A YouTube video of an airport security guard patting down a frightened three-year-old boy in a wheelchair is getting plenty of clicks and has reignited a controversy.
The video, which has garnered more than 54,000 views since getting posted on March 17, shows a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent patting down the boy, who has a broken leg, and swabbing his wheelchair and his hands at O'Hare airport in Chicago.
The child appears frightened as his father reassures him: "They've just got to check you."
"It's OK. It's kind of weird, but it's no big deal," his father is heard saying. "Don't be nervous. It's OK. He's just checking to make sure that we're OK to get on the plane, that's all."
But in annotations on the video, the father says it's not OK at all.
"My little boy wanted me to come over to hold his hand and give him a hug. He was trembling with fear. I was told I could NOT touch him during this process," he said. "Instead we had to pretend this was 'OK' so he didn't panic."
The TSA agent performing the pat-down also tries to calm the child, asking him questions about where he's going and what kind of animals he likes.
The pat-down is the latest episode in a controversy surrounding the TSA's policy of searching children. In May 2011, a photo of agents patting down a baby at the Kansas City airport sparked outrage.
"We reviewed the screening of this family, and found that the child's stroller alarmed during explosives screening. Our officers followed proper current screening procedures by screening the family after the alarm, who by the way were very co-operative and were on the way to their gate in no time," the TSA said at the time.
YouTube footage of agents patting down a six-year-old in New Orleans in April caused similar outcry.
According to TSA's website, kids must be subject to screening.
"TSA has to screen everyone, regardless of age (even babies), before they can go through the security checkpoint in order to ensure the security of all travellers. TSA will not ask travellers to do anything that will separate them from their child or children," reads the policy.
"TSA specially trains transportation security officers and they understand travellers' concern for their children. TSOs will approach children gently and treat them with respect. If a child becomes uncomfortable or upset, security officers will consult parents about the best way to relieve the child's concern."
But the wheelchair-bound boy's father deems the whole practice ridiculous.
"Apparently, there's lots of children in wheelchairs being used to bring down airplanes. It's a brilliant plan when you think about it. PRETEND you are going to Disney, with 3 children, 2 parents, and 2 grandparents...when REALLY you smuggle C4 inside your toddler's cast and wheelchair," he said in a note on the video.