- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 21, 2010

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton acknowledged Sunday that she considers tighter airport security uncomfortably intrusive, while the head of the Transportation Security Administration backed away some from his earlier hard-line defense of pat-downs and full body scans.

When asked in an appearance on CBS’ “Face the Nation” whether she would submit to a body scan, Mrs. Clinton said, “not if I could avoid it. No. I mean, who would?” She also said the Obama administration must find a way to “limit the number of people put through surveillance.”

TSA Administrator John Pistole said Sunday that the added security checks will continue despite public outcry and defended their use at roughly 70 U.S. airports.

“No, we’re not changing the policies,” Mr. Pistole said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

But later in the day, he released a statement saying the agency would try to make screening “as minimally invasive as possible,” though he did not elaborate on any imminent or specific changes. He had acknowledged in his CNN interview that “we’re looking for ways to diminish the impact.”

The Web-based uproar over the searches has crested in the past week after a series of embarrassing searches, including ones on children and passengers with health problems or disabilities. Several were captured on cell-phone cameras and posted at YouTube.com and other video-sharing websites.

The added security could create major delays as the holiday travel season begins Wednesday. And the situation could be made worse if passengers get behind a Web-inspired protest - called “National Opt-Out Day” - scheduled for the day before Thanksgiving, historically the busiest travel day in the country.

Among the most embarrassing episodes was a Nov. 7 search of 61-year-old Thomas Sawyer, who wears a urostomy bag as a result of bladder cancer.

Mr. Sawyer said he was likely singled out for a pat-down at Detroit Metropolitan Airport because a TSA agent saw a protrusion underneath his sweatshirt and pants. He was searched in private, but the agents ignored his warnings that a pat-down could result in the bag leaking urine, Mr. Sawyer said.

As a result, Mr. Sawyer said, he flew to Florida with urine on his clothes and the experience left him humiliated and speechless. The scanners’ gloves are checked for explosive residue after a search.

In another case, Cathy Bossi, a U.S. Airways flight attendant who lost a breast to cancer, said she refused a body scan in August at a North Carolina airport over radiation concerns. So she had to remove a prosthetic breast from her bra during a private pat-down before female TSA scanners.

She described the experience as “horrific.”

In Mr. Pistole’s interview with CNN, host Candy Crowley showed him video of a woman whose breasts were being felt and a man with his hand in another man’s pants. Mr. Pistole declined to say either that they were, in Ms. Crowley’s words, “over the line” or “demeaning.”

Last week, airline pilots, who had complained about the delays, won an exemption from the pat-downs if they are in uniform or on airline business.

Passengers who set off metal detectors at airport security checkpoints must submit to a scan or body search, or face arrest and an $11,000 fine. However, officials said those found not to be security threats will be allowed to exit the airport.

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