NOT THE ONION: TSA Announces Pat Downs Will Become More Intimate

Back before PreCheck I used to opt out of the naked imaging scanners. I’d get a pat down.

The TSA employee called over to do it would offer me a private screening, but I’d turn that down. Then they’d explain what was going to come next, eventually noting they’d bring their hands up the inside of my leg “until they meet resistance.” Invariably they’d then ask if I have any sensitive areas? My reply was always, “only where you meet resistance.”

The TSA used to use 5 different types of pat downs with varying degrees of invasiveness and ‘intimacy’. Now they plan to use just a single style of massage.

The new physical touching—for those selected to have a pat-down—will be more invasive in what the federal agency describes as a more “comprehensive” physical screening, according to a Transportation Security Administration spokesman.

Denver International Airport, for example, notified employees and flight crews on Thursday that the “more rigorous” searches “will be more thorough and may involve an officer making more intimate contact than before.”

Denver screeners in particular should be thrilled, since that’s where they were caught manipulating the nude-o-scopes to ‘alarm’ so that they could fondle attractive passengers.

The new more intimate touching is going to be taken nice and slow, TSA spokesman Bruce Anderson said “for the person who gets the pat down, it will slow them down.”

The TSA is just now making this change as a reaction to its 95% failure rate detecting weapoins being exposed nearly two years ago. (Although of course a decade earlier the failure rate was revealed to be 91%.)

The change is partly a result of the agency’s study of a 2015 report that criticized aspects of TSA screening procedures. That audit, by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, drew headlines because airport officers had failed to detect handguns and other weapons.

TSA Agents in Charlotte Watch News of the TSA’s Failure to Detect Weapons and Bombs, Instead of Searching for Weapons and Bombs (HT: Tocqueville)

Of course if we want better security, random groping by one of the 20,000 TSA employees accused of misconduct isn’t how you get it. You need to separate regulation of security procedures from carrying out screening duties if you ever want to get accountability.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. How about random drug testings for all TSA workers since they must be on drugs to come up w/ bullshit policies like this.
    BTW the only times I got random pull for secondary screening as a precheck was in DEN only.
    I gave TSA shit about getting pulled over twice in a row in DEN and TSA replied it was “random”.
    Told them two in a row ain’t random and maybe I should just buy a lottery ticket.

  2. “Don’t screen me, screen THAT guy”…sound familiar? You can’t have it both ways. If TSA were to profile, you’d be the first to grandstand against the horrors of discrimination by TSA. For the past several years, I’ve breezed through precheck. Never any problems, instructions followed, mouth kept shut. It’s not hard. If they have to check my bag then so be it. I comply and don’t care because I have nothing to hide. I know I’m not like the majority of your “elite” readers in the regard that I don’t suffer from an enormous ego or an overinflated sense of self worth. I fly just as much as them but I’m not a douchebag about it.

  3. So they will now be grabbing p. . . . .s? Wonder where that policy could have come from? I’m sure people will let them do it!
    (I know this has nothing to do with trump, but I couldn’t pass up the chance)

  4. oh, and Sam, yes, twice in a row can be random. If twice in a row wasn’t a possibility, it wouldn’t be random, nor would it be security. If you knew that you would never be checked the next time you flew after being checked, that would be a security hole you could drive a car bomb through.

  5. You should rotate a few different lines. “‘Resistance’? That’s a funny name; I call mine ‘Charlie’.” Surely this group can come up with a few more semi-tasteful options?

  6. Avoiding the nude o scope? Little bit bashful eh?

    Thankfully I went to high school where we had communal showers; gets rid of silly modesty real quick in that environment. Hey tsa, you wanna have a peek? Enjoy the view!

    Never understand folks who are afraid of that kinda thing. Maybe women, sure, but men?

  7. To paraphrase the late great Mae West; “Is that a gun in your pocket, or ya just glad to see me?”

  8. @Joe if believing that the TSA shouldn’t violate basic, specifically enumerated rights (not to mention a person’s dignity) in the pursuit of demonstrably ineffective security theater is “elitist,” then I suppose it’s a label I’ll wear.

  9. @Justin, this has been ruled by the courts numerous times. Get over it. If you can’t handle it then you really should stick to Amtrak. Your first class seat may not be as comfy and the attendant may not kiss your ass as much as you’d demand, plus the metropolitan lounges a kind of crappy but hey atleast you don’t have to be inconvenienced. Out of curiosity, when’s the last time you were patted down? I mean it essentially only happens when you either don’t or refuse to follow other directions (like emptying your pockets). With that said, I’d actually prefer that you stick to the train going forward. Your probably that annoying guy who sits next to me and talks nonstop while I’m making it obvious I don’t want to talk to you.

  10. With this change, there will be more and more degenerates/gropers and society’s lowlifes signing up for TSA jobs..I guess DHS is adding this “perk” to attract more of them!

  11. Traveled last weekend to DC. Four times he ran his hand across my junk. FOUR TIMES. Never before anything like that. I was in a hurry to get to the gate so I said nothing.

  12. I don’t intend to be crude with this question but can we opt in for private visual inspections? Specifically, I don’t like nor am comfortable with being touched by anyone but my wife. That includes everything from these invasive searches down to a good job pat on the back. I’d rather go into a side room, remove all my clothes and be done with it. I’ve had enough physicals from physicians due to military work that I don’t care if my boy parts are seen – but I do profusely object to some stranger touching my “junk”. Again, not trying to be inappropriate; my feelings.

  13. Interesting experience at SFO last week – Mar 12. Whizzed through PreChek only to get flagged for a random body pat down. Sheepishly the TSA agent asked me if I had any sensitive parts of my body, and I just held up my arms with legs spread and told him … “just do what you have to do”. He looked perplexed. Then he asked if I had a cell phone. Yes. That was good enough; he swabbed it for explosives and on my way I went. He looked relieved; I didn’t know whether to be pissed or very amused.

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