USA Flag

Official website of the Department of Homeland Security

Transportation Security Administration

Enhanced Pat-downs

Archived Content

Please note that older content is archived for public record. This page may contain information that is outdated and may not reflect current policy or programs.

If you have questions about policies or procedures, please contact the TSA Contact Center.

Members of the news media may contact TSA Public Affairs.

Friday, August 27, 2010
TSA logo

You may have read about TSA implementing enhanced pat downs as part of our layered approach to security. Using the latest intelligence, TSA constantly updates our screening procedures to stay ahead of those who wish to do us harm and keep the skies safe for the flying public. When developing our security procedures, we use input from across the agency, including our Offices of Intelligence, Privacy, and Civil Rights and Liberties.To add some perspective, TSA has used pat downs since our agency started federalizing checkpoints in 2002. They’re an effective way of helping us keep dangerous items such as weapons or improvised explosive devices off of planes.So, what might cause you to receive a pat-down? Passengers may receive a pat-down in a number of circumstances: to resolve an alarm at a walk-through metal detector; if an anomaly is detected during screening with advanced imaging technology; or during random screening. Passengers who opt out of enhanced screening such as advanced imaging technology will receive an equivalent level of screening to include a thorough pat-down. Remember, you can always request to be screened in a private area.You shouldn’t expect to see the same security procedures at every airport. Our security measures are designed to be unpredictable and are constantly assessed and updated to address evolving threats.

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team


Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm confused. What's the difference between a regular pat-down and an enhanced pat-down? Please clarify.

Submitted by Bill on

I'm all for gripping and groping. I don't want to sit next to a panty-bomber on my next flight.

Just one question, can I request an opposite-gender screener for my groping?

Submitted by RB on

So TSA admits to feeling up little kids whose parents feel Naked Imaging is excessive and abusive.

Submitted by Anonymous on

From the Boston Herald:

“If a terrorist was intent on blowing up a plane, you would really need an exam from a physician to prevent it, you would need a totalitarian state,” he said. “All they are doing is annoying law-abiding, peaceful citizens, and in the end if there are terrorists intent on blowing up a plane , they will. ”

Submitted by Anonymous on

I personally hope this causes some child who's groped in front of his parents to start crying and saying he was touched in a "bad place". I further hope this causes the parent to call a LEO over and press charges against the screener. Even if they don't stick, it would be nice to see a screener be hassled by going through the booking process and having to spend a night in jail.

If the above were to happen enough times, perhaps that would put a bit of a chill on screeners who get their jollies from feeling up airline passengers.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Blogger Bob has just started a blog about enhanced pat-downs but has actually said NOTHING about the new procedure. Like every TSA security measure we are left in the dark and then the TSA wonder why people inevitably come to their own conclusions - right or wrong. Lack of information is nearly as bad as misinformation. Are genitals being touched - yes or no? What is the point of this Blogger Bob?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, why are screeners reportedly squeezing and fondling passengers' genitals during these absurd pat-downs? What about reports of people's bare skin, including their faces, being "searched," God knows for what?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Care to explain TSA's newfound obsession with seeing and feeling people's genitals, Bob?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Why should people have to be sexually assaulted to get on an airplane, Curtis?

Submitted by Anonymous on

If a screener attempts to touch my or my child's genitals, I will summon an LEO and file sexual assault charges. Will TSA pay the screener's legal bills, or will the screener be on his own?

Submitted by Chris Boyce on

No TSA screener needs to view my penis nor grab it in order to allow me to fly on an airplane -- period.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Give people a chance to comment. If you have to get one of these "rub-downs" (my name for them--there is no patting), you'll understand the headline. I got one in Chicago O'Hare, and it was horrible, disgusting, and truly shocking.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Do people visiting TSA headquarters get these sorts of pat-down gropes, Bob?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The front-of-the-hand grope is punishment for not going through the nude-o-scope. Think many people will refuse after word gets out on how invasive (read: sexually assaultive) the "pat down" is? It's all part of the plan. They don't want a lot of people refusing to go through the "scanner" because that backs up the lines, so they're going to make sure to instruct the TSA employees to be as obnoxious and offensive as possible.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The TSA is on a mission to both increase their own numbers and violate our constitutional rights. The TSA has yet to identify and detain a single terrorist.

