Citing a “pat-down” by Transportation Security Administration agents that left a 13-year-old girl in tears, the Rutherford Institute is demanding the federal agency revise its airline security procedures to respect the Fourth Amendment rights of passengers.
“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 Rutherford 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.”
The letter was sent Thursday to TSA Administrator David Pekoske.
“Protecting the safety of air travelers should not require sacrificing the emotional well-being of children,” it said. “Airline security measures should also take account for the rights of children and their parents. Unfortunately, the TSA has failed to take steps to adopt security measures that account for the rights of children and their parents. Indeed, the TSA has asserted it may disregard societal norms and requirements of the law when screening airline passengers.
“Yet the TSA’s mission to ‘protect the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce’ must not be pursued at the expense of and without regard to the physical and emotional well-being of those whom TSA security measures are supposed to protect.
“We urge your agency to reevaluate its current protocols and procedures for screening children and revise those procedures to respect the Fourth Amendment right to bodily integrity of all passengers and the right of parents to stand guard over their children and protect them from unwarranted, overtly intimate treatment at the hands of strangers.”
In the case that prompted the letter, Rutherford said surveillance video obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request “shows that the daughter was taken away from the area where her parents were and subjected to a full-body pat-down lasting over two minutes.”
“The pat-down was no different from those that adults would be subjected to: the TSA agent ran her hands over the entirely of the girl’s body, including extremely sensitive areas on her legs and chest. All of those was done despite objections by the girls’ parents, who made it clear to the agents that she had not experienced this kind of physical contact with a stranger and feared it could have a negative psychological impact on her.”
The letter noted there have been other cases. For example, a 13-year-old boy with sensory processing disorder was given a head-to-toe pat-down in Dallas, even though he had passed through the scanner without any alert.
A columnist later wrote of the pat-down of a young boy described it as “molestation” that normally would be reported to authorities.
Encroaching on a child’s privacy in a forced and public manner, the letter explains, “creates great stress and damage.” And it’s worse when the child has special needs.
Further, parental rights are being violated, the letter said.
“It is settled law that a parent has a fundamental constitutional right to protect the physical and emotional welfare of his or her children,” Rutherford told the TSA.
WND reported on the allegations by a Texas family that went through Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on Aug. 20
The agents not only groped the young girl, they “reported the father to police after he objected to the TSA’s treatment of his minor children,” the institute said.
The father, Daniel McAdams, is executive director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
McAdams claimed a TSA agent “struck him in the groin during a pat-down search.”
The family then was “forcibly” separated from a 10-year-old child during the screening.
“On previous trips, McAdams’ wife was allowed to accompany their 10- and 13-year-old daughters through TSA body scanners. On this occasion, however, a TSA agent ordered that the wife could not accompany the daughters, asserting that the wife had opted-out from the scanner and would have to wait to be patted down by a female agent. As the McAdams objected that there had been no opt-out, the younger daughter went through the scanner on her own and strayed out of sight of her parents, causing them great alarm,” the institute said.