Officials defend intimate airport security methods

Posted November 15, 2010 8:20 a.m. EST
Updated November 15, 2010 6:59 p.m. EST

— Officials are defending new anti-terrorism security procedures at the nation's airports that some travelers complain are overly invasive and intimate.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says in a USA Today opinion piece that body scanners used at many airports are safe and the images viewed in private.

She says pat-downs have been used for years at airports and measures are in place to protect travelers' privacy.

The head of the Transportation Security Administration, John Pistole, said Monday on NBC's "Today" show that "everybody wants the best possible security" and the TSA is looking for a balance between security and privacy.

Some travelers fear the scanners may produce unhealthy radiation and complain the pat-downs, which can include touching the inside of travelers' thighs and feeling their buttocks, are too personal.

Travelers at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Monday were concerned about the airport security measures. 

"I don't have a problem with it . If it makes us secure, that is a good thing. So, you know, they've got body scans, you've got your choice," traveler Bill Kerch said. 

"I probably wouldn't prefer to be patted down by someone that I didn't know," traveler Kristin La Fortune said. "I know the new body scanners use radio waves, which is actually a bit safer than going through an X-ray from a health standpoint. It's probably a better method." 

California resident John Tyner challenged security authorities over the weekend when he refused to use the body scanner machines or receive a pat-down at the check-point.

"I turned to (the airport security agent), I looked him in the eye and I said, 'If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested,'" Tyner said, recalling the incident. "The supervisor came over (and) explained the whole process again. I told her, 'You know, I'm not really comfortable with this. It seems to me it amounts to a sexual assault, and I don't think that should be a condition for getting on the plane.'"

He said he was ordered to leave the airport and threatened with a $10,000 fine.