TSA Quietly Forcing Some Passengers To Go Through Body Scanner *And* Pat-Down — Even If Body Scanner Says Clear!


Image credit: DDees.com


When the TSA announced in 2015 that for “some passengers” they were eliminating the body scanner opt-out option, which allowed passengers to be screened via pat-down instead of body scanner, they phrased it as follows:

“TSA is updating the AIT PIA to reflect a change to the operating protocol regarding the ability of individuals to opt opt-out of AIT screening in favor of physical screening. While passengers may generally decline AIT screening in favor of physical screening, TSA may direct mandatory AIT screening for some passengers. … The individual will undergo physical screening if ATR alarms for the presence of an object.”

For those not into TSA jargon, AIT = body scanner, ATR = the software on the body scanner that allegedly detects stuff on your body, and “physical screening” = pat-down.

But, new documents I obtained in my lawsuit against these policies (source, pp. 27, 28) show that they lied about a key fact: if you are selected as one of these “some passengers,” you will be screened with both body scanner and pat-down, even if the body scanner does not alarm:

“That does not preclude TSA from determining that security considerations may sometimes justify exceeding the baseline established by the pat-down technique by requiring certain passengers to undergo both AIT screening and a pat-down—two screening methods that provide distinct benefits when used in tandem. … These [redacted] empirical findings supply ample justification for TSA’s decision to require selectees to be screened using both AIT scanners and a pat-down, without the ability to opt for a pat-down alone.”

Further, the pat-down you’ll receive in this scenario has been modified, although the TSA has redacted from the document exactly how (my best guess, based on my research of all documents and the TSA’s past treatment of passengers selected for additional screening, is that your “sensitive areas” will be touched with the screener’s front-of-hand, rather than back-of-hand).

So, who are these “some passengers” that the TSA is subjecting to both a scan and a proper groping?  As discussed in my previous post on this lawsuit: anyone can be randomly selected for this treatment.  If you’re on the TSA’s “we think you might be a terrorist” list, you’ll be a “selectee” every time you fly.  But, if you buy a one-way ticket with cash, or something else the TSA finds to be “suspicious,” or even if you don’t and you just get unlucky, you can now expect blue gloves between your legs.

It is highly troubling that the TSA is demanding invasive double-searches without disclosing their intentions to the public.  And what does this say about the nearly $2B body scanner program, if the TSA feels the need to pat people down after using them?  Clearly it shows that the TSA knows the body scanners can easily be beaten, so why have them at all?

The reason, of course, is [REDACTED] — the best way to avoid being accountable to the people.

17 thoughts on “TSA Quietly Forcing Some Passengers To Go Through Body Scanner *And* Pat-Down — Even If Body Scanner Says Clear!

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  1. Has anyone FOIA’d TSA for information on how many “dangerous items” have ever been found on passengers during a sexual assault? By “dangerous items” (AskTSA’s term), I mean anything that could be a danger to a plane or passengers, not drugs or other innocuous items.

    1. He got his panties in a bunch because I didn’t write in my post that I’m the owner of the blog that I linked to. I pointed out that everyone on that forum knows me and it was obvious, and he didn’t like that, so I told him to eat a bag of dicks. I’m now banned until February. 😉

  2. Apparently, now, they make everyone except parents with little kids or small live pets to go through scanner, NO MATTER what you say to them. I see this everywhere lately, people come to tsa say they want pat search instead of a scanner and they say, NO, ITS NOT FOR YOU – GO THROUGH MACHINE. Some say: “Oh, its not a xray type of machine, i work here everyday and i’m ok” – For real?! Is that suppose to be a convincing fact? The fact is – you are lazy retard and can’t find a better job, because of that. Being said that, you ain’t got no Medical degree nor Radiology/Electronics degree, also, there are no documents on TSA website not internet, that can prove its safe, so phukoff.
    One TSA said its a millimeter wavelength and it does not go through skin… I can disagree with this statement, my last flight i had my wrist sprained, it was not swollen or something, its a light sprain and you cant see anything unusual if you look at it, but after going through scanner TSA asked if i have anything on/in my hand such as bracelet or similar…i said no, but they still wanted to search that area. This clearly means that scanner DOES PENETRATE YOUR WHOLE BODY to a significant depth, also, why its ok for small pets/kids and parents with kids not to go through scanner if its safe? The answer is – it’s not safe. Radiation your body receive, is calculated per body mass, just like any medicine, even if its millimeter wavelength its still affects your body on cell level. They say they have PASSIVE scanners, that use reflected ambient radiation – which apparently is the safest scanner technology, but hey, they won’t tell you model of their scanner, its a security concern which overrides your health concern.
    They tell you all the time for “for your convenience” or “for your security” they try their best… heck, it took me over an hour before i even got close to a scanner and they had other TSA pricks chilling behind the scanner, next to the metal scanner talking about some BS topic what they did last night in the bar. Get back to work dicks and have some folks to go through metal detector, so the line would go faster! Someone can be late to their plane because of this.
    What a dix.

    1. Hi Kale,

      I wanted to clarify a couple things.

      First, unless your boarding pass says “SSSS” on it, you have the right to opt-out. If a TSA screener directs you to a scanner, just say “I opt-out,” and you’ll be patted down instead. Very rarely will I have them try and talk me into going through the scanner anyway, and I think they quickly see that I’m not changing my mind and give up. I’ve, so far, never been denied an opt-out.

