Part of why I don’t think we’re all that much safer

TSA modifies pat-downs to exclude breasts


The Transportation Security Administration announced late Wednesday that it is modifying pat-down procedures at airports — a decision that comes after hundreds of complaints, most of them from women, that the procedure is too intrusive.

Look. I understand a woman’s desire to not be felt up while flying.

I hope she understands my desire to not be BLOWN up while flying.

If some people complain that security procedures are “too intrusive” and then those security procedures are removed, there’s probably a problem.

Under the new guidelines, screeners will not be able to pat-down a passenger’s breast area unless the handheld metal detector goes off or if there is an irregularity in the passenger’s clothing outline, said TSA spokesman Dave Steigman.

Steigman said that under the new policy, passengers will have their sides patted down. Once that is done, there will be a limited torso pat-down from front to back, from a line below the chest area to the waist. Screeners will pat the entire back.

Am I over-reacting, here? I would allow that rectal exams are probably “too intrusive”. Probably. Beyond that, I’m pretty much game. Now that this policy change has been publicized, where do we all think the new “best spot” is to sneak something on board an airliner?

He would not say what prompted the change. He said criticism to the agency of the pat-downs has amounted to a few hundred complaints out of an estimated 50 million passengers who have flown since the procedure was implemented.

The TSA began conducting the full body pat-downs in August after female suicide bombers downed two Russian airliners, killing 89 people.

What does it take? Triple digits?

Would full body pat-downs have prevented the Russian attacks? I don’t have the slightest clue. But I’ll bet those 89 people, and their families, wish that closer attention had been paid to those boarding the aircraft.

The article ends with

Helen Chenoweth-Hage, a former Republican congresswoman from Idaho, said screeners at the Boise airport refused to reveal the regulations allowing them to pat her down — angering her so much she drove the more than 300 miles from Boise to Reno, Nevada.

“I was absolutely astounded at the fact that they thought they could violate my Fourth Amendment rights, violate my privacy, violate my body because of some secret law,” she said.

Well, I happen to agree with her. They should not violate her body because of some secret law. They should do so because of a perfectly clear and public law.

I mean, people complain about having to take their shoes off at some airports. How long until that requirement is removed?

Laugh if you want. But I’ll bet if I had asked you about excluding breast areas from pat-downs on the morning of September 12th, 2001, you would have laughed too.

Also, on Michelle Malkin: AIR RAGE

Malkin follows up on her earlier post about the dress code required of Federal Air Marshals. You know — the one with “FEDERAL AIR MARSHAL” stamped on their forehead. I noted it on MO, as well.

She’s got a collection of letters from current and former Air Marshals supporting her position that the dress code is a “Kill Me First Policy” and directly contradicting claims that the stories about the dress code are “patently false”.

In my post, a reader commented on an angle that I had been mulling over. Maybe the “dress code” story is misinformation designed to make those planning a hijacking expect the wrong thing. He wrote:

Lets say you make 25% of the air marshalls real overt with military haircuts and formal dress code. Have them board the airplane first so people can spot them. Then everyone, including the terrorists, will start to associate that image with who an air marshall is. When they get on an airplane thats what they will look for first. And they will never notice or even look for all the other air marshalls in sweatshirts who are dressing to blend in. I would like to think that our government was that clever.

I responded

I really hope you’re right. From what else I’ve seen of our airline security since 9/11, I’m more than a little skeptical.

So, if this is ruse, it’s helped by my ranting. If it isn’t a ruse, maybe it will get fixed because of my ranting.

Therefore, I shall rant.

I simply don’t have faith that our airline security is any better than it was before 9/11. Okay. Let me rephrase that. I do, in fact, think things are better. Mostly because of heightened awareness and a solid (if fading) memory of what the stakes are. Obviously, improved detectors, more security personnel, more strict boarding policies, more effort at putting together good banned passenger lists, and the simple presence of more Federal Air Marshals has made more than a small impact.

But, given the state of things on the morning of 9/11/01, I’m not sure that the improvements we’ve seen in the past three years are what we should be happy with. And little by little many of those improvements are being beaten down.

