Some TSA Screeners Quietly Ease Up On Pat Downs

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.


In a series of emails from a Supervisory Transportation Security Officer (STSO) it was revealed that,

“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.


Happy Flying!




  1. I was at LAX the other day and had time to avoid the nut burner scan, so I went for a patdown. This was the first time, but I was impressed with the professionalism of the TSA employee. Everything was fully explained and clearly explained. I didn’t feel it was *overly* intrusive, but this was also because I was told what to expect.

    I felt it was very professional and would gladly choose this over the potential (and debatable) health concerns of the scanners.

  2. OTH, I had a weird encounter at LGA where the TSA employee required me to say my name at the ID check. I’ve given them my ID, my boarding pass — they have my name. I told her my name was in the docs I gave her. It’s a stupid secondary check. I told her so. It was a hellish day at LGA with cancellations, so I decided to not push things and just badly misprounounced my name (Jay-owen Moan-tee-gum-arry).

    I think this comes from flying in Australia and NZ the last couple of weeks where I feel safe flying and the requests are much less at security.

    Not a fan of the TSA in general…I think much of what they do is incredibly misguided. But as I said above, I did find the patdown to be what one should expect if you have to do such a thing. One of the first times I’ve felt that way about the TSA.

  3. Its always been the one group who actually has the power to stop this abuse of flying citizens. If the TSA refuses to conduct illegal patdowns, what does The TSA do? Fire its entire staff? The turnaround would destroy the organization.

    Only the TSA employees have the power to stop this now. The people are obviously too afraid to say “no,” as experience has shown…

  4. John, the health concerns of the scanners aren’t debatable. X-Rays do cause cancer.

    The *only* thing that is debatable is how many will get cancer and how many will die from it.

  5. Considering that the majority of checkpoints don’t use X-ray scanners, that point is moot. X-rays cause cancer, but so do plenty of other things, the amount of radiation that a backscatter scanner exposes you to is negligible.

    And today I went through the millimeter wave scanner, and for some reason it triggered on my abdomen, not a clue what it though I had. The TSA guy just gave that area a pat to make sure there wasn’t anything there and I was off.

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