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TSA Mythbuster: The Rest of the DFW Pat-down Story

Tuesday, March 28, 2017
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***Update*** When a pat-down is required, TSA can offer reasonable accommodations for individuals with sensory processing disorders or other conditions that sometimes result in pain when touched. However, those individuals still need to undergo a pat-down to maintain security. ***Update***

As you may have heard, on Sunday at Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), a 13-year-old passenger underwent enhanced security screening, which included a pat-down, after his laptop alarmed an explosives trace detection machine. In total, the pat-down took approximately two minutes, and was observed by the mother and two police officers who were called to ease concerns of the mother. The passengers were at the checkpoint for approximately 45 minutes, which included the time it took to discuss screening procedures with the mother and to screen three carry-on items that required further inspection.

The mother filmed the pat-down and posted it to Facebook. It has since gone viral.

So is this standard procedure? TSA screening procedures allow for the pat-down of children under certain circumstances. In this instance, a laptop alarmed the explosives trace detection machine, which requires additional screening to resolve the alarm.

We get it. Nobody likes to be patted down. And nobody likes to see their loved ones patted down, especially children. TSA screens thousands of families every day, and our officers are trained to communicate with parents, explain screening procedures before they begin, and find the best way to get everyone to their plane safely and efficiently. Many of our officers are parents too.

All of our procedures are based on current intelligence and our adversaries are always looking for ways to inflict harm, including recruiting young children to carry out attacks. Bottom-line is that passengers, including children, and their property are screened prior to boarding a plane and any security alarms must be resolved.

So why does TSA conduct pat-downs? Pat-down procedures are used to determine whether prohibited and dangerous items are concealed. You may be required to undergo a pat-down procedure if the screening technology alarms, as part of random or unpredictable security measures, for enhanced screening, or as an alternative to other types of screening, such as advanced imaging technology screening. Even passengers who normally receive expedited screening, such as TSA Pre✓® passengers, may at times receive pat-down screening.

What should you know about pat-down screening?

  • Our officers will explain the procedures to you as they conduct the pat-down.
  • We use modified screening procedures for children 12 and under that reduce the likelihood of pat-down screening.
  • A pat-down may include inspection of the head, neck, arms, hand, back, torso, legs, and feet. This includes head coverings and sensitive areas such as breasts, groin, and the buttocks. You may be required to adjust clothing during the pat-down.
  • Pat-downs require sufficient pressure to ensure detection.
  • Our officers use the back of the hands for pat-downs over sensitive areas of the body. In limited cases, additional screening involving a sensitive area pat-down with the front of the hand may be needed to determine that a threat does not exist.
  • You should advise the officer if you have difficulty raising your arms or remaining in the position required; an external medical device; or areas of the body that are painful when touched.
  • You may request a chair to sit if needed.
  • You will receive a pat-down by an officer of the same gender.
  • At any time during the process, you may request private screening accompanied by a companion of your choice.

Bob Burns
TSA Social Media

Comments

Submitted by Charlie on

The only myth here is this blog.

Submitted by Doober on

Fluffy wrote: "You don't ever hear of the times we catch loaded guns. You won't hear about the times we catch grenades. You will never hear the times we catch people doing dry runs at the airports across the country."

Each one of those statements is a falsehood, Fluffy. What do you think this "blog" is all about, if not boasting of the number of weapons TSA has found or the number of grenades, real or replicas. And if you think anyone believes that TSA finds people doing "dry runs" you are delusional.

Really, Fluffy, if you do work for the TSA you are a fine example of why the organization is useless.

screen shot/DHS IG statement

Submitted by Haolerot on

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Submitted by RB on

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Submitted by JAMES Hargreaves on

Well, I completely dislike the TSA, as a government organization. Waste of taxpayer dollars. HOWEVER, regardless of what I think, they do have policies and procedures, and this is the first time I have seen them defend them. And I must say, they did an awesome job.

Submitted by Termin8or13 on

Mr. Biondi
You know the underwear bomber did not go through security in the U.S.
The "naked body" scanners haven't been used for years.

Talk about misinformation!

Submitted by Chip And Andy on

Fluffy said..."...I'm a officer for TSA. We get intelligence that warns us of kids being used. "

No, you are an Agent, but whatever. And as for your Intelligence Reports, lets just leave it at the TomAto-TomAHto game.

"...Those kids are passengers. They will be screened. "

No one here is saying they shouldn't be screened.

"... and those already here looking to find a gap to breach our system."

You mean like the JFK 11 that just walked through security with no screening at all?

"...You don't ever hear of the times we catch loaded guns. "

Actually, we do. Every week (ish). You used to put up a nice grid showing which firearms from which airports.

"...You won't hear about the times we catch grenades. "

Again, just about every week. You supposedly even have an Explosives Detection Team at one or more airports whose sole job is apparently getting called out to determine the threat posed by grenades and their simulacrums.

