For the past few months the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been testing the new ‘enhanced pat down’ at airports around the United States, before implementing this new security measure at every airport under its authority.
The ‘enhanced pat down’ is in place primarily for airline travelers who choose to ‘opt out’ of being screened by one of the new whole body imaging (WBI) scanners. Should a passenger ‘opt out’ they walk through a standard walk-through-metal-detector (WTMD) and are then subject to being touched and felt in an extremely intrusive manner by a TSA Transportation Security Officer (TSO).
During an ‘enhanced pat down,’ TSA TSO’s feel passengers with the front of their hands and palms, touching a person’s buttocks, breasts, under a woman’s breasts, inner thigh, under and behind a man’s genitals and everywhere else you could imagine. Passengers may be asked to open their belt and be felt inside the top of their pants.
The ‘enhanced pat down’ is seen by many as a violation of their personal space and of their body in general. However effective the TSA may be billing this security procedure as a viable security screening option for those who opt-out of the whole body imaging scanners, the fact is that it misses hidden items.
Recently in speaking with a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) anti-terrorism expert, it was detailed for me how the new ‘enhanced pat down’ would have likely missed the December 2009 ‘underwear bomb‘ that failed to detonate on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. This DHS anti-terrorism expert has first hand knowledge of the complete design of the ‘underwear bomb,’ and claims that the way most TSA TSOs are performing ‘enhanced pat downs’ that would have likely missed the feeling of the contents of the bomb as it was integrated into the underwear design.
The DHS anti-terrorism expert went onto say “should terrorists decide to use a woman instead of a man during her menstrual period or simulated menstrual period and pack the pad with a powder explosive, placing a trigger device in a seemingly unrelated traveler’s bag, we won’t catch them. Absolutely no one is going to check a woman’s pad, even if the feel it between their legs. Any terror group out there has learned the lessons they need and have been working on adapting.”
Aside from items hidden in undergarments, the DHS anti-terrorism expert continued with “the WBI scanners see everything, even items hidden inside a person. We know that terror groups have explored placing explosives into breast implants, a WBI would see this, an enhanced pat down would not. Terrorists are likely to use a body cavity to smuggle items on board a plane, which is something that was never discussed publicly when talking about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab‘s underwear bomb plot last year. The enhanced pat down will never reveal an item hidden in a body cavity while the WBI screening will.”
So, with the TSA having access to terrorism expert analysis and intelligence, one has to question why they are choosing to deploy security tactics of an ‘enhanced pat down’ when the agency is already aware that the security procedures are ineffective.
Edited To Add: The DHS source quoted above has clarified that the whole body imaging scanner capable of detecting objects inside a passenger is a technology in development. I will attempt to gather further information on this new technology and write about it when I feel I have sufficient information.