For the American Frequent Flyer, TSA PreCheck has for the most part made airport security bearable. In my opinion, PreCheck is among the best opt-in program after Global Entry. The only difference, I use PreCheck twice a week, every week as a business traveler and I only use Global Entry when I get the opportunity to sneak away from work. Yet over the years, we have seen PreCheck policies change and the TSA change their own screening policies several times.
In late February 2017, TSA announced new invasive screening measures. The TSA has changed their pat down technique that allows them to get handsy on sensitive parts of the body. The new pat down measures are so much more invasive, the TSA sent a warning to airlines and airports and even notified local police departments of the changes.
“…the agency does expect some passengers to consider the examination unusual. In fact, the TSA decided to inform local police in case anyone calls to report an “abnormal” federal frisking, according to a memo from an airport trade association obtained by Bloomberg News. The physical search, for those selected to have one, is what the agency described as a more “comprehensive” screening, replacing five separate kinds of pat-downs it previously used.
The decision to alert local and airport police raises a question of just how intimate the agency’s employees may get. On its website, the TSA says employees “use the back of the hands for pat-downs over sensitive areas of the body. In limited cases, additional screening involving a sensitive area pat-down with the front of the hand may be needed to determine that a threat does not exist.”
The memo from the TSA basically said, be warned, if you are selected for a pat down you breast and groin will no longer be avoided! Instead, stand still and try to enjoy being gently caressed! Not only does this bring up concerns about privacy, one must wonder when are they being searched versus sexually harassed. Less than two years ago, two TSA agents were fired in Denver over a groping scheme. Will this happen again? Or will they just be protecting the public? I mean let’s be honest, I have seen some very revealing spandex, scrubs and sweatpants while passing through airports! It would not be hard for a TSA agent to say, “Excuse me sir, I need to make sure that’s not a pistol in your pocket!” – barf!
Random Checks for Explosives
Now that we all know we are subjected to federal frisking and the TSA does not respect the 4th amendment, know you may now be checked for explosives as well! On top of being frisked, based on my experience at Seattle-Tacoma International airport on March 13, 2017, the TSA random additional screening at PreCheck has also been ratified to test for explosive sediment.
Over the past several years I have received the lower pitch beep which signals an additional random screening several times when passing through the metal detector. There’s no defined pattern to the random screening algorithm. In 2014, the additional screen required having one’s hands swabbed and tested for explosives. Sometime in 2015, the procedure changed and the additional screening meant being subjected to the backscatter/millimeter wave scanners. Now, it seems that the random screening requires that all electronic devices be tested for explosives.
On Monday, on my second attempt through the metal detector I received the random security beep. The first time I passed through, I failed to clear due to my dress shoes. The same shoes I have worn every Monday and Thursday for the past six months. These shoes have never alarmed, but it appears that TSA has reconfigured the sensitivity over the weekend. Annoying yes, but whatever. I took my shoes off, placed them on the x-ray belt and walked through the scanner to only be sent to secondary.
When I heard the beep, I automatically assumed I would face the nude-o-scope. Yet to my surprise, another TSA agent was waiting for me who waved me towards him. He had me point out my luggage and told me to put on my shoes as he carried my bags to another table. Without touching anything, he had me direct him to the location of my electronic devices. He removed my laptop, kindle, and cell phone from my briefcase and asked me for any other electronic devices. When I offered him my electric razor, he denied and said that did not count. He then swabbed all three devices and tested them for explosive residue.
I activated the machine! Great more screening! Although I was not the only one having problems, the next two travelers in PreCheck who were being subjective to extra screening also tested positive to explosive residue!
Because we all tested positive for explosives, we all were subjective to a federal massage and groping. Each agent slowly ran their hands and fingers over our entire body. Nothing that I was packing was left to the TSA agent’s imagination!
After the agent was down rubbing me, he swabbed his gloves and tested them at a different explosive detection machine. This time they were negative. He then swabbed my shoes. Again on the other machine, negative. He then x-rayed my belongings a second time and told me I was clear to go.
I do not know if the TSA has officially changed their random screening polices nationwide, but the additional screening I was subjective to troubles me. I have had Global Entry since its inception and PreCheck too. The government has the right to track my flight patterns and I have given up my personal privacy to make my travel experience seamless. I understand that a poorly calibrated machine subjected me to a federal cock grab, but the additional screening is ridiculous.
We already x-ray our bags and limit the type and size of fluids we carry on planes. We pass through metal detectors and sometimes nude-o-scopes. The time-consuming random explosive detection of every electronic device seems extremely unnecessary to me, especially in the PreCheck line!
Today the TSA wasted an additional 10 minutes of their time and mine in added screening. They were searching for something they were not going to find. I am a frequent traveler with pre-clearance who flies two times or more per week, I should be the least of TSA’s worries!
Have you been subjective to a random screening lately? What did it entail? Please share your experience below.