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"A Feel for Airline Security"
Monday, September 13, 2004 Issue
A Feel for Airline Security
Searches may get intimate
By SALLY B. DONNELLY
Airline security is about to get a lot more touchy-feely, and aviation
experts say it's high time. Airport screeners from the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA) often touch passengers whose belts or bras
trigger a metal detector. This is usually done with the back of the hand,
but new procedures awaiting approval will allow screeners - with permission
- to use their open hand to search a passenger's body as part of a more
thorough search for hidden explosives. Security officials tell TIME that the
new measures, which may be instituted as early as this week, come in part as
a response to the terrorist bombings of two airplanes that took 90 lives in
Russia last month. In those cases, investigators presume, the suicide
bombers - thought to be two Chechen women whose names were on the flight
manifests - strapped explosives to their bodies. Says a U.S. bomb expert:
"Considering how sophisticated the bombmakers have become and how real the
threat is, this is a prudent reaction."
But intimate searches won't be the only new powers granted to screeners.
They will also be allowed to demand - rather than merely ask, as they do now
- that travelers take off their coats. Most passengers chosen to undergo
intrusive searches will be those who fit already established criteria,
including people flying one way or paying for tickets with cash. The TSA is
fine-tuning the selection process and testing new explosive-detection
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