Transportation Safety Administration chief John Pistole announced today that the TSA, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, is ready to step up its efforts to ensure even greater passenger safety this upcoming holiday season. The new rules will provide passengers what Pistole calls "the safest and most comprehensive flight safety and security measures yet." Under the new TSA policy, which goes into effect on midnight November 24, the day before Thanksgiving, passengers will be offered the choice between an anally inserted probe or a rectal scan involving low-intensity X-ray technology.
"It's really a win-win here for both passengers and the TSA," stated Pistole in a phone interview conducted in Washington, D.C. "People will no longer have to opt into a full body scan of the type that has been recently implemented by the TSA. Of course, they continue to have that option, but the new TSA policy will offer greater options for passengers who may not feel comfortable with the full-body scans."
The recent full-body scans have been controversial among both passengers and civil rights groups like the ACLU, which claim that the scans are both invasive and in violation of the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and additional privacy laws. Although it is not quite clear why the new TSA policies would be any less invasive than the full-body scans or the body pat-down searches, the TSA seems to indicate that passengers will be more content with the greater flexibility of options.
"It's really about choice here. We felt passengers were unhappy with the choices they were offered. So we gave them more choices that address their concerns," stated Pistole.
So far passengers are on the fence about the new policy.
"I guess having more options is a good thing," stated Miriam Blaso of Baltimore, Maryland. "Although I don't know if I would like an anal probe or an anal scan I think the fact that the TSA is really giving us passengers more options is showing that it is willing to hear passengers' concerns."
"In one sense, the rectal scans and such seem less invasive from a privacy point of view because the scanner things won't be showing the sexual parts," stated Mike Hammel of Newark, Delaware. "It's kind of like going to the doctor when you get a yearly checkup, except that now you will be getting a checkup a lot more often and by people with no degrees and such," he added.
The rectal probe will work much like a colonoscopy, and will use a small camera attached to a long insertable probe. TSA officials trained in the procedure will ensure privacy by performing the procedure behind walled-off curtains in the security scan areas. The rectal scan will be done in an enclosed room padded by lead to protect other passengers from leaked radiation. TSA officials have emphasized that the X-rays are no more dangerous than dental X-rays.
Although it is not yet clear why these measures are being enacted, the TSA's Pistole has indicated that one positive outcome of the new policy is greater awareness and screening of any potential terrorist threats.
"The terrorists are always looking for ways to get around existing security measures. Their ultimate purpose is to change Americans' way of life and to become an ever-intrusive presence in their daily lives. With new policies such as the anal probe and the alternative option, the rectal scan, we will ensure that they do not have the opportunity to do that," added Pistole.