TSA Changes Its Mind on Security Rules—for Pilots

By Andrew Moseman | November 19, 2010 5:44 pm

AirportSignAs the backlash continues against the TSA’s full body scanning and increasingly aggressive pat-downs of those who opt out, the agency has bent a little in one area. The head of TSA today questioned the need to use the added security on pilots. The pilots organization had already told its members to opt out of the scans to avoid extra radiation exposure. Now, the TSA says that as of 2011 pilots will only need to have their airline-issued IDs checked by computer.

“This one seemed to jump out as a common-sense issue,” Transportation Security Administration (TSA) chief John Pistole told Bloomberg News on Friday. “Why don’t we trust pilots who are literally in charge of the aircraft?” That’s exactly the point commercial airline pilots have been making for years. [Christian Science Monitor]

What Pistole did not do, however, was back off the policy of using the scanners on the rest of us. And yesterday on its blog, the TSA tried to launch a PR counter-offensive to the tidal wave of bad press this week. (Though you might not be terribly satisfied with their answer to the question of whether pat-downs are invasive, about which Ars Technica quips, “Nowhere in the “Fact” response does the TSA directly answer the allegation of invasiveness, probably because the pat-downs are invasive.”)

Since the TSA appears disinclined to change its mind about scanning or getting touchy-feely with the general public, lawmakers are beginning to make some noise. In New York, councilman David Greenfield proposed rules to bar TSA from using the x-ray scanners in the city’s airports.

Now Greenfield hopes to set off a chain of local legislative action around the country, starting with New York. His legislation would ban the used of the devices anywhere in the New York, including the airports. “We’re not opting out of screening altogether,” Greenfield told Threat Level. “We’re simply banning one type of screening that hasn’t proven effective.” [Wired.com]

Congress is rumbling, too. Today the two representatives who will assume leadership of the transportation committee when the House transfers over to Republican control said TSA’s procedures are “overly intrusive.”

In a letter to the TSA, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., and Rep. Thomas Petri, R-Wis. … said only the highest risk passengers should be subjected to the more aggressive pat-downs. It is the harshest reaction to date on the new searches from key leaders in Congress. “The entire focus of TSA’s efforts to improve aviation security needs to be revisited,” Mica and Petri wrote in the letter. They accused TSA of reacting to old threats — in this case, the so-called “underwear bomber” who attempted to blow up a jet last Christmas — while failing to be “proactive.” [USA Today]

Federal action might be the only way to get the TSA to change its policy. Airports, led by Orlando’s Sanford airport, are considering ditching TSA screeners in favor of private companies. But in its blog post, TSA sternly reminds all of us that “all commercial airports are regulated by TSA whether the actual screening is performed by TSA or private companies. So TSA’s policies – including advanced imaging technology and pat downs – are in place at all domestic airports.”

Oh, and we’ll be paying more for all of this.

An increase in U.S. airline security fees is among “strong possibilities” being considered to pay for higher costs of detecting terrorist threats, the Transportation Security Administration chief said. [BusinessWeek]

Related Content:
80beats: What’s the Real Radiation Risk of the TSA’s Full Body X-Ray Scans?
80beats: Airline Passenger Refuses to Be Groped by Security; Becomes a Folk Hero
80beats: 5 Reasons Body Scanners May Not Solve Our Terrorism Problem
80beats: Body-Scanners in Courthouses Have Stored Thousands of Rather Personal Images
Discoblog: German Activists Protest Body Scanners by Stripping Down

Image: iStockphoto

  • Afterburner

    Americans have a problem with being screened to board an airliner with cosmetic security by a reactive
    T otaly
    S tupid
    A gency
    Israeli security experts have refused to install these scanners at Ben Gurion International Airport, which is widely hailed as the safest airport in the world. Rafi Sela, the former Chief Security Officer of the Israel Airport Authority, explained he could “overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to take down a Boeing 747.
    Any idiot can thwart both the x-ray strip search and the “Enhanced pat-down” simply by internal body packing! Also, one trained dog can do what those machines can not!

