US officials defend new airport screening

U.S. homeland security officials yesterday defended heightened airport security screening measures, but said they would consider adjustments to new rigorous pat-downs after complaints from travelers.

With the busy holiday travel season about to begin, the Department of Homeland Security’s Secretary Janet Napolitano made it clear that new, full-body scan checks would become the routine as hundreds of the machines are installed at U.S. airports and that the alternative would be physical pat-downs.

“If there are adjustments we need to make to these procedures as we move forward, we have an open ear; we will listen,” she stated during a news conference at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

“This is all being done as a process to make sure the traveling public is safe,” she said, adding that the scans did not pose health risks and that privacy safeguards have been adopted to prevent the images from being saved or transmitted.

There are almost 400 body scan machines in some 68 U.S. airports. Some airports still only use metal detectors. Those who opt out of a body scan would be subject to a pat-down, which the Transportation Security Administration has made more rigorous in recent weeks and has provoked the backlash.


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