Video: TSA body-searches a three-year-old girl

posted at 4:30 pm on November 14, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

I fly on a fairly regular basis, and usually have no trouble at all going through security at the airports. Even when I’ve been flagged for closer inspection occasionally, TSA agents have always been professional and even friendly about it. That’s probably because I’m old enough to understand the issues involved, and I deliberately get to the airport early enough not to stress about delays at security. But what happens when a three-year-old girl gets upset at having to give up her teddy bear and TSA then flags her for closer inspection? This (h/t Katy W):

Note: This video originally aired in January 2009.

I’m sure TSA must be really happy to have discovered that Daddy works as a television reporter.

We can’t know for certain that terrorists wouldn’t use a child as a mule to get explosives or other weapons through airport security, of course. In fact, we’ve seen al-Qaeda use children and the mentally impaired as “suicide” bombers in Iraq, so we know they have no scruples in doing so. Allahpundit noted three days ago that those who complain about those procedures now would have a very different take on the matter if a plane suddenly exploded in mid-air. However, wouldn’t that require the parents of the child (or those posing as parents) to be the actual terrorists? Shouldn’t TSA have taken the whole family aside and questioned Mom and Dad first to see if they got a hint of some ulterior motive?

This points out yet again how the American approach to flight security misses the point, thanks to an “everyone must suffer equally” approach. The Israelis have not had an incident in decades, thanks to a much more comprehensive but subtle approach that looks for actual clues to danger, rather than using a random-sample method. The Wall Street Journal reported on this almost a year ago, shortly after the Christmas Day terrorist attack attempt on a Northwest flight from Amsterdam:

If we’re mugging random three-year-olds to provide security to air travel, I’d say we need to rethink our approach. And if we continue along this path, is it unreasonable to ask that TSA provide some training on how to conduct a body search on a three-year-old without terrifying children in this manner?

Finally, Minnesota Majority presents a montage of images and video from TSA inspections, along with a heavy dose of Barack Obama and Janet Napolitano, set to The Who’s “See Me, Feel Me” from their rock opera Tommy.  This problem actually predates the Obama administration, but they’ve been in charge for almost two years and they seem to be reinforcing the problem rather than solving it.


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This is not a constitutional case. Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to an administrative search – to which one agrees when purchasing a ticket to voluntarily board a commercial aircraft.

To claim such is to compare a TSA search with stopping you on the street with no probable cause to ask for ID or to search you randomly.

RDuke on November 15, 2010 at 2:03 PM

I think the TSA employee screening process was handled on “To Catch a Predator” dateline specials.

lorien1973 on November 15, 2010 at 2:04 PM

I have no problem with metal detectors, and having to put my coins and keys into a bin so TSA inspectors can see that they’re harmless.

But if trying to stop the one nutjob that hides a bomb in his nuts means groping nuns and three-year-old girls in a busy airport, how about using bomb-sniffing DOGS? Let’s face it, most people’s large pet dogs routinely smell people’s privates anyway–it’s their way of figuring out the person’s gender, and most people put up with it, after all, it’s only a dog!

Dogs trained to detect explosives probably wouldn’t take a second sniff at a three-year-old or a nun (or any other traveler without a bomb) but would probably go “nuts” over a Muslim jock-bomber. What would the terrorists do then, accuse the DOG of religious profiling?

Then again, don’t let Michael Vick work for the TSA…

Steve Z on November 15, 2010 at 3:11 PM

The first video isn’t working. Stupid Tribune.

jawkneemusic on November 15, 2010 at 3:34 PM

Umm, doesn’t El Al provide security at its terminals throughout the world? Or do they assume that all people flying INTO Israel are safe?

hawksruleva on November 15, 2010 at 10:32 AM

Yes, it does. There are, I believe, between 60 and 70 airports world-wide from which El Al flights originate. And the screening is done at the ticket counter since El Al has no control over airport security measures not within Israeli jurisdiction. But, this brings up another good point: Our problems since 9-11 have been with people on flights originating outside the US. Wouldn’t you want the passengers on those flights scrutinized (profiled) as, if not more, closely as the passengers climbing on board here at home? How many trained profilers do you suppose that would require?

SukieTawdry on November 15, 2010 at 3:34 PM

Am I sick..Im dreaming of Nancy Pelosi in that full body scanner. Does it permeate Botoxus Fungi?

malkinmania on November 15, 2010 at 4:12 PM

The problem with using the Israeli approach here is that most TSA rent a cops are too damn stupid to make intellegent assessments of risk. To be blunt.

TSA is government at its absolute worst, feeling up 3 year olds rather than offend Muslim pressure groups. Its a disaster and it should be scrapped and defunded. No more airport rentacops. Start over with highly trained, plain clothes personnel profiling the hell out of the airport terminals. And put armed marshalls on more flights.

