In the latest phase of the evolution of post 9-11-01 airport security, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) has expanded its list of civil rights afforded to passengers subjected to physical pat-down screenings.
According to the TSA, passengers are required to get a pat-down search when they set off a metal detector or whole-body imaging scanner, or refuse to go through a metal detector or be screened by a whole-body imaging scanner.
In most cases, notes the TSA, you can completely avoid a pat-down search by removing everything - especially everything that even resembles metal -- from your pockets and clothing before you go through the metal detector. TSA also recommends not wearing clothing with a high metal content (like a chainmail vest?) and removing all heavy jewelry before going through the security checkpoint.
What Are Your Rights? If, heaven forbid, you are required to submit to what TSA says calls a "thorough" pat-down search, you have these rights and assurances:
- The TSA says the pat-down search will be conducted by an officer of your gender. But, notes the TSA, you might have to wait for an officer of your gender to become available.
- You have the right to request that the pat-down be conducted in a private location that cannot be seen by other passengers, airport employees or the general public.
- The pat-down search must be witnessed by another TSA officer. In addition, you have the right to have the search witnessed by a travel companion or anyone else of your choice.
- You have the right to request a chair if you need to sit down.
- You should tell the TSA officer -- before the pat-down search begins - if you have any physical condition that makes it hard for you raise your arms or to remain in the position for undergoing a pat-down search. You should also tell the officer if you any areas of your body that are painful when touched.
- Finally, the TSA officer should never ask you to remove or lift any article of clothing to reveal a sensitive part of your body.
If They Find Explosives: In addition to pat-down searches, the TSA now uses technology that tests passengers for traces of explosive material. If the TSA detects explosives or traces of explosives on you or your clothing, you will have to undergo "additional screening." Basically, you're going to be there a while.
Also See: TSA Defends Boarding Gate Drink Checks
What About Children? Responding criticism of its treatment of children in pat-down searches, the TSA now says it will work with parents to resolve any checkpoint alarms without the need for a pat-down. TSA urges parents to ensure that their children have removed all metal items from their pockets before they enter the security checkpoint. The TSA also now states that if a pat-down search is required, children may be given "modified" pat-down search. No description of the "modified" search was provided.