TSA To Expand Testing For Swift Airport Security Checks

97734615 TSA To Expand Testing For Swift Airport Security Checks

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (AP) – Testing for a new program aimed at getting certain travelers through airport security with less hassle has gone so well that the Obama administration plans to expand it to another round of airports and travelers, the government said Wednesday.

The expanded testing will not affect most travelers expected to crowd the airports during this year’s busy Thanksgiving travel season. But the government has made other changes in the past year that could make for a less intrusive trip through airport security.

The TSA began testing its pre-check program in October with a small number of travelers at airports in Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit and Miami.

Invasive pat-downs and full-body imaging machines are still a central part of the air traveler’s experience in the U.S.

But now children 12-and-under are less likely to be patted down or forced to take off their shoes. And about half of the full-body imaging machines have been upgraded to show an outline of a person instead of a blurry naked image, a feature of all new machines the government purchases, Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole told Congress.

The pre-screening test program and policy changes represent the Obama administration’s attempts at a more risk-based, intelligence-driven passenger screening program aimed at responding to complaints that the government is not using common sense when it screens all travelers the same way at airports.

Details of which airports and airlines would be eligible for the next round of testing for the pre-screening program are still being hammered out, Pistole said.

“This new screening system holds great potential to strengthen security while significantly enhancing the travel experience, whenever possible, for passengers,” Pistole said in a prepared statement at a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

But some enhanced security measures put in place at U.S. airports since the 2001 terror attacks continue to be controversial.

Some travelers and privacy advocates object to the intimate pat-down, a measure Pistole called for to give screeners the best chance at catching someone hiding a bomb in his underwear like the man authorities say nearly brought down an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.

Also, not everyone is comfortable going through a full-body imaging machine that produces a blurry image of their naked bodies so that TSA screeners can check for contraband. And there are still complaints about having to take off shoes to go through the machines.

Others are concerned that radiation from the machines is dangerous. Though TSA has said the machines are safe, Pistole told lawmakers he would call for an independent study to evaluate their safety.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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  • J Wilson

    Scanners and patdowns that cross the line in to sexual battery will not prevent a bomber who packs a kilo of symtex explosive in his colon — a tactic Al Qaida has ALREADY used in a near successful attempt on a Saudi prince’s life.

    TSA is using an open “writ of assistence” in clear violation of the 4th Amendment…. Writs of assistence was one reason that sparked our revolt against British rule.

  • Bill Fisher

    The Orlando Sentinel reported that another TSA screener in Orlando was arrested this week for child pornography. This is the second one this year in Orlando, which is the home of Disney World and sees a large number of children. This year a total of ten TSA screeners have been arrested for child sex crimes.

    There have been 59 TSA screeners arrested so far this year, a rate of one very six days. Of these, ten are charged with sex crimes involving children and four with helping to smuggle drugs through security. Of course, these screeners didn’t know for sure whether the contraband was drugs or explosives.

    This is not only a national disgrace but also very dangerous, since these employees become vulnerable to extortion and bribery by terrorist groups, placing passengers at great risk.

    The level of criminal activity in TSA indicates a significant deficiency in their hiring practices and jeopardizes everyone who flies. Congress should investigate this agency and initiate the necessary reforms as soon as possible. The traveling public and airline industry can’t afford to wait while TSA gains the needed skills through a series of mistakes and crimes by their personnel.

    TSA Crimes & Abuses

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