So What’s This “New” TSA Pat-Down?

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?

43 thoughts on “So What’s This “New” TSA Pat-Down?

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  1. House Passes Bill Requiring TSA To Disclose Changes To Its Tech Investment Plan:

    The House today passed legislation that would require the Transportation Security Administration to update Congress on any changes made to its 5-year technology investment plan.

    The Transparency in Technological Acquisitions Act of 2017, introduced by Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., directs TSA to submit any changes to its strategic plan within 90 days both to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and to the House Homeland Security Committee.

    Specifically, Congress wants to know about changes reflecting “an increase or decrease in the dollar amount” for the purchase of specific technology “or an increase or decrease in the number of a technology,” the bill said. It also requires TSA to share detail on any technology still in operation after the manufacturer’s specified end of life cycle and the “end of the useful life projection” for products mentioned in the strategic plan.

  2. Meet Two US Citizens Detained at Airports: A Police Chief and a Lawyer Who Sued Trump Administration:

    A growing number of US citizens are sharing accounts of having been detained at airports across the country since the start of the Trump administration. Boston-based civil rights attorney Iván Espinoza-Madrigal says he was returning home on March 12 from a vacation in Portugal when he was detained at Boston’s Logan Airport.

    A day later, the former police chief of Greenville, North Carolina, Hassan Aden, says he was detained for over an hour by Customs and Border Protection agents when he was flying into New York City’s JFK International Airport after returning from visiting his mother in Paris.

    The two join other US citizens, including a US Olympic medalist, a NASA scientist and the son of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, who have all been detained at airports across the country since the start of the Trump administration.

  3. Court Rules in EPIC’s Passenger Profiling Lawsuit Against DHS/TSA:

    A federal court in Washington, DC has issued a ruling in EPIC v. DHS, case involving a controversial passenger screening program operated by Customs and Border Protection.

    Under the program, CBP combines detailed personal information with secret algorithms to assign “risk assessments” to travelers—including US citizens. EPIC sued the DHS for information about the “Analytic Framework for Intelligence” program, and argued that the agency unlawfully withheld records under the Freedom of Information Act.

    As a consequence of the EPIC FOIA lawsuit, EPIC obtained important documents and prevailed in an earlier phase of the case. However, the Court declined to order the further release of certain training materials for the profiling system EPIC sought.

    EPIC is currently deciding whether to pursue further a legal challenge to the agency’s withholding.

    1. How do we protect our children from this? I have TSA pre-check and was “randomly” selected for the pat-down on 2/24/17 and then again the very next time I flew from the same airport on 3/13/17. The first one was very traumatic and I filed a complaint. The second time I noted that my first complaint had not yet been resolved, and I was told my choices were to go through with the procedure or the police would get involved. Not wanting to be arrested, I agreed to the molestation. I immediately filed another complaint. The agent that called me actually laughed at me, and I immediately ended the call, stating I would be happy to continue providing information to another agent. The agent sent me an email saying she couldn’t get more information from me so she was done with the problem. I reminded her of why the call ended and asked her to forward my response to her supervisor. I’ve heard nothing. I don’t need them to say they’re sorry this happened to me, I need something to be done to ensure that my kids are never molested as I have been. If the CNN reporter that aired her story can’t get something done, what chance does a regular person have, let alone a child? What advice do you have for all of us who feel so intimately violated? What should we collectively do, both retroactively to address what has happened, and in the future if we are selected again?

      1. If you would have declined to proceed when they threatened to get the police, you almost assuredly would not have been arrested. I’ve done the same 3 times, and the cops were not even considering taking me in. But, you’d have missed your flight.

        What should you do? Contact your reps.

        1. I really admire what you’re doing and the incredible courage it takes to do it. However, “almost assuredly” isn’t an option for someone who doesn’t want to potentially lose her job or be branded “felony mom” in the neighborhood. Contacting my reps is solid advice. Why aren’t any major news networks picking up these stories? Even the ACLU seems to be proceeding cautiously on this subject. Thanks for your time, and I hope you are successful in all you’re fighting for.

