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RDU passengers angered at TSA security methods

Posted December 15, 2010 3:57 p.m. EST
Updated December 15, 2010 11:48 p.m. EST

— From concerns over pat-downs to issues with the body scan machine, some people traveling through Raleigh-Durham International Airport are complaining about new Transportation Security Administration security methods. 

RDU has received about 160 complaints about the TSA's methods since fall 2008. Twenty-six of the complaints dealt with pat-downs and body imaging machines.

Tracey Evers, of Raleigh, is an engineer who flies out of RDU weekly for her job. She said Wednesday that a TSA agent's pat-down went too far recently.

Evers was selected for random screening at RDU on Dec. 8. She said she refused to go through the full body scanner because she has no confidence that the images are being discarded.

"You're seeing every contour, every fold, every crease. Every crack of your body shows up on this image," Evers said.

Travelers who refuse the scan must undergo a pat-down by a TSA agent. 

"I said, 'That's fine as long as you don't touch my private parts,'" Evers said. 

Evers said the female TSA agent touched her entire body, including her genitals.

"I just said, 'Don't do it. I really have an issue with you doing that,'" Evers said. "She said, 'We are required to touch you in that way until we come up against flesh.'"

Evers said she feels the invasive pat-downs are a way of deterring passengers from refusing the body scan in the future. 

“I can’t expose myself to this every time I travel,” Evers said. “It’s just too invasive.”

Evers has filed a formal complaint.

Although she wants the plane to be secure, Evers said she isn't sure this is the way to do it. 

"TSA officers are trained to treat all passengers with dignity and respect, and to fully communicate with each passenger to ensure they understand the process throughout screening,” TSA spokesman Jonathan Allen said in a statement on Wednesday.

Other travelers have said they won't be flying because they refuse to go through the body scans for fear of radiation and do not want to be subjected to an invasive pat-down. 

Another passenger said he was singled out for a body scan after the woman in front of him in the security line refused to go through the machine. In a letter to RDU, the man said the woman refused twice and then was allowed to go through the regular screening machine. As a result of her refusal, he was selected for the full body scan. He opted instead for a pat-down, which he said was too invasive. 

Some passengers undergoing body scans have raised concerns over being separated for a long time from their belongings. Travelers fear their bags, which are run through traditional X-ray machines, are not safe from theft.  

The full body scanners have also caused delays for passengers trying to catch their flights. 

"Customers are welcome to come and give us comments on anything that happens at the airport," RDU spokeswoman Mindy Hamlin said.

Hamlin said customers can lodge complaints online that are then passed on to the TSA.

Hamlin said the Airport Authority has a very good working relationship with the TSA.

"The TSA has done a very good job with us and for us over the years," she said.