Exclusive: TSA frisks groom children to cooperate with sex predators, abuse expert says
Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
An expert in the fight against child sexual abuse is raising the alarm about a technique the TSA is reportedly using to get children to co-operate with airport pat-downs: calling it a "game".
Ken Wooden, founder of Child Lures Prevention, says the TSA's recommendation that children be told the pat-down is a "game" is potentially putting children in danger.
Telling a child that they are engaging in a game is "one of the most common ways" that sexual predators use to convince children to engage in inappropriate contact, Wooden told Raw Story.
Children "don't have the sophistication" to distinguish between a pat-down carried out by an airport security officer and an assault by a sexual predator, he said.
The TSA policy could "desensitize children to inappropriate touch and ultimately make it easier for sexual offenders to prey on our children," Wooden added.
Following an outcry last month over the use on children of "enhanced pat-downs" -- which involve the touching of genitals -- the TSA announced a new "modified" pat-down for children under 12. However, as the LA Times noted, the new rules are "unclear" on whether TSA agents can touch children's genitals.
Addressing the controversy over pat-downs of children last month, TSA regional security director James Marchand told the press the TSA was working on new practices to make children more comfortable during the pat-down process.
"You try to make it as best you can for that child to come through. If you can come up with some kind of a game to play with a child, it makes it a lot easier," said Marchand, promising to make it part of TSA training.
Wooden, who has testified before Congress on child safety issues on numerous occasions, says he was told by a TSA agent that the practice has been used.
"How can experts working at the TSA be so incredibly misinformed and misguided to suggest that full body pat downs for children be portrayed as a game?" Wooden asked in an email. "To do so is completely contrary to what we in the sexual abuse prevention field have been trying to accomplish for the past thirty years."
He added: "This policy is also incredibly insensitive to the countless victims who have already been traumatized by unwanted touching in their lives and could be re-traumatized by such pat-downs."
On Tuesday, TSA administrator John Pistole said the agency may change its screening rules for victims of sex abuse. He also said the TSA had no plans to continue expanding the airport screening process.
"I think we are at the most thorough that we will probably be in terms of our physical screening," he announced.