Should children be subjected to the same TSA rules?

The Transportation Security Agency must reform its security policy in order to improve the experience.

 The lack of prudent screening policies in place at airports is perhaps one of the biggest flaws with modern American airline travel. Apart from security procedures being obtrusive and intimidating, multiple tests have  found them to be ineffective and incapable of stopping determined terrorists. The way the Transportation Security Administration treats passengers is one of the first noticeable problems of airport security.

Alexa Youssefian | Daily Trojan

Alexa Youssefian | Daily Trojan

Foremost, TSA screening procedures do not work. The new full-body scanners going into effect in every airport have repeatedly been found to fail to catch trained testers smuggling in explosives designed to bring down airplanes, according to CNN. The mechanical parts necessary to build bombs have repeatedly gone through X-ray machines undetected. Three fluid ounces of liquids have proven to be enough to build a bomb.

Nevertheless, the TSA is firm in adhering to policies that might not be optimal.

By comparison, the security personnel in the European Union do a much gentler job of checking travelers for bombs and weapons. Families with small children are not put through humiliating security procedures designed to ruin their trips to Disneyland. EU security personnel realize the threat that terrorists might pose, but they also realize that effective screening procedures need not be intrusive and harsh. EU security personnel also have the benefit of being moderately well-liked, or at least not actively hated. In turn, this makes European travelers far more likely to work with European security personnel to adhere to security policies and police other travelers to prevent terrorist attacks, according to Your Europe.

In fact, the TSA should note that there have been no incidents of terrorist hijackings of airplanes since 9/11, including in Europe, where standards are much lower, and in many parts of Africa and Asia, where the standards are lower still. The TSA is convinced that spending lots of money and compromising the dignity of individual travelers is the only way to stop terrorists, when the reality is just the opposite.

John Mueller, a professor of political science at Ohio State, found that the costs of maintaining the full-body scanners and other security measures at airports costing more than $1.2 billion per year is only justified on a cost-analysis basis if there is guaranteed to be a terrorist attack every two years and the TSA is able to stop that threat. Because TSA has repeatedly been unable to stop a trainer from bringing bombs through airport security, and the costs are astronomical, the TSA needs to take a look at seriously reforming policies. There are low-cost and less invasive alternatives to stopping terrorist threats that have proven to be just as effective as the measures currently in place in U.S. airports.

The goal of the TSA is to stop a terrorist attack. The difference between a terrorist attack and a  run-of-the-mill murder is that a terrorist attack is specifically designed to instill terror in the minds of the victims and the countrymen of the victims. Thus, the attacks on 9/11 were more than just 3,000 dead Americans; it was a nationally significant event that has shaped American policy for years, causing leaders to take us into two unjust wars and a nebulous mission to stop terrorism worldwide. By comparison, cancer kills 3,000 Americans every two days but curing cancer is much less of a national priority than stopping terrorism. When it comes to instilling fear in the minds of Americans, however, terrorist groups like al-Qaida have been unable to perpetrate a major attack against the U.S. since 9/11. Yet, every year, the TSA intimidates millions of American travelers.

The people most likely to be harmed and stopped because of the policies of the TSA are not terrorists. Average American travelers, who are more concerned with having enough leg room on the plane than with murdering innocents, are the most likely to be adversely and disproportionately affected by the current TSA practices.

Dan Morgan-Russell is a freshman majoring in international relations.


Children should not be given special treatment when it comes to the safety and welfare of all passengers.

It should be obvious: Children are sensitive and often require extra care. They deserve to have things explained to them simply, and they deserve to have their feelings taken into account.The Transportation Security Administration’s newest controversy deals with the search of a wheelchair-bound child at an airport. A video taken of 3-year-old Lucy Forck getting searched at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport went viral, inciting wide criticism of the incident.Lucy was taken aside immediately after passing through a scanner because a TSA agent had to search her wheelchair for explosives, causing the toddler to become upset. Things got worse when agents refused to give the child her stuffed animal, which parents Nathan and Annie Forck had given to her to calm her in her first air-travel experience.

“They said they needed to pat her down,” Nathan Forck told the New York Daily News. “They wouldn’t give her Lambie.”

Making a little girl in a wheelchair cry on her way to Disney World is not okay. But, it would also be unfair to blame the TSA for the incident, as the agents at Lambert-St. Louis International were simply trying to follow protocol in an admittedly sensitive situation. Instead, Lucy’s parents should have done a better job in cooperating and explaining the situation to their child. Doing so could have avoided the stress for Lucy altogether.

Going through airport security can be a pain, but following 9/11, the U.S. government has supported TSA’s security protocols as crucial to America’s safety. To be fair, there hasn’t been a terrorist attack carried out on U.S. soil since. It’s impossible to tell whether that’s because of  extra safety precautions or military action against terrorist groups, but the current system is effective without infringing on citizen’s rights.

