With the holiday travel season kicking into high gear, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has come under increasing criticism from travelers as well as Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and President Barack Obama for its full-body screens and pat-down policies. While Obama has said he has asked the TSA to be sure the methods were “the only way to assure the American people’s safety,” Clinton plainly stated that she wouldn’t want to submit to pat-down search either. “[W]ho would?” she asked.
Yesterday, though, after earlier stating there would be no change in the policies, John Pistole, the head of the TSA, seemed to step back from that proclamation and insists the TSA is striving to make airport screening “as minimally invasive as possible.”
Right now, passengers have a choice of going through a full-body screening or submitting to a pat-down search. Full-body screening produces a naked image of the person that is transmitted to a TSA screener at another location who does not see the face or identity of the person; this method has already been attacked by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) as violating passengers’ privacy rights.
If a person refuses to go through the full-body screening, he or she must submit to a pat-down search, which includes an agent touching the clothed genital areas of passengers.
Such screens and pat-down searches might be considered invasive by some, agrees Pistole, but the heightened chances of a terrorist attack justify them. According to CNN, a recent CBS News poll found that 4 out of 5 Americans support full-body scanning.
Still, stories of disturbing pat-down incidents such as a cancer survivor’s being soaked in his own urine after his urostomy bag was broken during a pat-down in Detroit and the pat-down of a shirtless eight-year-old boy in Salt Lake City, are getting lots of media attention.
Privacy advocates are even encouraging those flying on the day before Thanksgiving to participate in “National Opt-Out Day” and refuse to go through full-body security searches.
What do you think of the TSA’s pat-down and full-body screening policies? Do you think security threats justify the heightened searching methods or are the pat-downs and full-body screening violations of privacy?