Airport pat downs are portrayed as harmless and necessary for the security of the passengers. But the reality of such security pat downs may be something completely different. Something not very pleasant.
ALSO READ: 10 ways to get through the airport faster
The rules issued by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) seem to be fairly straightforward. At least, in principle and in theory.
The TSA states that its approach to airport security and screening is a “risk-based, intelligence-driven strategy designed to improve both security and the passenger experience”. But how far do pat downs have to go?
TSA guidelines further state that “officers may use risk-based security measures to identify, mitigate and resolve potential threats at the airport security checkpoint”. Airport security officers can also ask you heaps of personal info about your travels, identity, property, etc. – and even though you’ve had all this questioning, you’re still not guaranteed a quicker screening process.
One of the more problematic and invasive security procedures are airport pat downs.
This will occur under the following conditions:
- If you cannot or choose not to be screened by advanced imaging technology or a walk-through metal detector
- If when you go through the walk-through metal detector, the alarm goes off
- Even if the results are negative arising from you being screened by advanced imaging technology or by a walk-through metal detector, you still may be picked at random for a security pat-down
What happens during airport pat downs?
The applicable TSA guidelines say that your pat down will be done by a TSA officer of the same gender. The TSA officer is not supposed to remove or lift any article of your clothing to reveal sensitive body areas. If you choose a pat down in a private room, a second TSA officer is required to be in attendance.
When do airport pat downs go too far or too deep?
Here are two horrible examples when the pat-downs were not harmless, but grossly invasive and very unpleasant for the recipients.
As reported by Huffington Post, well-known CNN political commentator and analyst, Angela Rye was subjected to a humiliating vaginal pat-down prior to boarding a regular flight from Detroit to New York.
Angela Rye, writing on the CNN webpage, said that in addition to being screened by the backscatter machine, the female officer advised that she was to be patted down. It was only supposed to be “a backhanded pat around her upper thigh”.
Instead, the female officer went down her leg, up her dress and her hand sideways touched Rye inappropriately. The same officer then faced Rye and her sideways hand once again hit the middle of Rye’s genitals.
Rye believed she had been sexually assaulted. She reported the incident. Her solution? Better technological screening so as to remove the need for this potentially invasive pat down procedure.
In another instance, The Smiths frontman, Morrissey, claimed that in the San Francisco International airport, he passed through the security screener without incident. However, a TSA officer proceeded to give an additional frontal pat-down by groping his penis and testicles.
Morrissey thought this was sexual assault. The same officer proceeded to stick a finger in Morrissey’s rear cleavage, much to Morrissey’s dismay. This is another sexual assault according to Morrissey. Notwithstanding Morrissey’s complaint to TSA, after reviewing the tapes, the TSA alleged that proper procedures had been followed.
In the near future, The South African OR Tambo International airport plans on implementing a more sophisticated screening system which airport officials believe would remove the need for physical airport pat downs.
ALSO READ: How airports can make you lose it
Frankly, I do not trust the 100% accuracy of these screening machines. Personally, I would prefer being groped and safe, than sorry and dead from an airplane explosion from a miniature bomb hidden in some person’s butt cleavage, that went undetected.