Tolerance of TSA scan and grope is for me a marker for American passiveness. When Americans stand up and demand that TSA be dismantled in favor of a profiling approach, I’ll know they are finally serious about taking their country, and their lives, back. But I’m not holding my breath.

james23 on November 15, 2010 at 10:08 AM

Yes, well, when DHS and TSA were established, we were told the airport security force would be well-paid and highly professional drawing heavily from former military and law enforcement personnel. That would mean, I concluded, that it would be largely male and largely white and would happen only if TSA were entirely separate from the civil service system with its self-imposed “obligations” to our minority and female populations and its many job security guarantees. As is usual with government, the theory was one thing and the practice quite another.

How many “highly trained, plain clothes personnel profiling the hell out of the airport terminals” do you suppose we’ll need? How much do you think it would all cost? And how do you overcome the civil service problem (recall how Democrats howled about the mere prohibition of union representation)?

And once you’ve solved those problems, do you honestly think the kind of profiling required will pass muster in this most politically correct of nations? (Does the brouhaha over the Arizona immigration law give you a clue?)

When it comes to solving these problems, we need to stay in the arena of the feasible. Instituting Israeli-type security measures here in the US is nothing more than a pipe dream.

SukieTawdry on November 15, 2010 at 4:23 PM

SukieTawdry on November 14, 2010 at 9:39 PM
You have 45x the population of Israel.

ProfessorMiao on November 14, 2010 at 9:48 PM

Indeed we do. And here in the US our average IQ is said to be between 90 and 110 (and in actuality is probably lower than that now). It’s not just a matter of numbers; it’s a matter of having sufficient numbers available and capable of doing the job at hand (and having the resources to pay them) especially given how our civil service system works. (BTW, I don’t know what the range of average IQ is in Israel, but I’m willing to bet it’s significantly higher than ours.)

SukieTawdry on November 15, 2010 at 4:43 PM

SukieTawdry on November 14, 2010 at 9:39 PM

This excuse is lame and will always be. Nothing is ever all or nothing. Everything is a process. But an outright rejection of this process means it will never be tried or modified to our needs. Just because you don’t know how we get from here to there is not proof that it will not work.

NotCoach on November 14, 2010 at 10:03 PM

It’s not offered as an “excuse” and it’s hardly lame. We don’t get from “here to there” without complete overhauls of our civil service system and a society now fueled largely by its enormous, and politically powerful, grievance apparatus. You see either of those things happening any time soon?

But, you tell me. Lay it out for me, the road map from “here to there.” What would this “modified” Israeli system look like? And, please, remember to try and stay within the realm of the feasible.

SukieTawdry on November 15, 2010 at 5:01 PM

But, you tell me. Lay it out for me, the road map from “here to there.” What would this “modified” Israeli system look like? And, please, remember to try and stay within the realm of the feasible.

SukieTawdry on November 15, 2010 at 5:01 PM

If the realm of the feasible includes fondling thousands of passengers a day, we’ve got some leeway.

How about this. Reduce the staff size of the TSA by 75%, and use the same money to hire a small number of highly-qualified staff?

On any given shift, you’d have 2 TSA officers. One uniformed, one plainclothes. They would both spend their time talking to passengers. If necessary, the uniformed officer could use a nearby room to perform patdowns or wand searches of people requiring further investigation.

That’s it. Ta-daaa!

hawksruleva on November 15, 2010 at 5:08 PM

Yes, well, when DHS and TSA were established, we were told the airport security force would be well-paid and highly professional drawing heavily from former military and law enforcement personnel. That would mean, I concluded, that it would be largely male and largely white and would happen only if TSA were entirely separate from the civil service system with its self-imposed “obligations” to our minority and female populations and its many job security guarantees.

SukieTawdry on November 15, 2010 at 4:23 PM

Yeah, because the military is only older white men. Army recruits are less likely to be white than the U.S. population as a whole. So your assumption is incorrect.

hawksruleva on November 15, 2010 at 5:13 PM

This is not a constitutional case. Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply to an administrative search – to which one agrees when purchasing a ticket to voluntarily board a commercial aircraft.

RDuke on November 15, 2010 at 2:03 PM

But if you choose not to be searched, and choose not to board the plane, you may be subject to a $10,000 fine. How is that right?

And I love how we just “voluntarily” waive our Constitutional protections. Oh, it’s an administrative search, so it’s ok. What’s the difference between the approach a police officer takes at a DUI stop and the approach he takes during a traffic stop? One is subject to Constitutional limits, the other isn’t.

hawksruleva on November 15, 2010 at 5:17 PM

But if you choose not to be searched, and choose not to board the plane, you may be subject to a $10,000 fine. How is that right?