Submitted by Anonymous on

ANOTHER reason to Not Fly...what next a "cavity" search probe???

This country is a mess

Submitted by Anonymous on

It is NOT RIGHT for others to run their hands over your private parts when you've done nothing wrong. In other circumstances, they'd put someone in jail who did that.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Are the TSA agents advertising their "touchy feely" services on Craigslist?

Submitted by Anonymous on

It’s so important to keep reminding people that the government’s most important priority is to protect our freedoms, not Keep Us Safe(tm). Over the years many thousands of Americans have given their lives to secure those freedoms, and to simply hand them over now in exchange for a dubious promise to Keep Us Safe(tm) is a disgusting insult to their sacrifice.

Look here to see what the pervs see: 4.html

Submitted by Anonymous on

Before you run and hide for the weekend, Bob-o, move the thread for off-topic posts up please. It's now #4 in line and headed for being off the list.

BTW, please tell us exactly what an enhanced pat down consists of? Boy oh boy, I can hardly wait until the law suits start - and they will.

You betcha!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Freedom is more important than safety - that's why so many have been willing to die for for their own freedom and for yours.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The American Revolution began in Boston - why don't you Bostonians now start another revolt against the TSA and its practices?

Submitted by Anonymous on

In the old days, when someone rubbed your crotch in the airport they would be arrested.

Now it appears that getting your crotch rubbed is mandatory for airline travel. And the people doing the crotch rubbing wear badges.

TSA is way over the line on this one. Neither I or my grandchildren are flying until this idiocy stops.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Let's see: it's okay to 'molest', grope, and harass U.S. citizens at airports, but we can't ask Hispanics/illegal aliens to show ID during a police stop?

If I were a terrorist, my entry point would be the wide-open Mexican border not Logan airport.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Boston - WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU PEOPLE? The home of Samuel Adams and the Minutemen, the Pilgrims and the Shot Heard Round the World and you line up and take this crap and say you're happy about it to be safe?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I will go through a metal detector or wand search, but will not allow a pat down. If I'm not being arrested for a suspected crime it is against my constitutionally protected right to privacy. My line in the sand is drawn, the showdown is coming. Every publicized potential terror traveler event has been later admitted to be a staged drill or a government agency managed false flag event. Wake up to the tyranny!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anyone from TSA: What is the difference between a regular patdown and these new 'enhanced' patdowns?

I'm really curious, and the post... led to no clarification at all on the meaning of "enhanced," as used here.


Submitted by Frank Gomez on

How can a passenger tell when an airport screener is committing sexual assault? What are the limits to the enhanced patdown?

How do we protect our children from TSA employees who go too far?

Are TSA agents and airport employees receiving these kind of searches every time they enter the "sterile" area?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous said...
It is NOT RIGHT for others to run their hands over your private parts when you've done nothing wrong. In other circumstances, they'd put someone in jail who did that.

August 27, 2010 5:11 PM
Of course it not right.

The TSA screeners who sexually assualt travelers should have legal complaints filed and let the courts take care of these perverts.

There are police near all checkpoints, make use of them.

I fail to understand why one needs to be sexually assulated by TSA just to fly on a commercial airplane.

Submitted by Anonymous on

This is designed to draw attention away from the naked scanners by creating a new diversionary scandal. Seemingly clever, but actually it will back-fire. The grope-down is purely and simply undisguised sexual assault. The public will not accept it or the naked scanners. They are both unconstitutional and undemocratic.

Submitted by Your Friend Eth... on

Burns and pistole.

Just a FYI the last person who open hand groped my genitals ended up with a crushed right orbit , depressed skull fracture and a very large sub-dural hematoma requiring burr-holes to be drill in the persons skull.

