US officials rethink airline screenings

Authorities will reconsider airline passenger screening procedures that have caused a public uproar on the eve of the busy holiday travel season, the top transport security official said yesterday.

“We’re going to look at how can we do the most effective screening in the least invasive way knowing that there’s always a trade-off between security and privacy,” Transportation Security Administrator John Pistole told NBC’s “Today” show.

“What I’m doing is going back and looking at, are there less invasive ways of doing the same type of screening?” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Coming amid public and political pressure, Pistole’s comments appeared to row back from a Sunday interview in which he said there were no plans to scale back procedures that travelers have criticized as invasive and a violation of privacy rights.

But while making the rounds on U.S. morning television shows, he also cautioned against expectations for immediate change and defended the effectiveness of current methods.

“In the short-term, there will not be any changes,” Pistole said on CNN.

The screening methods that have irked passengers and lawmakers in Congress rely on highly revealing full-body imaging scanners and physical pat-downs for travelers who choose to opt out of the scans.

Airlines expect 24 million people to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday period. Airlines say they have passed along passenger concerns to TSA.

After saying “No, we’re not changing the policies” in a Sunday television interview, Pistole issued a statement hours later saying the TSA was constantly evaluating ways to adjust its screening methods.

Security measures match the threat

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs stressed the importance of protecting in “minimally invasive” ways but added that security measures need to reflect the nature of the threat.

“That is a balance we will continue to search for,” he said yesterday. “The nature of whatever the threat is today is going to be different in three to six months,” Gibbs said. “We have to continue to evolve and meet the threat that is out there.”


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