TSA's new security measures illegal?

November 19, 2010 4:36:45 AM PST
TSA's new security measure, full body scans and more detailed pat downs have been called invasive and offensive, but could they be illegal? We've heard lots of opinions about the new measures, and as more and more travelers are subject to them, prosecutors across the country may be forced to decide whether some of the pat downs in particular cross the line.

As the busy holiday travel time nears, the anxiety heightens.

"It's going to be a nightmare, a nightmare," passenger Pat Ulrich said.

Bags, kids and now in the mix are pat downs and full body scans at security checkpoints.

Congressman Ted Poe is clear on his opinion against the new security measures. Now, a California district attorney is also weighing in with a warning for all TSA personnel.

"The case would be reviewed and if we could prove the elements of it -- that it was inappropriately done with a sexual or lewd intent -- that person would be prosecuted," San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

More pat-down searches are expected because some passengers are refusing to go through the image-scanning devices. There are 15 body scanners at Bush Intercontinental Airport with three more on the way by the end of the year. Hobby Airport, so far, has none.

Department of Homeland Security officials say a passenger's privacy is protected for both security measures, but Liz Haynes isn't so sure after she watched a pat down.

"It looked invasive and I wouldn't want it happening to me in front of all those people," Haynes said. "I think maybe if they put you in a privatized area, where you don't have so many people sitting there watching it happen, it may be better."

The Harris County District Attorney's Office on Wednesday night told us simply complaints against TSA workers "will be reviewed on a case by case basis." Passenger David Strickland thinks prosecution is extreme. "No, they shouldn't be prosecuted at all," he said. "In fact, we should probably thank them for what they're doing." Other travelers believe the message is a good one. "You kind of have to protect from the extremes; lay out the rules and make sure everybody understand where the boundaries are," passenger Jason Hartwell said. "Just pat me down and that's it. You don't have to feel. I'm an old woman," passenger Mary Bach said.

The district attorney in San Francisco says the charge for an inappropriate pat down would be sexual battery, and depending on the evidence, it could be a felony or a misdemeanor.

Still, some passengers we spoke with said they're willing to endure all of it for the sake of security.


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