TSA Head: Airport Screeners Must Avoid Pat-Downs Of Children
(CNN) -- The Transportation Security Administration is changing its policy on how screeners can search children, the agency's head has said.
TSA Administrator John Pistole announced the change at a Wednesday meeting of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
The change was prompted by outrage over a video-recorded pat-down of a 6-year-old airline passenger at the New Orleans airport on April 5. The video, which was posted on YouTube, shows the girl protesting at first to the search, although she complies quietly while it is under way.
Pistole explained to committee members that a female security screener performed a pat-down search on the 6-year-old girl because the child had moved while passing through an airport body imaging machine. That prevented the device from getting a clear reading that the child was not carrying any banned objects through airport security.
"We have changed the policy to say that there'll be repeated efforts made to resolve that without a pat-down," Pistole told committee members.
The new policy will apply to children 10 years old or younger, Pistole said.
The incident renewed debate over the TSA's security practices, especially their use on such low-risk passengers as young children. A backlash against passenger pat-downs -- an alternative to full-body scans in some locations -- swelled during the holiday travel season last year. Pistole maintained at the time that the agency walks a fine line between privacy concerns and public safety.
However, during the committee meeting, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, grilled Pistole for erring thoughtlessly too far on the side of safety.
"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 suggested a pat-down of a child is not entirely unjustified.
"Unfortunately, we know that terrorists around the world have used children as suicide bombers," Pistole replied.
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