"...You will never hear the times we catch people doing dry runs at the airports across the country. "

That is because that happens so rarely there is nothing to report. One of your fellow employees has told us many times about how even you guys can't secure and monitor every part of the airport and since this blog is available world wide I am sure that somewhere, somewhen, a bad guy has read this blog and found the weakness they need so no 'dry run' would be required.

"...I have family that travels for a living"

That's nice. I have a family too. I am pretty sure that most everyone posting here has a family and a healthy percentage of those families travel by air at least once in a while.


".. and I'd rather make sure you are all safe I sleep good knowing I do my job. "

You started saying one thing and ended with another. Did you get confused as to where you were in the approved script? I do my job and I sleep good so does that mean we are.... what? Where were you going with this one?

"...Those who stepped up and accepted procedures we collectively appreciate the cooperation. "

As your fellow employees are so fond of saying, "do you want to fly today?" Your superiors have put you as an obstacle to our travel, the TSA is not an optional procedure that we can skip. You can applaud those who comply with your rules all you want, it doesn't make your rules right or effective.

"...As for the rest of you guys. "

Here it comes...... so exciting.....

"Grow up and realize we don't live in a nice world. We live in a very crazy world."

And the TSA is doing nothing, NOTHING, to reduce the level of crazy. If you truly were trying to do something about the not-nice world we live in we wouldn't be hearing about things like the JFK 11, we wouldn't be reading things like this incident with a thirty-plus minute screening of a mother and child, and we wouldn't have countless other stories of bad actors in a corrupt organization that has proven itself to be nothing more than a charade that claims to be security.

Submitted by Doober on

Bravo, Chip and Andy, Bravo!

Submitted by Unknown on

I think the issue is that the kid DOES think this is normal, the Mom remembers when we had a free society without this farcical and ineffective TSA inquisition...

Submitted by RB on

***Update*** When a pat-down is required, TSA can offer reasonable accommodations for individuals with sensory processing disorders or other conditions that sometimes result in pain when touched. However, those individuals still need to undergo a pat-down to maintain security. ***Update***

*******************************************
How does a pat down of a person resolve an alarm on a laptop computer or other physical item?

Reasonable question that TSA ignores!!

Submitted by Nkotbqngelwingz on

Children have been used in attacks since AT LEAST Veitnam! I know that for fact because my FIL had developed a bond with a little girl, he and his wife where trying to adopt her. The veit cong used her to try and take out as many GI'S that could. Directly in front of him.
Do you REALLY want to wait for a to be child used to bring down a plane when then it is well known that it happens! Then you would pitch a fit. I have been pat down more than once because I have medical devices in my body, as has my father, and my son. My son HAD A VALID MILITARY ID at the time because his father is active duty Navy. While it is a pain in the rearend it is nessasry to do so in today's world to keep us all safe.

This mother is the problem here in to agent. She shoul ld have spoken to her son about what he should do and what MAY happen, IE..being screened via a pat down, long before they got to the airport. I know for a fact that had she called a head of time and asked they would have worked with her to find a time to come in and practice so that he would see and know what to do and what would happen. Yes he has issues but unfortunately the bad guys don't care a bit and are just as likely to use a child with disabilities as healthy child and so they must be treated the same as EVERYONE else.
Thank you TSA for your hard and thankless job to keep us safe!

Submitted by Nkotbqngelwingz on

Because the mother acted like a child and pitched a fit. Had she properly prepared her child and lovingly talked him through it. She would have made her plane. It also sounds as if they didn't get to the air plane in the 1 1/2 to 2 hrs as requested if 45 mins made them miss their plane.

Submitted by Nkotbqngelwingz on

Do you realize how tiny bombs can be now. Most people think of a bomb like a pipe bomb or pressure cooker. What you don't realize is that bombs can be as small as a peice of chewing gum. That can be sewn into the seams of anything. Even shorts and a tshirt. Had the mother properly prepared her son it wouldn't have been a issue! Had she called ahead they would have worked with her to bring him into the airport and practice gong through security. This had nothing to do with retaliation and unfortunately, Children DO POSE a real threat. Even as far back as Veitnam children where used to kill. The problem here was the MOTHER had she stayed calm and loving talked this young man threw it they would be fine and made their flight. My son has had the same pat down because he forgot and stuck a water bottle in his carry on. He had a valid Military ID because his dad is active duty Navy and they still searched them. This child is completely calm. It is the mother that was a mess!

Submitted by Nkotbqngelwingz on

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Submitted by John Schneider on

Fascinating story. TSA does not deny a single thing the mother wrote, indeed, confirms it, then calls it a myth.