And I love how we just “voluntarily” waive our Constitutional protections. Oh, it’s an administrative search, so it’s ok. What’s the difference between the approach a police officer takes at a DUI stop and the approach he takes during a traffic stop? One is subject to Constitutional limits, the other isn’t.

hawksruleva on November 15, 2010 at 5:17 PM

Depends on which type of DUI stop you’re talking about. It’s an administrative search when police set up a fixed roadblock and stop each car for possible DUIs. It’s not an administrative search where the police single out one car for a DUI stop.

Jimbo3 on November 15, 2010 at 5:19 PM

The terrorists have won.

The US government is more concerned with not offending Muslims than it is with engaging in pedophilia, groping, sexual molestation, radiating pilots, crew, and passengers, virtual strip searches and nude imagery, all offensive and objectionable to the millions upon millions of passengers who are no threat whatsoever to anyone, yet are not considered with the same level of respect and concern as the government extends to Muslims.

William2006 on November 15, 2010 at 7:52 PM

But if you choose not to be searched, and choose not to board the plane, you may be subject to a $10,000 fine. How is that right?

Jimbo3 on November 15, 2010 at 5:19 PM

Jimbo3,

It isn’t right.

If you arrive at the airport and are accosted by government goons, and they are demanding that you either allow them to radiate you and display your naked body via their imaging machinese, a virtual strip search and pornography ring, or you subject yourself to being fondled over your entire body, including your penis, testicles, crotch, and anal area for males, and your vulva, anal area, and breasts if you are a female, or if you are subjected to standing by, helpless, while your baby, toddler, pre-teen or teenaged daughter or son is being molested by strangers wearing government uniforms, the government persons caress your child’s or wife’s private parts, after you taught your children that such touching is off limits, then there is no reason or justification for fining you if you decide to forgo traveling, opt for leaving the airport, yet are fined $10,000 for doing so, it is wrong.

Forcing parents to stand by while their child is being molested is traumatic for the child and the parent, and it does nothing to ensure safety and security for the flight.

What will they do to Muslims? Will women in Burkhas, etc., get a pass on this?

Just wait until one Muslim complains that she was groped, or that her head cloth was compromised, or that he was offended or felt abused and targeted!

So, how can it be right to fine a person who, once given the choice of being molested or radiated and their pornographic image viewed by strangers, turns around and refuses to undergo the violation of his person, and accepts that he will not fly as a result?

How can it be “right” to fine or imprison a person who decides to remove his family from the airport rather than subject his child or wife or daughter or son to such violations?

This has become an abomination, all in the false pretense of “security!”

Again, the Muslim Terrorists have won, in that this is happening to most of the flying public, most of whom are not a threat, while Muslims have and do meet with US government officials, including TSA, Homeland Security, FBI, etc,. and who are assured that their concerns will be considered and that pains are taken not to offend them, whie the rest of us, who are not of the profile of a Muslim terrorist, and there still IS such a profile, are inconvenienced, abused, and violated.

William2006 on November 15, 2010 at 8:11 PM

Indeed we do. And here in the US our average IQ is said to be between 90 and 110 (and in actuality is probably lower than that now). It’s not just a matter of numbers; it’s a matter of having sufficient numbers available and capable of doing the job at hand (and having the resources to pay them) especially given how our civil service system works. (BTW, I don’t know what the range of average IQ is in Israel, but I’m willing to bet it’s significantly higher than ours.)

SukieTawdry on November 15, 2010 at 4:43 PM

SukieTawdry,

Israel has the highest percentage per its population, of citizens with advanced degrees, graduate degrees, PhDs, and degrees in the sciences, mathematics, engineering, etc,. of any nation on earth.

Asians-Orientals tend to outperform everyone here, Caucasians, Blacks, Hispanics, etc., (so much for “racially biased exams, SAT scores, etc. If they are so raciall biased then blacks and Hispanics would outperform Asians-Orientals), in scholastic achievement, college entrance to graduation rates, better credit scores, better job history, and on and on. Due to the higher IQ and achievement of Asian-Oriental citizens here in the USA the IQ is higher on average than it would be without them.

Imagine how low it would be with our Asian-Oriental citizens?

In the USA, Jews, as a group, do outperform others as well, so, we can see that Asians-Orientals and Jews as groups outperform and out achieve the rest of the population, and they do so by hard work, and smart work.

When groups believe they are entitled and are brainwashed into sitting on their laurels and waiting for goodies from the government, they decline into the level of under achievers.

It would be nice if schools and entertainers would actually present the evidence of blacks and Hispanics in positions of prosperity and authority, rather than brainwashing them, poisoning their minds, into believing that without the Government running the plantation, they have nothing.

