TSA airport security pat downThe controversy over the new enhanced security procedures at U.S. airports is clearly getting more heated each day.

FlyersRights.org, a passenger advocacy group, says it has been receiving 1,000 phone calls and emails a day from air travelers upset about the enhanced pat-down procedures that the TSA installed universally at U.S. airports at the beginning of November. The search techniques, including touching a traveler's groin areas, have obviously hit a nerve.

The pat downs are occurring because many travelers choose to opt out of new whole-body screening because of concerns about radiation or privacy. The imaging machines are now in place at 70 U.S. airports, and dozens more are scheduled to get them next year.

"Situation Is Chaotic"

Not helping the situation are TSA security screeners who seem to have taken a crash course in intimidation tactics. I have witnessed myself what many fellow travelers are reporting: TSA personnel tell passengers in no uncertain terms that if they don't agree to the body scans, they'll be subject to "very thorough" pat downs.

The security personnel are acting on orders from TSA bureaucrats in Washington, but you have to wonder just how much thought they put into these new procedures. Clearly, the TSA brass has never been to customer-relations school.

"The entire situation is chaotic,'' Kate Hanni, FlyersRights executive director, told me this past weekend. "No one knows what to expect because the pat-down procedures are varying at different airports." "In some cases," she said, "passengers are being subjected to pat downs by TSA personnel using the back of their hand, while in other cases the TSA screeners used the front of the hands, even while examining invasive body parts."

Hanni said the whole thing has become ridiculous. She said even vulnerable passengers, such as seniors and the disabled, are being subjected to the aggressive, unwarranted searches. "They're putting their hands down a 90-year-old woman's pants," she said.

Political Heat

Two other citizen groups, We Won't Fly.com and OptOutday.com. are calling for a protest by travelers this Wednesday, Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving, which is one of the busiest travel days every year. The groups want travelers to refuse the new body-imaging scans, which would cause traffic jams at security checkpoints as travelers are subjected to the pat-down procedures.

Confusing the matter, just what the new security procedures are supposed to entail is unclear. In fact, the TSA won't even discuss them, citing security concerns.

Perhaps politicians will be the ones to force the TSA's hand on the issue. "Overly intrusive" is how the incoming leaders of the House Transportation Committee have described the new airport pat downs in a letter to the TSA last Friday, Nov. 19. In the letter, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) and Rep. Thomas Petri (R-Wis.) wrote TSA Administrator John Pistole that only the highest-risk passengers should receive thorough pat downs.

"Treating every passenger as a suspect or criminal is an inefficient use of scarce resources," said Mica, who's expected to be named head of the House Transportation Committee, and Petri, who's the likely aviation subcommittee head.

Not a Pleasant Experience

In a statement issued Sunday, Pistole appeared to offer an olive branch to air travelers. "We welcome feedback and comments on the screening procedures from the traveling public, and we will work to make them as minimally invasive as possible while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve," he said.

As a traveler who has experienced the new procedures first-hand, I agree that change can't come soon enough. Mistakenly leaving my wallet in my pocket left me subject to a search and pat down at O'Hare Airport in Chicago -- after leaving the body-imaging scan equipment. It's not a pleasant experience having a guy grope you.

Of course, if all this security really deterred terrorists, these intrusions of privacy would be acceptable. But in incident after incident, it seems it's always the passengers and the flight crew who end up saving the day. After all, it wasn't TSA screeners who detected a man with explosives hidden in his underwear last December aboard the flight from Amsterdam to Detroit -- it was the passengers and flight attendants.

Or how about the TSA's "behavioral detection program," which is designed to help TSA agents apprehend terrorists. An oversight report released last May found the program, with a yearly budget of more than $200 million and some 3,000 behavior detection officials, hasn't caught a single terrorist.

Obviously, America needs an effective security program in place to ensure that our air travel is safe and not threatened by those who would do us harm. Maybe some day we'll get a more reliable and competent team running the TSA show. But for now, be prepared for a rough flight before you even board the plane.

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God Bless the World

fixed: Too much security, but they are stealing from our bags

November 26 2011 at 2:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
God Bless the World

Too muxh security but they keep stilling from our bagagges

November 26 2011 at 2:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is another step in maintaining the "fear factor". After all we need the government to protect us,don't we?? While our borders are as porous as a screen door, we are treated to prison like security searches to travel from state to state. What next,Government checkpoints between our towns? Our rights are being methodically stripped in the name of security. While some may be comfortable with that, I for one, am not. Freedom does not = freedumb.

November 23 2010 at 8:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
The Johnson's

Ask for the pat down and then ask for the warrant authorizing the search. Submit to the scan and then sue. Get the agent and the supervisor's name. Add them, the US Government, and TSA to the lawsuit. They are violating the Bill of Rights that protects us from a government that has become oppresive. If you are a lawyer, where is the class action lawsuit on our behalf? I'm sure that we can bankrupt the government with the lawsuit.

November 22 2010 at 11:02 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

next time i fly and get "patted down" i'll sing very loud and off key carol kings "will you still love me tomorrow"

November 22 2010 at 1:44 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Hopefully the TSA agents are putting on a clean pair of gloves each time they stick their hands into passengers pants or even up into their clothed groin. I sure dont want any possible transfer of germs.....or scabies..or......bed bug eggs...or even the residual of another passengers bodily fluids before touching me. Think about it folks. Think what they are touching and where. Bodily fluids can contain hepatitis....HIV.. Patients with incontinency travel too and if they are checking adult diapers to see whats in there.... then you better hope they are at least using clean gloves EACH "grope"

November 22 2010 at 1:41 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I wonder if President Obama would be willing to let his daughters or wife be patted down by TSA workers the same way that other citizens are being treated? I really resent that TSA workers who don't hold a security clearance as high as many of us have had are putting us through Hell and have the capability to make life even worse for us if we challenge their insensitivity and incompetence. We aren't the ones causing the threat. It is time for Americans to take back America and stop the creeping invasion of non-American values.

November 22 2010 at 12:50 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Will we all have to strip naked when some "near miss" incident shows that pat downs are still not doing the job? Will pat downs detect explosives hidden in body cavities? Will other countries that harbor terrorists follow the same procedures to keep them out of the USA? Can you see your wife and children being groped by some "official" (with a happy grin)in some third world airport who claims to be following the procedures that the TSA in this country has instituted? Think on these things.

November 22 2010 at 12:39 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

"The entire situation is chaotic", flying airplanes into buildings full of people is chaotic! It was the policians who forced the TSA into hurrying the screening process. Controversy? The only Controversy is that being stired up by the so-called news media to sell advertising space. The 99% of people who want to get on an airplane where TSA has made the trip as safe as possible do not mind a small inconvenienc. If The 1% have a problem, take a train, bus, car or walk.

November 22 2010 at 11:54 AM Report abuse -8 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to afwhite's comment

Where do you get this 99% figure from? It seems to me the majority of the people do NOT want this type of pat-down or these type of invasive security procedures. Israel doesn't use these type of procedures and they have had no problems in over 40 years. How about stop worrying about being so damn PC and start profiling like we should have done 15 years ago??

November 22 2010 at 3:59 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
Hello Ken

What I thought was scary was when the prez ask the TSA chief if he could modify the program somewhat and he told his boss, the prez, that he couldn't. If I told my boss no, I would be looking for a new job! I was not around for early nazi germany, but I think we are headed in that direction. Who is in charge of these "thugs" anyway? I agree with FromThom, none of these terrorist have been getting on planes here in the US, so send the TSA agents to other countries to do their thing.

November 22 2010 at 11:44 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply