Entries in Pat-Downs (10)


Department of Justice, Texas Battle Over 'No Pat-Down' Law

Creatas/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) -- In a showdown with national implications for travelers, the Department of Justice has threatened to cancel flights to and from Texas if the state's legislators enact a law forbidding security pat-downs that include private parts.

John Murphy, U.S. Attorney for the western district of Texas, wrote a letter to leaders of the Texas state legislature indicating that if the bill is enacted, the TSA would "likely be required to cancel any flight…for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers and crew."

House bill 1937, passed unanimously by the Texas House this month, forbids Transportation Security Administration officials from intentionally touching the private parts of another person.  The bill had passed through a Senate committee unanimously before Murphy sent the letter this week.

"As you no doubt are aware, the bill makes it a crime for a federal Transportation Security Official (TSO) to perform the security screening that he or she is authorized and required by federal law to perform," Murphy wrote.

In response to Murphy's threat, Texas state representative David Simpson wrote a response correcting alleged "inaccuracies" in the attorney general's letter and saying that the federal government is "attempting to deprive the citizens of Texas of their constitutional rights."

"The attorney general's letter claims we are stopping all searches.  The bill just says you can't touch privates without probable cause," Simpson told ABC News.  "This bill was supported unanimously by Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives."

Simpson said the bill states that a TSA official commits an offense if "without probable cause performs a search for the purpose of granting access to a publicly accessible building or form of transportation and intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly touches the anus, sexual organ, buttocks or breasts of the other person."

Simpson said if only 3 percent of air travelers in the U.S. undergo pat-downs, as cited previously by the TSA, then flights to Texas could be shut down "because TSA would not be able to ensure the safety of passengers and crew if agents could not touch the genitals of 3 percent."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


National Opt-Out Day a Bust

Photo Courtesy - Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Travelers flying for the Thanksgiving holiday on Wednesday headed to the airport extra early, expecting delays and protesters participating in National Opt-Out Day.

Despite an Internet campaign to encourage passengers to slow up security lines by "opting out" -- refusing full-body scanners -- on one of the busiest travel days of the year, the Transportation Security Administration reported that very few of the two million passengers flying Wednesday chose time-consuming pat-downs over scans.

Most of the delays reported at airports on Wednesday were weather-related.  High winds caused some problems around New York, and that vicious storm that blanketed the Seattle area with snow earlier this week is making its way through the Midwest.  Transportation officials have warned traffic could continue to be a problem along the East Coast on I-95.

As of Wednesday evening, flights were operating approximately 40 minutes late at both cities' airports.  And in Chicago, rain backed up the runways at O'Hare bringing delay times up to 90 minutes.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


College Student Protests TSA Pat Downs at DCA

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON)  -- A college student has launched a one-man protest over the TSA’s controversial pat down techniques.

27-year-old Brad Aefsky, a student from Fairfax, Va., held a sign Wednesday at Reagan International Airport which read, "TSA: Tyrants Sexually Assaulting Americans."

As Aefsky answered questions during a media interview, a passerby shouted, “Why don’t you get a job?” A comment to which Aefsky replied, “Why don’t you wake up?”

The Transportation Security Administration and the White House have come under fire recently for the new pat down techniques which some have called invasive.

According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, fewer than half of Americans support the new procedure.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Airport Pat-Downs: TSA Says it Can Fine You for Backing Out

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The day before Thanksgiving will be the pre-holiday ritual of long lines, frustration and National Opt-Out Day -- a movement calling on airline passengers to forego the controversial new body scanning machines and manual security pat-downs. The movement is intended to snarl lines at airports as a protest against the new, more invasive screening proceedures.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says it can fine individuals up to $11,000 for walking away from the airport security process.  But will it?  People in government say the fine is mostly a deterrent so that terrorists cannot back out of a security check once it starts.

The TSA said it has yet to fine a traveler for not completing the screening process, though it has levied civil penalties against passengers who have brought dangerous items to the security checkpoint.

"While TSA has the legal authority to levy a civil penalty of up to $11,000 for individuals who choose not to complete the screening process, each case is determined on the individual circumstances of the situation," said Greg Soule, a spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration.  Congress transferred the enforcement of civil aviation security to the TSA from the Federal Aviation Administration in November 2001, after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The TSA's current civil penalty monetary guidelines, which became effective on Aug. 20 last year, say the security administration can impose "civil monetary penalties up to $10,000 per violation for surface transportation modes [for breaches of highway, pipeline, freight rail and mass transit security policies] and up to $11,000 per violation for all other persons."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


TSA Pat Down Went Too Far, Agency Chief Says

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- The head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said Monday that at least one airport passenger screening went too far when an officer reached inside a traveler's underwear, and the agency is open to rethinking its current protocols.

An ABC News employee said she was subject to a "demeaning" search at Newark Liberty International Airport Sunday morning. "The woman who checked me reached her hands inside my underwear and felt her way around," she said.  "It was basically worse than going to the gynecologist.  It was embarrassing.  It was demeaning.  It was inappropriate."

That search was against protocols and "never" should have happened, TSA Administrator John Pistole told ABC News Monday.  "There should never be a situation where that happens," Pistole said.  "The security officers are there to protect the traveling public.  There are specific standard operating protocols which they are to follow."

Pistole, reponding to complaints from passengers, has maintained that the TSA will not change its pat down procedures.  But on Monday he said the agency is "open" to changing security procedures.

"The bottom line is, we are always adapting and adjusting prior protocols in view of the intelligence and in view of the latest information we have on how the terrorists are trying to kill our people on planes," Pistole said.  "If that means we need to adjust the procedures, then of course we're open to that."

In recent days, several passengers have come forward to tell shocking stories about their experiences with TSA officers.

Thomas Sawyer, a bladder cancer survivor, said he was humiliated after a pat down broke his urostomy bag, leaving the 61-year-old covered in his own urine.  Sawyer said he warned the TSA officials twice the pat down could break the seal.  And in another incident, Cathy Bossi, a long-time flight attendant and breast cancer survivor said the TSA made her take off her prosthetic breast.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Hillary Clinton: Understand Fury over Enhanced Pat-Downs

File photo. Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Hillary Clinton is the latest of Obama administration officials to weigh in on the enhanced security pat-downs and screenings taking place at airports across the country.

In an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation, the secretary of state was asked whether she would submit to an enhanced pat down.

"Not if I could avoid it, no," Clinton said. "I mean, who would?"

"I understand how difficult it is, and how offensive it must be for the people who are going through it," she said.

Clinton suggested that the administration and its experts were open to changes in the controversial procedure, echoing a message sent by President Obama on Saturday.

"I understand people's frustrations," the president said, "And what I've said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we are doing is the only way to assure the American people's safety. And you also have to think through are there ways to do it that are less intrusive."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


TSA Says Pilots Will Be Exempt from Invasive Pat-Downs, Scanners

Photo Courtesy - Blog dot TSA dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. airline pilots learned Friday that they'll be exempt from the invasive x-ray screening and pat-downs that have sparked a revolt across the country.

In a statement, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced new procedures that it says will streamline airport security.

Pilots in uniform acting on airline business will be allowed to pass through airport security by showing two photo IDs. The identification will be cross-checked against a flight crew database.

"Allowing these uniformed pilots, whose identity has been verified, to go through expedited screening at the checkpoint just makes for smart security and an efficient use of our resources," TSA Administrator John Pistole said in a statement.

The decision comes after pilots' unions had called on members to avoid going through the advanced x-ray screeners that produce full-body images, and they had also expressed concerns about enhanced pat-downs. A handful of pilots have said they were so traumatized by the searches that they couldn't perform their duties, though critics have accused them of making such claims to push a political agenda.

As of yet, though, there is no change in policy for regular travelers.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


New Bill to Address 'Gaping Hole' in Aviation Security

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(WASHINGTON) – Amid increased concern over cargo security, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., proposed a bill in a letter to House colleagues that would extend security screening mandates to 100 percent of airplane cargo.

The bill would act as an extension to a similar law authored by Markey in 2007, which required the screening of all cargo aboard domestic and international passenger planes in the United States.

“Al Qaeda continues to put aviation at the top of its terrorist target list, and our nation must close the cargo loophole that continues to put lives and our economy at risk,” said Markey, adding that terrorists have begun to turn their attention to less protected all-cargo aircrafts. 

The Air Cargo Security Act would require the Department of Homeland Security to develop a system that would screen 100 percent of cargo transported on all-cargo aircrafts within three years, with half of the cargo screened within 18 months.

New passenger screening techniques also came to the forefront Tuesday.

