Firestorm Over TSA Airport X-Ray and Pat Downs Brewing

Discussion in 'The Water Cooler' started by Mike, Nov 20, 2010.

  1. Mike

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    Outrage Increasing Over Airport TSA Body Scanning and Pat Downs

    In case anyone hasn't noticed, it seems like all hell has broken loose with airline security in the United States with many people vowing to opt-out of new full body x-ray machines on Nov. 24th (Thanksgiving travel season) as an act of civil disobedience. This would then create massive delays as TSA government security screeners scramble to perform what some consider to be unwarranted, unconstitutional full body pat downs of passengers.

    Here's a story and a whole bunch of links on the latest firestorm that is brewing over the latest security measures, as well as the abuses that seem to be taking place being reported by news media.
    Airline security gets private

    By STEVE EVERLY and RANDY HEASTER

    The Kansas City Star


    [​IMG]
    Keith Myers
    At Kansas City International Airport, FirstLine Transportation Security agents were performing pat-down searches on some travelers Friday. Airport officials reported receiving only a few complaints.





    "Tougher airline security inspections, including pat-downs that got a little too private for some passengers, stirred up more complaints Friday as the holiday travel season started.
    But at Kansas City International, travelers for the most part were taking the changes in stride.
    Complaints have been building about enhanced security procedures in the last three weeks as the Transportation Security Administration added the more aggressive pat-downs to the full-body scanners now in use at many airports.
    Some passengers around the country offered graphic accounts of genital contact; others told of agents gawking or making inappropriate comments; and many expressed a general sense of powerlessness and humiliation.
    “I would be very surprised if the average American would say this is OK after going through the kind of experience we’re hearing about,” said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union.
    The ACLU said it had received nearly 400 complaints from travelers in recent weeks, and a joint effort with the Electronic Privacy Information Center and the U.S. Travel Association had gathered more than 2,000 complaints.
    The Transportation Security Administration has so far responded to the complaints by calling for cooperation and patience from passengers.
    At KCI, officials said they had fielded few complaints about the new security procedures and received only two e-mails about the matter.
    “To my knowledge, there hasn’t been much controversy about it,” said KCI spokesman Joe McBride.
    At KCI, the body scanners are used only in Terminal B by the airport’s two busiest carriers, Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines. Southwest received its scanner last March, and Delta, which recently acquired Northwest Airlines, received one afterwards at KCI.
    Occasional pat-downs were also being done Friday at KCI. One woman held her arms out as a guard moved her hands along both sides of the arms and then moved on to other parts of the passenger’s body, including patting down the inside of her legs.
    A boy in a wheelchair received a pat-down but remained seated, only having to lean forward so his back could be inspected.
    Some passengers arriving at KCI who had pat-downs at other airports were willing to accept the security measure.
    “I’d rather be safe than sorry,” said Nancy Epoch, who lives in Topeka.
    And Jesse Wallace of Bonner Springs, a frequent business traveler, said he didn’t “feel violated.”
    “If anything it was more of a nuisance,” he said.
    But Peter Robertson, an officer in the U.S. Army who served in Iraq, said the new procedures were intrusive and inappropriate and were a victory for terrorists. Besides, he said, there is no foolproof security.
    “I think it’s more for show,” he said.
    For passengers, one frustration is that the agency, citing security reasons, has declined to release specific guidelines about how the pat-downs are conducted or what agents are permitted to touch.
    According to information the TSA has shared or published, the airport pat-downs are supposed to be conducted by officers of the same sex as the traveler, and passengers can request a private screening and have a traveling companion present during the search. Agents are not permitted to look inside passengers’ underwear or reach inside a skirt, and children 12 and younger are supposed to receive a modified pat-down.
    Some airline pilots were among those objecting to the tougher inspections. Two of them — Michael S. Roberts of ExpressJet Airlines and Ann Poe of Continental — filed suit Tuesday asking a judge to block the searches for pilots.
    On Friday the TSA agreed to let pilots skip security scanning and pat-downs. Pilots traveling in uniform on airline business will be allowed to pass security by presenting two photo IDs, one from their company and one from the government, to be checked against a secure flight-crew database.
    Another objection to the new search regime came from U.S. Rep. John Mica of Florida. He wrote letters to the nation’s 100 busiest airports asking that they dismiss the TSA and get private contractors to do the searches.
    But KCI officials noted that the Kansas City airport, along with four others, did that back in 2002 as part of a test program.
    Those airports and 12 others since have chosen to use a private contractor, FirstLine Transportation Security of Nashville, Tenn., hired by the TSA to provide their screening and security services. But they note that FirstLine employees go through the same training and must follow all the same TSA rules and procedures.
    KCI is expecting about 350,000 more passengers during the 12-day Thanksgiving travel period that began Friday and concludes Nov. 30. That would be a 4 percent rise from the same time last year.
    Southwest and Delta said they would be fully staffed for the holiday period and might have to use overtime schedules. So far, they said, the new security procedures have not affected service.
    A Delta spokeswoman, Susan Elliott, said her airline had not seen any increase in delays or cancellations as a result of the new security process.
    Road warriors wonder how the system will work over the next week and a half, given that so many of the travelers will be those who fly once or twice a year and may not be familiar with the new security rules.
    Frequent local business flier Stacy Stuerke said he had stood in a normal-length line at the Atlanta airport earlier this week.
    “And it took twice as long to get through because of scanners and pat-downs,” said Stuerke, a salesman from Overland Park.
    Stuerke said he wore his standard post-9/11 gear: loafers without shoestrings, a belt with a small amount of metal that wouldn’t set off the detector, and a watch that wouldn’t set off alarms.
    “Now, you’ve got to take all that stuff off for the scanner,” he said. “Of course, I want to be safe and cooperate, but where does this all end?”
    New procedures
    Infrequent fliers heading to KCI for a holiday trip could see some differences in security screening.•Passengers occasionally will be subject to a pat-down search. Some passengers are patted down because a scan finds something questionable. Others are chosen at random.
    •The two busiest KCI airlines, Southwest and Delta, have the new full-body scanners, which they use on some but not all passengers. The scanner takes a little longer to walk through than the standard “door frame” scanner, and passengers have to thoroughly empty their pockets first. Passengers who don’t want the full scan can request an alternative method of screening, which will include a pat-down.
    •If the usual “door frame” walk-through triggers an alarm or the full-body scan turns up something questionable, a passenger could be taken aside for further screening with a scanning wand or a pat-down search.


    To reach Steve Everly, call 816-234-4455 or send e-mail to severly@kcstar.com. To reach Randy Heaster, call 816-234-4746 or send e-mail to rheaster@kcstar.com. The Associated Press and The New York Times contributed to this report."

    Read more: Airline security gets private - KansasCity.com


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