TSA might back down some on pat-downs

The Transportation Security Administration just can't win as it tries to appease both sides of the personal privacy vs. national security debate, and a TSA official said June 1 that the agency might tip the scales slightly toward privacy.

At a meeting with irritated Alaskans, Scott Johnson, TSA field operations manager, said the agency is considering a risk-based system for ranking the threat of individual travelers, writes the Associated Press’ Dan Joling. Johnson met Alaskans who want to change screening procedures for some travelers, convened by the United States for Travel Freedom Caucus, according to a post at the “Truth is Contagious” blog.

Alaska state representative Sharon Cissna offered the primary horror story for the discussion. A cancer survivor who had a mastectomy, Cissna refused a pat-down in Seattle while traveling home to Alaska and ended up taking the slow boat to Alaska — literally. Her journey included a two-day ferry ride from British Columbia to Juneau, writes the Associated Press’ Becky Bohrer.

During the round table discussion hosted by Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Cissna and others asked TSA to reconsider pat-downs for travelers with special needs, such as sexual trauma victims or people with specific health concerns, Joling writes. Johnson said TSA is looking into a risk-based system that avoids qualifying as profiling while still alleviating the need to subject every traveler to arguably invasive pat-downs.

As we wrote in May, TSA defends its position that pat-downs are a necessary security option to protect all travelers. For travelers who refuse to pass through full-body scan devices — and TSA asserted in a blog post that they don’t present any serious radiation threats — a pat-down is in store.

From Texas legislators to “Saturday Night Live” comedians, TSA has become the object of criticism and ridicule. A post on the Beaumont Enterprise’s “The Bayou” blog features a clever clip of the SNL crew poking fun at the salacious security measures.

Sexy Lady No. 1: Looking for a little human interaction?

Sexy Lady No. 2: Do you want to feel contact in certain special places?

TSA agent: Then why not go through security at an airport?

Of course, the blog serving the Beaumont, Texas, community points out that plenty of people don’t find anything funny about the perceived government-sanctioned molestation. The blog references Texas lawmakers’ recent decision to can legislation that would allow police to arrest and charge TSA agents for sexual molestation — only after the federal government threatened to ban flights from departing in Texas. And a recent settlement further riles up the anti-TSA legions in Texas.

According to the United Kingdom’s Daily Mail Reporter, TSA paid $2,350 in a settlement with an Amarillo, Texas, woman who sued the agency for negligence and infliction of emotional distress when her breasts were exposed during a pat-down in the Corpus Christi, Texas, airport. The small dollar figure angered the blog writer in Beaumont, who points out the total barely covers legal fees in the case.

In addition to its attempt protect the U.S. transportation system — the mission statement doesn’t mention privacy — TSA is battling a major public relations fiasco. Although the agency won the battle with Texas, Utah looks like the next state that will challenge the federal agency. According to USA Today’s David Grossman, Utah state representative Carl Wimmer is preparing a bill that resembles Texas’ failed version and would ban pat-downs in Utah.

About the Author

Michael Protos is a web content editor with 1105 Government Information Group.

inside gcn

  • A framework for secure software

Reader Comments

Thu, Jun 23, 2011

I am traveling in 4 days with two toddlers. I am dismayed by the child, toddler and even infant "pat downs". My husband is a physician and feels strongly that we all avoid the scanners. According to CNN about 50% of physicians avoid the full body scanners. I am also opposed to virtual nude images of my kids being taken. I will undergo the pat down if required but under no circumstances will I allow my children to be irradiated, have nude images taken or be touched by TSA officers. I am gambling on the probability that we will not be selected. I hope to insure this by being very sure we will not set off the metal detectors and by making certain every carry-on item is allowable - no liquid, gel, lotion, metals, plastic forks... I am considering dressing them in swimsuits underneath clothes and run the clothes through the scanner with the bags. However, if it comes down to it I stand by my convictions and personal limits. However I have been unable to find data on possible consequences: getting arrested, ending up on the no-fly list, fines????????????? There does not seem to be a single case of a parent refusing the scanner / pat down for their kids (also mind boggling). I would like to hear thoughts, suggestions, or knowledge of specific verified information if available. Thanks, American Mom

Wed, Jun 8, 2011

The "radar" scanner that they want you to use was originally designed after 9/11, but was deemed too intrusive and too expensive. Only after the Underwear Bomber incident did it show it's ugly head again. Since that incident would not have been different with or without the scanners, I assume that the manufacturer had to quietly make a substantial contribution to someone's political campaign account before it was forced on the newly frightened public.

Mon, Jun 6, 2011 IthinkIam Detroit

On a recent flight from New Mexico, I was subjected to a pat down AFTER I went through the full body screen. The person said the had to pat (feel) my chest because she did not know what a medical alert fob was. I guess she never heard "I have fallen and can't get up". It was not enough that I pulled it out of my top and showed it to her. They are all power hungry perverts!

Mon, Jun 6, 2011 Robert East Coast

yeah so i'm just not flying right now until they get this worked out. if more people stopped flying it would be amazing how fast TSA would self-correct. people have to be willing to do what is necessary to bring stupidity into alignment with reality and in our case as a country our constitution. as we can see, people will run roughshod over others when they're allowed so we all as american's have to be vigilant. it amazes me how many people are sheepling their way through airports. stop flying and watch the changes come in when the money stops and they can't pay the pilots or flight attendants and more importantly... tsa. we people work together we can kick some serious butt!

Sat, Jun 4, 2011 Fisher1949 Washington DC

TSA has proven completely incompetent, posting a 70% failure rate, yet is allowed to continue to jeopardize passenger safety while inflicting countless indignities on a daily basis. Based on TSA statistics a recent article calculated that they grope 1.8 million travelers each month! Yet the number of people who support the treasonous behavior of TSA is appalling. Their children are being groped by child molesters but some still defend the criminal conduct of this agency. Anyone that is so afraid to fly that that they would consent to having their family strip-searched and their privates groped by a stranger in a public place shouldn’t fly. These people are obviously ill equipped to manage the risk that life entails and should stay home. The rest of us should be subjected to reasonable and respectful security, one that does not involve sexual assault. We value our rights and recognize that there are no guarantees in life; certainly none that the incompetents at TSA can provide. TSA also has a disproportionately high number of criminals for an organization of its size. TSA has 50,000 employees and 26 have been arrested in the last six months, most for crimes committed on the job. By contrast, Microsoft has 84,000 employees and had one, in Japan, arrested for a non job related incident. Of the twenty six screeners arrested since 12/1/10 most are job related, including drug trafficking, nine were for theft, two for raping fourteen year old girls, one for attempted rape of another fourteen year old, assault and distributing child porn along with a list of lesser crimes. Three were arrested in May for theft from baggage, carrying a loaded gun into the airport and stowing away on a flight to the Dominican Republic. These are the kind of people that TSA hires to grope your children and go through your checked baggage. Twenty six criminal acts, twenty five security failures, over four thousand groping complaints and dozens of lawsuits, all in six months, yet TSA hasn't stopped one terrorist attack in nine years. The last two attempts were foiled by passengers and citizens, not TSA. The most sensible approach would be to abolish TSA entirely, assign airport security to the FAA (an agency that actually knows something about air travel) and use private screeners who will treat travelers more humanely. This would eliminate redundant management and administrative roles, improve efficiency, lower costs, improve customer satisfaction and provide a more cohesive air travel system.

Show All Comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group