No charges were filed against me but the grabber was charged with aggrivatted sexual battery and was given 5 years jail sentence and is registered sex offender.

If any of your employees do a open hand grope in me, or my family you can expect that individual will need medical and legal help as there is no justification for sexual battery/assault. I will also make sure the DA of that jurisdiction makes a example of that person and seeks max penalties. The just following orders Nuremberg defense doesn't excuse the behavior. Just look at the Nazis and see how well it worked for them.

I see this ending up in court for tsa overstepping the bounds of multiple court cases for violating the limits of a administrative search and "reasonableness"

Submitted by Your Friend, Ethel on

Do all screeners get training in the sexual assault grope or are you relying on volunteers?

Good heavens, I can not imagine a job where I would have to put my hand into someone else's crotch and grab and squeeze or poke or whatever.

I imagine the majority of your workfarce is not happy if all screeners are being trained in this very special procedure.

The grope is nothing but punishment for refusing be to strip searched.

You must be so proud, Bob.

Who "borrowed" my name? I'll thank you to leave it alone - it's mine, not yours.

Submitted by Anonymous on

anon said:
"Even if they don't stick, it would be nice to see a screener be hassled by going through the booking process and having to spend a night in jail."
perhaps the tsa agent is doing his/her job. would you like to see them fired for not doing their job? who will give them a new job if they refuse to do the job that they signed up for, and when they signed up for it this wasnt part of their job description.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Sorry...but this sure seems like a punitive measure designed to ensure that only a minimum of people opt out of the electronic strip search. Otherwise, many travelers would opt out and security lines would be horrendous.

Does the TSA even consider consumer input before spending billions on a new technology?? The most effective and proven method of security post-9/11 doesn't cost a cent: passenger intervention.

Submitted by Anonymous on

so what is the right way to stop another "underwear bomber"? i see alot of people assuuming that the tsa is touching private parts but have yet to see any possible alternatives to such a search. this is tsa's alternative to having travelers not go through the body scanners. the underwear bomber used his methods just for this reason. he used peoples morales and ethics against them. luckily he wasnt trained well enough to get it to work. remember he didnt pass through a tsa screening area but another countries. before this episode, here in the us it is against the tsas policies not to touch private areas because of this reaction. and it shows that it is working, it is telling the "bad guys" to wait until the public gets this changed and then its an open area to get items through. for those of you that dont think that there are any "bad guys" out there i hope your right but the tsa cant assume this with the world that is out there.

Submitted by Anonymous on

wheres the "puppy post" comments on this one?

Submitted by George on

As usual, we can count on Blogger Bob to respond to an emerging concern by rehashing the TSA's favorite buzzwords, but offering nothing to address the concern in any useful fashion.

He apparently is telling us that we can now expect a friendly genital inspection from Buster the TSO for any reason, or for no reason at all. It's necessary and justified by the "latest intelligence." It's an updated screening procedure "to stay ahead of those who wish to do us harm and keep the skies safe for the flying public." If Buster did it anywhere else, he would face many years in prison as a sex offender. But at a TSA checkpoint he's now officially licensed to grope genitals, since in the TSA's rights-free zone that's not a crime but a layer of security!

And for those who "opt out of enhanced screening such as advanced imaging technology," Buster has an open license to administer a punitive "thorough pat-down" sufficiently humiliating to convince the offender that "opting out" is NOT a good idea. Of course, Buster and his superiors will vigorously deny that the "thorough pat-down" was in any way punitive or retributive. The secret SOP prohibits that, so it should not happen. And if the offender makes enough noise to require defensive action, the TSA's Propaganda Department will issue a press release that stands firmly behind Buster. As Buster faces no adverse consequences for indulging in "behavior modification" when he decides someone needs it, what's to stop him?

The only possible benefit from this development is that it may represent the point where the TSA has finally exceeded what people will tolerate. When people start complaining to their elected officials about how Buster violated them, that may be what it takes for Congress to finally start forcing some accountability on the TSA. Lost liberties and billions of wasted dollars and may not matter, but there's nothing like allegations of sexual harassment to get members of Congress onto their highest dudgeon.