While on Capitol Hill to discuss cargo security, the head of the Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, was asked about also Advanced Imaging Technology (full body scanners) and enhanced pat-downs. 

Pistole defended the TSA’s techniques, saying that the agency has to balance privacy concerns with flight security.  Meanwhile, a website is calling on passengers to “opt out” of the full-body scans during Thanksgiving travel, when an estimated 24 million passengers will take to the skies.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Is TSA Security Patdown Sexual Molestation?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN DIEGO) -- Just as Americans prepare to head home for Thanksgiving, the government is coming under fire for a new airport security patdown procedure that includes the touching of passengers' inner thighs and women's breasts.

From pilots' unions to viral online protests, Americans are telling the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that the government has gone too far in the name of security, equating the new searches to "sexual molestation" or "sexual assault."

Over the weekend, a 31-year-old software programmer was thrown out of San Diego International Airport after he got into an argument with a TSA screener about the new, more aggressive patdown.

"If you touch my junk, I'm going to have you arrested," John Tyner told the male screener. Tyner recorded audio of the whole 30-minute incident with the TSA on his cell phone's video camera, a video now with hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube.

"It was probably not the most artful way of expressing my point but I was trying to keep it lighthearted; I did not want a big situation. I said it with a half-smile on my face," Tyner told ABC News.

A supervisor comes over, explains the groin check and tells Tyner, according to the cell phone recording: "If you're not comfortable with that, we can escort you back out and you don't have to fly today."

Tyner responded "OK, I don't understand how a sexual assault can be made a condition of my flying."

"This is not considered a sexual assault," replied the female supervisor.

"It would be if you were not the government," Tyner said. He then adds, "I'd like only my wife and maybe my doctor to touch me there."

So will he fly again soon?

"I'm not planning on it. You know, I've had some people suggest that I'm probably on a no-fly list now," Tyner said. "But until these machines go away, I wasn't really planning on flying anywhere again anyway."

It's not just passengers who are upset with the searches, however. Pilots are speaking out about the searches, with one going so far as to say he felt sexually molested and that he vomited in his own driveway while contemplating going back to work, then being subjected to another patdown.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 


Pilots Unions Seek to Opt Out of Full-Body Security Scanning  

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- Two pilots unions are now advising their members to opt out of Advanced Imaging Technology screening machines (full-body scanners) when going through TSA security.   They’re also calling into question the TSA’s pat-downs.

On Nov. 1, Captain Dave Bates, the head of the Allied Pilots Association, sent an e-mail to pilots suggesting they refuse full-body scanners because of potential radiation exposure.

“While I’m sure that each of us recognizes the threats to our lives are real, the practice of airport security screening of airline pilots has spun out of control and does nothing to improve national security.  It’s long past time that policymakers take the steps necessary to exempt commercial pilots from airport security screening....” Bates wrote.

Captain Bates added that pilots should request that pat-downs be done in private.  

“In my view, it is unacceptable to submit to one in public while wearing the uniform of a professional airline pilot,” he said.    

APA represents 11,000 American Airlines pilots.  
On Monday, Captain Mike Cleary, head of the U.S. Airlines Pilots Association, sent out a similar message to his pilots saying that full-body scanners represent a health risk to pilots. Cleary also recounted a disturbing report from one US Airways pilot regarding TSA’s enhanced pat-down:  

“One US Airways pilot, after being selected for an enhanced pat-down, experienced a frisking that has left him unable to function as a crew member. The words this pilot used to describe the incident included ‘sexual molestation,’ and in the aftermath of trying to recover, this pilot reported that he had literally vomited in his own driveway while contemplating going back to work and facing the possibility of a similar encounter with the TSA.” 

Cleary adds in his memo that, “when submitting to a private, enhanced pat-down procedure, pilots must be sure that a witness, preferably a crew member, accompanies them during the pat-down.”  

USAPA represents 5,300 US Airways pilots.

In response to resistance from the pilots unions, TSA said:

“We are frequently reminded that our enemy is creative and willing to go to great lengths to evade detection. TSA utilizes the latest intelligence to inform the deployment of new technology and procedures, like the pat-down, in order to stay ahead of evolving threats. Administrator Pistole is committed to a risk-based, intelligence-driven approach to security and ordered a review of existing policies shortly after taking office. We look forward to further discussion with pilots on these important issues.”

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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