By Keith Laing - 06/23/11 07:59 PM EDT
Bowing to criticism, the Transportation Security Administration said Thursday that it will no longer automatically require pat-downs for children under 12 years old who trigger security concerns.
“As part of our ongoing effort to get smarter about security, Administrator Pistole has made a policy decision to give security officers more options for resolving screening anomalies with young children and we are working to operationalize his decision in airports," TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball said in a written statement. "This decision will ultimately reduce - though not eliminate - pat downs of children.”
In a Senate hearing Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) took the agency to task for the child pat-downs.
"This isn’t to say we don’t believe in safety procedures, but I think I feel less safe when you’re doing these invasive exams on a 6-year-old," Paul said to TSA Administrator John Pistole during a hearing on the security of railway systems.
"It makes me think you’re clueless that you think she’s going to attack our country and that you’re not doing your research on the people who would attack our country," Paul continued.
Pistole responded that it was difficult to rule out passengers as potential terrorists solely based on their age.
"Unfortunately we know terrorists have used children under 12 years old as suicide bombers in other locations," he said. "Not in aviation, but there's been two 10-year-olds used. We've also know the two grandparents — one grandmother, one grandfather, 64 years old in both situations — have been used."
Photos and videos of TSA agents patting down children have gone viral on the Internet. The agency has said their workers followed existing procedures.
This article was clarified to say that pat-downs could still be required if other options fail at 4:36 p.m.