The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has repeatedly made headlines and caught the ire of travelers for their invasive “enhanced pat downs” for those who refuse Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) security scanners or who set off an alarm passing through a metal detector.
Since the TSA implemented its enhanced pat down TSA Transportation Security Officers (TSO) have caught the brunt of travelers frustration, causing significant friction between not only travelers and the TSA, but between some TSOs and the TSA. When the TSA first implemented its new invasive physical search of travelers, a policy the agency is still unable to show legal standing to undertake, some TSOs felt demoralized by there harsh words hurled at them by travelers, the media and even airline flight crews.
Now, with the public outrage of the TSA’s policy and procedure being handled more in politics than by travelers, some TSOs appear to be taking a new tactic. The new tactic is carrying out an enhanced pat down without actually carryout an enhanced pat down.
Over the past few weeks a quiet minority within the TSA, in at least one cluster of airports, have begun taking matters into their own hands … or out of their own hands as the case may be.
“Some TSOs are fed up with being required to carry out extensive hand searches of certain passengers who clearly are not a threat to aviation security. These TSOs are now quietly going through the facade of an extensive hand search. To an onlooker a thorough search is being conducted when the reality of it is that the TSO is skimming the surface so they do not cause the passenger embarrassment or discomfort.”
Presently it is unknown if this quiet shift in TSOs choosing to implement their own judgment, while not outwardly defying TSA policy and procedure, is wide spread. What is known is these new ‘lighter pat downs” are being performed done by more than a dozen TSOs and STSOs stationed at three sizeable airports in a close geographic region.
What is the impact of such a small group of TSA screeners? Right now, it is minimal, but it will be interesting to see if this shift spreads or others quietly let it be known that they are acting in a similar manner.