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TSA Airport Security is an Illusion - Pat Downs too Intrusive and Ineffective

Updated on March 17, 2016

This new TSA airport security program is already massively unpopular, many finding it a humiliating and degrading experience and obviously subject to horrific abuse. As I looked into information about this new screening, I ended up cancelling my trip. It is certain to result in a significant decline in air travel by other Americans as well at a time when neither the airline industry nor the country can afford another economic crisis.

When a passenger chooses to "opt out" of the full-body scan, they are to undergo a security pat-down. The TSA website explains these are specifically used to resolve alarms and prevent dangerous items from going on a plane.


The experience of a TSA pat-down, however, leaves passengers feeling more like they are forced to undergo the same kind of aggressive pat-down that criminals and drug-dealers get. This includes direct manual contact with their breasts and genitalia. Children are not exempt.

Do you think this new TSA screening is just "something we have to do"?

See results

A little girl's experience

A U.S. congressman describes his views after witnessing the experience of a little girl who was frisked by TSA airport employees.

What behavioral indicator led the screener in question to believe that the little girl needed such an invasive pat-down? If no valid behavioral or other threat indicator was present, why did the screener conduct the aggressive frisking? If the girl's mother or father were deemed a threat, why were they not segregated for further questioning, in private?

The entire episode has served as a symbol of an invasive, technology-driven passenger screening process that is not making us safer, even as it humiliates, degrades, and engages a public that deserves far better from those ostensibly seeking to protect them.


TSA searches underwear and genitalia

Hand hygiene

Dr. Julie Gerberding, the chief of the CDC, says, "We know that hand hygiene is a critical component of safe and healthy health care. ...Hand hygiene saves lives in hospitals."

However, it is reported that the TSA pad-downs do not meet medical standards for sterility. Their agents are not trained as medical personnel. TSA does not seem to have applied the understanding of how infectious disease is spread to their pat-down procedures.

It is clear the gloves they wear are to protect the TSA agents, and do not provide any protection for passengers.

A pulmonary critical care physician from Connecticut who did not want to be identified by name said, "That doesn't make sense that they're not changing gloves." Some doctors have confirmed that there is the definite possibility that passengers will be able to catch whatever someone in front of them in line was suffering from via the latex gloves TSA workers use.

A doctor says, "How come if we as doctors have guidelines, we must wear gloves and have oversight, it's very different [for the TSA]?"

Staphylococci are tough and can be spread towels, tampons or gloves and can survive in dry conditions. Methicillin resistant staph creates havocin hospitals.

Sexual assault survivors

A woman who has been sexually victimized through molestation and rape has an even more challenging decision. She is more likely to have triggers, flashbacks, and panic attacks of the incident ensuing from words, images, and actions that remind her that her body is no longer sacred. For a rape victim, an enhanced pat down from a stranger in public may come with emotional consequences for her, altering a simple flight to an incident of victimization.

Safety and security come at a price that many of us do not want to pay. Some won't fly again under any of these circumstances .

The American Traveler Dignity Act

What you can do

  • Appeal to the compassion of the TSA agent performing the search, asking them to be sensitive to your history of violation, if this is the case.
  • Demand the TSA agents change their gloves. At a minimum gloves should be changed between pat-downs, "especially if the gloved hand is inside clothes or in the genital area, even if clothed."
  • Travelers should be advised of this and hand-wash and change clothes ASAP after these intimate examinations.
  • Support the American Traveler Dignity Act, introduced in this video.

The choice between a full-body scanner and an enhanced pat-down is hardly a choice at all, and though not charged with a crime subjects the citizen to invasive violations of privacy as an abuse of power. So I'm glad to see gathering opposition to the TSA's policies.

See a separate article on TSA full-body scans.

© 2010 Deidre Shelden


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    • Ms Dee profile image

      Deidre Shelden 7 years ago from Texas, USA

      Thanks for your thoughts, Abecedarian! From what I've read, it really does not make us safer from terrorists. They could mold bomb materials into their body shape and it wouldn't show on the scanner, is what one article says. I agree, there certainly isn't a way that will make everyone happy :). Not possible.

    • Abecedarian profile image

      Abecedarian 7 years ago from These United States, Texas

      I had to take off my boots when I flew to Boston at it was a pain. So, when I flew to New York earlier this year, I wore flip flops through the airport and put on a pair of comfortable shoes once I got to my destination. Like with everything, it all depeneds on who's doing it. Do I agree that we need some type of security screening? Yes. Do I think the new scanner or pat down is it? Maybe. I don't have a problem with being scanned. I don't know these people from adam and I will most likely never see them again, and if it makes it safer for all on the plane. What the heck? The pat downs I have a problem with because some people are over zealous and can make it uncomfortable. Will we ever find a solution that makes "everyone" happy? Probably not.

    • OpinionDuck profile image

      OpinionDuck 7 years ago

      Ms Dee

      Good hub.

      I missed the problem of the "gloves" when I did my hub on the TSA.

      The gloves protect the TSA worker but no the pat downed passenger. I wonder what the CDC thinks of this procedure, especially for International Travelers.

      MY solution to the body scan and the hands on pat down was to have all of Congress, The President,and basically anyone in the government to voluntarily go through the process, and have the results posted on the Internet.


    • FitnezzJim profile image

      FitnezzJim 7 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

      All those people and all those machines make for a really expensive illusion.

    • rotl profile image

      rotl 7 years ago from Florida

      I think it's unnecessary and simply gives travelers the illusion of safety.

    • libby101a profile image

      libby101a 7 years ago from KY

      Athough I think they should be more safe by changing gloves, I do think it is needed. Of course, there are limits to what they should or shoudn't be able to do.

      However, I'm sure anyone who has ever been on a hi-jacked plane will tell you they wish the hi-jackers had been patted down more thoroughly.

      It's sort of a double edged sword here. Either we understand there must be evasive checking at airports, or deal with the possibilities of possible hi-jackers! \

      Good hub! Very thought provoking!! Voting up!!