The girl’s parents say that federal airport screeners wouldn’t tell them why they were frisking their 6-year-old daughter, whose treatment was captured on a YouTube video that has sparked outrage.
Selena and Todd Drexel said their family went through body scanners last month at the New Orleans airport, and their daughter Anna was selected for a pat-down.
Drexel said on Wednesday that her daughter began to cry after the pat-down and said, “I’m sorry mummy. I don’t know what I did wrong”. Drexel said her daughter has since moved on and is showing no ill effects from the incident.
Drexel and her husband uploaded the video on YouTube, where it generated huge interest. Network morning shows picked up the story, and the pat-down was sharply criticised by congressmen involved in national security issues.
The video shows a TSA agent patting down the child and explaining the procedure to the girl and her parents. The screener says that she will use the back of her hands on sensitive areas and will “put my hand in the waistband”.
She said the family has already changed plans for their next trip and will drive a car. “I want to feel safe when I’m flying, but I don’t want to feel like my rights have been violated,” she said.
The TSA said in a statement that the officer followed proper procedure but that the agency is reviewing its screening policies for “low-risk populations, such as young passengers”.
The agency is exploring ways to “move beyond a one-size fits all system”. TSA screeners are instructed to use a “modified” pat-down for children 12 and younger, according to the agency’s website.
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.
“To say it’s OK for this group to do it but not OK for this other group, many children are going to have a very difficult time differentiating between who is OK and who is not,” she said. “And I believe that this particular pat-down process sets children up to be vulnerable.”
“This is a hard issue because we have national security on one hand and children’s safety on the other,” said Jennifer Mitchell, a child safety advocate and co-president of Child Lures Prevention, a Shelburne, Vt., organization that works to prevent crimes against children.
Martin Macpherson, the director of the London-based Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, said he is not aware of instances when terrorists have used children as young as six in an attack. [via Kansas City, Nine MSN and The Australian]