Submitted by Anonymous on

alright i understand the enhanced patdown is wrong(as well as a vast majority of TSO's) most of us wil be taking the route of not performing these front of the hands patdown, BUT you guys should be attacking TSA not the officers. Officers are following orders and wil be discipined if they do not. SO the best thing to do is to get the ACLU involved and not press charges on the officers.

Like i said a majority of us(tso's) do not want to be performing this search.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The rules should be the same at every airport or do you make up the rulses as you go. If the same procedures arn't followed by every airport yheb get rid of the SOP ( Standard Operating Procedures)it would be worthless since many of
the screeners don't know it anyway and why have it if you do not follow it everywhere. Again it is Security Theater with smoke and mirrors.

Submitted by RB on

TSA to grope flyers who don’t want to submit to naked X-ray scans

Last Updated: 1:05 PM, August 27, 2010

"TSA tried out similar aggressive patdowns in 2004, but abandoned the idea after the American Civil Liberties Union began investigating.

Imposing the patdowns on people who won’t submit to full-body electronic scans would be "punitive," said ACLU legislative counsel Chris Calabrese.

"It seems like another erosion of privacy — yet another indignity the traveling public has to endure," Calabrese said. "Modesty and decency seem to count for very little, but security seems to count for everything." "

Read more:

Submitted by Anonymous on

I do not want my privates touched in order to fly domestically.

Nor do I see the point in touching my face, with nothing covering it, or hair, which I hear is happening as well...

Submitted by Tomas on

Hi, Bob! Been a while since I dropped you a note. :o)

I'll make you a deal, if the TSA really feels the need to sexually grope me, let's open up the options a little bit - allow us to select being groped by the sex of our choice, and, just to make things equal, let us grope 'em right back.

I'll even bring my own rubber gloves.

Take care,

Submitted by Bubba on

If a TSO touches your genitals, file a complaint for sexual assault. Call the police. Make sure to do it immediately.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The enhanced pat downs are nothing more than an attempt to intimidate passengers who who opt on from the strip search machine.

Submitted by Fay on

I am a 63 year old Federal Employee with Security clearence who is patted down just because I am wearing a skirt. This happens only in Albany, NY! I fly frequently and am never patted down while wearing a skirt anywhere else in the country. How ridiculous this TSA security has become for everyone, except the terriorist intent on blowing up a plane. The TSA has never caught one terriorist.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Hmmm, just wanted to fly. Didn't think that flying ever required a full body pat down like they do to incoming guests of the government (prisoners).

This saddens me on so many levels, that anything in the name of 'improving' security is now justified.

Figures that someone with a LEO background would be all for this.

Disgusting when you consider that the gains done by doing this won't stop a dedicated terrorist from getting a job with TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Do you want to fly today?"

No, not me. Not any day.

I prefer more family oriented activities. Electronic or manual strip searches just aren't my idea of a good time. I won't tell my children that it's ok for government employees to grope them.

And you're really going to use a mind reading machine? The government will really buy anything...

Submitted by Adrian on

I opted out of the whole body imaging device on a recent flight. The pat down was much faster and simpler than submitting to the x-ray backscatter machine. I got through the checkpoint before the two people who had been ahead of me in line.

The WBI machines are not fast, and they always seem to spot something that the TSO cannot actually find on the person. I've yet to see someone go through one without it turning into a long hassle of scan, pat-down, repeat. In fact, I've never seen anyone get through on a single scan.

Submitted by Adrian on

I notice that the signs at the checkpoint show example images of male and female adults in the WBI scanners. Will you be posting pictures of male and female children as well so that parents can make an informed choice?

Submitted by Anonymous on

It didn't seem to me that the body-scanner I went through was working all that well yesterday. Suggest you have the metal detectors working along with them.

Other then that, no issues.

One thing that is worrisome. These are x-ray scanners. I only had to go through it once. What about the people who have to work around them?