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TSA defends searches of children, elderly, amid fresh complaints

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When asked by a Monitor reporter in November why grandmothers are not exempt from screenings, TSA Administrator John Pistole said, “I hope no grandmother would ever be ... a suicide bomber, [but] there have been two 64-year-olds who have committed suicide attacks.... Where do you draw the line?"

Less than 3 percent of airline passengers get patted down, says the TSA. That includes individuals who cannot be screened by the 500 imaging machines in use at 78 airports, either because they are unable stand upright long enough or because they have a prosthetic or other medical device that the machines cannot interpret.

“Targeting travelers with medical devices seems especially cruel,” noted Professor Cate, who directs both the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research and the Center for Law, Ethics, and Applied Research in Health Information at Indiana University, in his letter. “It is a fine way to greet a veteran who has lost a limb in the service of his or her country or a cancer survivor who has fought a long and disabling war ... to say, ‘We appreciate your sacrifice, and now we are going to delay and embarrass you every time you fly.’ “

Some passengers have characterized the pat-downs as invasive or abusive, saying they felt “molested” and “violated” by the procedure.

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