TSA sends defiant “holiday travel message” to air travelers: Prepare to be patted down

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By Christopher Elliott

TSA this afternoon sent a defiant holiday travel message to air travelers: Prepare to be patted down.

A full transcript is below.

But the video is telling. TSA Administrator John Pistole looks tense, sounds almost angry, and claps his hands twice — a sign of either nervousness, or defiance. I’m reading defiance into it.

This is his stand against the tsunami of public criticism over enhanced TSA pat-downs. He is determined not to back down, even though many air travelers do not support the new procedures. (Here’s how to handle the TSA when you travel.)

How you will get patted down when you travel

Here’s the transcript of Pistole’s video:

Hello, I’m TSA Administrator John Pistole. As you travel this holiday season I want to remind you that TSA’s mission is to ensure the safety of you the traveling public and we are committed to doing so efficiently, courteously and professionally.

I’d like to offer a few tips and some important information we’d like you to know before you go through security. Remember our 3 simple steps to security: Have your ID out, coats & shoes off and laptop and liquids and gels less than 3 ounces out and ready.

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As you enter the checkpoint you will be directed to pass through either a walk through metal detector or, at some airports, an Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) unit.

If you are directed to pass through an AIT, you may opt out. And if you choose to opt out, you will receive a thorough pat-down by someone of the same gender. If you alarm either the metal detector or the AIT, you will also receive a thorough pat-down by someone of the same gender.

In either case where a pat-down is required, you have important options that we want you to be aware of. You have the option to request that the pat-down be conducted in a private room. You also have the option to have that pat-down witnessed by a person of your choice.

We very much appreciate your involvement, cooperation and assistance in ensuring the safety of you, the traveling public. If you have questions about these procedures, the technology used by TSA, or our efforts to ensure your safety, please do not hesitate to ask for one of our supervisors or visit TSA.gov.

Thank you and remember that at TSA, your safety is our priority.

Is the TSA doing the right thing?

What do you think? Is TSA doing the right thing, or has it lost sight of its mission? (By the way, if you’re the victim of an aggressive pat-down, please contact my advocacy team. We’re here to help.)

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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