White House defends body scanners and pat-downs

LA Times

The White House on Monday defended the use of body scanners and aggressive pat-downs to screen air travelers as necessary against current terror threats as officials sought to quell a firestorm of complaints before the busy Thanksgiving travel weekend.

Yet even as it stood by the new policies, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, the Obama administration constantly is reevaluating security techniques, saying they “have to evolve.”

“Our goal must to be maximize protection and security and minimize inconvenience and invasiveness,” Gibbs said, adding, “It’s not an easy task.” [ed – I think he’s got that backwards]

Speaking with reporters on Monday morning, TSA administrator John Pistole expressed his “willingness to assess our current screening as part of an ever-evolving security plan.”

“I recognize we do things in a partnership with the American people,” he said. [ed – another lie.  Everything the TSA does is against the American people without any of their input]

The stepped-up security measures were launched 17 days ago and were attacked immediately by critics who argue the procedures are an unnecessary violation of privacy. A handful of videos on YouTube of passengers subjected to the pat-downs, which include TSA agents using their open hands to search the clothed genital areas of passengers, have drawn huge web traffic, further escalating controversy.

On Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, a grassroots protest movement seeks to create long delays in airport security lines by asking air travelers to “opt out” of advanced full-body imaging machines. Transportation Security Administration officials said they will have extra workers on duty to deal with any slowdowns.

Federal officials have started to answer critics with statistics they say show most passengers see enhanced screening as a necessary inconvenience. The handful of web videos do not put the new techniques in proper context, they say.

The Department of Homeland Security said that of the estimated 28 million people who flew during the first two weeks of the new security measures, TSA received fewer than 700 complaints. Of all the passengers who were asked to submit to a full body scan, only 1% have chosen to opt out and instead undergo a pat-down.

Federal officials have emphasized that most passengers will continue to pass only through metal detectors. [ed – until they decide otherwise like they apparently do in El Paso]

A smaller group will be asked to submit to a body scan. But only passengers who refuse the body scan or trip the alarm on the metal detector will be asked to agree to a pat-down.

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