TSA's new thorough airport searches prudent

But TSA screeners must use discretion in implementing the new policy.

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The U.S. Transportation Security Administration's decision to be a bit more thorough in patting down airline passengers here and across the nation has some travelers concerned.

And, frankly, the change in policy could be troubling if TSA officials don't use common sense and discretion in conducting the searches.

In the past, TSA screeners' searches were cursory. As of Oct. 29, screeners use a law-enforcement-style approach, sliding their hands over the body.

The change in approach would seem to be prudent given that air travel continues to pose a significant risk to national security. Small airports can't be exempt. Let's not forget that the 9/11 hijackers specifically used small airports to avoid detection.

If the federal government is going to go through all of the trouble and expense of screening air travelers, it should be done properly. Those who set off the metal detector or refuse to go through the metal detector will undergo the bolder search.

Changes to procedures are noticed by the public and followed by concern. That's because the TSA has made a few blunders over the years, generally from being a bit too ham-handed in its approach.

In other cases, some feel the TSA is too slow in getting passengers through security. That was an issue in Walla Walla not long ago when several passengers were left at the airport because they didn't clear security in time.

But, as we said at the time, the TSA isn't solely to blame. Horizon Air and the passengers - not individually, but as a group - share in the culpability.

Walla Walla is a relatively small city and folks aren't fond of waiting in line. Perhaps passengers arrived a bit too late or waited too long to start the screening.

The blame for TSA flaps around the country can also be shared. Sometimes passengers push a bit too hard causing TSA officials to become, or seem to become, overzealous.

So as this new pat-down policy is implemented it has the potential to irk passengers and trigger a brouhaha or two (or three).

Ken Clayton, the security coordinator at the Walla Walla Regional Airport, said security checks take place with discretion. That's the key to success. The screeners must treat the passengers with respect.

Conversely, the passengers must show respect for the screeners and understand they are simply doing their jobs of preventing a disaster. It takes only one passenger with an attitude to create a fracus out of nothing.

The more thorough pat downs shouldn't be a particularly big problem if TSA screeners do their jobs well and passengers understand the importance of conducting searches.

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