Turbulence over airport security

Turbulence over airport security

As holiday travel builds, Logan passengers divided on full-body scans and pat-downs

By Erin Ailworth and Katie Johnston Chase Globe Staff / November 23, 2010

The busy holiday travel season begins this week at Logan International Airport amid heightened attention to complaints over new airport security measures, which include full-body scans that some consider too revealing and more aggressive pat-downs.

“It seems to me the TSA has turned into the threat,’’ said Emery Woodall, 51, from Atlanta, who opted to get the pat-down — what he calls the “lesser of two evils’’ — instead of going through the body scanner at Logan yesterday afternoon. The pat-downs now extend to the groin area, a level of invasive frisking that has sparked passenger complaints.

“Either you’re going to get virtually molested or physically,’’ he said.

The security measures are designed to reduce the risk of a terrorist threat. Logan — which currently has 17 full-body scanners, at least one at every major security checkpoint — was the first airport to be a part of this year’s nationwide rollout of full-body scanning machines. The expansion followed an attempt by a man to bring down a Detroit-bound plane last Christmas with explosives hidden in his underwear.

Most US travelers accept the new full-body scanners as a way to enhance security, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released yesterday. Two-thirds of those surveyed said they backed the scanners.

But the personal frisking adminis tered to people who refuse the body scan proved more objectionable. The poll found that half the people surveyed said the pat-down searches go too far.

Both views were evident among passengers at Logan yesterday. Some, like Woodall, objected. But others were more accepting.

Martha’s Vineyard couple Patricia Cliggott and Eric Carlson, both 51, both asked to be patted down — rather than have a scan — before catching a flight to West Palm Beach, Fla. Both said it wasn’t as bad as they expected. “It wasn’t as invasive as I saw on television,’’ Cliggott said.

The Transportation Security Administration said yesterday that it is taking public concern over privacy invasions into consideration. For instance, it is in the process of working with companies to develop new software that shows a generic stick figure instead of an actual image of a passenger’s body as it scans for weapons and explosives.

“We welcome feedback and comments on the screening procedures from the traveling public, and we will work to make them as minimally invasive as possible,’’ TSA administrator John Pistole said in a statement. “As we have said from the beginning, we are seeking to strike the right balance between privacy and security.’’

By the end of the year, 450 full-body scanners are expected to be in airports across the country, with 500 more next year.

Since the machines have been in place, passengers across the country have lodged complaints about the radiation the full-body scanners emit.

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