TSA aims to ease passengers’ worries

November 23, 2010

By Michael A. Memoli and Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times

As the busy Thanksgiving travel days approach, government officials went on the offensive Monday to quell passenger complaints about full-body scans and aggressive pat-downs at airports, saying the hype swirling around a few highly publicized cases does not reflect the reality of the new safety inspections.

In the first two weeks after the enhanced screening measures began Nov. 1, the Department of Homeland Security said about 700 of an estimated 28 million airline passengers lodged complaints with the Transportation Security Administration.

The TSA released a public service announcement Monday with advice for travelers, emphasizing that the pat-downs are rare — involving 3% of all airline passengers — and that travelers can request that they be done in a private room.

Of the passengers asked to submit to a full-body scan, 1% have chosen to instead undergo a pat-down, which includes TSA agents using their hands to check sensitive areas such as the groin and bra area.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sought to reassure the flying public Monday by stepping into a body scan machine at Los Angeles International Airport. As Villaraigosa raised his arms, a screener in another room peered through his dark suit and peach tie for contraband.

Within five seconds, his screening was done. He urged those thinking of opting out for reasons of privacy or modesty to reconsider.

“That’s the wrong way to go,” the mayor said as cameras rolled. “We all have to recognize that these are different times. … And that’s why these layers of security are being installed.”

Despite the efforts, the government was still facing formidable opposition in the form of widely circulated Internet videos. In one video, TSA agents at the Salt Lake City airport were performing a pat-down on a young boy after his father decided to remove the boy’s shirt. In another widely-seenYouTube clip, San Diego native John Tyner warns agents not to “touch my junk” as he refuses to submit to either a full-body scan or a pat-down.

To read more, visit: http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-tsa-pat-downs-20101123,0,3483810.story

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