A Montana lawmaker is furious after the four year old daughter of one of his constituents was labeled a “high security threat” when the child hugged her grandmother at a security checkpoint at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.
Michelle Brademeyer, of Missoula, Mon., wrote about the incident on her Facebook page alleging TSA officers called for backup after her daughter would not stop crying and at one point was ordered to spread her legs.
Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) told Fox News that he is outraged over the four-year-old’s treatment.
“Something is clearly very wrong if TSA’s protocol forced them to harass a four-year-old girl until she cried,” Rehberg said. “I intend to sit down with the TSA immediately and demand some answers.”
The TSA confirmed to Fox News that an incident occurred at the airport — but defended the way their officers handled the situation.
“TSA has reviewed the incident and determined that our officers followed proper current screening procedures in conducting a modified pat-down on the child,” said Sterling Payne, of the TSA Office of Public Affairs.
The Brademeyer family’s ordeal began at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport after they had cleared a security checkpoint. Brademeyer’s mother, who happened to be traveling out of the same airport, set off an alarm and had to be re-screened.
Brademeyer’s four year old child was so excited to see her grandmother that she ran over to give her a brief hug. At that point, a TSA officer began yelling at the child and demanded she sit down and undergo a full body pat-down.
“It was implied, several times, that my mother, in their brief two-second embrace, had passed a handgun to my daughter,” Brademeyer wrote on her Facebook page.
She said her daughter was terrified.
“They told her she had to come to them, alone, and spread her arms and legs,” Brademeyer wrote, noting that her daughter began screaming “No, I don’t want to.”
“That is when a TSO told me they would shut down the entire airport, cancel all flights, if my daughter was not restrained,” she wrote. “It was then they declared my daughter a ‘high-security threat.’”
Brademeyer said she tried to pick up her daughter and comfort her but the TSA ordered her to stop. They were eventually escorted to a private room where she said her daughter was treated like a terrorist.
“I will never forget the look of pure terror on her face,” she said. “A TSO began repeating that in the past she had ‘seen a gun in a teddy bear.’ The TSO seemed utterly convinced my child was concealing a weapon, as if there was no question about it.”
However, the TSA disputes Brademeyer’s claim that officers thought her child had a gun.
“TSA officers did not suspect or suggest the child was carrying a firearm,” Sterling said in his statement to Fox News.
At some point her daughter started crying again and that enraged TSA officers, she said. They ordered her to stop weeping and when she refused, the TSA called for backup.
“Two TSOs called for backup saying, ‘The suspect is not cooperating.’ the suspect, of course, being a frightened child. They treated my daughter no better than if she had been a terrorist.”
Eventually, a manager intervened and determined the child could be cleared through security after the harrowing ordeal.
“My daughter is very shaken up about this, and has been waking up with nightmares,” Brademeyer wrote. “What should have been a very minor, routine security check was turned into a horrific ordeal. All of this could easily have been prevented if the TSO involved had used a little bit of compassion and a smidgen of common sense. There is no reason for any child to go through this.
“And while I completely understand the necessity of tight airport security, I fail to see how harassing a small child will provide safety for anyone,” she wrote.
Rehberg blamed the debacle on the Obama Administration, saying they have “ignored common sense in favor of mind-boggling bureaucratic rules.”
“Common sense tells you there’s a way to protect air travelers without harassing and scaring them,” he said.
But he TSA remains steadfast that they did absolutely nothing wrong.
“TSA has recently implemented modified screening procedures of children 12 and under that will further reduce the need for a physical pat-down for children,” Sterling said. “These new screening procedures include permitting multiple passes through the metal detector and advanced imaging technology to clear any alarms as well as the greater use of explosives trace detection. These changes in protocol will ultimately reduce – though not eliminate – pat downs of children.”
“In this case, however, the child had completed screening but had contact with another member of her family had not completed the screening process,” he added.
You can read her entire posting of the encounter by clicking here.