TSA Disputes "No Scanner For Me" Pilot's Description Of Pat-Down

Yesterday we brought you the story of the ExpressJet pilot who refused to go through a full-body scanner or submit to a pat-down at Memphis International Airport. Now the TSA is saying that the pilot’s characterization of the pat-down isn’t accurate.

In an interview after the incident, the pilot had said that to call the hands-on procedure a pat-down is “misleading… They concentrate on the area between the upper thighs and torso, and they’re not just patting people’s arms and legs, they’re grabbing and groping and prodding pretty aggressively.”

But the head of privacy for the TSA tells TheGeekProfessor.com that’s just not the case:

There is no retaliatory pat-down for people who decline AIT. There used to be several types of pat-downs, but there are now only two (standard, and resolution). People who decline AIT or metal detector, for that matter, get the standard pat-down, but our standard pat-down changed about a month ago and now has a sliding motion across the groin. There was a flurry of media attention about a month ago on it, and some complaints following the news articles, but not a lot. My rough recollection is a dozen or fewer complaints specific to the new pat-down.

We assume he’s talking about stories like this one about the TSA’s “enhanced” pat-downs that they began to roll out during the summer.

TSA Pilot Refuses Naked Scanner – TSA Response [TheGeekProfessor.com]


Edit Your Comment

  1. MikeB says:

    Then this pat-down is worthless. Unless you do a pat-down similar to what a police officer does when someone is being arrested you are missing a couple places that can be used to hide things. And unless you doing a search that a prison guard does on a new prisoner, you are missing even more “storage” areas.

    • phonic says:

      All TSA security policies are worthless. It’s a scam to make people actually think that flying is any more safer then it was pre-9/11. The only thing it has accomplished is longer lines, more anger and confusion, stupid rules preventing us from taking things on planes, higher thefts from TSA employees, and higher taxes.

      Look at lighters. They were originally banned, but that was lifted a year or so ago. Do you know why? Not because they realized that people could (and would) get them through security (including metal detectors) without being detected, or that it would be safer to ban them, but because it was costing the government millions of dollars a year to dispuse of them properly (they couldn’t just through them out in the trash, as they contained butane).

      The GSA performs security tests on airports all the time and have published reports saying that NOTHING is safer, and it’s just as easy to get a (simulated/fake) bomb on a plane as it was ten years ago.

      • 420greg says:

        The only thing TSA did was create 40k jobs for people with no common sense.

      • YouDidWhatNow? says:

        This is correct. Essentially nothing that you do when going through the security line at the airport does anything to help ensure your security.

        Laptops out of bags, shoes on the conveyor, no shampoo bigger than (whatever size that is), so on and so forth…utterly, completely, irrevocably BS.

        I used to have cowboy boots that I wore all the time that had small chromed steel tips on them…not large by any means, but vaguely blade-like. Before 9/11, I’d just wear them right through the metal detector…while the agent would typically gesticulate wildly at me to stop and take them off. Except, I’d walk through the detector and it wouldn’t go off. Never had them set off a metal detector, and I flew a LOT during that period…2 to 4 trips every month. Generally, once I was through and nothing happened, I’d just get motioned through…although sometimes the agent would continue to freak on me, even though I’d successfully walked through their scanner.

        Sadly, the boots wore out a long time ago…and now they just force your shoes off anyway, regardless of what they are. I imagine that if I walked through a metal detector with those boots on today, and didn’t raise any alarms, I’d probably get beaten to death by the TSA anyway.

      • bravohotel01 says:

        >All TSA security policies are worthless.

        Dontcha know what TSA stands for?


  2. phonic says:

    “sliding motion across the groin”

    You used to have to pay extra for that.

    • TerpBE says:

      Yeah, it’s funny how what’s mandatory at the airport suddenly becomes illegal if you go to the showbar just down the street.

  3. AI says:

    Every traveler should just opt for the pat down, and then pretend to really enjoy it, “I’ll have what she’s having” style. Then ask for the TSA agent’s phone number after.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      If I flew that’s exactly what I would do. I will not go through the full body scanner. But I don’t fly, so I won’t have that opportunity. But I wish everyone who does fly would do that, so that it might cause the TSA to change their rules.

