TSA Gives Pat Down to 6-Year-Old Girl in New Orleans

Posted Apr 13th 2011 10:00 AMUpdated Apr 14th 2011 11:12 AM

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A new video on YouTube is causing an uproar, as critics question why Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents at the New Orleans airport gave an intense pat-down to a 6-year-old girl.

The video shows a female TSA agent explaining the security procedure to the child's mother and then having the 6-year-old girl spread her arms and legs for the pat-down, which includes "sensitive areas," in the words of the agent.

The child complains and the mom asks if re-scanning might be an option. The TSA agent replies, "no." The agent does try to calm the girl, telling her she has "pretty hair," and appears to conduct the pat-down in a gentle manner.

The incident occurred at Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans last week.

The family in the video is from Kentucky, and the mom, Selena Drexel, tells ABC's "Good Morning America" that they were returning from a vacation when their daughter, Anna, underwent the pat-down. Anna's father, Todd Drexel, says his daughter started to cry afterward.


Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) of Louisiana, questions why the child wasn't taken to a private area and whether the screening was even necessary.

"A 6-year-old child shouldn't be subjected to this kind of treatment in the first place if there's no reason to suspect her or her parents of being criminals," she tells CBS affiliate WWL New Orleans.

TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball tells AOL Travel News the agency "has reviewed the incident and determined that this officer followed proper current screening procedures."

However, he notes the TSA is in the midst of planning changes in line with TSA Administrator John Pistole's call for risk-based security screening.

"As part of this effort TSA has been actively reviewing its screening policies and procedures to streamline and improve the screening experience for low-risk populations, such as younger passengers," the agency says in a statement.

But a congressman is questioning whether the incident seen in the video did in fact violate rules that call for a "modified" pat-down for children 12 and under.

"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. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, says in a statement.

This is not the first time the TSA has been criticized for rigorously screening children at airports and even on trains.




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