Politics

Napolitano backs 6-year old’s pat-down: ‘Done professionally according to the protocols’

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Jeff Poor
Media Reporter

The shock of a video of a Transportation Security Administration screener patting down a 6-year-old child has drawn anger and even a subsequent potential legislative response. But the TSA’s actions were not improper, says Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

On Wednesday’s “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, Napolitano described the rationale behind such screening – saying everyone must be screened, because otherwise an exempted group could be exploited for a potential terrorist attack.

“Nobody likes to see those kinds of things [...] even though it was done professionally according to the protocols,” she said. “But, what TSA is doing is reexamining those protocols all the time. It’s all in relation to threat – what is the threat? And one of the things we do see is if you categorically remove a group from any type of screening, well those who seek to do us harm will then exploit that group. So you have to be very careful on how you do it.”

However, Napolitano told “Morning Joe” that she and her colleagues are working a number of things to streamline the airport screening process, including expediting the process for frequent travelers.

“So here’s a couple of things we’re working on,” she said. “Number one is expanding trust and traveler programs, programs where people will get biometric cards. They’ve already supplied information. We know they are safe to travel. We can move them through the system. That’s going to be expanded this year. That allows us to remove a number of people I think from the screening process.”

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Napolitano said a number of current security procedures may be used less frequently going forward, in favor of “a more risk-based system.”

“What we need to do is, if I can say so, is kind of market them and make them equally available, so we’re working on that,” she said. “So we process almost 2 million passengers a day in U.S. airports. The scope and scale of what we do in aviation is far beyond what any other country does. But the second thing we’re doing is a lot of work on the technology of the screening itself. And that is evolving very quickly but we would love to get to the point where we don’t have to take off our shoes or at least everybody doesn’t have to take off their shoes, where you don’t have to unload your laptop and put it on the conveyor belt, you know that sort of thing. So that work is ongoing as well. So between those two things, I think we will be moving into a more risk-based system.”