    • LadySiren is murdering her kids with HFCS and processed cheese says:

      This. I posted a similar comment over at Chris Elliott’s blog about wanting to get one of these pat-downs. As soon as the TSA agent starts feeling my goodies, I figure I’ll just go Meg Ryan on ’em while the spouse stands by filming the action.

  4. JohnDeere says:

    do i have to pay extra for that pat down or is it included in the fare?

  5. dolemite says:

    Just hire hot women (for the men), and they can slide up and down my groin all they wish.

    • lehrdude says:

      Concealed weapons may not be as concealed after that sort of operation…

    • Phineas says:

      If you’ve seen the TSA agents at every airport I’ve ever departed, you would understand why there is not a single female in the agency that would ever make me feel remotely stimulated. I don’t think they pay enough for “meh”, much less “really hot”.

  6. Phineas says:

    Better yet, everyone should opt for the pat down and then file a sexual assault claim against the TSA agent. Eventually, they will have to improve shit to keep from getting sued into oblivion or because nobody is using the scanners anymore.

    • James says:

      I agree with with this – believe me. The problem is, unlike a Wal-Mart receipt check incident, you’re on a pressing schedule for personal or work. Unless who show up for security four hours early you WILL miss your flight if you slow yourself down for a police report and create an incident. For business travelers that’s a problem. And no leisure traveler wants to miss a day of their hard earned vacation due to this BS.

      Add a family or friend into the mix who doesn’t see the issues like you do and it creates conflict with them.

      And consider with reocurring incidents you could find yourself on a watchlist, which means you won’t be able to print boarding passes in advance and will be constantly secondary screened.

      I competely agree with the principal. I’d just like to know how to exercise it in real life without the repercussions

    • hansolo247 says:

      Government agencies are immune from that sort of thing.

      You are not going to make millions if the TSA fingers you, trust me.

  7. He says:

    Because if people complain, they are afraid they won’t get on their flight. And they forget to do it later. Survey people immediately afterwards if you want a real idea of what they think.

  8. Mike says:

    For the record these searches do nothing. Al-Qaeda moved on to rectally inserted bombs a couple years ago and have been trying to use them. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113509667

    Unless we start strip searching people and spreading cheeks, we are not going to catch these guys. This airport security is faux security at best.

    I have said it before, and I’ll say it again, the terrorists won. We are terrified and running around like chickens with out heads cut off. Their entire goal was to bankrupt America by scaring us then bogging the US in costly protracted wars and we handed it to them on a silver platter.

    Every time I read an article about airport security I am just reminded of how badly we are continuing to lose the war on terror.

  9. pandroid says:

    I’ll be trying out the patdown at Christmas, it looks like, because I’ll be flying out of Logan and I don’t trust that the new scanners won’t harm my fetus.

    • gamehendge2000 says:

      Fly from Logan all the time. Always opt-out, don’t feel like getting backscattered twice weekly.

      I will say the opt-out pat down this past Tuesday was especially gropey. Usually I need to pay $50 for a ball stroking like that.

      The TSA agent did explain to me very clearly that he was about to touch my gooch, so there were no surprises.

      As bad as it may be playing Freddy got Fingered by TSA, I feel bad for that guy who needs to do that to people all day long. It’s only 60 seconds of pocket pool for me, a career for him

      • bravohotel01 says:

        You need to stop off at the supermarket beforehand and get a pack of Hot Links.

        One of those bad boys in a strategic location will bring new meaning to the term “silent protest.”

        CU needs to do a report upon which franks are the best for this job :)

    • Etoiles says:

      FWIW, I have yet to see the nudie scanners at terminal C at Logan — still plain old metal detectors for those flying jetBlue domestically, though god only knows for how much longer.

      (Just flew back from BOS Monday afternoon)

      • elladisenchanted says:

        Gosh, i can hope this continues, as the Logan security goons are especially mean, homophobic (gotta love being called “the queer” by the TSA and them blowing off the complaint) and unfriendly, and i don’t even want to think about how bad it’s going to be with the nudie scanners.

    • bravohotel01 says:

      The European godless socialists don’t even make preggers go through the magnetometers.

