Saturday, May 25, 2013
TSA Pat-Downs Continue to Draw Criticism
Former airport security officer says people should direct pat-down frustrations at those who make the rules, not those who enforce them.
Controversy sparked by Alaska State lawmaker Sharon Cissna's national stand against the Transportation Security Administration last Sunday is still burning as another Alaskan woman speaks out about the TSA.
"When I travel, I am patted down every single time," said concerned traveler Kim Kovol.
Kovol wears Seven Day Bracelets, permanent jewelry that she says is a cultural and personal choice as well as a lifelong commitment.
Kovol says her permanent jewelry makes her a target for TSA enhanced pat-downs, which she calls embarrassing and intrusive.
"They literally touch your buttocks, they touch your genitals, they touch your breast area, they put their hands in the waistband of your pants so their fingers are touching the inside of your body. It's very invasive and while I understand that they are security, I am really alarmed with the level of touching basically," said Kovol.
At first she says she would ask for private screenings.
" I have a special needs child and the first time he saw this, he was very upset he got very angry and started yelling at them [TSA]," Kovol said.
But now, she has the pat downs conducted in public so other passengers can see exactly what is going on.
"I understand that there is enhanced security, but we also live in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty and going through TSA is the opposite-you're guilty until you can prove yourself innocent," said Kovol.
Many Americans share Kovol's views.
"I can tell you, it really hits home when you see someone who passes through a metal detector and it doesn't go off and they pull them aside anyway and say, 'hey stand here,' then bring an agent over and they immediately start to pat-down everywhere," said Jeff Pierce, a concerned citizen from New Jersey.
And TSA screenings are not something Pierce wants his family to go through.
"I'm a citizen just like you and anyone else who has to fly and at the end of the day frequent flyers don't have an option on what they do, but at some point I think people really take a step back and say, 'Is this the United States I want my daughter to grow up in, where they are groped and people are taking naked pictures of them?'" said Pierce.
But one former TSA officer says people shouldn't blame the officers who do the pat-downs, they should be angry with those who made the rules.
"The reality on the checkpoint is that there aren't nearly as many complaints as you read in the media, but the bottom line for me is that somehow all of this rage and disrespect is being directed to the TSOs [Transportation Security Officer], not to the ones who are making the policy and not to the ones who decided that we couldn't have a first-class work place," said Ron Moore, former Transportation Security Officer.
Moore said it's disheartening for TSA officers to go into work and hear media accusations of assaulting passengers.
As far as what happened with Representative Cissna last Sunday when she refused a pat- down after her mastectomy triggered a warning on a body scanner, Moore said the Alaska lawmaker could have responded differently.
"There's a proper way to speak out without disparaging Americans who are standing up to serve. We took an oath so it's our job to keep passengers safe; it's not our job to make them uncomfortable. But it's our job to follow the policy, so whenever you create an opportunity to get media coverage, especially someone that's in an elected office that should be a role model, you really need to be responsible about how you respond, so that TSA improves, but you don't want TSOs going into work nervous about patting people down," said Moore.
More recently the TSA issued a statement regarding Rep. Cissna and her refusal of a security pat-down: "We have reached out to Representative Cissna's staff to explain that our responsibility is to keep the traveling public safe and discuss some of the policies in place to carry out this mission, including conducting pat-downs to resolve alarms during screening. At any point, any passenger can request to be screened in a private location and can have a witness present. If a person is unwilling to complete the screening process, he/she will not be able to board his/her flight."