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Monday, January 23, 2012
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Earlier today, Senator Rand Paul raised some questions about the screening process after going through one of TSA’s millimeter wave body scanners that use automated target recognition (ATR) technology. The ATR software displays the same generic image for all passengers to further protect passenger's privacy.

The benefit of automated target recognition is that when a passenger alarms, the officer can look at the generic image to see where the alarm is and then do a targeted pat down to clear the area. For example, if the alarm shows that something might be in your cargo pocket, the officer will pat down the area around your pocket to determine what caused the alarm.

When a passenger or bag alarms in screening technology at a TSA checkpoint, the alarm has to be resolved before the passenger can enter the secure area past the checkpoint. Passengers who refuse to complete the screening process can’t be granted access to the secure area. TSA notifies law enforcement when this happens, and law enforcement officers can escort them out of the checkpoint. This isn’t done to punish the passenger - it’s done to ensure that every person who gets on a plane is screened appropriately.

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

If you’d like to comment on an unrelated topic you can do so in our Off Topic Comments post. If you have a travel related issue or question that needs an immediate answer, you can contact a Customer Support Manager at the airport you traveled, or will be traveling through by using Talk to TSA.

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

It's no wonder the Paul's are Libertarians! They still remember what the Founding Father's constitutional ideals were. It's too bad TSA has forgotten those ideals, and instead chose to persecute Rand Paul for his correct beliefs about personal rights and freedom that every American is entitled to.

Submitted by Alex Sterling on

How does it work if a woman is 4-foot-11 and a guy is 6-foot-5? Do they show the exact same "gingerbread man" image? How does the machine know how to account for how tall someone is? I don't know about anyone else, but this kind of technology is scary!

If the computer can automagically tell how tall you are, what else can it tell about you? How much you weight? What color your skin is (racial profiling anyone)? What your fingerprint is???

Submitted by Pedro Velazquez on

I don't get it. This Senator can't recognize that terrorists are trying to hit us again. Him and his father want to do away with the TSA. They propose that we go back to pre-9/11 days? Or that we don't have any screening of passengers? I don't get it.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I want to know where an Executive branch agency (the TSA) has the Constitutional authority to in ANY WAY restrict the travel os a sitting meber of the Legislative branch while they are in session?!?!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Please post the surveillance tapes from the checkpoint, so that we can see for ourselves what happened!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Does the passenger have the right to summon a law enforcement authority to consider escorting a TSA agent from the location if the passenger believes the TSA agent has broken TSA rules, for example, by requiring a strip search?

Submitted by Laura Monteros on

It's my understanding that Ron Paul did not refuse a second screening. He just refused a patdown.

Don't U.S. Senators have Secret Service agents assigned to them? Isn't that enough? And even if Rand Paul did not have SS protection, how is it possible that a TSA employee could possibly consider him a threat?

It's almost enough to make one a Libertarian.

Submitted by Anonymous, Too on

...And as a rather frequent traveler into and out of all Washington DC airports and fellow US citizen I would like to remind Anonymous, and others who seem to think that TSA derives any pleasure of giving travelers a hard time, that this is THE ONLY line of protection we all have against anything like 9/11, whether sitting or standing members of anything. A member of the Legislative should be either the first to set an example in the way of lawfulness and cooperativeness, or else perhaps use means otherwise at their sole disposal to change the laws and procedures.
Should a Congress person perhaps enjoy special clearance privileges? Well perhaps, but this is another argument altogether.

Submitted by TrackerNeil on

Wow...I never thought I'd ever sympathize with Rand Paul. The TSA makes anything possible!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Translation: people who refuse to consent to an illegal, unconstitutional search are escorted from airports by law enforcement officials.

Submitted by Jim Huggins on

So, a U.S. Senator has a problem at a TSA checkpoint, and TSA posts a commentary the same day. Meanwhile, an ordinary woman has a problem with her cupcakes at a TSA checkpoint, and it takes a month for TSA to respond --- even after it becomes a popular story, it still takes a couple of weeks.

It'd be nice if every passenger's concerns were treated with as much dignity and respect as Senator Rand's.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Can you please explain how the TSA detaining a sitting member of the US Senate meshes with the following from the US Constitution?

They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I believe it was reported the good senator did not refuse screening he refused a full pat-down instead of the isolated area that was "shown" to the agents and then denied the request to pass back through the scanner.

Of course the TSA will never admit to any wrong doing even when caught in the act.

Ergo, the inappropriate screenings of the elderly women recently and even admitted to by the higher up TSA reps. Not however mentioned on this blog.

