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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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By Motoman on 4/14/2011 11:13:26 AM , Rating: 2 do realize that the TSA isn't affected by, or funded by, air travel tickets, right?

Your argument is retarded.

The TSA is one of our very greatest national shames, and is totally under control by elected officials...buying or not buying air travel has no effect on the existence of the TSA.

By AntiM on 4/14/2011 11:35:15 AM , Rating: 5
Actually, if people refuse to fly because of TSA tactics, you can bet that the airlines will use their lobby to force changes.

By kattanna on 4/14/2011 11:53:12 AM , Rating: 2
while i want to agree with you, i do, its also telling how not to long ago the loophole of airports having the ability to opt out of TSA screening and use their own has been removed.

TSA screening is now 100% mandatory.

heck they are even expanding it to be including train stations and other forms of public transport.

ARLINGTON, Va. — Protecting riders on mass-transit systems from terrorist attacks will be as high a priority as ensuring safe air travel, the new head of the Transportation Security Administration promises.

By Sazabi19 on 4/14/11, Rating: -1
By Motoman on 4/14/2011 12:20:42 PM , Rating: 3
...and a warrantless search and/or invasion of privacy and/or sexual assault is still illegal. You're the idiot.

By Sazabi19 on 4/14/11, Rating: -1
By MrBlastman on 4/14/2011 1:09:46 PM , Rating: 4
You're the only fool here. You're the fool who is helping to spread this sort of "fear based society."

Yes, we should all be scared. We should all submit to our Government's will. The Government knows best. They are our keepers. They will keep us physically safe and keep us from hurting ourselves by taking our guns, taking our knives and taking our stones. They will keep us mentally safe by providing us with the medication we need to enhance our minds. They will also keep us intellectually safe by removing from us all books and information that could potentially hurt our thoughts and providing for us only what we need to know.

Yes, the Government is all knowing, wise and looks out for our best interests. Hail the Government. Hail our sworn guardians and protectors!

Somehow, I can actually see you buying into this along with millions of other people.

The Terrorists have won.

By Sazabi19 on 4/14/2011 3:02:28 PM , Rating: 1
Lol I'm all for less govt, I'm just saying people need to quit moaning about this. This is the way it is right now, take another form of travel if you don't like it. I myself own more firearms than most people have in their house collectively, and no, I did not vote for this president. I am all for the TSA going away, but right now people need to quit being stupid about it, trying to make something out of this that is is not (saying its some form of molestation or sexual assault) is only going to hurt our cause.

By MrBlastman on 4/14/2011 3:15:23 PM , Rating: 2
Well, okay, you're right about one thing--saying it is a form of molestation is definitely the wrong approach. It isn't and I even consider it ridiculous if people call it that. I think it is wrong to search a child but that's about as far as I go.

As for firearms, I'm right there with you. I don't need no expect the Government to protect me, at all. In fact, a friend of mine is a Police Officer and even he says, "The Police are not here to protect you, they are here to show up after a crime occurs and to pick up the pieces."

I refuse, however, to stay quiet about the absurdity of the TSA. The only way things are fixed is by making them known first and then secondly, taking action.

By robinthakur on 4/15/2011 7:15:04 AM , Rating: 3
I would say firstly that as somebody from the UK with an external view it is deeply ironic that the US, a country so ill at ease with nudity, sex and so particularly phobic about child-molestation is now allowing this to happen to their own citizens.

It is plainly LUDICROUS that such an invasive procedure is used against the innocent majority. It's not like this type of event was difficult to foresee either when the policy started: I recall reading on here "What happens when one of the TSA pat down my kid" etc.

It's a classic case of a lack of empathy towards other people by the people that come up with these rules. I wonder how many of them get frisked in such a fashion? If we saw Hillary Clinton on TV with a TSA member putting their hands "palm side down...inside her waistband" it might reassure people that this is a universal measure, but we don't because it would never happen.

Instead, people are expected to endure this behaviour which most are taught to regard as molestation, plain and simple. There is also the uncomfortable truth that this kind of search is only really valid against people having materials strapped to the outside of their bodies and that suspicious people should be identified long before they buy a ticket and set foot in the airport.

They need to profile intelligently regardless of PC notions, when a passenger could be endangering the lives of hundreds of people on an aircraft, this can and should take precedence over civil liberties. They need to have body language experts, lie detectors, ask pertinant questions, deploy bomb-sniffing dogs (which would be FAR more effective and be a big deterrant to potential bombers), body scanners, but at the end of the day if somebody has a bomb inside them, there is very little you can do if they have gotten to that point in the security check or actually boarded the flight without actively driving people away from flight en masse with body cavity searches.

The point I disagee with is the person saying that no child under 6 has ever been involved in a terrorist incident, therefore they are no risk. They are low risk, but they are a weak point which is likely to get exploited in the future if our enemies consider it to be a chink in the armour just like the cargo weakness was focussed on. The enemy's objective is to create terror and a state of constant fear, and they certainly appear to be able to do this with very little investment on their part, while the US and its allies spend billions...

By kerpwnt on 4/14/2011 2:10:25 PM , Rating: 1
They would be lucky if they were allowed to walk out. I've seen videos of people being threatened with jail for trying to leave the airport after being selected for "enhanced" search.

By FaaR on 4/14/11, Rating: 0
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