          1. I can’t give you legal advice, but to the best of my knowledge, there is no “almost” about whether or not refusing would be a crime. The “almost” is simply as to whether the police would do something stupid and *mistakenly* arrest you, but even if they did, the charges would be dropped and/or you’d be acquitted.

            The ACLU has not done a damn thing about the TSA, and it’s disappointing. EPIC, EFF, and CEI have done a bit more.

      2. a week long strike where lots of people refuse to fly might help. and do it again and again until they change. molestation is wrong and it would be good to shut them down for better methods it seems (though i don’t claim to know everything about all this) but molestation used to be considered wrong and still is (as far as i know). making it legal in some instances doesn’t make it right, just makes people think they have to now and be down on others who disagree (read the comments on the newest article about the boy and the Mom on Yahoo). they do not think enough, try enough. the answer is for more people to try and stand up and do stuff and stop doing stuff (flying, get different jobs, whatever it takes, ect.) these maybe are some answers to change things – we have to change. and it takes work, but it might work if enough people stand up and try.

  4. Having gone through the new punitive pat down this weekend I cannot fathom what they think they are going to find that they would not have before.

    It’s simply more punishment for not doing what they want you to do.

  5. TSA defends pat-down of Texas boy; countless others creeped out:

    “TSA allows for a pat-down of a teenage passenger, and in this case, all approved procedures were followed to resolve an alarm of the passenger’s laptop,” spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said in an email. “The video shows a male TSA officer explaining the procedure to the passenger, who fully cooperates. Afterward, the TSA officer was instructed by his supervisor, who was observing, to complete the final step of the screening process.

    “In total, the pat-down took approximately two minutes, and was observed by the mother and two police officers who were called to mitigate the concerns of the mother. The passengers were at the checkpoint for approximately 45 minutes, which included the time it took to discuss screening procedures with the mother and to screen three carry-on items that required further inspection.”

  6. Canadians Report More Scrutiny And Rejection At U.S. Border Checkpoints

    Church volunteers on their way from Ontario to New Jersey were stopped at the U.S.-Canada border and turned away.

    So were Canadian nurses who work at a hospital in Detroit.

    Scores of Canadians say they’ve been refused entry at U.S. border checkpoints in recent weeks, and their stories have gotten a lot of attention.

    “Definitely things have changed on the northern border,” said Heather Segal, an immigration attorney in Toronto. She said CBP agents are “denying people, erring on the side of denial, slowing people down and preventing people from getting into the United States … with this notion by CBP that this is how they’re supposed to be behaving right now.”

  7. EPIC Appeals Passenger Profiling Case to DC Circuit:

    EPIC has appealed the ruling in EPIC v. CBP, case involving a controversial passenger screening program that combines detailed personal information with secret algorithms to assign “risk assessments” to travelers—including US citizens.

    EPIC sued the agency for information about the “Analytic Framework for Intelligence” under the Freedom of Information Act. As a consequence of the EPIC FOIA lawsuit, EPIC obtained important documents and prevailed in an earlier phase of the case.

    However, the federal court in Washington, DC declined last month to order the release of certain additional materials. EPIC is now asking the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to overrule the lower court’s decision and compel the release of documents sought by EPIC.

  8. Border Officers Nearly Double Searches of Electronic Devices, U.S. Says

    Customs officers at the border and at airports almost doubled their searches of electronic devices of people entering the United States in the last six months, according to data released Tuesday by Customs and Border Protection.

  9. Homeland security misreported number of electronics searches, officials say:

    The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) says it misreported its internal count of travelers’ electronic devices searched at the border, meaning the surge in the number of recorded searches was not as dramatic as it initially reported.

    The CPB has revised its estimate of its 2016 searches of travelers’ devices including cellphones, tablets, and laptops downward from about 25,000 to about 19,000.

    It has also revised its 2015 numbers upward from 5,000 to 8,500 devices. With the adjusted figures, the number of times the service searched travelers’ electronics more than doubled between 2015 and 2016, rather than quintupling as previously reported. The service blamed the mistake on “an anomaly” in a February system upgrade.