We can however read about every "good catch" in the relative recent history.

TSA: The single most hated and reviled agency in the United States, a fact I'm sure the IRS is glad of.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Did you fine him $10k too?

Submitted by CCEMTP-FpC on

Senator was also unlawfully detained for 30 mins and that's kidnapping plain and simple. Yet more crimes committed by TSA against travelers.


Pedro wake up nothing TSA does nothing to keep us safe, it's all smoke mirrors and lies. There will never be another take over of a commercial Airliner as the cockpit doors were hardened (done voluntarily by airlines), and anyone getting out of line will be subdued by Passengers, not Tsa , nor fam, but passengers. So this 8+ billIon dollar a year disgrace could be eliminated easily as tsa wouldn't have stopped the events of 9/11/01 either

I'll bet a months wages, the video never sees the light of day either because the tape was destroyed or the "equipment malfunctioned".

(screen cap saved

Submitted by Anonymous on

To the Anonymous, Too said... so you want the congress people who are elected to just passively walk through while EVERYONE'S constitutional rights are violated. There is a little thing called the 4th amendment which says the government needs reason to search you. Last I checked getting on a plane wasn't grounds to get felt up, and they have no warrant.

Submitted by Mark Clyde Brant on

Since everyone is so concerned with our safety, could you please get the cigarette smoke out of my lungs and make folks smoke at home? Oh, and no parking lots for bars would be a big help. And please get police to gas, mace, tase, beat up, etc. only violent perps, not just anyone they don't like. And please stop murdering folks in other countries so they don't seek revenge. And keep up the good work at the airport. Thanks TSA!

Submitted by Anonymous on

This is exactly why I hate government and unions! Look at Blogger Bob's response.

Can you see this "I will hide my common sense behind the Rules Book and give a copy-paste answer because that way no one can blame me" ????

TSA, Blogger Bob, stop posting pictures of knives and grenades and start addressing the issues that are infuriating the public, your boss!!!!!

Submitted by Keith on

My problem is not with TSA. It is the culture that we live in that does not allow any profiling of any sort. Political Correctness gone amok. As for the targeted pat downs, Sen Paul said he showed them the area that was causing the alarm and that they still wanted to pat him down. For some strange reason, my neck area always sets the darn thing off. The TSA agent feels around my neck and nothing else. Not sure what the full story is. I do fly out of Nashville all of the time. They use the scanners on everyone. I am flying out tomorrow. I am sure I will get a neck rub out of it!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob,
Please cite the law or rule which says that it is permissible for TSA agents to physically touch passengers as a condition of air travel. Not even law enforcement officers have the right to touch anyone except in well-defined circumstances such as an arrest.

Outside of the law enforcement arrest example, touch usually IS assault, especially in the manner done by the TSA.

Can you blame Rand Paul, as well as thousands of other passengers, for not wanting to be assaulted?

Submitted by Anonymous on

1- the TSA operates outside of the rule of law. You detained a Senator on his way in violation of our Constitution.

2- Either your machines work or they don't. The request to be rescreened rather then being groped is completely reasonable. That is if your machines actually work.

Submitted by Damocles on

God, I hate you guys so much. I can't wait until the TSA is abolished.

Creeping fascism? Check.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"They propose that we go back to pre-9/11 days? Or that we don't have any screening of passengers? I don't get it."

No, we know who the threat is, and it's not sitting Senators.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"I want to know where an Executive branch agency (the TSA) has the Constitutional authority to in ANY WAY restrict the travel os a sitting meber of the Legislative branch while they are in session?!?!"

Well, it certainly doesn't have the authority to detain the Senator as it did. Sen Paul should have walked into the "sterile" area after making sure that LE was aware he could not be arrested.

Bottom line: TSA policies will be changed to allow sitting members of Congress to travel unimpeded. You heard it here first. The only question is if it will do so on its own or if this will be done statutorily.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"A member of the Legislative should be either the first to set an example in the way of lawfulness and cooperativeness, or else perhaps use means otherwise at their sole disposal to change the laws and procedures."

Nonsense. The members of "the Legislative" have sworn to uphold the Constitution, not play security theater with the TSA.

Members of Congress will soon be allowed to forego screening.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"...it’s done to ensure that every person who gets on a plane is screened appropriately. "

Yet literally dozens of people with access to the aircraft - baggage handlers and mechanics, among others - are not typically screened. The security theater of the TSA needs to come to an end before another $100B is wasted.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Again what about my rights as an american citizen?? I have the right to be able to jump on a plane and know that im safe. If you don't want to be screened than drive or swim to your destination. There are numerous signs as you enter a TSA screening location that says all Person's and their property are Subject to screening and are required to complete the screening process. You'd think this Senator would lead by example, I sure wish I were there when he was causing all this uproar...i'd be the first one to tell him off. He should be arrested and fined by the TSA.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"It'd be nice if every passenger's concerns were treated with as much dignity and respect as Senator Rand's."

