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‘We were treated like dogs.’
The Transportation Security Administration is under fire for an agent’s prolonged pat-down of a boy at a Dallas airport, which the boy’s mother captured in a video that has sparked disgust and outrage over the anti-terrorism procedure.
In a minute-long video captured by the boy’s mother, Jennifer Williamson, a male TSA agent at Dallas/Fort-Worth International Airport (DFW) is seen repeatedly running his hands over the boy’s body, which Williamson described as “traumatizing” for her son, Aaron, whom she says has Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD. Williamson did not reveal her son’s age.
“We were treated like dogs because I requested they attempt to screen him in other ways per TSA rules,” wrote Williamson on Facebook. “He has SPD and I didn’t want my child given a pat down like this.”
The TSA, meanwhile, is standing by its conduct.
We have been through hell this morning. They detained Aaron for well over an hour at DFW. (And deliberately kept us from our flight... we are now on an alternate) We were treated like dogs because I requested they attempt to screen him in other ways per TSA rules. He has SPD and I didn't want my child given a pat down like this. Let me make something else crystal clear. He set off NO alarms. He physically did not alarm at all during screening, he passed through the detector just fine. He is still several hours later saying "I don't know what I did. What did I do?" I am livid. Please, share... make this viral like the other children's videos with TSA... I wish I had taped the entire interchange because it was horrifying. We had two DFW police officers that were called and flanking him on each side. Somehow these power tripping TSA agents who are traumatizing children and doing whatever they feel like without any cause, need to be reined in.Posted by Jennifer Williamson on Sunday, March 26, 2017
Williamson says Aaron “set off NO alarms” and “physically did not alarm at all during screening.” She also claims the TSA detained Aaron for “well over an hour” to conduct the screening process, which caused the family to miss their flight.
The TSA disputes some of these events, claiming in a statement provided to media outlets that “all approved procedures were followed to resolve an alarm of the passenger’s laptop.” The TSA also says the family was held at the checkpoint for approximately 45 minutes, and that both the TSA agent’s supervisor and two police officers observed the pat-down.
“In total, the pat-down took approximately two minutes, and was observed by the mother and two police officers who were called to mitigate the concerns of the mother,” the TSA statement reads. “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 TSA did not immediately respond to our request for comment regarding consideration of Aaron’s medical condition, which can cause unusual responses to physical contact due to the way touch is processed by the nervous system in people with SPD. The agency offers passengers with disabilities assistance through its ‘TSA Cares’ program, although it is not clear whether Williamson used this service.
Williamson did not immediately respond to our request for comment.
TSA agents at DFW have triggered outrage over their aggressive screening procedures before. In 2012, the TSA was forced to apologize after agents detained a disabled 11-year-old girl whose wheelchair was found to have explosive residue on it.
This month, the TSA instituted a new “comprehensive pat-down procedure” at U.S. airports and eliminated alternative screening measures after investigators discovered major security lapses in the agency’s anti-terrorism efforts.
Williamson’s video has since been shared more than 85,000 times and viewed more than 5 million times.
Andrew Couts is the former editor of Layer 8, a section dedicated to the intersection of the Internet and the state—and the gaps in between. Prior to the Daily Dot, Couts served as features editor and features writer for Digital Trends, associate editor of TheWeek.com, and associate editor at Maxim magazine. When he’s not working, Couts can be found hiking with his German shepherds or blasting around on motorcycles.