Michelle Brademeyer of Missoula, Montana, offers yet another example of how much better airport screening has become since the federal government took control of it. Brademeyer and her two chldren flew to Wichita, Kansas, the weekend before last for her brother's wedding. On the way back to Missoula, they shared a flight to Denver with Brademeyer's mother, who lives in California. Brademeyer and her kids, ages 4 and 6, passed through the metal detector without incident, but her mother made the machine beep. Unable to determine what had triggered the alarm, a transportation security officer informed her that she would have to wait for a pat-down. At that point, Brademeyer reports on her Facebook page, her 4-year-old daughter, Isabella, noticed her grandmother and excitedly ran back through the checkpoint to hug her. "They made very brief contact," Brademeyer says, "no longer than a few seconds."
Brademeyer says the TSOs at the checkpoint reacted to this breach of protocol by screaming at Isabella, telling her she would have to undergo a pat-down as well. They darkly suggested that her grandmother might have passed a gun to her during their brief embrace, even though Isabella was not carrying anything or wearing any clothing with pockets. They refused to let her go back through the metal detector, insisting that she be frisked. Isabella began crying and ran away from the TSOs, enraging them further. They threatened to close down the airport in light of the "high security threat" posed by the terrified little girl. Although they at first insisted that Brademeyer keep her distance from Isabella, they eventually let her follow her daughter into a separate room for the pat-down. To the dismay of the TSO doing the groping, Isabella would not stop crying even when commanded to do so:
My sweet four-year-old child was shaking and crying uncontrollably, she did not want to stand still and let strangers touch her. My heart was breaking. I will never forget the look of pure terror on her face. A TSO began repeating that in the past she had "seen a gun in a teddy bear." The TSO seemed utterly convinced my child was concealing a weapon, as if there was no question about it. 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. The TSO loomed over my daughter, with an angry grimace on her face, and ordered her to stop crying. When my scared child could not do so, two TSOs called for backup saying "The suspect is not cooperating." The suspect, of course, being a frightened child. They treated my daughter no better than if she had been a terrorist.
It was an awful sight.
A third TSO arrived to the scene, and showed no more respect than the first two had given. All three were barking orders at my daughter, telling her to stand still and cease crying. When she did not stop crying on command, they demanded we leave the airport. They claimed they could not safely check my daughter for dangerous items if she was in tears. I will admit, I lost my temper.
Finally, a manager intervened. He determined that my child could, in fact, be cleared through security while crying. I was permitted to hold her while the TSO checked her body. When they found nothing hidden on my daughter, they were forced to let us go, but not until after they had examined my ID and boarding passes for a lengthy amount of time. When we arrived at our gate, I noticed that the TSOs had followed us through the airport. I was told something was wrong with my boarding pass and I would have to show it to them again. Upon seeing the TSO, my daughter was thrown into hysterics. Eventually, we were able to board our flight.
The Daily Mail reports that when the family changed planes in Denver, "an airport employee," apparently alerted to the suspected terrorist in leggings and Mary Janes, "demanded to know which of the family was Isabella—and 'looked really confused' when the girl was pointed out to her." According to her mother, Isabella "has been waking up with nightmares" since the incident. Contacted by The Consumerist for comment, the Transportation Security Adminstration replied:
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.
Current, maybe. Proper, no.
More on the TSA's standard operating stupidity here.
[Thanks to Tricky Vic for the tip.]