  10. Border Patrol allowed to SECRETLY search phones, tablets, laptops etc.

    American and Canadian travelers carrying cell phones, tablets or laptops across the Thousand Islands or Ogdensburg-Prescott International bridges may find themselves subject to an increasing nationwide trend of having their devices searched.

    While the Fourth Amendment typically protects people around the country from unreasonable searches without warrants, agents along the Canadian and Mexican borders can search all travelers’ belongings, including electronic devices, with or without reasonable suspicion or a warrant.

    According a Privacy Impact Assessment from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents can search all travelers’ electronic devices, whether they are U.S. nationals or vsitors from other countries, with or without informing them.

  11. EPIC, Coalition Urge DHS Secretary to Reject Social Media Password Requirement:

    EPIC has joined the Fly Don’t Spy! campaign to urge DHS Secretary Kelly to reject plans to require to hand over passwords to the federal government.

    Such a requirement would undermine privacy and human rights, chill freedom of speech and association, and create greater security risks for travelers. Earlier this year, Secretary Kelly testified before Congress about collecting social media passwords.

    In response, EPIC immediately filed a Freedom of Information Act request regarding all DHS plans to use individuals’ internet and social media information to vet potential entrants to the U.S.

  12. Border Patrol to Spy on Everyone’s Emails, Phone Numbers, Social Media Profiles and More:

    “One of the big ticket items is big data, how to automate the process [of]…taking selectors, emails, phone numbers, and mirroring them up to social media profiles quickly,” said Ted McNelis, a consultant with Deloitte who works on counterterrorism screening at CBP.

    Albert Davis, who leads screening efforts at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, didn’t just want to be able to use Twitter or Facebook information as part of an extended background check. Really useful, he said, would be automated tools that could use object recognition to identify profiles with ISIS flags in them, or that were “able to characterize the sentiment” of a post.

  13. EPIC: Enhanced Surveillance at Border Will Sweep Up U.S. Citizens:

    A statement from EPIC to the House Oversight Committee for a hearing on border security warns that enhanced surveillance will impact citizens’ rights. “The use of drones in border security will place U.S. citizens living on the border under ceaseless surveillance by the government.” said EPIC.

    Click to access EPIC-HCOGR-BorderWall-Apr2017.pdf

  14. Epic’s Claims The TSA is Trying to Hide Their Body Scanners in a ‘Cloak of Secrecy’:

    We are continuing our litigation against the TSA.

    However, our case has been made substantially more difficult due to the agency’s refusal to release information that it has designated as “sensitive security information”(SSI).

    The use of this designation by the TSA has been roundly criticized by Congress.

    And now the agency, having issued an unlawful rule, is seeking to hide its decision making behind this cloak of secrecy.

    Click to access EPIC-HHSC-TSA-Apr2017.pdf

  15. I am looking for an updated version of the rights of passengers going thru TSA. There was a nice one published in 2011 by a gentleman known as Sai, and another on the Travelers United site, but I expect it would need to be updated (fewer rights) in light of the March 2017 changes/intensive searches. I don’t fly often but will need to this summer (domestic), and as a woman I am apprehensive about the process. I understand that flying first class and having a Pre Check number do not help avoid being “selected”. Examples of the rights I would like to know truly exist: the right to ask the agent to don fresh gloves before touching you beneath your clothing; the right to request higher levels of supervision and/or a “real” police officer; the right to have your belongings within your sight but not access during screening; and the right to have a traveling companion not only accompany you but film the process. It would be nice to have a verified list in hand and of course the TSA website offers nothing. Thank you!

