Some air trav­el­ers over 75 will get break at check­points

Can keep shoes, light jack­ets on, skip pat-downs

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY JA­SON KEYSER

CHICAGO | Some air trav­el­ers older than 75 will soon get a break at air­port se­cu­rity check­points un­der a test pro­gram an­nounced Wed­nes­day that could al­low them to keep their shoes and light jack­ets on and skip pat-downs.

The new guide­lines from the Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which take ef­fect Mon­day at four U.S. airports, are part of an ef­fort to move away from its one-size-fits-all se­cu­rity pro­ce­dures and speed lower-risk pas­sen­gers through while fo­cus­ing on those who may need more scru­tiny. Sim­i­lar changes were made last fall for trav­el­ers 12 and younger.

Since the Sept. 11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks that led to tighter se­cu­rity, air trav­el­ers have crit­i­cized what they say is a lack of com­mon sense in screen­ing all pas­sen­gers the same way, in­clud­ing young chil­dren and the el­derly. That crit­i­cism grew louder in 2010 when the gov­ern­ment be­gan us­ing a more in­va­sive pat­down that in­volves screen­ers feel­ing a trav­eler’s gen­i­tal and breast ar­eas through their cloth­ing.

“By mov­ing away from a one-siz­e­fits-all ap­proach to se­cu­rity and ap­ply­ing some in­tel­li­gence-driven and riskbased se­cu­rity mod­els, TSA is look­ing at how this works for pas­sen­gers,” agency spokesman Jim Fotenos said.

The change in guide­lines will be in­tro­duced at a limited num­ber of se­cu­rity lanes at Chicago’s O’hare In­ter­na­tional, Den­ver In­ter­na­tional, Or­lando In­ter­na­tional and Port­land In­ter­na­tional. Those airports were cho­sen be­cause they have a higher per­cent­age of trav­el­ers 75 and older, Mr. Fotenos said. He said the rules will be re­laxed in­def­i­nitely at the four airports with the in­ten­tion of ex­pand­ing else­where if it is a suc­cess.

Two pas­sen­gers in their 80s trav­el­ing sep­a­rately through New York’s Kennedy Air­port in Novem­ber com­plained that they were ef­fec­tively stripsearched.

One was made to re­move a back brace so it could be X-rayed. The other said she was hu­mil­i­ated when two fe­male screen­ers made her lower her sweat pants so they could ex­am­ine her colostomy bag. The TSA has dis­puted parts of their ac­counts while ac­knowl­edg­ing that screen­ers vi­o­lated rules by ask­ing to ex­am­ine their med­i­cal de­vices.

In an­other in­ci­dent that sparked outrage, a 6-year-old girl was re­duced to tears af­ter screen­ers frisked her at New Or­leans air­port in March 2011 — a scene recorded on video and posted on Youtube.

To re­duce the num­ber of pat-downs given to chil­dren and the el­derly, screen­ers in the test pro­grams are be­ing told to send those pas­sen­gers through me­tal de­tec­tors or walk-through imag­ing ma­chines mul­ti­ple times to cap­ture a clear picture as well as to use more ex­plo­sive trace de­tec­tion tools such as hand swabs, ac­cord­ing to the TSA.

“The TSA rec­og­nizes that the vast ma­jor­ity of air trav­el­ers present no risk to avi­a­tion se­cu­rity,” Mr. Fotenos said. “But it’s how we iden­tify those [trav­el­ers] and ex­pe­dite the process that we’re work­ing on right now.”

Re­mov­ing shoes dur­ing check­point screen­ing has been a com­mon com­plaint among air­line trav­el­ers since se­cu­rity was in­creased af­ter an al Qaeda op­er­a­tive tried to set off a bomb built into his shoe on an Amer­i­can Air­lines flight in De­cem­ber 2001.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Trans­porta­tion and Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion work­ers screen pas­sen­gers at Ron­ald Rea­gan Washington Na­tional Air­port last month. Some air trav­el­ers older than 75 will soon get a break at air­port se­cu­rity check­points un­der a test pro­gram.

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