So many blacks have been CEOs, Presidents, and heads of multimillion dollar businesses, and head of amazing projects, such as American Express, US Air, Sears and Roebuck (Roebuck was black), IBM’s Big Blue high tech computer project, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Governors, Mayors, Generals, Security Secretary, Secretary of State, President of the USA, etc.

Every black child, (Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian child, etc.) should be spared the radist nonsense pumped into their heads by leftist, democrat, media, racist black “Leaders,” etc. They should appreciate the achievements of everyone, be they Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian-Oriental, Black, etc., and black achievers should be standard fare so as to saturate their minds with enough evidence to show that anyone who claims that Whitey, or the government, is keeping them down, or they cannot make it in America is lying.

William2006 on November 15, 2010 at 8:24 PM

I can’t bare to watch the video. That child will never fly again. Has the govt lost all sanity (yes, the a rhetorical questions, as we all know the answer).

Must we wait for the next terrorist strike so we can all see how this absurdist kabuki theater reaction by TSA will be escalated. What’s left beyond “Code Red”? Code Redder? I for one, will not fly. May the airlines all be damned for sitting idly by while their customers are assaulted by armed thugs.

Even sadder is that our Administration completely ignores this agency gone berserk. Damn them too.

Tazed and Confused on November 15, 2010 at 11:19 PM

SukieTawdry on November 15, 2010 at 5:01 PM

I am not an expert in airport security. I don’t know how exactly we get there. But no one has raised a plausible excuse for why we can’t. Saying it’s too hard is a cop out. Are you aware of anyone who knows this kind of stuff actually taking the time to analyze the feasibility of a modified Israeli system? I’m not.

The reality is that you start small and learn through growing pains how to implement such a system. We also have the luxury of knowledgeable people willing to offer a helping hand.

And growing pains does not mean exploding airliners. Growing pains means learning how to best adapt and streamline such a system for our use.

NotCoach on November 16, 2010 at 12:41 AM

Dogs trained to detect explosives probably wouldn’t take a second sniff at a three-year-old or a nun (or any other traveler without a bomb) but would probably go “nuts” over a Muslim jock-bomber. What would the terrorists do then, accuse the DOG of religious profiling?

Then again, don’t let Michael Vick work for the TSA…

Steve Z on November 15, 2010 at 3:11 PM

Muslims can easily bypass this precaution since dogs are deemed unclean in islam. Any ACLU lawyer can get this exemption.

Personally, I’m sick of all the contortionists in our law and government that bend over backwards to cowtow to any and all special interest groups. Especially one that has declared war on us.

vapig on November 16, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Muslims can easily bypass this precaution since dogs are deemed unclean in islam. Any ACLU lawyer can get this exemption.

Personally, I’m sick of all the contortionists in our law and government that bend over backwards to cowtow to any and all special interest groups. Especially one that has declared war on us.

vapig on November 16, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Sounds to me like we need to get the tea party proclaimed a “church” so we can all claim religious exemption from this government tomfoolery.

..Or we can start the “Church of Freedom” where dogs might be OK, but the government is “unclean”!!!

landlines on November 16, 2010 at 3:20 PM

Big Sis and her boss are morons. God willing we can last two more years. And these TSA robots can join the ranks of the unemployed.

ultracon on November 16, 2010 at 3:25 PM

As much as it hurts to watch a distressed three year old searched, after seeing the incredibly barbaric things drug smugglers have done to infants and considering the stakes, I’m not so sure this is way wrong.

Pretty interesting though, its illegal as hell to profile like the Israelis do every minute of the day but its fine dandy to touch your junk?

Speakup on November 16, 2010 at 11:28 PM

As much as it hurts to watch a distressed three year old searched, after seeing the incredibly barbaric things drug smugglers have done to infants and considering the stakes, I’m not so sure this is way wrong.

Speakup on November 16, 2010 at 11:28 PM

So this may be right? Patting down a kid is fine and we should do this?

How about the new policy? Run your hand up the thigh until. you “meet resistance”. I guess we shouldn’t teach kids about “bad touch” now we should teach them how to be calm when being groped by strangers? Are we still good with this plan?

Oh, and what if they had the kids eat the drugs or explosives? Or have them in a body cavity? Is random cavity search for little Suzie going to be next? Where exactly do you draw the line… or do you draw it at all?

Sure it’s invasive, but terrorists and drug dealers are bad people, so we need to do a full cavity search of your 5 year old daughter…

That’ll cause a LOT of new arrests… mostly the parents of the children you’re sexually assaulting, but hey arrest numbers are good right?

gekkobear on November 17, 2010 at 1:25 PM

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