The Transportation Security Administration has been involved in conflicts over the way it invades privacy, with its scanning machines and physical pat-downs of air travelers, ever since the agency was created.
So one of the organizations that has fought many of the battles, the Rutherford Institute, has come up with a set of guidelines for parents who know when they approach the screening points with their children.
“No American should be subjected to a virtual strip search or excessive groping of the body, or have their underage children touched intimately by strangers as a matter of course in boarding an airplane when there is no suspicion of wrongdoing,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of the Institute.
“In both word and deed, the TSA operates as if members of the public and their children have no rights and no defense against the agency and its employees even if an agent assaults them, wrongfully detains them, or fabricates criminal charges against them. However, parents do not forfeit their rights when they travel by air with their children.”
In its new freedom resource, “Parents’ Rights to Protect Their Children from TSA Patdowns,” he explained, is advice that neither parents nor their children lose their Fourth Amendment right to privacy when they enter airport screening.
“Additionally, parents have a constitutional right to the custody and care of their children which entitles them to protect their children during screening. According to Rutherford Institute attorneys, current TSA procedures for child screening show indifference to the emotional well-being of children and disregard for the constitutional rights of parents to be directly present during any pat down of a minor in order to the reassurance and comfort a child needs during this intrusive procedure,” the Institute reported.
The lawyers cited multiple instances of the need for security protocols that better respect the right of parents. For example, earlier this year, a Texas family asked The Rutherford Institute to intervene after one of their children suffered emotional trauma in the course of a TSA screening that included a pat-down of the young girl’s body.
In that case, “Surveillance video obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that the daughter [13 years old] was taken away from the area where her parents were and subjected to a full-body pat-down in which the TSA agent ran her hands over the entirety of the girl’s body, including extremely sensitive areas on her legs and chest. All of this was done despite objections by the girl’s parents, who made it clear to the agents that she had not previously experienced this kind of physical contact with a stranger and feared it could have a negative psychological impact upon her,” the Institute reported.
_To determine whether their child will or will not opt-out of scanners that TXS agents direct the child to enter.
_To be advised of the reason their child is being subjected to any enhanced security screening, such as pat-down searches.
_To know what TSA agents intend to do during any enhanced security screening of their child.
_To speak with their child before they are subjected to a pat-down or other enhanced security measures and let the child know what to expect and offer reassurance.
_To alert TSA agents to any physical or emotional condition of the child that makes the child more vulnerable to harm as a result of the enhanced security screening.
_To request that any pat-down search of their child be conducted in a private area out of public view.
_To be present with their child during a pat-down search or other enhanced security screening in order to provide comfort and support for their child.