      Second, the scanners do not penetrate your skin to any appreciable depth. The scanners measure reflection from the skin, not transmission through the body. I don’t know why the TSA wanted to search your sprained wrist, but it is not because it detected something inside your body.

      Third, as you know, the scanners are not “passive” and do not work off of “ambient radiation.” The screener who told you otherwise is an idiot — the TSA hires many of them. Whether or not it’s a health concern is another question. A 2009 study showed that terahertz waves may affect your DNA, but no study since then has ever concluded the same.



      1. John,
        I did some reading about scanners and for example wiki has information on passive scanners…https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millimeter_wave_scanner it also says that it does penetrate your skin to about 1-1.5mm depth, i guess if scanner settings are adjusted to proper level it will penetrate it deeper. Another fact for consideration, there is quite a bit of articles talking about Electro Magnetic Smog and even devices like home routers are recommended not to put near your bed, especially where children are sleeping, same goes to microwaves, cell towers etc. I don’t know how bad these scanners are, nor i did find any research in them that would include technical data and numbers, but i rather opt out and be on the safe side, then regret later.
        “SSSS” – did not know about it, never paid attention to boarding pass, except gate, flight numbers etc. Will do now. I have another flight coming up in a couple of months and will give it a test. On some other page of yours (tsa related), i saw a quote from TSA, that starting 2015 they reserve the right to deny pat down in favor of a scanner… so it means to me it is solely at their discretion to let you pass scanner or pat down.

  3. I have just returned from a 10-day trip to London, Paris and Venice. Currently, I feel extremely worried after learning that the TSA scanning to which I was submitted at DFW, Heathrow, and CDG were actual xray procedures. There were no signs informing us of that and of the fact that it was not mandatory to do what asked, but one could opt for a hazard-free body search instead. I have long hair and a jeweled hairpin triggered the alarm 3 times; I was not aware of it until later — nor concerned that the procedures were not safe to my health. (I have always refused medical xrays, I opt for alternative medicine and natural health lifestyle.) There should be signs in the security area informing people of the real XRAY nature of screenings and the option for body search — but everybody was being sent through the xray machine! This is like being told you will have a shower and having zyklonB poison sprayed on you in a nazi camp! THERE SHOULD BE WARNNGS POSTED TO INFORM INNOCENT PASSENGERS AND THEIR CHILDREN ABOUT THE REAL-RADIATION NATURE OF THE SCANNING– The way there are warnings on cigarettes packages or in markets about mercury fish hazards…. Everyone was being sent through the xray machine from what I saw, I thought it was normal to comply with agents… (They also patted me at CDG because nobody thought it was the hairpin triggering the alarm since the metalic part was covered by beads; I have no travel experience – I think security staff should have figured it first thing and spare me the health hazard xray scanning each time…). I am terrified after having researched indepths about this matter over the past few days. I am now feeling sick especially after finding a small lump on my forearm three days ago and having had stomach issues (unable to hold food) since yesterday — it is surely not some stomach bug…. I would like to know if there are other cases like mine — where customers have complained about the lack of TSA health hazard and body-search option informative signs in airports and who have had strange symptoms subsequent to 3-in-a-row TSA scanning — so that I can immediately join their activist work. The policy of “opting out from xrays” is surely not known by most travelers who rely on posted signs. I am a teacher who has never harmed anyone, there was no reason to go through this health-damaging process.

  4. I recently returned from a vacation in Costa Rica, and arrived at LAX airport. My husband and I were traveling together. I was selected for their enhanced security.

    The agent told me to stay near her station, without explaining to me what was going on. She told my husband to go ahead through security. I waited several minutes. They held on to my American passport without explaining to me what was happening.

    They had me go through two different scanning machines. Searched my carry on bag, had me open my I Pad and cell phone. They wiped down my hands with a solution and then, even after being going through the two full body scanning machines, my body was searched and touched in a very inappropriate way. The agent touched my breasts and genital area through my clothing. And then, they took everything out of my carry on bag. They seemed to want to detain me for as long as possible as the conducted their search in a very disorganized way. When I told them that my plane would be boarding, they seemed to take glee in that I might miss my flight.

    What really upset me was that they did not explain anything to me, so I could understand their process. I felt like a criminal and that they violated me. They were very rude! I am still in shock at how I was treated when coming back into my own country. I felt like the TSA were the gestapo and that I was their enemy.

    Is their a class action suit regarding this new enhanced security measure? I would like some justice. I would also like to know how they do their screening process. Why was I selected, but, not my husband?

    1. Hi Karen, based on your post I’m uncertain if you meant to say Customs instead of TSA. If you were searched leaving the airport by people in a black uniform, that’s CBP. If you were searched re-entering the secure area at LAX by people in a blue uniform, that’s TSA. The rules and procedures vary depending on which agency was doing the search, but if you feel violated, by all means file a complaint. You may contact the agency to file, and I also recommend letting your U.S. Senators and Representative’s office know of the issue.

      1. Thank you for your reply. This was TSA. This happened when we had to return to the terminal. I will file a complaint and let my senator know what happened.

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