TSA say more invasive pat-down searches needed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Transportation Security Administration is introducing a new, more invasive pat-down method after a 2015 Homeland Security study found weapons made it past airport security checkpoints in 67 out of 70 attempts -- a 95 percent failure rate.

The TSA won't go too much into detail about the new pat-down searches, but say they've consolidated the process into one standardized procedure to make it more thorough and comprehensive. This includes the inspection of sensitive areas such as breasts, groin and buttocks.

The TSA screens about 2 million people every day at U.S. airports and says it doesn't track how many passengers are patted down after passing through the imaging scanner. It is expecting the spring break travel season to be at a 10-year high, with about 62 million fliers screened in March.

Margerie Micklos, passing through Jacksonville International Airport from Connecticut, said the TSA has gone as far as reaching inside her pants during a security pat-down.

"It was a little bit intrusive," Micklos said. "I was like, 'I'm a 50-year-old woman. What am I going to do?' It's ridiculous."

"It's a little intimidating, but my safety on flights is a whole lot more important," said Jeanne Hill, who lives in Ocala. "If there's a will, there's going to be a way, and they're going try it. We need to be secure."

Hill opted for a pat-down in a private room and said it was time-consuming, but worth it for the safety of travelers.

Although they can't guarantee you won't get a pat down when going through security at the airport, the TSA said there are things you can do to minimize your chances of getting one, such as removing jewelry, like earrings, removing belts or anything else that will tip off metal detectors, or by choosing to go through a full-body scanner.

The TSA also recommends you empty everything out of your pockets into your carry-on bag -- even your wallet --before you get to the checkpoint.

If you are given a pat-down, it will be done by an officer of the same gender and you can request a private screening accompanied by another person of your choice.

Here is the statement the TSA released about the new pat-downs:

Effective March 2, 2017, TSA consolidated previous pat-down procedures into one standardized pat-down procedure at airport security checkpoints and at other locations within the airport. This standardized pat-down procedure continues to utilize enhanced security measures implemented several months ago, and does not involve any different areas of the body than were screened in the previous standard pat-down procedure. Individuals transiting the TSA security checkpoint who have opted out of technology screening, or alarmed the technology or a canine team, will undergo a pat-down. Passengers may also receive a pat-down as part of our unpredictable security measures. TSA continues to adjust and refine our systems and procedures to meet the evolving threat and to achieve the highest levels of transportation security."

From the TSA's website:

• TSA’s job is to keep the traveling public safe. The use of security technology and physical screening measures is critical to mitigate threats.
• Individuals transiting the TSA security checkpoint who have opted out of technology or alarmed the technology or Passenger Screening Canine will undergo a pat-down. Passengers may also receive a pat-down as part of our unpredictable security measures.
• This includes any pat-down included in “insider threat” mitigation measures. The Universal Pat Down (UPD) reduces the possibility for confusion with passengers and employees as well.
• TSA officers received formal instructor-led, classroom training on the UPD. Upon training completion, Officers are required to demonstrate proficiency in performing the procedure before being permitted to perform the pat-down at TSA security checkpoints.
• At any time during the screening process, passengers may request to be screened in private and be accompanied by a companion of their choice. A second Officer will always be present during private screening.
• Passengers are encouraged to visit the TSA website to obtain information on how to seek screening assistance and provide feedback on their screening experience.

For more information about the pat-down screening, visit TSA.gov.