Oh, it's not because the TSA wants to treat Sen Paul with respect and diginity; this is the TSA trying to get in front of a hugely damaging PR disaster.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous, Too said...
"...And as a rather frequent traveler into and out of all Washington DC airports and fellow US citizen I would like to remind Anonymous, and others who seem to think that TSA derives any pleasure of giving travelers a hard time, that this is THE ONLY line of protection we all have against anything like 9/11, whether sitting or standing members of anything."

I'm sure that the CIA, FBI, NSA and all branches of the military would take issue with your belief that they are doing nothing whatsoever to combat terrorism. What nonsense.

Submitted by Gadfly on

Just checking... Article 1, Section 6 of the US Constitution does not apply at the TSA checkpoint? If it doesn't, what other parts of the US Constitution are also considered to be null and void at the TSA checkpoint?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Question for Bob; If your scanner alarmed on Senator Paul's leg and Senator Paul then physically pulled his pants leg up to show his bare leg why was a pat down required. You said only the effected area would be patted down. Isn't a visual inspection of the area better than a pat down. This appears to be just another bunch of TSA BS as I see it. Please explain the procedure when a passenger alarms during the sanning process. Does the identified area get a pat down or does the passenger get a full body pat down?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Wow, this is the most professional post that has been written on this blog. It is not full of the snark and condescending attitude of most posts. Could the TSA be afraid of upsetting a U.S. Senator who is not afraid to tell the truth about "thousands standing around"?

Submitted by Anonymous on

@Anonymous, Too
The TSA is not the only thing protecting us from terrorists plots. They are a money sink focusing on a single terrorist scenario, more as a 'See? We're doing something!' line item than actual good security. The millions spent on those body scanners would probably be better spent on law enforcement agencies that can focus on terrorists planning attacks using all airplanes (not just commercial ones), or cars, or poisoning food supplies, etc. Sure, there is a need for some airport security, but the amount we spend on the TSA for the security payoff is definitely not worth it.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Dear Bob-

Please read the Constitution - Article 1 Section 6:

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

Submitted by Rjk113 on

Once the proof comes out that these tsa guys were just being jerks, I am sure this post will disappear. Just like the ones where blogger bob told us the old lady's were lying. Hey bob, where did those "articles" of yours disappear to??

Submitted by Anonymous on

Actually, Bob, you're wrong on several counts. First and most serious, the TSA violated the Constitution, Article 1, Section 6, that is often called the Speech and Debate Clause:

...shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony, and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their attendance at the Session of their Respective Houses, and in going to and from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

You may not be aware that "arrest" in this context does not mean formal arrest as it has become understood in the 20th and 21st centuries but merely the impeding of Senator Paul clearly violates this provision.

Second, the assertion that the safety of the traveling public justifies this behavior is, on its face, laughable. The TSA could have notified the passengers on the airplane, the crew of the airplane, or the entire population of the "sterile area" that a Senator was traveling and had not been screened. Any and all of those people could have left the area, refused to fly on board the aircraft (either passengers or crew); the Constitution does not compel anyone to provide the Senator transportation, it merely prevents impeding the Senator. The TSA, again, clearly violated the Constitution citing regulatory reasons.

The TSA's position on this is untenable. Changes will have to be made to prevent TSA leadership from being fired, fined or incarcerated.

Submitted by Anonymous on

So, Bob, do you think you all are exempt from the Constitutional prohibition against detaining Senators and Congressmen on their way to a session?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Rand Paul was on his way to a pro-life rally, not the Senate. He even admitted that. Nice spin on it though!

Submitted by Anonymous on

I first heard this on a normally conservative LA talk show. They actually side with Paul and usually bash the TSA. When will everyone realize that it is the Liberals, Lawyers and of the ACLU that set the standards that TSA uses. TSA does not want to "wand" the 90 year old lady, but they have to treat everyone the same, fearing a law suit.

