Welcome to the new normal for airport security

TSA Pat Downs
A screen grab of a video the TSA produced about pat downs.

(defeo.biz) — Kelley McCarron was flying home to Chicago from Denver recently when her bag — one she says “looks like every other travel bag out there” — triggered an alarm.

“A female TSA agent had to come to me and for three minutes described to me how she was going to search me. It was that detailed,” McCarron, a publicist at Mekky Media Relations, recalled. “She asked if I preferred to do this in private and I said, ‘No, I prefer everyone to witness this.’

“She moved her hands up my legs ‘until she met with resistance’ went around my bra and even in between my breasts, and all along the inside of my waistline,” McCarron added. “It was quite thorough and unsettling. I closed my eyes and pretended I was getting a massage. I imagine others would not be so calm. She then wiped her gloves with that paper and put in into a machine that cleared me to proceed.”

McCarron doesn’t know why she triggered an enhanced search.

“Was it because I’m leaving Colorado — a state where pot is legal?” McCarron asked. “Who knows and no one told me other than my bag being suspicious.”

Welcome to the new normal of airport security.

Earlier this month, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) informed local police about the more invasive physical pat-downs its agents plan to administer, Bloomberg News reported. The report indicates the feds are worried travelers may start calling police about an uptick in “abnormal” federal friskings.

The TSA isn’t exactly the flying public’s favorite government agency. Patdowns often spur complaints — and corresponding media coverage — of overly aggressive federal agents conducting pat downs.

That happened again this week when the mother of a 13-year-old boy complained about a pat down TSA agents at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport agents gave her son.

In a blog post response to the mother’s complaint, the TSA said, “We get it. Nobody likes to be patted down.” The pat downs, however, aren’t going away anytime soon.

“All of our procedures are based on current intelligence and our adversaries are always looking for ways to inflict harm, including recruiting young children to carry out attacks,” the agency said. “Bottom-line is that passengers, including children, and their property are screened prior to boarding a plane and any security alarms must be resolved.”

So, how best to proceed if you’re selected for the honor of an enhanced pat down?

“Attitude is everything,” said Karen Malone, a travel agent with Travel Leaders in Woodbury, Minn. “If you listen to the instructions from the TSA agents and comply immediately without attitude, any extra screening process will go smoother. As soon as you start to argue or refuse to comply, things will start to go downhill for you.”

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