(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated…)
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration, changing a policy that has unleashed widespread controversy and viral videos, says it will perform fewer pat-downs on young children at airport security checkpoints.
The decision, made by TSA Administrator John S. Pistole, was announced Wednesday during testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Associated Press reported.
In a change expected to be rolled out nationwide, Pistole said checkpoint workers will now be told to make repeated attempts to screen children without resorting to pat-downs, according to the report.
TSA spokesman Nico Melendez wrote in an email Thursday that the shift was part of the agency's "ongoing effort to get smarter about security.... This decision will ultimately reduce -- though not eliminate -- pat-downs of children."
The TSA generally conducts pat-downs on people who opt out of full-body scans or who set off alarms at security checkpoints. Children 12 and younger, the agency has said in the past, receive a modified pat-down.
But those pat-downs of children, captured on videos and posted online, caused a firestorm of anger earlier this year. Videos showing a 6 year-old in Kentucky and a toddler in Kansas City, Mo., being frisked by agents prompted critics to charge that the pat-downs were too intrusive for children. In both cases, the TSA said their agents did nothing wrong.
During his testimony in Congress, Pistole also said the agency is working with airlines to create a trusted traveler program for business and frequent fliers, Reuters reported. The program would allow fliers who are willing to undergo prior security background screenings to speed through airport checkpoints. Pistole indicated a pilot program would roll out in the autumn.