A wheelchair-bound three-year-old in a cast travelling with his family to Disney World in Orlando, Florida got the scare of his life when he was subjected to a thorough invasive pat-down by TSA agents at the O'Hare Airport in Chicago.
The family of two parents, two grandparents and three children, for unknown reasons, fell under suspicion and were isolated for inspection. The officer who searched for explosives swabbed the boy's back, palms and feet and his wheelchair's armrests, according to RT.
The video shows the boy trembling in fear, evidently confused and frightened. He tries reaching out to his parents to hold hands as he was searched. But RT reports the boy's father said officials did not allow him hold his son's hands. He said the family had to pretend everything was OK so the boy wouldn't panic: “I was told I could not touch him or come near him during the process."
The father can be heard on video saying comfortingly as the boy was frisked: "It's OK. It's kind of weird, but it's no big deal. Don't be nervous. It's OK. He's just checking to make sure that we're OK to get on the plane, that's all."
The father who was upset by the procedure said he remained calm for the boy's sake, but he filmed the entire procedure and posted it on YouTube.
The father, according to Toronto Sun, said: "Apparently, there's lots of children in wheelchairs being used to bring down airplanes. It's a brilliant plan when you think about it. PRETEND you are going to Disney, with 3 children, 2 parents, and 2 grandparents...when REALLY you smuggle C4 inside your toddler's cast and wheelchair."
Toronto Sun reports the video of the security guard patting down the three-year-old "terrorist suspect" is re-igniting controversy about TSA's policy of searching children. The controversy was first ignited in May 2011 after photo of agents patting down a baby at the Kansas City Airport was released.
But TSA officials have explained the need to screen children: "TSA has to screen everyone, regardless of age (even babies), before they can go through the security checkpoint in order to ensure the security of all travellers. TSA will not ask travellers to do anything that will separate them from their child or children. TSA specially trains transportation security officers and they understand travellers' concern for their children. TSOs will approach children gently and treat them with respect. If a child becomes uncomfortable or upset, security officers will consult parents about the best way to relieve the child's concern."
According to Daily Mail,the TSA is now allowing background-checked travellers the option of a new fast track "Precheck" screening with less rigorous search. To qualify, a frequent flier must meet undisclosed TSA criteria and pay $100 for a background check and an interview with a Customs Officer. Approved travellers who are in the U.S. Customs and Border Protections "Global Entry" program can also qualify for "Precheck." According to TSA administrator John Pistole, frequent fliers are invited after their histories have been studied and background checks have been conducted.
Daily Mail reports Matt Stegmeir, a platinum-level Delta Air Lines frequent flier who was invited into Precheck, said: "It's a completely different experience than what you're used to. It's really a jarring contrast. It reminds you just how much of a hassle the security procedures in place really are."
According to Pistole, the program allows TSA improve its efficiency in screening unknown passengers. He said: "We can reduce the size of the haystack when we are looking for that one-in-a-billion terrorist."
But TSA is now only working with two airlines, American and Delta, and the program is still in its pilot phase.
Daily Mail reports that Precheck lanes are now in place in nine airports, including Dallas-Fort Worth, New York Kennedy, Los Angeles, Miami, Atlanta, Detroit, Salt Lake City, Las Vega and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
By the end of the year Precheck will be in place in 35 airports and six airlines.