TSA tactics called intrusive
WASHINGTON, 22 November 2010 – A pair of top Republican lawmakers protested Friday new “overly intrusive” full-body x-ray scanners and body pat-downs in US airports, in a letter to TSA administrator John Pistole.
The Transportation Security Administration has come under fire in recent weeks for new procedures that critics slam as an affront to privacy, and House members John Mica and Thomas Petri called on the agency to reconsider the move.
“Treating every passenger as a suspect or criminal is an inefficient use of scarce resources,” wrote the two lawmakers, who are expected to take charge of the influential Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Subcommittee on Aviation, at the start of the next congressional term.
Under new guidelines, passengers and airline crew members, including pilots, are randomly selected to pass through the “naked” full-body scanners.
They have the option of refusing the machine, but would then be subjected to what the TSA calls an “enhanced” manual search that includes a pat-down of a traveler’s private parts.
Saying their criticism reflected “public angst” over the issue, Mica and Petri lamented the TSA’s “reactive, as opposed to proactive, approach.”
The agency is “always addressing the last terrorist plot,” they wrote, noting the new procedures are being implemented 11 months after the failed Christmas Day plane attack where an alleged bomber attempted to set off explosives concealed in his underwear.
“The entire focus of TSA’s efforts to improve aviation security needs to be revisited,” they wrote.
Calling for better observation by TSA agents to determine which passengers require more in-depth searches, Mica and Petri said the “very invasive process should not be used for primary or random screening of passengers and should not be used on children.”
Pistole defended the procedures to a Senate panel earlier this week, saying he thought “everybody who gets on a flight wants to be sure the people around them have been properly screened.”
Some 315 full-body scanners are currently in use at 65 US airports, according to the TSA.
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