About a couple weeks ago, the TSA announced that it would be “enhancing” its pat-down by, basically, “touching your junk” a bit more. There was apparently enough concern about its intensity that the TSA warned police in advance that it might generate sex assault complaints.
You may have noticed this blog was conspicuously quiet on the matter, and that’s because of both conflicting reports as to the scope of the updated groping and because of some inside knowledge on what the TSA is up to. But, having gone through the TSA’s pat-down today and LGA, here’s the deal:
First, if you’re getting a pat-down because you alarmed the body scanner, it’s going to be a full-body pat-down despite the fact that the scanners were specifically designed to point out the specific area of the body upon which an item was detected. From what I could see at the checkpoint, this is a much briefer version of the opt-out pat-down, but still touched every area of the body.
Second, if you’re getting a pat-down for a reason other than alarming the body scanner (e.g., you opted out), the only difference I noticed was that the “groin search” used to involve several vertical back-of-the-hand swipes from your bellybutton to your crotch, it now is 3 horizontal swipes (from hip to hip) followed by 3 vertical swipes. It’s slightly more invasive, but given that the TSA was all up in your crotch before, it’s not that big of a change.
In conclusion, the only place you’re likely to notice a change is if you alarm the body scanner. Given that about half of people were getting patted down by this supposedly brilliant technology while I was watching today (and, of course, the pat-downs finding nothing), that may be significant if you weren’t already opting out.
Given that chances are you may get a pat-down anyway, may as well opt-out, eh?