    6 months later…CNN SPECIAL REPORT>>>>>>>”The new single use sterile rectum cam probes are being utilized as a process to make sure the traveling public is safe,” she said, adding that the probes did not pose health risks and that privacy safeguards have been adopted”.

    What is my answer?
    Who do the terrorists hate the most?
    The Israelis.
    Who has a perfect airline security record?
    The Israelis.
    Who does no routine groping and x-ray strip searches?
    The Israelis.
    Who profiles more than anyone in the world and has the best intelligence data base?
    The Israelis.
    Fire Ms. Napolitano and hire Israeli Mossad to manage our airport security.

  • bigjohn756

    If I ever fly again(doubtful) I will opt for a feel up which I intend to enjoy to the fullest. My moans of pleasure will be heard throughout the airport as the TSA massages my sex organ. I can hardly wait. Come to think of it, maybe I will fly again…soon. Should I wear a rubber, or let the TSA enjoy my excitement as well?

  • William Bedor

    So does this mean that Transportation Security Administration (TSA) chief John Pistole or Ms. Janet Napolitano or any Senators or Congress are not subjected to these screenubg techniques? How is it that the very officials who create these laws are the very same people are not subjected to them?

  • Kevin N

    Has everyone forgotten EgyptAir 990? The Egyptian pilot intentionally took the plane down, killing over 200 passengers. He didn’t have a weapon, but this shows that pilots aren’t beyond terrorism.

  • Alex

    Dear John Pistole and Janet Napolitano,
    As leaders, in a Federal position, you have issued an unlawful order to your troops. As a veteran, this makes you fully responsible and them responsible for following it. Those are the rules we have to follow in war zones defending the freedoms you are stripping from our families we have left in your care while we fight this war based on lies.
    You have issued an unlawful order, against the US Constitution. You both took the same oath I took to defend the Constitution and have abadoned it and that is an act of treason. Those troops under you following your orders will share your shame when you are prosecuted.
    TSA employees do not share the shame of your faulted leaders. You are a federal employee and “Following orders” will not be an excuse. When a soldier follows an unlawful order he is just as responsible as the commander issuing it, and disobeying that unlawful order is your duty
    Molesting, groping, improper touching of innocent people is not legal and we cannot do it in War Zones to innocent people, so why are you touching my wife and kids I left in your care? Thank you TSA for demoralizing the troops overseas and violating our families we left in your care.

  • ChH

    … “This one seemed to jump out as a common-sense issue,” said TSA chief John Pistole …

    Yeah – that one seemed to jump out at the rest of us many years ago. How stupid do you have to be to wait this long to figure that out?

    On a related note … it’s more effective to look for terrorists than weapons. A non-terrorist with an Uzi on a plane is safe. A terrorist who boards a plane with no weapon at all can improvise many ways to bring it down, even if he isn’t the pilot.

  • Mark Montgomery

    Boycotts are ok but the real weapon we have against the TSA is our choice to not fly. You can get anywhere in the USA in 3 days or less by train and bus: What we should do is to refuse to fly. Until the TSA drops its full-body scans and invasive pat-downs I refuse to fly, PERIOD. Mark Montgomery NYC, NY boboberg@nyc.rr.com

  • Anon

    Kevin N, how’s that related? Forcing a pilot to go through these security checks isn’t going to make the pilot less likely to crash the plane, or prevent him/her from doing so.

  • Jason

    There really is no option ‘not to fly’. If I want to see my family for Christmas within my limited vacation time, I have to fly. I can’t afford the several days of driving out there. The fact is, it is far more likely I’m going to get killed by a drunk driver or a texting teen on the road than I am from a terrorist action in the sky. But this fact doesn’t have laws mandating that every teen must submit to a pat down before getting in their car.

    It’s a silly fear and a silly reaction. Time for us to get over this fear culture.

  • Lolapowers

    It is not silly fear. It so happens that airplanes and airports are terrorists’s favored targets and it only takes one time for an air disaster to happen. How quickly do we forget 9/11 ! It is not a pleasant experience but a necessary one. I admit it can be finetuned and I am sure that is what will happen. I travel and I want to feel safe in the airplane. I am sure some travelers will actually enjoy it like bigjohn up there and may even travel just to have an orgasmic experience.


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