They were usually anti-government wing-nuts who went after government targets exclusively. They were evil, evil people harming innocents, but as far as I can tell they always justified as being government employees. I've never seen widely published threats against private industry.

Then you have the crazy church-shooters, school-shooters, etc. But those idiots wear black trench-coats everywhere and are loaded with weapons. A standard body scanner would see that, plus anyone with a brain would realize something was *abnormal*. Plus for the most part, those crazies don't even have enough money to purchase a ticket for an airport anyway.

Maybe I'll believe your reasoning when you can prove to me that any of these people ever considered targeting expensive civilian infrastructure. Plus, as far as I can remember, no American citizen has ever attempted violence against an American air lines.


RE: Government run afoul.
By The Raven on 4/14/2011 11:45:17 AM , Rating: 3
While I don't agree with this guy, you are turning quite the blind eye to what he IS referring to as opposed to what he is not. As an unsorted mixed up group Islam is responsible for more attacks than any other similarly separated group. Just do a word search and see how many times you find Islam as opposed to any other group.

It doesn't mean that all muslims are bombers, but to say Islam is somehow more less violent than other groups is rediculous when it is clearly the opposite.

I mean look at these lists:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorist_attacks
Look how many of these are in the name of Allah and get back to me.

Now there is a group larger than Islamists, and that is extremists. Of course that includes all religions and political affiliations. That is why we shouldn't just say, "Screen all muslims and we'll be ok."

And also you have to remember that Islamism is in many cases tied to political beliefs (just like Christians how many of them are pro-life, a political stance, and may bomb for that belief). In the 'western world' we have less 'need' for political violence and therefore there will be less Christians (since the west is mostly comprised of them) blowing people up.

So I think what this guy is saying is that since acts of terror are more prevalent in Muslim areas of the world (be they in the name of Allah or for strictly political reasons, like something Tim McVeigh) we should look at muslims. Of course that makes sense statistically, but it doesn't make sense constitutionally ;-)

Now if we could just focus on eliminating racism in the US.
Your muslim vs. white comparison isn't apples to apples and is flat-out racist.


RE: Government run afoul.
By Stepup2themike on 4/14/2011 12:00:16 PM , Rating: 2
LOL- seriously? The instances you mention total less than 200 deaths, spread over a decade. Almost 20 times that number died on 9/11 alone. You are clearly an idoit.


RE: Government run afoul.
By MrBlastman on 4/14/2011 2:10:14 PM , Rating: 2
If you're going to call someone an idiot, at least spell it right. ;)


RE: Government run afoul.
By psenechal on 4/14/2011 12:20:29 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with this theory is how do you identify "all Muslims"? Islam is a religion, it's not a race, ethnicity, or style of clothing. A Muslim could be Chinese, African, or even Caucasian.

I do agree with you that we need to use a little common sense instead of some mathematical calculation on how often to give enhanced screenings. Instead of every n'th passenger, why don't we look at the odds of a 6-year old girl being a terrorist vs. people who actually look suspicious or are traveling under odd circumstances. Why don't we invest in predictive analytics to determine someone's travel history and flag these people before they even make it to the security checkpoint.

And how many "potential" terrorists could have made it through security while they were patting down this 6-year old girl simply because she was the n'th passenger in line?


RE: Government run afoul.
By theapparition on 4/14/2011 2:21:48 PM , Rating: 1
What you are suggesting is profiling.

That is considered such a bad word and not politically correct.

My response is that people need to get over it. Profiling exists because it works. It works remarkable well. Need proof? Israel has never once had a terrorist incident on one of their aircraft. Not one. As the prime target for most middle east terrorists, Israel would be the holy grail of targets. They also have easy access through both proximity and Palestine. Yet have never been successful.

This is because the Israeli government has invested heavily in training their people to profile. We need to wake up and let profiling happen, regardless whom it might needlessly offend.


RE: Government run afoul.
By Jeffk464 on 4/14/2011 3:47:48 PM , Rating: 2
Its called a background check, in the electronic age its pretty quick and easy. Ok I'm not saying that you should only check muslims, but how about checking all muslims that fit the profile and then do random checks for the rest of the flying public. Patting down a 6 year old white girl is about as big a waste of time as patting down some 60 year old Japanese woman. This is Political Correctness out of control. How about a 3 month boycott on flying, I think that would really wake the government. Most airlines are struggling anyways the threat of a three month boycott could really scare the crap out of them and I imagine put a lot of them out of business.


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