TSA frisks 10-year-old over juice box: How far should airport security go?

A father alarmed by a thorough TSA pat-down of his 10-year-old daughter posts a video that questions the effectiveness of airport security. 

A father published a video of what he said was a too-thorough airport security pat-down of his 10-year-old daughter, adding to the debate over how much Americans should give up for security.

Kevin Payne's daughter, Vendela, accidentally left a Capri Sun juice pouch in her bag at the airport in North Carolina on Dec. 30. Transportation Security Agency officials found the juice and did a chemical test swab. When it came back with a false positive for explosives, a female agent administered a pat-down that lasted nearly two minutes and left both parent and child fuming, Matt Rascon reported for NBC San Diego. 

"My goal was just to clear security as quickly as possible so we could make our flight even though I knew that in my mind they shouldn't be doing what they were doing," Mr. Payne told NBC San Diego. "I didn't want to make an issue of it there or then because it wasn't the time or place and I didn't want to further traumatize my daughter."

Payne filmed and published the awkward episode on YouTube as he questioned whether he was being an overprotective father or reacting reasonably to a process that cared more about security theater than catching criminals. He said the screening involved far more touching than such a small girl needed, although TSA was supposed to "modify" its screening for children under 12 after a similar incident in 2011. 

Since terrorist groups such as the Islamic State group and Boko Haram have used children in violent acts in other countries, minors traveling in the United States are sometimes seen as a security risk. Some commenters pointed out that searching children belongs in the federal process for keeping everyone safe, as Morgan Cook for the San Diego Union Tribune reported.

"I’m sorry your child go searched,” wrote Janelle Sherako, a commenter on the website Nextdoor who was frequently searched while traveling by plane with a knee brace. "But I’d rather have my child searched every flight along with any other potential threat than to be on a plane and get hijacked, blown up, or (another) negative outcome.”

Some critics have less patience with invasive TSA security procedures, however. A classified study in June reportedly showed that while TSA can successfully catch rogue Capri Suns, weapons planted in luggage to test their inspection capabilities went through security undetected 67 out of 70 times, according to the Associated Press. 

Payne said although he was intimidated by the possibility of arrest while at the airport, he is now considering options for a formal complaint.

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