      When the Mrs. and I flew through Europe, they pulled her out of the magnetometer line to do a pat down.

      Too bad the ‘land of the free’ doesn’t care so much for the heath of the unborn…unless you’re getting an abortion, that is.

    • pandroid says:

      Thanks for the extra info everybody. I’ll be flying at about six months pregnant, so it’ll be hilarious to see what they actually manage to pat down at that point.

  10. Talisker says:

    “They concentrate on the area between the upper thighs and torso, and they’re not just patting people’s arms and legs, they’re grabbing and groping and prodding pretty aggressively.”

    Is this an airport or a sacristy?

  11. peebozi says:

    Ok, we got the true story from the government. i think it’s safe to say the pilot was lying and made up most of the story in an attempt to embarrass the TSA and their highly skilled and educated employees.

    i thank baby jesus that this TSA employee had the balls to stand up to this type of shameful behavior from a so-called “pilot”.

  12. jtheletter says:

    “People who decline AIT or metal detector, for that matter, get the standard pat-down”

    The head of privacy for the TSA further went on to say “And I psychically monitor EVERY pat down given at all times in all airports. That’s how I know this policy is never violated and the security agents responsible for the pat downs never ever deviate from procedure, especially not to prove a point to some ‘uppity’ pilot who thinks he’s better than the system. Really everyone who flies should be grateful for my omnipotence in this matter otherwise you would simply have to take my word for it that no TSA agent ever violates a policy.”

  13. areaman says:

    It doesn’t sounds like a dispute really. TSA response is really a roll call of their many changing policies.

    It sounds like a, “it sucks but I have to pretend it doesn’t” type mia culpa.

  14. Mecharine says:

    They’re going to eventually force everyone to do some sort of body scan. It’s widely known that the easiest solution to defeating most security measures is to use implantable explosives. Imagine some terrorist who swallowed a plastic baggy full of explosives with a remote detonator. No amount of pat downs will find that.

    Then we’ll have the apologists crying that its unpatriotic not to have invasive security theater, or whatever rhetoric they come up with.

    The bottom line is that the air port is neither the first or last line of defense. It will always be possible to circumvent it, unless we as a people agree to shed some rights.

    • verdegrrl says:

      You know you’re more likely to die driving to the airport than flying, right? You know that commercial cargo (that shares your plane) rarely if ever gets screened, right? You know that ground workers are rarely if ever screened, right? You know the scanners presently in place have not been tested by an independent 3rd party to check the actual amount of ionizing radiation deposited on the skin, right? Nor are these machines required to be tested or calibrated, as is the norm for other machines in this class, right? You know that the present machines quite likely would never have found the powder in the undie-bombers pants, right? What would you suggest for every person who wears a sanitary napkin or absorbent underwear or a colostomy bag? Especially given the screeners require only a GED OR a year of being a mall cop – probably not the brightest bulbs on the planet?

      Pure theater and nothing else. With everyone running around screaming “terror” at the top of their lungs, ready to do any stupid money grabbing thing that former government cronies (Chertoff works for the scanner company) can cook up, it’s clear the terrorists have won. Whatever happened to the British saying of “keep calm and carry on”, as they did during the far scarier blitz?

      Sorry for going off on you, but I think you’ll find that if you apply some critical thinking, we’re being a sold a very expensive bill of goods, both with regards to monetary outlay, and rights/dignities.

    • FredKlein says:

      It’s widely known that the easiest solution to defeating most security measures is to use implantable explosives. Imagine some terrorist who swallowed a plastic baggy full of explosives with a remote detonator. No amount of pat downs will find that.

      Not to get too… graphic, but anyone who has seen some serious anal porn knows that it’s possible to… umm… fit large things into small seeming areas. Seriously, if some of those… things… were made of explosives, there’d be enough to take down two planes. I know it’s gross and obscene, and all, but when’d that ever stop a fanatic?

  15. matlanticus says:

    Or you can have the experience I recently had at Charlotte Douglas Airport. After clearing customs and immigration after an international flight there, you have to go back through security to get to the connecting gate for domestic departures. No problem, I expected that.

