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"TSA rolls out new, 'more intimate' airport pat-downs"


 
Saturday, March 4, 2017

TSA rolls out new, 'more intimate' airport pat-downs
By Alayna Shulman
The Redding (CA) Searchlight


REDDING, Calif. - The Transportation Security Administration has started using 
a new and more rigorous pat-down at airports, which one passenger this week 
likened to "groin scrutiny."

Nico Melendez, a public affairs manager for TSA, confirmed that the new 
pat-down procedures are supposed to be followed as of Thursday, but he was 
"limited on what can be shared" about them. He did say that the new "universal 
pat-down" doesn't involve checking any extra body parts, though.

"This standardized pat-down procedure continues to utilize enhanced security 
measures implemented several months ago, and does not involve any different 
areas of the body than were screened in the previous standard pat-down 
procedure," a prepared statement from TSA reads. "TSA continues to adjust and 
refine our systems and procedures to meet the evolving threat and to achieve 
the highest levels of transportation security."

A Bloomberg story Friday quoted another TSA spokesman as saying that searches 
"will be more thorough and may involve an officer making more intimate contact 
than before."

The new procedure comes after an in-depth study TSA conducted in response to 
classified 2015 test results from the Department of Homeland Security's Office 
of Inspector General. Bloomberg reported that the office criticized TSA because 
it found some airport officers didn't notice guns and other weapons that were 
part of that test.

Melendez called it a streamlined procedure that reduces confusion and "lessens 
the cognitive burden for our officers."

It didn't lessen the cognitive burden for local writer Joel Stratte-McClure, 
though.

In a blog post, Stratte-McClure said he was patted down because he never takes 
off a gold bracelet on his right wrist, and the TSA agent told him "we've got 
to do more extensive vertical and horizontal pat downs" because "bad people 
conceal weapons in their pants." In a tweet about the incident, he called it 
"groin scrutiny."

Stratte-McClure said the pat-down happened at Redding Municipal Airport as he 
began a flight to Egypt via connecting flights in Boston and Washington, D.C.

Airport manager Bryant Garrett said he hadn't been informed of any new 
procedures from TSA. The agency normally does tell him about new protocols, he 
said, though "sometimes it's not timely."

"I apologize if somebody felt like they had a bad experience out here," he said.

Expanding on the new procedure, Melendez noted that TSA's job is to keep 
travelers safe. That can include pat downs either because, like 
Stratte-McClure, a person sets off security technology or chooses not to go 
through it, or he or she may get one "as part of our unpredictable security 
measures."

Officers were to be trained in the new procedure and demonstrate proficiency 
before being allowed to perform it on the public, Melendez said.

He noted that people can request to be screened in private and be accompanied 
by a companion of their choice, and that a second officer should always be 
present during a private screening.

While the universal pat-down is new, allegations that TSA goes too far when 
screening travelers are anything but.

Garrett said people nationwide have complained about protocols the agency 
adopted about 10 years ago.

They included a CNN commentator who wrote about the humiliating "vaginal 
pat-down" she said she endured while flying from Detroit to New York last year. 
The commentator, Angela Rye, said a female TSA agent ran the side of her hand 
through her genital area twice when she was chosen at random for additional 
screening.
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