TSA pat-down policy needs infusion of common sense

The TSA should be able to find ways to make certain passengers don't have any weapons and preserve their dignity in the process.


Few people are completely comfortable with the Transportation Safety Administration's more aggressive approach to personal pat-downs at the nation's airports.

Yet, most of us accept the intrusion as a necessary precaution to keep us safe from terrorist attacks. 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 detector or full body scan are supposed to undergo a bolder search.

But this more aggressive approach is only acceptable if its use is infused with common sense. TSA agents need to act as humans, not robots.

Unfortunately, sometimes agents are so intent on following the book they forget about the feelings of the travelers they are paid to protect.

It was reported this week an Alaska state legislator, Rep. Sharon Cissna, refused the required pat-down search at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport after the body scanner revealed she had a mastectomy. She opted to leave the airport and take a ferry back home to Alaska rather than to submit to what her spokeswoman termed the "very intrusive pat-down."

TSA rules posted on its website says security officers "will need to see and touch your prosthetic device, cast or support brace as part of the screening process."

It's one thing to touch a cast covering a broken arm or look over a support brace on a knee, but quite another to demand someone with a prosthetic breast to submit to an intrusive inspection.

Now, some women who have had a mastectomy might not be overly bothered by the intrusion. No, they aren't happy about it, but it doesn't spark an emotional response.

But some people have such strong feelings about the matter they simply can't go through with the pat-down. Perhaps that is why Cissna refused.

The bottom line is if the pat-down is a huge concern to people then the TSA has an obligation to ease those concerns.

It seems the TSA should be able to find ways to make certain passenger don't have any weapons and preserve their dignity in the process. They might even do some checking into their backgrounds to see if they might pose a danger or -- as in this case -- they are no threat.

Sure, it might take a little more time but, in the long run, it is worth the effort.

Showing some human compassion for someone who is distressed will boost public confidence in TSA agents and will ultimately make their jobs easier.

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