House Democrats have asked the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to “reconsider” agency screeners’ new invasive pat-downs of airline passengers.
In a letter Friday to TSA Administrator John Pistole, Reps. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, and Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said the agency should rethink the new screening procedures in light of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, typically the busiest travel time of the year.
“While we agree that security measures should be enhanced in
the wake of recent attempted terrorist attacks on the aviation system, we are
concerned about new enhanced pat down screening protocols and urge you to
reconsider the utilization of these protocols. With Thanksgiving Day marking
the beginning of the busiest travel season of the year, this request is
timely,” Thompson and Jackson Lee write in their letter.
The new pat-down screenings have faced a public uproar as airline passengers have complained about their invasiveness. Combined with new body scanners at security checkpoints that capture naked body images, the TSA has found itself under increased public scrutiny.
The lawmakers say members “expressed concern” about the pat-down procedures when they were briefed on them in September. They ask Pistole for a number of documents, such as a privacy impact assessment, regarding the new pat-down procedures and say TSA screeners need more training, citing an inspector general report detailing weaknesses in the agency’s training program.
Thompson and Jackson Lee criticize the agency in their letter. They say TSA should have done a better job of informing the public about the new screening procedures while also making sure to better protect their civil rights.
“Before implementing this new more invasive pat down procedure, as a preliminary matter, TSA should have had a conversation with the American public about the need for these changes. Even before that conversation, TSA should have endeavored to ensure that these changes did not run afoul of privacy and civil liberties,” they write.