How many terrorists share a surname with a 19th-century American plutocrat famed for starting one of the country’s first investment banks and founding a technical university in the City of Brotherly Love?  How many terrorists hail from the Bluegrass State?  And finally, how many terrorists have yet to reach their seventh birthday?  If you answered none, none, and none again, then you will likely never be hired as a security screener at a domestic airport.  Your unwitting biases, blinding you to the obvious dangers posed by six-year-old fliers like Anna Drexel of Bowling Green, Kentucky, could imperil the nation’s air-transportation network.

In early April the suspicious Miss Drexel attempted to pass through security at the New Orleans airport.  Dressed in shady-looking jeans and a white sweatshirt embroidered with a figure of a ferocious kitty cat, Miss Drexel mimicked a sleepy child ready for naptime as she slid across the airport floor in her socks.  Security officials pulled her aside for an “enhanced pat-down” after she walked through the metal detector.  Her father filmed the subsequent frisking and posted it on the internet.  Within days, much of America had seen the video.  Not surprisingly, much of America then became enraged at the rough handling by government officials of a little girl while her mother looked on helplessly.

But the security system seems to have worked properly that day in New Orleans.  Miss Drexel’s flight went off without a hitch as the additional screening either foiled her devious plans or . . . she was a just a typical innocent six-year-old boarding a plane.  But what if Miss Drexel had been carrying explosives onto her flight under the kitty-cat sweatshirt?  And how do we know that this was not a practice run for a future terror attack by Miss Drexel?  We can never be 100-percent certain that Miss Drexel is not now, nor has she ever been (much less will she ever be), a terrorist.  Therefore, the little Kentuckian should brace herself for a lifetime of “enhanced pat-downs” whenever she flies.  Her video will most likely upset those who maintain the “Do Not Fly” list.  As for the rest of us, we are all that much safer each time she is selected for additional security procedures.

Or are we?  According to the TSA website, “Children 12 years old and under who require extra screening will receive a modified pat down.”  The chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), wrote a letter on April 13 to TSA Administrator John Pistole to complain about Miss Drexel’s handling, which he characterized as “a shocking violation of TSA’s protocols for the screening of minors.”  Representative Chaffetz objected to the officer “placing her hands up and down the girl’s inseam near her genital area, over her chest, on her buttocks, in her hair, and inside her waistband.”  To bolster his argument, Chaffetz also cited an incident in which a disabled four-year-old boy, Ryan Thomas, was forced to “hobble through a metal detector with neither his leg braces, nor his father’s assistance,” yet another “clear violation of the policies listed on [the TSA’s] website.”  Before signing his screed Representative Chaffetz informed Pistole that these instances of TSA abuse “demonstrate that its policies and strategies have failed.”

Mr. Chaffetz forgets that the airport screening procedures now in place have worked flawlessly.  Congress determines the TSA’s operational protocol.  When the federal government outlaws profiling by age, race, sex, religion, or national origin, travelers like Miss Drexel become widgets in the government’s manufacture of airline security.  If TSA agents are forbidden to select passengers for additional screening based on statistical probabilities, then they are likewise forbidden from assuming the innocence of those who don’t match those same probabilities.  Despite Chaffetz’s demand that the TSA “cannot continue to operate under the belief that little girls and handicapped children pose such a serious threat that TSOs must abandon all manner of decency when interacting with them,” the TSA will continue to do just that.  Elderly Americans, uniformed U.S. military personnel, and American clergy, along with “little girls and handicapped children,” will all be considered just as likely to terrorize planes as male foreign nationals between the ages of 18 and 34 who paid for their one-way tickets with cash.

Getting mad at the TSA makes as much sense as getting mad at the IRS every April 15.  Congress says, TSA does.  Representative Chaffetz and his committee should spend their taxpayer-funded time designing a screening process that assumes the innocence of six-year-old American girls in kitty-cat sweatshirts and four-year-old American boys in leg braces, rather than firing off indignant letters to those who followed their earlier orders to the letter.