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article imageDoes this 4-year-old girl look like terrorist? TSA says yes

By Yukio Strachan     Apr 25, 2012 in Travel
A four-year-old girl now has nightmares about being kidnapped after her mother said Transportation Security Administration officers humiliated her for hugging her grandmother while at security check point.
The girl's mother, Michelle Brademeyer told The Eagle news that Transportation Security Administration officers at Wichita’s airport treated her 4-year-old daughter, Isabella, like a terrorist.
For its part, the TSA says its officers did no such thing. In fact, they followed proper procedures, they said.
In an interview with The Eagle on Tuesday, Brademeyer said she is telling her story, which has drawn attention from overseas media after she wrote about it on her Facebook page, “because other kids shouldn’t be treated like this.”
In a detailed e-mail and in the interview, the 27-year-old said it happened like this: She, her 4-year-old daughter, Isabella, and her 6-year-old son, Oliver, were in the Wichita airport, headed back to Montana after her brother’s wedding at Exploration Place.
The children’s maternal grandmother was taking the same flight on her way back to California. The children went through security screening with no problem, but their grandmother set off the alarm. Officers asked the grandmother to sit to the side and wait for a pat-down.
When Isabella saw her grandmother she “excitedly ran over to give her a hug, as children often do,” Brademeyer wrote on her Facebook page. Their contact lasted no longer than a few seconds, she said.
Daughter was concealing a weapon
But to the transportation security officers present, more than an embrace took place.
It was implied, several times, that my mother, in their brief two-second embrace, had "passed a handgun to my daughter.”
But there was a reason TSA officials felt this way.
She said one agent repeatedly said she had previously "seen a gun in a teddy bear," and seemed utterly convinced that her daughter was concealing a weapon.
"Worse still, she was treating my daughter like she understood how dangerous this was, as if my daughter was not only a tool in a terrorist plot, but actually in on it," she wrote.
And as a result, a female officer started “yelling at my child and demanded she too must sit down and await a full body pat-down.” Her daughter responded by putting her hands over her face and crying.
We followed the correct procedures
The Consumerist contacted the TSA to see whether or not the TSOs followed the correct procedure for handling this situation. Here is what the agency had to say:
TSA has recently implemented modified screening procedures of children 12 and under that further reduce — though not eliminate — the need for a physical pat-down for children.
In this case, however, the child had completed screening but had contact with another member of her family who had not completed the screening process.
TSA has reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures in conducting a modified pat-down on the child.
The TSA's own website, says that in order to ensure the security of all travelers, children must endure screening procedures.
The site also reassures parents that, many "Transportation Security Officers are parents themselves and understand travelers’ concern for their children."
As a result of this, "Security officers 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."
The suspect is not cooperating
Brademeyer said this was exactly the opposite of what happened to her daughter. The terrified little girl had no idea what was going on and TSA officials wouldn't explain anything to her, she wrote.
“When they spoke to her, it was devoid of any sort of compassion, kindness or respect. They told her she had to come to them, alone, and spread her arms and legs," she wrote.
The four year old, who had just learned about "stranger danger" in pre-school screamed, ‘No! I don’t want to!’ and then ran the opposite direction.
The mother further wrote that her daughter was shaking and sobbing uncontrollably and did not want to stand still and let strangers touch her.
She said she was ordered to have no contact with her sobbing daughter.
A TSA agent then threatened to shut down the entire Wichita airport, cancel flights if she did not get her "high security threat" under control, according the mother's Facebook post.
When the agent's method of ordering the child to stop crying didn't work, she called for back up saying, "The suspect is not cooperating," Brademeyer claimed.
A third agent arrived, and he ordered the preschooler to stand still and stop crying.
"When she did not stop crying on command, they demanded we leave the airport," she said. "They claimed they could not safety check my daughter for dangerous items if she was in tears. I will admit, I lost my temper."
She demanded that a supervisor come to the scene,WECT news writes. The supervisor declared that she could be checked out while crying if she were held by her mother. After finding nothing, the family was sent on their way but not until after a lengthy exam of Brademeyer's identification and boarding pass.
Brademeyer told Eagle news that since the experience, "her daughter has had nightmares about being kidnapped."
Brademeyer added: that if the officers had showed some understanding with her 4-year-old, “we probably wouldn’t be talking right now.”
You can read the rest of Bradmeyer's original Facebook posting here.
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