Submitted by Anonymous on

No, they aren't. As we've seen multiple times, passengers who refuse screening are denied access to the secure area AND they are detained until further investigation can take place. The problem here, as Blogger Bob knows, is that if the TSA concedes that they DETAINED Senator Paul, they have violated the Speech and Debate Clause of the Constitution. Of course, the TSA makes it standard practice to violate the 4th Amendment, so it's unlikely that they would be offended by allegations that they violated Article I.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I'm a rather close watcher of this blog since I have a personal interest in how the TSA treats people with disabilities. So I'd like to know what your false-positive rate is with those mm-wave machines.

Back in December I was stopped because of not one, not two... no, FOUR alarms showing on the mm-wave screen (yes, I turned around to look at it.) This despite the fact that I had removed EVERYTHING from my pockets and held my boarding pass and ID in my RAISED HANDS while I was being irradiated. Then I was told that one of the alarms was at my head, ostensibly because I failed to remove my hat.

NOBODY told me that removing my hat should be part of the process. After all, I was wearing other clothing and I had put my coat through the regular X-ray. I didn't really want to go through the mm-wave machine and knowing that I did everything right and yet it STILL alarmed really pissed me off.

So when I got through the machine and was told that I had to be patted down, after the TSO told me that my hat had alarmed, I took off my hat and put it on top of my stuff. Then I was told NOT to touch my own stuff, even though it was quickly backing up the x-ray machine.

The only saving grace in this whole fiasco was that the TSO did ask me if I have any sensitive areas before she touched me, and she talked her way through the whole thing... possibly because I told her I have lightning fast reflexes and that if she didn't tell me when she was touching my back, there was a possibility that I would hit her with my elbow. (I am a disabled person with dyskinesia and hyperreflexia, two movement disorders).

So, what is it then? What is your false positive rate? What will I have to do next time so I don't alarm again? Perhaps I need to file a FOIA request.

Submitted by Anonymous on

OK TSA: you've posted your version of events. Post the surveillance tapes *right here* and let us judge for ourselves whether you comported yourselves professionally (or even 'legally'...), or whether you detained a US Senator from making his way to a Congressional vote.

Put up or shut up.

Submitted by Anonymous on

BBob..Article 1, Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution...you should probably read it.

Also, I thought it was against TSA rules to get a 2nd machine screening after an "alarm" w/o a "pat down"?

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA stands for Terrorist Supporting Agency, pure and simple. They promote fear and support the removal of our freedoms. I hope everyone in the TSA with any power to make policy gets detained indefinately for their crimes against America.

I hope Ron Paul shuts you down, as that will save me money in having to pay taxes for your worthless service.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob said:

"When a passenger or bag alarms in screening technology at a TSA checkpoint, the alarm has to be resolved before the passenger can enter the secure area past the checkpoint."
----------------------------------
The question is "How are these alarms resolved"

Paul said he lifted his pant leg up to show there was nothing on his leg.

Apparently a visual inspection of a bare leg is not enough for the supposedly highly trained and professional TSO's.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Anonymous too said the following:

"...that this is THE ONLY line of protection we all have against anything like 9/11..."


Incorrect, the first line of defense against terrorism is the American citizen, the second line of defense is the American Constitution, the third line of defense is the US Intelligence agencies, the fourth line of defense is the US military and the fifth line of defense is the TSA.

As a line of defense, the TSA is a failure for the following reasons: One-It circumvents the Consitution, essentially accomplishing the goal of the terrorist organizations themselves.
Two-Its procedures endanger the traveling public, the new scanners are ineffective (as proven in Europe) and emit dangerous radiation (as proven by the scientific community) and present targets of opportunity for terrorists (as proven by Isreali airport security, and Russian Security)
Three - inconsistent policies and practices have ensured thousands of security breaches across the US (as proven by the GAO).
Four-The TSA has become a bloated, ineffective beauracracy, consuming more US funding than more legitimate agencies, such as NASA.

Pre-September 11 security measures have proven to be very effective. New technologies and procedures need to be worked out publically and legally before implementation, but the TSA would rather circumvent the law on this issue.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"When a passenger or bag alarms in screening technology at a TSA checkpoint, the alarm has to be resolved before the passenger can enter the secure area past the checkpoint. Passengers who refuse to complete the screening process can’t be granted access to the secure area. "

As shocking as it may seem to the TSA, Bob, the Constitution takes precedence over TSA rules.

Not even the finest security theater outranks the Constitution, despite TSA assurances to the contrary.

Submitted by Anonymous on

You illegally detained a U.S. Senator while he was on his way to Washington for a session and a vote. I cannot even begin to explain everything wrong about what your agency did, and I have a feeling you will be raked over the coals for it.

Submitted by Anonymous on

In all seriousness, Its not senators, 6 year old girls, or 85 year old women who are the threat. The TSA looks so stupid.

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