    1. There are no official ‘passenger rights’ that I know of but here’s a few links that might help…

      Edward Hasbrouck’s blog:
      “Privacy and Travel” archives:

      Can Customs and Border Officials Search Your Phone? These Are Your Rights:

  16. Yesterday, 5/6/17, my family and I were flying from Orlando International to Chicago ORD. My husband’s carry-on, which contained our 5 year old’s medication, was flagged for additional screening. Because it produced a false positive after being swabbed, the TSA agent informed me that I had to undergo a pat down even though it was not my bag and I was already cleared through security. Needless to say, I was furious and my daughters were very upset, with my 5 year old thinking it was her fault. Can the TSA force a pat down when you have already been cleared? It was my husband’s bag, not mine. I have filed a complaint with the TSA, but received a generic response. I am determined to be vindicated. It is BS that I had to be publicly molested for something that was not mine. Thank god, however, the C#@! that insisted on the pat down didn’t touch my daughter. Is there anything I can do to escalate? How can I let everyone know that the TSA will search you even if you are cleared through security. What would they have done if my husband was traveling alone with our children? Force a random stranger to be assulted? Or, would they actually have molested my 5 year old? Keep in mind, we asked for a male agent to search my husband and they refused.

  17. Visa applicants will be asked to provide 5 years’ worth of social media posts:

    Here’s the information the State Department wants to collect via the new vetting procedure covers:

    • Travel history during the last fifteen years, including source of funding for travel;

    • Address history during the last fifteen years;

    • Employment history during the last fifteen years;

    • All passport numbers and country of issuance held by the applicant;

    • Names and dates of birth for all siblings;

    • Name and dates of birth for all children;

    • Names and dates of birth for all current and former spouses, or civil or domestic partners;

    • Social media platforms and identifiers, also known as handles, used during the last five years; and

    • Phone numbers and email addresses used during the last five years.

  18. This is the complaint I filed with TSA about my 9/25/2018 experience at Salt Lake City airport. TSA gave me a generic response so I contact the airport who put me in touch with Homeland security. They are looking into it.
    First issue. I arrived early to the airport to try and get an earlier flight which I had just missed. So I was sitting in the terminal before the TSA screening in the ticket area for a couple of hours. During this time there was 2 TSA uniformed (not a Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) team member) One male approached me, the other stood appx. 8 ft behind him. He stated interrogating me on if I was flying, had to show him my boarding pass. ( I was sitting under a camera so you can pull the footage)He made a POINT to let me know the restaurants were past the check point. He was very instant that I should go thru the check point. I had many hours before my flight so I wanted to be able to go outside and enjoy the weather over sitting inside. Also during my time sitting there I had numerous VIPR or Police walk by me smile or say hi. Never harassed me for sitting quietly. Also had a K9 officer sniffed my bag in passing with no issue. That started my degrading experience. I didn’t think it would get worse but it did. I had requested a wheelchair assist to get to the gate. Kally (Kallie not sure of the spelling) She brought me up to the TSA checkpoint. We took out anything that is required to be removed from my bag. I went thru the advanced imaging machine. I alarm as usual as I have an above the led amputation and have a prosthesis. So I know I will get the normal pat down screening and embarrassment. The requested for me to sit in a chair that did not allow me to watch my bags. I voiced my concern but sat anyhow because I knew Kally had an eye on my things. We for some reason when my freshly washed hands alarmed from the swab I was told I needed additional screening. At this point I knew I was being targeted. As were travelers in Denver were from the two TSA agents at Denver International Airport were fired after it was revealed that they had worked out a scam by which one agent was able to grope and fondle the genitals of passengers in 2015.I was than wheeled over to a public extra screening area to be assaulted (the best way to describe it) Had to wait for a female at that point the small (Maybe 5’1″ Asian decent I believe)joined the male agent (with either a really bad wig or strange hair tied back)She than proceeded to give the order in which she would touch me. Thought it would be similar to the usual one I receive. NOT. She was not happy I was not happy. So she decided to take thing to a extreme level. By the time she got to my legs she jammed her hand very hard in-between my legs enough to make my underwear ride up my Butt and cause my suction sock prosthesis to loose suction. This takes a lot of pressure to do. I felt molested at this point. I needed to get home so I knew after being targeted earlier in the day they had it out for me for some reason so I decided to hold back my tears and get to my gate. I know you all will just blow this off and say this is for our safety. BS. I was sexually assaulted enough so that my underwear were moved during the search, enough that my vaginal area was exposed in my jeans. Couldn’t get in the bath when I got home because I felt dirty. There has to be a better way to do this process because assaulting people in the name of safety is not it.

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