Homeland Security defends airport security

November 15, 2010 7:25:33 PM PST
Some air travelers call airport security measures like pat-downs and full body scanners too close for comfort.

On Monday, the Secretary of Homeland Security defended the measures and said they are necessary due to modern security concerns. But others believe the full body scans and thorough pat-downs are too intimate.

Every terminal at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has a full body scanner. While the number of scanners continues to grow at airports across the nation, so does the number of people not wanting to use them. Their reasons for reluctance range from concerns of unhealthy doses of radiation to images that violate privacy.

A pilots union has come out against the body scanners, saying they have gone through enough extensive security checks already.

"We're former military pilots. We're former police officers. In many cases we are federal law enforcement officials, deputized as flight deck officers. To waste the resources, take them away from the true threat and apply them to our pilots is just absurd," said Capt. Garry Kravit, Airline Pilots Association.

Flight attendants have also spoken out against the body scanners and are throwing their support behind something called Crew Pass, a program that does security checks for flight crews. However, Crew Pass is only in use at a couple of airports nationwide.

"It will free up the overworked T.S.A. workers to do their job, and focus on the suspicious passengers and the people that haven't been looked at yet," said Mary Garton, Association Of Flight Attendants.

The concern over body scanners has prompted the launch of , wewillfly.com to ask passengers to opt out of security scanners next Wednesday, November 24, which is one of the busiest travel days of the year.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says scanners are safe and the images are viewed in private.

"It is being done for passenger safety and security and because of the changing threat environment that we inhabit," said Napolitano.

Passengers and flight crews can refuse scanners- but not pat-downs, which are more extensive hand searches. Some people complain the pat-downs are too intrusive, but the director of the TSA said, "while we cannot share specific details of our procedures for security reasons, pat-downs are designed to address potentially dangerous items like improvised explosive devices and their components concealed on the body."

Only a small percentage of people get pat-downs, according to the TSA. And, those pat-downs can be done in private.

Travel business groups are raising concerns about the possibility of delays caused by passengers reluctant to accept the new procedures.

There is also an internet campaign urging passengers to refuse screenings the day before Thanksgiving, which is one of the busiest travel days of the year.

The TSA said it is looking forward to future discussions with pilots on security matters, including the Crew Pass.


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