Should the TSA pat down kids?

If you haven’t seen this video yet, you should. This is six-year-old Anna Drexel getting a pat-down in New Orleans earlier this month. The TSA is taking a lot of heat for the rather thorough screening of this young lady.

Alright, maybe TSA Administrator John Pistole’s reaction was a little inappropriate, calling the screener to basically congratulate her on a job well done.

And maybe the TSA’s overall response was somewhat predictable: Defend something that, for many parents, is indefensible, and then admit that it’s wrong — although not in so many words.

Right or wrong, we are really left with one question: Is it appropriate to pat down children, who pose virtually no terrorist risk?

The Anna Drexel video looks wrong, from the perspective of this parent. So, so wrong.

But I can also see the TSA’s perspective. If you exempt children from aggressive screening, then where do you draw the line? At age 12? At 18?

Who else gets a pass? People in wheelchairs? On crutches? Passengers over 65?

It’s a slippery slope.

So if TSA moves to a more “risk-based” system (read: profiling) then who gets profiled and who doesn’t?

It’s an important question raised by an inept federal agency, and the answer could determine how safe air travel is in the future.

What do you think?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at

  • Jon

    I think terrorist are out to kill… end of story and they are terrorist because they do not follow rules and logic. If we exempt for whatever reason we are putting ourselves at risk. As long as we are willing to assume the risk, create exemptions.

  • Everyone tells me that ‘the terrorists’ [whomever they are – as is there is a single block of terrorists out there] have used children in their attacks before . . . can anyone prove that conclusion? I am talking innocent kids who were not willing accomplices in the perspective of being brainwashed to voluntarily do what they did? Not VC in a 40 year old war that has nothing to do with the mindset of an islamist – since thats the risk now. Not guerilla fighters in an actual war zone.

    The real risk here is when they stopped screening in detail flight crew- while it makes sense facially that flight crew would not be a risk – “Captain Over, you will carry this in your flight bag or you wife and 3 kids will be tortured,” is not that farfetched a risk . . . .

  • Blnite

    Chris: I think that your writing BEFORE the so-called “POLL” is an attempt to slant the results.

    If you had put the poll at the END of the article, AFTER your quite correct copy about how the whole thing is a a “slippery slope”, I’m pretty sure you’d have different results. But then you’d not have the “data” that backs up your pre-concieved ideas about the TSA, and Security in the first place.

    ( and as evidence of that bias, just look down a short distance below to the first title of your posts:” Myth or Fact ? TSA just can’t seem to get it straight”)

    In the Military ( and else where) there is a VERY valuable phrase:

    ” If you bring me a problem, Bring me an answer ”

    While NOT being anywhere near a sympathizer or fellow traveler with how Janet runs her Agency, I have yet to see anyone ( including you) come up with a series of better ideas that are as workable as what we have now)

    (and please! do NOT mention how secuity is run in Israel..that’s like comparing an un-armed London Bobbie, with a Beat Cop In NYC !)

    D Ob

  • Binite writes: “While NOT being anywhere near a sympathizer or fellow traveler with how Janet runs her Agency, I have yet to see anyone ( including you) come up with a series of better ideas that are as workable as what we have now)”

    Oh, for god’s sake, we’ve answered this question so many times it’s tedious. “What we have now” was implemented just last year. 2010. The scanners and sexual assaults were implemented in 2010. We didn’t have bombs going off on airplanes before then, in all the years after 9/11, on 9/11, or in all the years leading up to 9/11! We had Lockerbie in 1988, thanks to a bomb planted in the cargo, not in somebody’s pocket or underwear or diaper or colostomy bag. Unscreened cargo is still the order of the day. Yet we’re paying billions for TSA goons to grope us, all so people can pretend they’re getting “security.”

    I repeat — we didn’t have people setting off bombs on airplanes when we weren’t being groped. So why do you think we have to be groped now? And why stop at external groping? Why not do body-cavity searches, too? The security cheerleaders never answer this. Just like they never answer what to do about a bomb going off in arrivals/departures concourse à la Domodedovo, or in a mall, or at a stadium? Why shouldn’t we get stripped and groped on the highway leading up to the airport? Or anywhere else for that matter? After all, you want To Keep Us Safe, don’t you? Gotta be safe from The Terrorists. Because The Terrorists Are Hiding Around Every Corner!

    The hysteria and paranoia in this country are embarrassing. So many Americans aren’t free citizens; they’re submissive herd animals. Critical thinking? Why employ that when you can just submit to fear mongering? Our overlords scream “Terrorists!” and the sheeple fall right into line. If the Brits had behaved like this during the Blitz, they never would’ve gotten through it.

  • LarryB

    The TSA should keep this up. This way they’ll generate sufficient public outrage that perhaps we’ll get effective security instead of security theater.

  • Mikey


  • I thought it would be a quick pat, but that was ridiculous. Really? What can a six year old fit into her already tight waist band (she wasn’t wearing baggy clothes)? And she wasn’t wearing a bra so why touch that area? Insane…okay, pat down kids so we do not exclude anyone but does it have to be so thorough? And fine set limits but state them clearly. I can understand if it is policy to do so but don’t catch us off guard.

  • Plumer23

    Not sure how much I agree with this guy, but Steve Beckow wrote an interesting piece called: “America’s Outrage Over TSA Naked Body Scanners Was Right-Wing PR to Prevent Workers from Unionizing”.

    That said, I still think there should be some “common sense” used by TSA not to “enhanced pat down” a small child. Maybe they should draw a line on the backscatter machine that says, “you must be this tall to be patted down.”

  • Emily

    Great!  Don’t fly! I would rather have my four children go through a pat down than have all of us go down in flames! Stay home!

  • PingEcho728

    I think it is entirely inappropriate to pat down children. Parents try to teach their children that it is wrong for adults to touch them, especially in their private parts, and then something like this is allowed by an adult. Why shouldn’t they profile? With the exception of a few like Timothy McVeigh all other terrorists in the 20th Century have been Muslim. We should all be very afraid of TSA and other federal Benjamin Franklin said “those who trade liberty for security do not deserve nor shall they receive either.”. We lost the war on terror the moment we surrendered our freedoms and became this paranoid of our fellow Americans. I would never willingly fly again until TSA is abolished. Our biggest threat is not the terrorists but our own federal government.

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