New TSA pat-down procedure expands nationwide
The new search technique used by the Transportation Security Administration allows airport security screeners to use their fingers and palms to feel and probe for hidden weapons and devices around sensitive body parts, such as the breast and groin areas.
In the past, TSA officers brushed along those body parts with the back of their hands to feel for hidden objects.
The TSA tested the more assertive pat-down technique this summer at airports in Boston and Las Vegas and has expanded the use of the procedure this weekend to airports nationwide.
"TSA is in the process of implementing new pat-down procedures at checkpoints nationwide as one of our many layers of security to keep the traveling public safe," the TSA said in a recent statement.
The manual pat-down procedure will be used on passengers who refuse to be screened using the 317 new full-body image scanners deployed at 65 airports nationwide. The new technique may also be used on passengers who evoke suspicion when undergoing other traditional screening procedures, including walk-through metal detectors.
The ACLU has complained about the full-body scanners and the new pat-down procedure, saying both violate the privacy of airline passengers.
The full-body scanners use low levels of either radiation or X-rays to create what looks like a nude image of the passengers to find weapons hidden under the clothes.
"Americans now must choose between a virtual strip search and a grope," said Chris Calabrese, a legislative counsel at the ACLU.
(Photo: TSA screeners at Los Angeles International Airport pat down passengers during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2004. Credit: Los Angeles Times)