The YouTube counter says nearly two million people have watched the video of TSA agents searching a shirtless boy at the Salt Lake City Airport last Friday. You can see the video in our original (and at the time...somewhat skeptical post) here.
There have been a good number of twists in the story since it first emerged. And now, a U.S. congressman is revealing new information that shows just how volatile such viral accounts of TSA nightmares are for the beleaguered agency. In an exclusive interview with The Blaze, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) is charging that the public TSA account of what happened that day is "not accurate." Further, he has sent a letter to the agency, and the White House, asking that the record be set straight.
"They have an obligation to correct the record," Chaffetz told me by phone Wednesday afternoon.
The new information involves the issue of whether the boy set off an alarm during the security check. But that's only one part of this new account of what happened in the search of the boy, who Chaffetz says is autistic.
Before we walk through the new information, you may want to listen to an interview Glenn Beck did with Luke Tait, the young man who took the original video, this morning on the radio:
After that interview aired, Rep. Chaffetz agreed to go on the record about what he has learned. I first asked Chaffetz if he knew the identity of the boy or his family. He did not. His information comes from repeated communication with the TSA agent in charge at the Salt Lake City International Airport.
Chaffetz was told that boy's mother went through the security check first, and that she "self-identified" to agents that her son was autistic.
Luke Tait had indicated in his original YouTube post that the boy did not set off the scanner alarm when he passed through: "Before the video started the boy went through a metal detector and didn't set it off but was selected for a pat down."
As the video went viral, though, the TSA posted this statement:
On November 19, a family was traveling through a TSA checkpoint at the Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC). Their son alarmed the walk through metal detector and needed to undergo secondary screening. The boy's father removed his son's shirt in an effort to expedite the screening.
Rep. Chaffetz, however, says he was told three times by the TSA agent in charge at SLC that the boy did not set off the alarm. The congressman's letter to the TSA and the White House asks for "clarification."
"If they don't correct it -- then they are just not telling the truth," says Chaffetz, adding, "Mistakes get made."
Chaffetz feels the TSA needs to step up to the plate: "It starts with being candid."
The TSA blog version said the father removed the boy's shirt. Chaffetz told me that part is true. But he claims that when the boy's "baggy" shirt caught the attention of agents, the father was given a difficult choice: the autistic child would need to have his shirt removed, or he would need to go through a thorough pat-down. At that point, the father removed the shirt. The TSA blog post depicts the father as instigating that move noting:
It should be mentioned that you will not be asked to and you should not remove clothing (other than shoes, coats and jackets) at a TSA checkpoint. If you're asked to remove your clothing, you should ask for a supervisor or manager.
Yesterday we posted video maker Luke Tait's first account of intimidation by a TSA agent who asked him to delete the video of the incident. He also describes this to Glenn Beck in the video embedded in this post. Tait also says that after he declined to delete the video and went the gate of his departing flight, that he saw TSA agents gathering to observe him.
Chaffetz has been told that the first part of that account is correct. An agent had a two-minute conversation with Tait. But the TSA is telling Chaffetz that the second part is not true. According to the TSA, if Tait saw agents at his gate, it may have been a coincidence. They say agents sometimes take breaks at that gate.
In any case, Chaffetz says, "We cannot tolerate that kind of harassment." The congressman says he's not calling for less rigorous security measures. "The threats are very real," he emphasizes. His goal: "Become more effective and less invasive." We'll look at some of his ideas and concerns on The Blaze over the next few days.