Yes, pat-downs are “more invasive” but here’s what you can do about them right now

So TSA Administrator John Pistole had his day on the Hill, testifying in front of the Transportation Security Administration Oversight Hearing. I predicted earlier this week that this could be an interesting meeting, but I was wrong.

Far from the “grilling” that mainstream media outlets claimed Pistole got, I found the exchange to be more of lovefest.

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Guess the TSA isn’t the only part of government that has lost touch with the people.

Pistole did say a few interesting things. First, he admitted the pat-downs were “more invasive.” Duh! But watch his expression when he makes that confession after the opening statements (link to video at top). Is that defiance I see in his eyes? Why yes, I believe it is.

Second, he suggested children under 12 wouldn’t be patted down. We’ll see how long that policy lasts, or how uniformly it’s enforced.

The TSA administrator also said John Tyner, the San Diego-area passenger who who left Lindbergh Field under duress on Saturday morning after refusing to undertake a full body scan and is being investigated by the TSA, is basically off the hook.

But it’s obvious that TSA isn’t going to back down from the body-scan/pat-down protocol, despite threats to boycott air travel or refuse the scans.

So one of the questions I’ve been getting a lot this morning, particularly after the hearing and incendiary statements earlier this week from Janet Napolitano, is: What can we do about it?

Let your elected representative know how you feel. Extra points if they’re on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which oversees the TSA.

Or you could sign one of the petitions, such as this one from the ACLU.

You can also contact the TSA directly, sending an email through its site.

Better yet, you can go straight to the people making these questionable decisions. Here are a few contacts along with their email addresses:

Janet Napolitano, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

John Pistole, TSA Administrator

Margo Schlanger, Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Kimberly Walton, Special Counselor to the Administrator

Hope Goins, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security

Paul Monteiro, Office of Public Engagement

When you write to them, please be polite and above all, tell them how they can resolve this conflict before it becomes a crisis.

Even though TSA is taking a hard line on the pat-down problem, enough pressure applied at the right time will convince the agency to make some common-sense revisions to its ill-advised policy.

Note: Napolitano’s email is bouncing. If you have a better one, please let me know.

Update: I contacted TSA about Pistole’s apparent statement that kids 12 and under won’t be patted down. Here’s what it had to say:

TSA officers are trained to work with parents to ensure a respectful screening process for the entire family while providing the best possible security for all travelers. After a thorough risk assessment and after hearing concerns from parents, we made the decision that a modified pat down would be used for children 12 years old and under who require extra screening.

I am hearing that TSA is considering suspending enhanced pat-downs during the Thanksgiving holiday, in order to pre-empt a disruptive “opt-out” action by passengers. I’ve tried to confirm this with TSA, but it is simply referring me back to Pistole’s testimony, which is at times evasive and can be interpreted in several different ways. All of which leads me to believe that it’s quite possible that TSA will selectively suspend enhanced pat-downs during the week of Thanksgiving.

(Photo: Reid M ix/Flickr Creative Commons)