With the expansion of these security protocols over the past decade, everyone who travels even semi-frequently should be aware of how the TSA checkpoints work. Lucy’s parents, traveling with a child with physical limitations, could have explained to the child the procedure she needed to go through, helping to mitigate the child’s stress. According to the TSA’s policies, Lucy’s parents could have spared Lucy a pat-down by carrying her through and putting the wheelchair through the scanner (Lucy was eventually allowed past without a pat-down, but agents tried to perform the procedure).

TSA even welcomes suggestions on how to best screen children with disabilities. Lucy’s parents could have formed a plan, explained it to Lucy and asked that TSA agents try their best to follow an alternate plan. Without direction, though, TSA agents are forced to follow protocol. Because Lucy’s parents didn’t carry her through and she remained in the wheelchair, there was no other way to search her than a pat-down.

The fact of the matter is that the TSA needs to follow its protocols with consistency. It’s tragic, but terrorists do use children: Joseph Kony turned the Uganda into a training camp for his child soldiers. Al Qaida has 5-year olds with firearms taught to be martyrs for the organization. If young children in the world are suicide bombers, then children in the U.S. cannot be exempt from airport security searches. If terrorism is going to be attempted on U.S. soil, it has to be assumed it will take similar forms to terrorism in the Middle East. And that includes children.

It might seem silly that a white toddler in a wheelchair was thoroughly searched by the TSA. Couldn’t the examiners just let Lucy through when they saw how distraught she was? After all, toddlers rarely have access to bombs. However, I’m proud to say our airport security doesn’t racially profile and assume people of Middle Eastern descent are the only ones capable of using children for suicide bombing. Alternatively, Lucy, adorable and handicapped, would be the perfect target for someone to plant a bomb, perhaps even without her or her parents’ knowledge. Searching Lucy doesn’t need to imply that she’s a terrorist. However, if everyone isn’t thoroughly searched before entering a plane, everyone’s lives are in danger.

Leona Fallas is a freshman majoring in sociology.


5 replies
  1. Nathan
    Nathan says:

    Ms. Fallas: The TSA admitted the agent was NOT following protocol, either in her threat of the pat-down or in the agent’s representation that it was illegal to videotape the incident.

    As to your larger point about the need for hyper-vigilance at airport checkpoints, perhaps we should expand the search authority of the federal government and the TSA to match what madmen in other countries have done with children. Why restrict searches to airports? Perhaps children walking down a street should be pulled aside for random pat downs because they might be human bombs because, you know, Kony… The terrorists have certainly succeeded in terrifying you if you think it is perfectly reasonable to pat down three year olds in wheelchairs.

  2. Bea
    Bea says:

    Leona, your article reminds me of the justifications I’ve read from defenders of the Nazis’ barbarities.
    Tormenting a child in a wheelchair — tormenting ANY child, for the matter, or any human being — is the mark of savages. You should be ashamed of yourself, applauding such cruelty and, worse, blaming the victims, Mr. and Mrs. Forck.
    Dan is absolutely correct: the TSA’s ludicous nonsense has proved entirely ineffective over and over again, in numerous tests. Even the agency’ premise — that terrorists lurk on every concourse, waiting to blow us sky-high — is doubtful. The State Dept. issues a “Country by Country” census on terrorism every year: you might want to read and analyze it before you swallow the TSA’s propaganda and spew it back at us again.
    The Constitution’ Fourth Amendment specifically prohibits exactly what the TSA does. So does basic decency.

  3. Luke Phillips
    Luke Phillips says:

    Was the mischievous hijacker in the cartoon next to the Point article portrayed as a fair-haired Caucasian male so as not to offend anyone’s ethno-political sensitivities?

    Well-written articles; I do not agree expressly with either.

  4. Ras
    Ras says:

    The reason TSA procedures appear so ridiculous is because we are implementing Marquess of Queensberry Rules to counter a cowardly group of dangerous terrorists that do not adhere to any rules. it is as if our military needed to beat drums and wear bright red lobster-back redcoats when fighting in the battle. Going through TSA reminds me of a Three Stooges but where Moe would punch Curly in the stomach – so Curly places his hands in front of his stomach – then Moe punches him in the nose – so Curly puts his hands in front of his face – then Moe steps on his foot – so Curly picks up his foot – then finally Moe clubs him over the head knocking the dawdling Curly down and out.

    Taking off shoes, putting our liquids into plastic bags – these are all the one-step-behind defenses we implement AFTER the threat of these issues occurred.

    The author of this article is just happy and “proud” that the bothered toddler was white. Really? Are we so poisoned with political correctness that we see these events as a self-congratulatory incident? Seems to me the terrorists are laughing at us at our clumsy efforts to protect our own innocent citizens. Rather then re-actively implement procedures after the threat presented itself (like the Three Stooges method of defense where you block high and low only after you got smacked in the face and then gut) we should show the world the US will make available ALL tools at our disposal. To ignore the basic fundamental Spidey sense we are born with because we are so scared sh+tless that someone might suggest it is racist is hypocritical at best.

    I do not feel more secure knowing out security resources and mental energies are being burned giving a handicapped toddler the 3rd degree.

Comments are closed.