Is my 15-year-old son a terrorist?

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. You arrive at the airport to fly home from your family vacation, and something goes wrong — terribly wrong — at the TSA screening area.

It happened to Susan Bruce recently when she flew from Phoenix to Dallas with her husband, teenage son and daughter.

“When we got to security, my son went first in line through the X-ray machine and TSA flagged him for the hand swab test,” she remembers. “While the rest of the family was stuck on the other side of the X-ray machine, my son was pulled aside for supposedly having a positive result for explosives.”

Bruce, who lives in Dallas and is a mathematician by training and a homemaker, is certain it was a misunderstanding. Her son is no terrorist, she says. He’s a clean-cut honor student.

“The air in Phoenix is very dry and we all had put some lotion on our hands that morning — maybe the cause of the result,” she speculates. “Or it may have been fertilizer from the grass he touched. After all, he’s 15.”

But the TSA treated him like Richard Reid’s son.

“All eyes were focused on my son as the rude agents threw accusations at him,” she recalls. “One agent asked him if there was anything sharp in the luggage. His response was, ‘What?’ Keep in mind he is 15, so his Mom packed the luggage. He had no idea what was in each bag.”

The agents were impolite and accusatory. They ordered him to stay away from the luggage while they tested it. He felt as if he’d failed some kind of test.

“He just stood there in shock,” says Bruce.

And that wasn’t the worst of it.

The TSA’s teen problem

The TSA may have figured out what to do with kids under 12 and passengers over 75, allowing those low-risk passengers to go through the screening area without removing their jackets or shoes. But something happens when that 12-year-old turns 13. He or she becomes a high-risk air traveler who’s scanned, prodded, and interrogated at the checkpoint. His only crime is coming of age, and from one day to the next becoming part of the feared “terrorist” demographic.

Bruce’s incident is hardly an isolated one. The TSA reportedly botched the pat-down of a 17-year-old girl in 2010, who also happened to be the niece of a U.S. congressman. During the exam, the girl’s sundress slipped, revealing her breasts in public. An internal investigation released late last year concluded the whole thing was an “unfortunate” accident.

Agents also recently gave another girl such a rigorous once-over that they broke her insulin pump. Savannah Barry claims TSA agents in Salt Lake City were rude and abrupt, even though she tried to warn them that she was wearing the pump. Clearly, the agents thought she was up to no good. Diabetics are such a menace.

Some of the worst stories are the ones that don’t make the news. One concerned mother contacted me a few weeks ago after the entire family flew out of Washington’s Dulles airport. The rest of her family walked through the metal detectors and full-body scanners without incident, but when it was her teenage daughter’s turn, the male screener asked her to back up and walk through again. He said the scanner “needed to get a better look” at her.

Yeah, I bet it did.

Is my son a terrorist?

While most of the incidents that capture the public’s attention involve teenage girls, probably because the cliche of the lecherous male screener preying on an innocent virgin is just too irresistible, the boys may have it worse. Bear in mind that young men do indeed fit the terrorist profile; all of the 9/11 bombers were young men, which means any TSA agent worth his training will be extra vigilant when it comes to anything young and male.

“It took every fiber in my son not to burst into tears,” remembers Bruce. “The agent continued to badger him until they whisked him away for a private pat-down, where they brought my husband to witness them groping him, including his genitals.”

Nearly half an hour after they approached the security screening area in Phoenix, it was all over. The Bruce family had been cleared for takeoff.

“We led our shaken son and sobbing daughter to the gate where boarding was already under way,” she says.

Bruce blames herself for allowing this to happen.

“I’m so upset,” she says. “I’m mad at myself because I feel like I failed my son by not protecting him. But I was totally unprepared for this.”

We are all unprepared for this. My oldest son turns 11 this year, but he’s taller than many 13-year-olds. What will the TSA do to him the next time we go through security? What will they do to your son or daughter?

Do we really have to trade our dignity for security? I don’t think so. The agents who barked orders at the Bruce family, who disrobed the congressman’s niece and broke Barry’s insulin pump would have benefitted from some basic customer-service training. Instead, they’re traumatizing an entire generation of air travelers.

We deserve better.

Does the TSA screen teenage passengers appropriately?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Underwritten by

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at,,, and

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Cavalry Travel Insurance

Cavalry takes the worry of out travel by providing 24/7 access to medical and security professionals combined with the best medical evacuation and security extraction services. Cavalry gets you home safely when you need it most. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

Travelex Insurance Services is a leading travel insurance provider in the United States with over 55 years combined industry expertise of helping people dream, explore and travel with confidence. We offer comprehensive travel insurance plans with optional upgrades allowing travelers to customize the plans to fit their needs. Compare plans, get a quote and buy online at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirHelp

AirHelp is the world’s leading flight delays compensation company, helping passengers apply for compensation following a delayed or canceled flight or when boarding has been denied. It is AirHelp’s mission to fight for passenger rights by holding airlines accountable for flights disruptions that are out of passengers’ control. AirHelp has already helped 5 million people, taking the stress out of applying for compensation and making it as hassle-free as possible for travelers around the world.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Allianz Travel Insurance

The Allianz Travel Insurance company has built its reputation on partnering with agents all around the world to provide comprehensive travel insurance for their clients. Contact Allianz Travel Insurance for a comprehensive list of coverage.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

An independent provider of low cost CDW/LDW insurance for use with rental cars. Up to $100,000 cover with no deductible. Policies available on a per day, per trip or per year basis. Also works with overseas rentals. Try  Insuremyrentalcar.comnow.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by

Since its inception over three decades ago, G1G has continued to revolutionize the travel insurance industry by being the only aggregator to operate a customer portal, placing all of the user's primary needs in one place. We have continued to innovate and disrupt the market by reimagining the way travel insurance can be delivered to the end user in ways no competition can. Simply put, no one knows the market as well as its founders and no one else shares G1G values and mission.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

Arch RoamRight is one of the fastest growing, most-highly rated travel insurance companies in the United States. Travel advisors love working with us, and travelers feel protected with our trip cancellation and travel medical insurance coverage. We also make it easy to file a claim online with our fast, paperless claims website. Learn more about RoamRight travel insurance.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Virtuoso

The leading global network for luxury and experiential travel. This invitation-only organization comprises over 1,000 travel agency locations with 17,500 advisors in over 45 countries, and holds preferred relationships with 1,700 of the world’s finest travel companies. Virtuoso advisors collaborate with their clients to create personalized itineraries featuring exclusive perks, while also providing advice, access, advocacy, and accountability. For more information, visit

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

As a company that is constantly striving to simplify travel insurance, VisitorsCoverage, is on a mission to help travelers make the better decisions about purchasing travel insurance, quickly. VisitorsCoverage has helped millions of travelers globally to buy the suitable travel insurance and explore the world with confidence. Get insurance for your next trip at  VisitorsCoverage. Lowest Price Guaranteed.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by makes it fast and easy to compare and buy travel insurance online from top rated providers. Our unbiased comparison engine allows travelers to read reviews, compare pricing and benefits and buy the right policy with a price guarantee, every time. Compare and buy travel insurance now at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Squaremouth

Squaremouth helps travelers easily and instantly compare travel insurance policies from all major providers. Only companies that meet the strict requirements of Squaremouth’s Zero Complaint Guarantee are available on the website. Compare policies on to save over 70 percent on your next purchase.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

If you’ve been mistreated by the airlines, Travelers United is your voice in Washington. Join the #1 travel advocacy organization working with Congress to improve and protect travelers. Plus, get $400 of annual benefits you can use for travel for only $29/year. Add your voice to ours. Make travel better.  Join today.

Send this to a friend