Screening methods rile airline passengers

Homeland Security has pushed for a shift to full-body detection machines. Homeland Security has pushed for a shift to full-body detection machines. (AFP/ Getty Images/ File 2009)
Associated Press / November 16, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Nearly a week before the Thanksgiving air travel crush, federal air security officials struggled yesterday to reassure rising numbers of fliers and airline workers outraged by new antiterrorism screening procedures they consider invasive and harmful.

Across the country, passengers simmered over being forced to choose scans by full-body image detectors or probing pat-downs. Top federal security officials said that the procedures are safe and necessary sacrifices to ward off terror attacks.

“It’s all about security,’’ Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said. “It’s all about everybody recognizing their role.’’

Despite officials’ insistence that they had taken care to prepare the American flying public, the flurry of criticism from private citizens to airline pilots’ groups suggested that Napolitano and other federal officials had been caught off guard.

At the San Diego airport, a software engineer posted an Internet blog item saying he had been ejected after being threatened with a fine and lawsuit for refusing a groin check after turning down a full-body scan.

Questions also came from travel business groups, civil liberties activists, and pilots, raising concerns about the procedures and the possibility of delays caused by passengers reluctant to accept them.

Homeland Security and the TSA have moved forcefully to shift airport screening from familiar scanners to full-body detection machines. Those who decline must submit to rigorous pat-down inspections that include checks of the inside of travelers’ thighs and buttocks.