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TSA defends pat-down technique and imaging scanners

November 18, 2010 | 12:05 pm

Tsa-fullbodyimage Under fire from airline passengers and members of Congress, the Transportation Security Administration has begun to fire back, defending the use of a new pat-down search technique and full-body scanners that can see through clothing.

On the TSA website and in testimony before Congress, the agency has insisted that the new, more aggressive security measures are safe and will help make air travel safer.

Earlier this month, the TSA instructed airport security officers to use a more aggressive pat-down search technique that allows the officers to probe and feel passengers with their fingers and palms.

The agency has also increased the use of full-body scanners that use low-levels of radiation to look through the clothing of a screened passenger. The TSA has 385 scanners operating at 68 airports.

TSA Director John Pistole told a Senate committee Wednesday that the pat-downs and scanners would have found the explosives on an alleged would-be airline bomber last Christmas Day.

Meanwhile, the TSA posted a message on the agency blog, rejecting an online report that suggests the full-body airport scanners can store, transmit or print images of screened passengers.

"As we’ve stated from the beginning, TSA has not, will not and the machines cannot store images of passengers at airports," the TSA said on the blog.

Last week, the TSA released a letter from the Food and Drug Administration, calling the health risks of the scanners "minuscule."

-- Hugo Martin

Photo: A TSA officer examines an image created by a full-body scanner. Credit: Los Angeles Times.