The TSA’s new enhanced patdowns, a more aggressive and, some say, invasive version of traditional hand searches, are now in use at airports nationwide. The enhanced patdowns had been in a testing phase until last week.
The new technique involves screeners sliding their hands over nearly every inch of a passenger’s body and, unlike existing techniques that require screeners to use the backs of their hands on sensitive areas, screeners use their palms for the entire search.
The patdowns are only used when passengers trigger the metal detector or refuse a full-body scanner. Like the patdowns, body scanners, which produce grayscale images of passengers’ naked bodies, have generated backlash related to privacy concerns.
Opponents of the patdowns, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), have called the new patdowns invasive and likened them to an aggressive grope. Chris Calabrese, an ACLU lawyer, told USA Today the patdowns should be stopped until the policy is fully analyzed.
The TSA insists the patdowns are a necessary layer of security, and says passengers can request a private space for the patdown. Patdowns are performed by screeners of the same gender as the passenger.
The use of enhanced hand searches seems random and arbitrary to me. After all, it’s not the result of some new innovation in patdown technology, is it? It’s just a case of the TSA deciding, with little apparent justification, to cross the line between privacy and security once again. If we survived the last few years with regular patdowns, why the sudden need for an enhanced version?
Readers, what do you think about the patdowns? How do you feel about the potential choice between a full-body scanner and a patdown?