According to Bloomberg, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is set to introduce a new “universal approach” to airport security pat-downs. While TSA agents were previously able to choose from five different physical pat-down methods, all of those have now been eliminated in favor a single more “comprehensive” technique, according to a TSA spokesman.
Employees and flight crews at Denver International Airport were notified of the change in search procedures last Thursday. Flight crew-members, who generally have been subjected to less scrutiny at security checkpoints, will not be exempt from the new policy and will likely experience more frequent “random” pat-downs.
Tthe TSA has so far been scant with details as to what the new pat-down will entail. However, the TSA spokesman who spoke to Bloomberg said that the “more rigorous” searches “will be more thorough and may involve an officer making more intimate contact than before.” TSA officials have so far refused to address if the new pat-down method will mandate touching a passenger or employee’s genitals.
The new procedure is part of the TSA’s attempts to respond to a 2015 internal investigation which revealed that TSA agents were unable to detect 95% of the explosives or banned weapons that government investigators attempted to take through security checkpoints. In one example of incompetence uncovered by the investigation, an undercover agent was subjected to a pat-down after setting off a magnetometer alarm. However, TSA agents failed to detect a fake explosive device that was taped to his back during physical screening, suggesting that pat-downs – as a procedure – are largely ineffective.
Physical pat-downs have long been the most criticized component of TSA airport security protocols. The TSA has tried to minimize controversy regarding the procedure by ensuring that an agent the same sex as the passenger conducts the pat-down and by allowing those being screened to request a private area for screening. Passengers can also request to have a witness present.
Yet, this is unlikely to minimize recent controversies regarding the TSA’s already-invasive previous pat-down procedures. CNN contributor Angela Rye made headlines last year when she was subjected to “humiliation” during a TSA agent search where her genitals became the focus of the pat-down. In addition, TSA agents at Denver airport were found conducting a scam where male and female agents colluded so a male agent could fondle the genitals of male passengers he found attractive. With these latest changes to the TSA’s physical screenings and pat-downs, we can expect similarly disturbing accounts to become more commonplace and traveling by plane to become even more uncomfortable for those traveling within the United States.
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