New Airport Security Rules Cause Traveler Discomfort More airports are adding whole-body scanners, and the Transportation Security Administration has implemented new "enhanced" pat-down procedures. Unions representing pilots and flight attendants want their members exempt from the screening, privacy advocates have filed lawsuits and some passengers say they'll stop flying.

New Airport Security Rules Cause Traveler Discomfort

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

Now to the latest travel outrages: the full-body scanner and the pat-down. The Transportation Security Administration says there is now a full-body scanner in every U.S. airport. The machine lets security officials look under your clothes. As for passengers who say no, there's a new pat-down policy. TSA screeners can touch you in places they could not before.

The government says these measures are necessary at a time when a terrorist can hide a bomb in his underwear. But they are not always welcome, as NPR's Sarah Gonzalez reports.

SARAH GONZALEZ: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport right near the security checkpoint at US Airways. Here and there screeners are picking out passengers to go through the new full-body scanner. It produces an image similar to a photo negative and outlines your entire anatomy, all the folds and contours of your body. As Renee Maxwell walks toward the checkpoint she says she refuses to pose.

Ms. RENEE MAXWELL: I just don't believe in that. It shows everything. I mean from hygiene products to everything.

GONZALEZ: The Transportation Security Administration won't say exactly what the machines can and can't see, but it says the scanners do reveal all metallic and non-metallic objects concealed under your clothing and above your skin. It doesn't detect items hidden in body cavities.

TSA personnel view the image in a remote site. Passengers who refuse get the enhanced pat-down. Given the choice between the aggressive hands-on search and the scanners, most travelers I spoke with say they prefer to be seen than touched.

Ms. LINDA KAPLAN: I don't want to be pat down.

Mr. RON JOLLY: Anyone wants to take a look that's fine.

Mr. STANLEY KRAMAR: I would rather have the scanner than somebody touching me.

Ms. LOUISE GEIER: A little different than somebody's hands going all over you.

GONZALEZ: That's Washington travelers Linda Kaplan, Ron Jolly, Stanley Kramar and Louise Geier.

Flight crew members have a different concern. Captain James Ray is an active US Airways pilot and spokesman for the U.S. Airline Pilots Association. He says the X-ray from the body imaging machine is more radiation exposure that pilots don't need.

Captain JAMES RAY (Pilot, US Airways): Now a crewmember is going to be going through these machines, perhaps thousands of times. You add that to an already heightened degree of exposure to radiation and that's our cause for concern.

GONZALEZ: Ray says the union has recommended pilots refuse the scanners and go through the pat-down, but he says...

Capt. RAY: A number of our pilots found it to be very intrusive, and in the case of at least one of our pilots, likened it to molestation. He felt it was way too aggressive.

GONZALEZ: In the past, pat-downs were done with the back of the hand. Now, TSA personnel are turning their hands around. They can use open hands and fingers, and touch anywhere - from the front of the crotch, all the way around to the back.

And the new pat-downs aren't only for passengers who refuse the full-body scanners. TSA spokesman Greg Soule says the new procedure will be performed whenever a traveler sets off traditional metal detectors, wears bulky clothing or chooses not to remove head-wear. Some passengers will also be selected randomly.

Unidentified Man #1: I'm going to be doing a standard pat-down on you today using my hands going like this.

Unidentified Man #2: All right.

GONZALEZ: The new procedure drew national attention last week when one traveler, John Tyner, refused to submit to the scanner and the new pat-down. He was thrown out of San Diego International Airport and says he was then threatened with a civil lawsuit and a $10,000 fine for leaving. He recorded the confrontation on his cell phone and in the process coined a new catch phrase.

Mr. JOHN TYNER: We can do that out here but if you touch my junk I'm going to have you arrested.

GONZALEZ: Homeland Security is beginning to look into some checkpoint alternatives for crewmembers but no one else. The rest of us, it's either the new imaging machine or risk having our junk touched.

Sarah Gonzalez, NPR News.

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