    I was not given a verbal choice for the scanner OR a pat down, but it turns out, I got both. I was sent through the full body scanner and then subjected to an extremely invasive pat down by a female officer (I am female). She did not ask permission or let me know that she was going to do the pat down, she just started reaching between my legs up under my knee-length skirt. She also did a front of hand pat down of my upper body and breasts. After that, she received confirmation by radio that the scan was clear and let me go.

    I was in a bit of a daze after a trans-Atlantic flight and not quite recovered from a final night at a pub in London, so I barely reacted at the time, I also was worried about making my connection. Once I was on my connecting plane and realized exactly how invasive that pat down was, I had a bit of a minor freak out. I have since submitted complaints to the TSA (got a “Taking it Seriously” email in response) and directly to the airport. This was my first experience going through a full-body scanner, my previous thought was I would refuse it and request a pat down. If the pat down they perform on people who refuse the scanner is anything like the pat down I received after going through the scanner, I’ll pick the scanner every time. I’d rather have an unknown person looking at the full-body scan on a screen from a distance, than a strange woman feeling up between my legs and groping my breasts.

  16. B* says:

    So, when will Consumerist write an article detailing how we can all take action to shut down the TSA? Or have they already?

  17. TPA says:

    The TSA’s job has *NOTHING* to do with protecting passengers/aircraft. It’s solely a PR stunt. From their own website:

    “[TSA] lead the effort to secure and successfully restore confidence in civil aviation following the September 11, 2001, attacks, working with senior Bush Administration officials, Congress and stakeholders to enhance security in all modes of transportation.”

    I can’t find the original docs offhand but they were solely created to reassure the public. Anything after that’s mission creep.

    • Mike says:

      You are 100% correct.

      • TPA says:

        and I’d argue that the public has been sufficiently reassured — time to scrap this huge waste of money. Think about all of the good we could use the TSA’s $7 BILLION A YEAR budget for elsewhere. Could feed quite a few people. Hell, it’d pay for quite a bit of healthcare.

        • cluberti says:

          Yes, I think you’re onto something here. Get back the $7 billion a year from the TSA, and add another $150+billion a year by getting out of two overseas wars that are also basically security theater, and we might get somewhere with our civil servants in education, police, fire, etc, instead of having TSA agents groping us and inconveniencing our time and travel in the name of security.

  18. oldtaku says:

    ‘There is no retaliatory pat-down for people who decline AIT. We have always been at war with Eastasia.’

  19. doobiewondersmoke says:

    The TSA is a joke, they lie, the steal, they’re pretty much operate as a mafia organization but with the backing of the federal government. May they all choke!

  20. Running_Fool says:

    Fantastic web site: http://www.nudeoscope.com/
    Fliers wanted safety, not strip searches. The TSA is clueless and lazy. Print the PDF and hand it out to everyone you know.

    • TPA says:

      Or if you’re chicken, at least print a few and leave them in the seat pockets of the plane as you leave.

  21. filmbuffy says:

    I always decline those X-RAY machines, because my dad was an architect at a well known airport and YES those machines put the images of you naked. If the TSA dudes want to see me naked they have to at least buy me dinner first! So yes, I have gotten “pat down” at multiple airports. It’s definitely…ummm. thorough. She put her hand right down the middle of my chest, and it sorta took me by surprise!!! Woa!!! And yes, they swipe their hands over your entire body. But I see it as a quick massage !! Enjoy it! Haha!

  22. Incident8 says:

    Lets make this simple. This security theater staring the TSA is not preventing any terrorists from getting onto planes. The pilot is right, its a choice of being imaged naked or taking what would be considered sexual molestation if anyone was doing it but someone in law enforcement (which does not change what it is at all, just sanctions it by the government).

  23. mcmunchkin says:

    I’m curious… how does one become a TSA agent? I know it’s not like going to a police or fire academy, but it has to be more than a mall security guard.

  24. spadefoot says:

    The security theater in airports is enough to have made me avoid flying whenever possible for years now. However, I don’t understand the “pictures of me naked” objection to body scanners. Objections because of potential side effects or something like that would at least have the potential to be valid, but I just don’t understand why I would care if some stranger sees a monochrome image of my doughy buttocks.

  25. SgtBeavis says:

    This is the same TSA that has been caught lying about not saving images from those full body scanners..