TSA won’t do body cavity searches — at least for now

By David Edwards
Monday, November 22, 2010 13:30 EDT
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Airline passengers have been subjected to full body scans and pat-downs as part of new screening procedures this month but the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) admits there is a limit to how far they are willing to go.

Director John Pistole told reporters Monday that for the time being the TSA had no plans of doing body cavity searches.

“We’re not going to get in the business of body cavities, that’s not where we are,” Pistole said.

“Even if it is a body cavity [bomb], you still have to an initiator, you have to have some external device to cause that initiation,” he continued. “There’s got to be something external that you can then initiate the device and that’s what the advance imaging technology machine will pick up: Any anomaly outside of the body.”

“We are taking some risk by not doing any screening, but it’s the balance of what is the appropriate level of risk versus screening,” he said.

“We want to treat each passenger with dignity and respect,” Pistole added.

The TSA chief has been on a PR blitz in recent days to combat a wave of negative news stories about the way the agency treats passengers.

On Sunday, Pistole told CNN’s Candy Crowley that the screening methods would be constantly refined but no changes were planned.

“We are not changing the policies,” he said.

“In the short-term, there will not be any changes, but what I’m looking at is how can we best use the information we have, both the intelligence from overseas such as what we saw this weekend from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula about how they design and conceal the toner cartridge bombs in cargo flights out of Yemen that coupled with the thoroughness that we believe is appropriate,” Pistole added on CNN Monday.

Some officials aren’t very keen on the ideas of body scans and pat-downs. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has indicated that she’s not a fan.

CBS’ Bob Schieffer asked Clinton Sunday if she would submit to a pat-down by a TSA agent.

“Not if I could avoid it,” she replied. “No. I mean who would?”

But members of Congress may not have to worry about having their privacy violated. Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Republican Leader John Boehner, confirmed Friday that members of Congress are exempt.

“The appropriate security procedures for all Congressional leaders, including Speaker Pelosi and Senator Reid, are determined by the Capitol Police working with the Transportation Security Administration,” Steel told The New York Times.

This video is from CNN’s American Morning, broadcast Nov. 22, 2010.

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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