New Airport Security in 2011: TSA Updates

Airport Security: TSA Body Scans, Pat-Downs and You

Remember the “Don’t touch my junk!” guy? He didn’t want to go through the TSA body scan machine at airport security and he sure didn’t want TSA agents giving him that alternative “enhanced” pat-down either. So he didn’t fly.

But things are changing.

TSA Airport Security Changes

Worried about the possibility of so-called “naked pictures” of you floating around? Then listen up:

  • TSA is now testing new body scan image software in U.S. airports
  • New images are outlines-only similar to a child’s cartoon stick-figure drawing
  • Testing is underway at McCarran in Las Vegas; coming soon to Atlanta, Washington/Reagan

While the new software does address privacy and modesty concerns, it does not tackle one of the largest controversies surrounding TSA screenings: the potential health concerns with body scan machines. To review:

  • TSA insists the machines are safe for flyers
  • Some experts question long-range effects on flyers

I would like to see more testing done on these health concerns, and I know I’m not alone.

TSA Agents vs. Private Contractors

Did you know 16 airports already have private contractors doing the jobs of TSA agents? These range from big facilities like San Francisco and Kansas City International to smaller airports in Jackson Hole, Wyo. and Tupelo, Miss.

Those airports legally opted out of direct TSA screenings in favor of the Screening Partnership Program (SSP) which has been around since 2001. It allows contracted private screeners to perform the same security duties as TSA employees, under the direction of the TSA.

However, TSA Administrator John Pistole recently suspended the program, saying “[The TSA is] best able to train, deploy, to execute on our mission as a federal workforce.” Call me a cynic, but this smacks of empire building to me.

TSA Security Workers and Unions

The 40,000 TSA employees have been told they can unionize, and they’ll vote on whether to do so in March and April. However, if they do opt to unionize, Administrator Pistole has already said “no” to any work slow-downs or strikes.

So we passengers don’t have to worry about delays and that’s a good thing. TSA employees, on the other hand, may be wondering how effective a union can be for them.

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Published: February 17, 2011