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On The Front Lines

Rutherford Institute Files FOIA Request Seeking Details About Egregious TSA Search, Pat Down of 13-Year-Old Girl at Reagan National Airport

WASHINGTON, DC — The Rutherford Institute has come to the defense of a Texas family who allege Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents groped their 13-year-old daughter during an unwarranted pat-down search and then reported the father to police after he objected to the TSA’s treatment of his minor children. The father, Daniel McAdams, executive director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, also alleges that a TSA agent struck him in the groin during a pat-down search and that they were forcibly separated from a 10-year old child during the screening. In a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed with the TSA and the operator of Reagan National Airport on behalf of Daniel McAdams and his family, Rutherford Institute attorneys are seeking surveillance video of the incident and other information and records to shed light on the actions of the TSA and to determine the legal options available to the McAdams family.

“No American should be subjected to a virtual strip search or excessive groping of the body, or have their underage children touched intimately by strangers as a matter of course in boarding an airplane when there is no suspicion of wrongdoing,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “Unfortunately, under the direction of the TSA, American travelers have been subjected to all manner of searches ranging from whole-body scanners and enhanced patdowns at airports to bag searches in train stations and sports arenas.”

On August 20, 2018, Daniel McAdams and his family traveled to Reagan National Airport outside of Washington, D.C., to board a flight to their home in Texas after participating in the third annual Ron Paul Institute’s Peace and Prosperity Conference. On previous trips, McAdams’ wife was allowed to accompany their 10- and 13-year-old daughters through TSA body scanners. On this occasion, however, a TSA agent ordered that the wife could not accompany the daughters, asserting that the wife had opted-out from the scanner and would have to wait to be patted down by a female agent. As the McAdams’ objected that there had been no opt-out, the younger daughter went through the scanner on her own and strayed out of sight of her parents, causing them great alarm. Additionally, the TSA agent ordered that the McAdams’ 13-year old daughter would have to undergo a pat-down search, although there was no indication that she had opted-out of the scanner. As McAdams later recounted, “I watched in agitation as a woman put on gloves and began to grab my young daughter’s genitals.”

The actions of the TSA agent brought the 13-year-old to tears and caused all of the family great distress. McAdams voiced his strong objections to the treatment of his daughter and the separation of his family that was caused by the TSA’s screening orders. A TSA agent then began a pat-down search of McAdams, in the course of which McAdams said the agent roughly jabbed his hand in McAdams’ groin, causing him to nearly double over in pain. When McAdams commented that this was a “sick way to make a living,” the TSA agent got on his radio and summoned police, asserting that McAdams had interfered with an investigation by moving during the pat-down. An airport police officer arrived and upon speaking to McAdams quickly determined that no charges were warranted. McAdams sought out the on-site TSA supervisor and advised him of the mistreatment of his daughter and the forced separation of his family. He was told that 13-year-olds are subject to full body pat-downs if they refuse to be scanned. McAdams subsequently turned to The Rutherford Institute for help in challenging the TSA’s treatment of his family.