Controversy over TSA screening continues to grow

November 19, 2010 4:03:42 PM PST
Despite soaring costs and outrage over new security measures, it appears many Texans still plan to travel for the holidays. But as we've been reporting, there could be a problem on one of the biggest days of the year at airports across the country.

There are now full body scanners in 60 airports across the country, including Bush Intercontinental here in Houston. The scanners provide a detailed view, which is making people -- from passengers to politicians -- uncomfortable.

Passengers are sharing anecdotes about their own screenings and pat-downs by TSA employees, saying they feel violated by how they were touched. However, the TSA is claiming it's caught all sorts of items, from drugs to alcohol and even knives, with the more detailed screenings. One congressman says that's not enough.

"Shoe bomber, we had to talk off our shoes, liquid, we have to take out our liquid, now we're being groped because of the diaper bomber," said Rep. John Mica (R) of Florida. "What's next? The proctologist, the gynecologist?"

Local Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee joined Representative Bennie Thompson in sending a letter to John S. Pistole, Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, calling on the administrator to reconsider use of the controversial enhanced pat down protocols. [ READ THE FULL LETTER HERE ]

The TSA has modified some of its policies. Children under the age of 12 do not have to undergo enhanced pat-downs. It doesn't mean they won't be subject to the pat-downs. It just means they won't be as enhanced as the ones that adults undergo.

Complaints of pat-down

A mom in Ohio is one of the people outraged with the TSA after what happened when she and her infant child flew to San Antonio.

Erin Chase had baby formula in her bag, which you are allowed to bring with you on the plane. When agents saw the formula, they pulled her aside and told her she was going to be patted down. But Chase says the agent went too far when she reached inside her waist band.

"Then went to the bottom of my legs, came up my inner thighs, touched my genital areas on both sides. Again, she did not tell me she was going to do that," said Chase. "Security is obviously everybody's number one priority, but I don't think we need to be sexually violating our own citizens to make that happen."

Chase says the agent's supervisor did apologize afterwards, saying the agent should have given her a better idea of what was going to happen during the pat-down.

Another woman flying out of the Sacramento International Airport shared her story.

"She (screener) came up behind my butt, and then I had to switch my legs so my other leg was in front, and she did it twice, and after she was done with that, she came all the way up my arms and between my breasts and up under my breasts and around, all in silence, and all standing in the middle of an airport," said passenger Wendy James Gigliotti.

Radiation concerns

Some critics have also expressed concern about the radiation from the full-body scan machines. But the TSA says the radiation is much lower than a dental x-ray and you would have to go through a scanner 1,000 times a year to be at risk. And even flight crews don't go through the scanners that many times each year.


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