TSA increases level of electronic and manual explosives searches at U.S. airports

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New policy adds trace detectors to passenger search routine and expands use of physical pat-downs
National Press Release
Thursday, September 16, 2004

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced new passenger screening procedures that will increase the use of explosives trace detectors, expand the use of manual pat-down searches, and give screeners more latitude to refer individuals to secondary screening. This move is in line with our commitment to constantly review screening procedures to ensure our measures are targeted to counter potential threats.

The enhancements are designed to strengthen checkpoint screening of passengers and carry-on baggage and are in line with a recent recommendation of the 9/11 Commission Report that all passengers selected for secondary screening be checked for explosives. Passengers must continue to go through metal detectors and put their carry-on items through the X-ray; the extra measures will be applied to those persons referred to secondary screening.

Beginning next week, the new protocol will also require all passengers to remove outer coats and jackets for X-ray before proceeding through the metal detectors. Included are suit and sport coats, athletic warm-up jackets and blazers.

The new measures authorize pat-down searches of passengers if warranted, based on visual observations. These limited searches will be conducted as part of the secondary screening process.

"These procedures are consistent with TSA efforts to improve and expand the use of technology to screen passengers for explosives at airport checkpoints across the country," said Rear Adm. David M. Stone, USN (Ret.), the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for TSA.

Since December 31, 2002, 100 percent of baggage checked at the nation's 450 commercial airports has been screened for explosives and other harmful materials before being loaded onto a plane.

Working with airlines and aviation authorities, TSA is testing and evaluating new technologies including portals and document scanners that will detect traces of explosive particles on passengers.

Currently, five airports are testing the portals at passenger security checkpoints. This technology subjects passengers to puffs of air, which are collected and analyzed to determine if explosives residues are present. The pilot programs will help determine whether the trace detection technology is appropriate for use within an airport environment.