Thursday, August 13, 2015

A very belated follow-up on Andrea Abbott

My previous post had me searching my own archives to recall what bad publicity occurred before the TSA changed their policies for children. I stumbled across the story of the brave truth-teller, Andrea Abbott. In 2012, she was in fact convicted of disorderly conduct and sentenced to probation. Here's an excerpt from the coverage at the time [emphasis mine]:
Abbott and her daughter went through a metal detector and TSA Officer Karen King was sent to conduct a pat-down. King testified that before the pat-down, Abbott yelled in her face that she didn't want anyone "touching her daughter's crotch."
...[The prosecutor] said the officers reminded Abbott several times that she could file a complaint if she had a problem with the security check proceedings.
"You can speak your mind, but you can't do it in an illegal manner," she said. "What the defendant did was a crime."
The case briefly drew national attention as hundreds offered Abbott support and donations amid debate over whether new, intrusive screening methods should be allowed at airports.
"Since 9/11, we're losing a lot of freedom, and we have to draw the line somewhere," Horst [Abbott's pro-bono attorney] said in closing arguments.
The "illegal manner" that Abbott used was apparently using curse words while otherwise remaining amazingly calm in the face of the legalized molestation of her child and attempted sexual assault of her own person. Nullification, people!

TSA policy on children

Someone I trust kindly let me know that it appears that the TSA is no longer putting children through naked scanners, and, furthermore, that parents get whatever screening the children get (that would be: no naked scanners). I decided I should investigate.

Unfortunately, despite my friend's personal experience and stories (like this one) with similar anecdotes, it is not official TSA policy to keep kids out of naked scanners:
If your child is able to remain standing in the required position for 5 seconds, he or she may be screened through the advanced imaging technology. If a child 12 and under goes through the machine and alarms, they have an opportunity to go through again or the TSA officer may use other procedures to resolve the alarm to reduce the need for a pat-down.
You may not be screened by this technology when carrying an infant or child.
(You may recall that they changed policies for the under-12 set 4 years ago due to bad publicity, including a "modified" pat-down and the above-stated ability to go through the scanner a second time.)

It may very well be unofficial policy to put kids through metal detectors with their parents, and - just to keep us on our toes - they won't acknowledge it. But, it may also just be at the discretion of the supervisor(s) at a given airport.

For a large hub, with several security lanes - some with and some without naked scanners - it is probably quite easy to pick and choose who goes where. The randomized PreCheck may also increase odds if airlines can get families onto the list ad hoc. I do wonder what experiences are like at small airports with a single security lane (such as my hometown airport). What have you experienced firsthand while travelling with children?