WASHINGTON – During his third State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Barack Obama cracked a joke about TSA pat-downs – and earned an immediate rebuke from the ACLU.
Hailing the benefits of high-speed rail, the president jested that it would allow travelers to avoid being subject to the controversial airport pat-downs policy.
"Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail, which could allow you go places in half the time it takes to travel by car," Obama said. "For some trips, it will be faster than flying – without the pat-down."
Awkward laughter and a scattered applause followed as Obama smiled and chuckled.
Moments after the president made the remark, the American Civil Liberties Union fired out a Tweet that read: "President Obama makes funny about TSA pat-downs, but the violations of the Constitution are NO JOKE!"
It was accompanied by a link to a scathing report on the ACLU's Web site, which noted complaints "from men, women and children who reported feeling humiliated and traumatized by these searches, and, in some cases, comparing their psychological impact to sexual assaults."
Obama's joke nevertheless seemed to have a subtle admission that some people find the policy too intrusive.
The pat-down policy became a national controversy last fall when a traveler filmed what was widely viewed as intrusive behavior by a Transportation Security Administration official. While most travelers did not report being excessively frisked, some other instances of apparently abusive behavior later came to the surface.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in December the pat-downs would stick around at least "for the foreseeable future." "You know we're always looking to improve systems and so forth, but the new technology, the pat-downs -- just objectively safer for our traveling public," she said.
This video is from YouTube, uploaded by user SaveOurSovereignty3.