Submitted by Brian Murphy on

To karen brady ---you seem to be texting yourself. and then answering yourself. You're thanking and laughing to cyberspace that all cannot see. Please continue with you're comments, because each one shows your ignorance about flying.
This is a serious situation, and for you to diminish it is not right.

Submitted by Brian Murphy on

Doober... Thanks for the link. But, I've seen this everyday. This one was excessive, and definely retribution.

I agree that reading "Fluffys" post seems to be bogus as a real TSA agent. If he/she is, then we have a bigger problem than I thought. Reread it. Can we find out what airport he/she is assigned? I'll be looking.

Submitted by Wintermute on

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Submitted by Wintermute on

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Submitted by Brian Murphy on

TSA is a product of 9/11. As a pilot, the screeners just changed uniforms. In fact, they had a sewn on badge, but insisted on a metal badge. It was not reported, but the real LEO's fought it tooth and nail. TSA are NOT Law enforcement officers (LEO's). If you encounter a TSA screener saying they are, they can be prosecuted impersonating a law enforcement officer. They are not.

Submitted by Jean-Marie Hendricks on

Not to mention a grotesque violation of the Constitution's illegal search and seizure!!! Technology is NOT fool proof people, it's made and programmed by fallible human beings, which means it can fail or give false alarms, etc. Besides, the mother stated he DID NOT set off any alarms, and even if he did, then as another poster stated, the book bag and computer should have been the subject of the search. Not a 13 year old child! You people are the reason flying is no longer a joy; and why I won't fly anymore! Disgusting what this country has become...and all for a bit of FALSE security!

Submitted by Mozan S on

...but they're supposed to use the BACK of their hands for sensitive areas (breasts & groin area). The agent at DFW did the opposite!
Submitted by Nicolia Wiles on

Anyone defending the TSA on this is a complete idiot. TSA has been proven to stop zero attacks and the agents end up stealing more from travelers than protecting us. TSA is simply a feel good band-aid that makes everyone "think" we're safer. They have done next to nothin to actually protect us...educate yourself before yoju defend the most ineffective agency in the US.

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/danielreed/2015/06/08/...

Submitted by Cmb on

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Submitted by Chip And Andy on

While the TSA was busy refuting the claims of a mother who witnessed her son receiving an agressive, I mean thorough, patdown it seems the TSA let a firearm slip through security. A woman in Atlanta was arrested AT THE GATE because​she had a firearm. And if she wouldn't have turned herself in it is very likely she could have flown with her gun in her purse.

Way to go TSA.

Submitted by Cdrjack on

Kudos to Blogger Bob on his well-crafted response and the Officer for conducting an impeccable pat-down per the TSA SOP according to Blogger Bob.

Unfortunately, I think Bob and TSA are missing the point. The outcry over this incidence isn’t over whether the Officer conducting the pat-down followed protocol—which he apparently did—but over the protocol itself. The argument, that he did the pat-down correctly and was just following orders has largely fallen on deaf ears. An Israeli airport security expert said it would never have happened there. Security personnel in Israel are trained to look at threats as unrefuted suspicions. If you can refute your suspicion, then there is no threat. Yes, they are trained to follow protocols, but they are not trained to be the Myrmidons. What suspicions that were not resolved by checking the laptop indicate the child was a threat? Therefore, was such a pat-down necessary to resolve a threat, or was it just conducted because it was a rule in the TSA SOP? Was this 13-year-old an evil genius that secreted some sort of IED into his laptop (which was cleared), or onto his body (which his clothing would indicate highly unlikely)? What about the parents; why weren’t they patted down? In terms of risk (i.e., chance) what is more likely: a 13-year-old in shorts and close fitting T-shirt has an IED on his person, or the parents placed an IED somewhere in his property? If you chose the parents as the more likely threat, as you should, then why weren’t they patted down and subjected to closer scrutiny?

People complaining about this incident have been complimentary about the Officer conducting the pat-down. The public’s complaint is with the protocol. And as an acquaintance from Israel pointed out, the excuse of just following orders is never truly justified.

Submitted by Rick Melnick on

I must have missed the Myth Buster part. What myth did you dispel, exactly?

The dismissive and condescending tone of this reaction is frankly more troubling than the video itself. Perhaps better just not to respond at all and let the storm blow over than to escalate the issue by trying to justify this "pat down."

I travel a lot. I've been randomly selected or something in my bag triggered the extra search plenty of times. No big deal.

But never, EVER, anything like this. Much less to a child. Common sense has to intervene at some point.



Submitted by Unknown on

Does the TSA require background checks for all its employees. Esp. in cases where they will be around young children

Submitted by Fix The TSA on

West, Fluffy claims to be a TSA employee and then goes on to insult fellow commenters (and American taxpayers). This content violates blog policy. Why was it allowed?