Couple this with our wide-open borders and our lax policy toward illegal immigrants and I’m basically shocked that we haven’t been hit hard again.

It’s only a matter of time.

There are so many things that need to be done to make our homeland secure. But securing the borders and strict policies concerning the illegal immigrant problem have got to be at the top of the list. Those are the things that should be addressed as a matter of course by a department focused on homeland security. Those are the no-brainers.

The homeland isn’t close to secure, and you know it.

Given the method of attack on 9/11, airline security has also got to be near the top of the list. And the two main ways to secure airline travel is to a) prevent bad guys from getting aboard and b) be prepared to deal with them if/when they do.

Maybe the secret plan is for female terrorists who haven’t been patted down properly to swoon at the sight of Federal Air Marshals in their sharp uniforms and clean haircuts?

A year ago tomorrow the string of airline warnings began. As far as we know, nothing ever came of that. But I wrote a lengthy summary of my thoughts about some insidious possibilities a couple of days later, ending with this about our enemy:

He is trying to use the very freedom that we hold so dear against us. We must be prepared for the possibilities that our victories may be strengthening him.

I don’t think anything’s changed in the past year. In fact, things may have backslid. Our awareness of the problems within airline security sure has grown. And that’s very troubling.

As I wrote in the post nearly a year ago, these problems don’t apply to just today or this year. They apply to every single day for the rest of all history. We need to start acting like we’re serious about dealing with them.

UPDATE: A reader points out

First off, yes I agree this shows our skies are not “safe”. But they were safer immediately after the first planes hit the WTC, evidenced by the plane that went down in PA by actions of the passengers.

This is a point I’ve made many times, especially in conversation. In fact, I’m ashamed that it didn’t occur to me to mention it other than “heightened awareness and a solid (if fading) memory of what the stakes are”.

This is a huge point, and a reason that another 9/11 as 9/11 happened is unlikely. But there are infinite other bad things that can happen in the skies. I’m not convinced that our security SYSTEM is as much better than it was on 9/10 as we need it to be.

We basically hope that passengers thwart the terrorists’ plans by crashing the plane away from populated areas. That’s a bad best-case scenario.


  1. First off, yes I agree this shows our skys are not ‘safe’. But they were safer immediatly after the first planes hit the WTC, evidenced by the plane that went down in PA by actions of the passengers. Now as for the Russian women, I read they bribed their way on without having to go through any searches or metal detectors. Seems to be a comon thing with all the organized crime over there. Saddest part? the total bribes worked out to about 23 cents a life…

  2. But they were safer immediatly after the first planes hit the WTC, evidenced by the plane that went down in PA by actions of the passengers.’ That’s an incredibly good point. Thanks for making it. I’ve updated my post.

  3. do you really think that terrorist are going to use a plane the next time. It is so much easier to bring a bomb in one of the tens of thousands of sea containers or just cross the border.

  4. The evidence that I read said that it was most likely that the Russian bombers smuggled the explosives aboard in thier vaginas (as evidenced by thier pelvises being unrecovered and thier legs being blown clear of thier torsos.) So no, groping women’s breasts doesn’t make us safer, and like all the other post 9/11/01 measures, wouldn’t have prevented what has already been done.

  5. Phelps: As I wrote, I don’t know that breast-groping will prevent any terrorist activities. But I think it’s important that we do everything we can to eliminate every possible scenario. As Torcik noted earlier, it’s not terribly likely that the airliner attack will be used again soon. But that doesn’t mean that we lower our defenses against it. I also realize that there are numerous complaints against bad behavior by screeners. This isn’t acceptable either, especially with the breast issue. But that doesn’t mean that the policy is removed. It means the screeners have to be accountable. This is going to go on FOREVER AND EVER, so I’m pretty alarmed by the push to lower security in order to speed boarding or protect privacy. If we’re lowering security two years after 9/11, what are we going to be doing five years, ten years, and twenty years after 9/11?

  6. We’re going to get our asses blown up again. Say it Murdoc, I know you want to. If we relax, we will get hit again. Maybe not with airplanes (good point torcik), but we will. My unit is training for what to do WHEN it happens, NOT IF.