TSA’s Frisky New Pat-Downs


If you’re traveling this summer and don’t want a TSA agent to see your graphic full-body scan, you might have to opt for a grope. Reports have surfaced that passengers who’ve refused to go through the TSA’s expensive and invasive body scanners have been treated to a more rigerous pat-down. “If anybody ever groped me like that in real life, I would have punched them in their nose,” one male traveler told the Boston Globe. “It was extremely invasive.. actually probing and pushing and seeing if I was concealing something in my genital area.”

The new “enhanced” pat-downs are different in that screeners are using the front of their hands to probe sensitive areas instead of the backs of their hands as they had previously. Another difference is screeners will use a sliding motion to move their hands over passengers’ bodies instead of a patting motion. As one female passenger said, screeners touched her face, hair, and underneath and between her breasts in their search for weapons. These new pat-downs are currently being used at Boston’s Logan airport and Las Vegas’s McCarran airport, but the TSA plans to roll them out nationally. And in case there was any doubt, these touchy-feely pat-downs are just for those who refuse to have their bodies scanned. If you go through a regular metal detector, one source says, you would only get the regular, back-of-hand pat-down.

I can’t say which I’d prefer less: being personally probed and prodded by a TSA agent, or having my body graphically scanned knowing the image has the potential to be saved. Despite the TSA blog’s bold declaration that “TSA has not, will not and the machines cannot store images of passengers at airports,” a lawsuit turned up evidence from DHS that the machines had indeed stored more than 2,000 images for “test purposes.” The Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed a motion to immediately halt TSA’s use of scanners pending an investigation, but until then, the agency’s stance is clear: get scanned or face the consequences.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.