Submitted by Fix The TSA on

JAMES, a brief search of this blog will show Bob or an "HQ element" trots out the ol' "Is the passenger's fault! We never make a mistake!" after the level of outcry reaches a high enough level.

Groping a young teen is in no way awesome.

TSA policies & procedures must be changed.

Submitted by Crystal Keene on

Exactly. I drive from Kentucky to Arizona almost every year to see family. No wait times at the airport and it's cheaper. Downside is it takes longer, but it's fun to drive different ways and see new places instead of living in a bubble like these people clearly do.

Submitted by RB on

An interview of the mother on radio station WBAP paints an entirely different picture than the fantasy that TSA posted.

The boy did not alarm. His computer did not alarm. There was a significant backup at the checkpoint and several people had asked a female TSA screener what was going on. The mother had spoken with this female TSA screener. The mothers account was that this female TSA screener was being rude to others and herself and the additional screening was in retaliation for the mothers questions.

Once again it looks like TSA is not being honest with the public. A TSA norm.

Submitted by Jessica Pennell on

I love how this even uses the turn of phrase "we get it" and then neatly misses every single concerning part of the video entirely. I am grown and don't get pat downs that friendly. At least a grown up could have asked for a cigarette afterward

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

So, if TSA simply followed procedure, why did TSA apologize to the family?

Submitted by RB on

I'll keep the question simple so perhaps the TSA Blog Team can comprehend and answer.

Why is a pat down required on a child who did not alarm?
Submitted by GSOLTSO on

Several comments have been removed due to personal insults and some vulgarities. Please carry on with your normal posting routines.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Fix The TSA on

West, thank-you for deleting the comments that violated blog policy. I hope you in the future not allow the insults and attacks in the first place.

Submitted by Wintermute on

Why were they approved to begin with? Did you approve them, or did someone else? You do realize that the "damage" has already been done, right? And also that you missed at least one or two.

Submitted by Nkotbqngelwingz on

Exactly! Had the woman properly prepared her son and called the TSA ahead of time. There wouldn't be a issue!

Submitted by Doober on

Thank you to those who pointed out Fluffy's violation of this blog's TOS. Without your input, I am sure that post would still stand.

I do wonder if anyone at TSA has tracked down Fluffy's IP because if he/she is a TSA screener, someone needs to speak to her about behavior both on and off duty.

Submitted by Doober on

Jim Huggins wrote: "So, if TSA simply followed procedure, why did TSA apologize to the family?"

TSA did not apologize for assaulting her child; they apologized because she felt she had a bad experience - yet again laying everything at the passenger's feet and not taking any responsibility.

They also offered her an opportunity to work with them on improving screening for people with disabilities. We all know how well that has gone in the past; the offer was for no purpose other than to try to keep her quiet.

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

Submitted by RB on

GSOLTSO said...
Several comments have been removed due to personal insults and some vulgarities. Please carry on with your normal posting routines.

West
TSA Blog Team

April 2, 2017 at 10:44 AM
...........
Why was my post that brought attention to the non-conforming post made by Fluffy removed? My post fully complied with the TSA Blog posting guidelines.

Trying to cover up for the poor behavior of TSA employees? If so that is corrupt!
Submitted by Boldly on

Nicolia Wiles said...
. TSA has been proven to stop zero attacks and the agents end up stealing more from travelers than protecting us.
can you provide a link to the "proof?"

I didn't think so...

Submitted by Boldly on

RB said...
An interview of the mother on radio station WBAP paints an entirely different picture than the fantasy that TSA posted.

The boy did not alarm. His computer did not alarm. There was a significant backup at the checkpoint and several people had asked a female TSA screener what was going on. The mother had spoken with this female TSA screener. The mothers account was that this female TSA screener was being rude to others and herself and the additional screening was in retaliation for the mothers questions.

Once again it looks like TSA is not being honest with the public. A TSA norm.
so you were there? You can make that determination because Mom said so? Lord knows no Mom has ever been proven to be a liar after watching the video...
Glad you were there to clear this up for the American people.

Submitted by Wintermute on

Why was my comment pointing out a violation of blog policy removed, but the violation itself still stands?

Submitted by Wintermute on

You realize that recent red-team tests allowed a mock underwear bomb through? The exact threat the nude-o-scopes are supposed to detect. If the TSA can detect one of those, I highly doubt they'd discover something as small as a stick of gum sewn into seams, as even a patdown would feel like a normal seam.

Submitted by Wintermute on

And yet, so one is targeting out highway systems... Thanks for proving the point...

Submitted by Chip And Andy on

Boldly said...
Nicolia Wiles said...
. TSA has been proven to stop zero attacks and the agents end up stealing more from travelers than protecting us.
can you provide a link to the "proof?"

I didn't think so...

I will make you a deal Boldy... you provide us a link to all the terrorist activity the TSA has stopped and then we'll see about getting you the information you're asking about.

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