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Airport security to relax youth shoe checks

Associated Press / September 14, 2011

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WASHINGTON - Children 12 years old and younger soon will no longer be required to remove their shoes at airport security checkpoints, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress yesterday.

The new policy, which also includes other ways to screen young children without resorting to a potentially personal pat-down, should be rolled out in the coming months, Napolitano said during a Senate hearing on the terror threat to the nation.

Napolitano said there may be exceptions. Terrorists have plotted to use children as suicide bombers, and some children may still be required to remove their shoes to keep security random.

“There will always be some unpredictability built into the system, and there will always be random checks even for groups that we are looking at differently, such as children,’’ she said before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Many travelers have complained that the TSA does not use common sense when it screens all air travelers the same way, including young children and the elderly. Criticism escalated last year when the government began using a pat-down more invasive than what had been used in the past, one that involves screeners feeling a traveler’s genital and breast areas.

Instead of patting down a young child, screeners will soon be told to send children through metal detectors or the walk-through imaging machines multiple times to capture a clear picture and use more explosive trace detection tools such as hand swabs, according to a homeland security official.