TSA admits not supposed to grope but does anyway

by Lisa Simeone on June 22, 2012


In an about-face from what the TSA has been claiming since 2010 — and from what hundreds of thousands of travelers have experienced — a TSA supervisor claimed the other day that TSA agents are, in fact, not supposed to use the front of their hands to grope passengers in a search, only the back of their hands, “unless there is a good reason to believe the passenger is hiding something.”

This admission came in a phone conversation with reporter Mike Mason of the local Fox-TV affiliate in Fort Myers/Naples, Florida. Mason revealed the conversation in a report he filed on June 19th.

The occasion for the report was an update on the case of Carol Jean Price, another in the list of victims who’ve been targeted by the TSA, arrested, and charged with assault for trying to protect themselves. Others include Yukari Miyamae, Andrea Abbott, and Phyllis Dintenfass. Mason’s report includes a video of Price’s search.

Mason questioned TSA procedures (which, by the way, individual TSA screeners often claim are SSI — sensitive security information). Here’s part of Mason’s transcript:

As a former TSA screener herself, Price claims agents are not supposed to touch a person’s genitals or breasts with their open hands. We called a current TSA supervisor to find out.

Mike Mason: “So you are supposed to use the back of your hand.”

The supervisor told me protocol states agents are supposed to use the backs of their hands to search sensitive areas unless there’s a good reason to believe the passenger is hiding something.

Yet in the next breath:

But nothing in the Port Authority’s report indicates Price was under any suspicion. Despite this, TSA officials maintain the pat down was “conducted according to established protocols.”

Since November 1, 2010 nationally — and since January of that year in the “test” airports in Boston and Las Vegas — we have been repeatedly told that the TSA’s “new policy” was to touch passengers’ bodies, including genitalia, with the front of the hands. Now we have a TSA supervisor telling a reporter that that’s not the case.

So which is it?

Significantly, the TSA doesn’t tell us on its website or blog. It merely uses the term “physical pat-downs” without describing what they entail.

And why, if there’s nothing wrong with the “physical pat-downs,” has the TSA ever considered revising them?

But maybe that’s all SSI. If so, that TSA supervisor who talked to Mike Mason is going to have a hard time explaining to his/her boss why this sensitive security information was revealed.

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