TSA Tries to Defuse Pat-Down Controversy

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The Transportation Security Administration has quickly become the most criticized government agency in the country since it introduced a more intrusive pat-down procedure in October, shortly after it installed dozens of full body scanners at airports nationwide.

The goal of these new security measures, says the TSA, is to keep passengers safe, but the backlash has been severe. Travelers have lashed out at airport security during pat-downs and threatened to revolt against the use of full body scanners.

Now the TSA is trying to do some damage control by debunking common misperceptions about the new security procedures.

According to a recent blog post from the TSA, passengers will only receive pat-downs if they set off the metal detector and opt out of the full body scan. In fact, the TSA says just 3% of all travelers receive pat-downs, and those who do receive a pat-down are handled by a security officer of the same gender in order to reduce the level of discomfort.

At the same time, the TSA emphasizes that everyone is subject to the same pat-down process, regardless of gender or religion.

“No one is exempt. Everyone is subject to the same screening. TSA is sensitive to religious and cultural needs, but everyone must be screened effectively,” the agency said in the blog post.

As for the full body scans, the TSA highlights studies that show they do not emit enough radiation to be harmful to passengers, as some have worried. The agency also refutes claims that these scanners store the images of passengers as “completely false.”

“TSA’s machines should not be confused with the recent stories about the U.S. Marshals Service,” the agency wrote, noting an incident that occurred earlier this year.  “The machines used by TSA at our airports cannot store, print or transmit images. They simply don’t have that ability.”

Of course, it will certainly take more than one blog post to defuse the controversy around these new security measures. If the facts and myths list from the TSA is evidence of anything, it’s just how much the public’s fear has spiraled out of control. For the final point on its list, the TSA attempts to refute a claim made by Meg McLain, a radio host, who said she was handcuffed to a chair after she refused to go through a full body scanner. The TSA provides a full video of the so-called incident to disprove the claim.

Still, if nothing else, this list provides a useful guide for travelers and makes for some good reading while you wait in the long line to get through security, which has probably only gotten longer with these new precautions.

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