TSA Relaxes Airport Security Rules

Holiday Travelers Turn Out in Record Numbers (WaPo)

Passengers at Washington area airports confronted long looping lines this morning as they joined a record throng of holiday travelers spurred on by a strong economy, long weekends, declining albeit appalling gasoline prices and a kinder, gentler security atmosphere blessed by no new color-coded alerts and, for women, “chest perimeter” searches instead of full upper-body frontal pat-downs.


Security screening was reported going smoothly. Airport security screeners have been instructed not to touch women passengers between their breasts as part of new pat-down procedures, the Transportation Security Administration said yesterday. The agency said it is making a modification to its searching methods that began in September after more than 400 passengers — mostly women — formally complained that the experience was invasive, humiliating and akin to being molested. Screeners had been instructed to use their hands to touch women between and underneath their breasts to inspect for explosives that might be hidden beneath clothing. Now, the agency said, security screeners will be directed to pat down only the “chest perimeter” of female passengers and not to touch women between their breasts unless they set off a hand-held metal detector in the chest area. Female screeners perform the procedure on female passengers.

Apparently, there actually is a limit to what Americans are willing to put up with in the name of “security.”

Fortunately for the airlines, but unfortunately for its passengers, people are now flocking back to airports in pre-9/11 levels. It looks like it’s going to be another miserable holiday travel season. It could be worse. The girlfriend is flying out to spend the holiday in Indiana.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    The two Russian civilian aircraft that were brought down by terrorist attack were apparently brought donw by women suicide attackers. It’s possible they were carrying explosives in highly unconventional places.

    Either we’re serious about air travel security or we’re not. My take: the American people have correctly determined that on the scale of effectiveness intrusive body searches are not very likely to make us much safer. Is there really any reason to believe that any level of homefront target-hardening will really make us much safer? A forward strategy is the only one that will really work and the only one that we’ll put up with. As Michael Ledeen say, faster please.

  2. James Joyner says:


    Right. Not many of us object to probable cause–or, hell, reasonable suspicion–searches. But simply groping granny isn’t doing anything to enhance security.

  3. Chris says:

    If the TSA would look for terrorists instead of weapons the whole charade would be a lot more effective.

  4. denise says:

    My brother is home from Indiana. Fortunately his flight to KC was yesterday. Missed the delays entirely.

  5. DC Loser says:

    I’ve always thought the “Archie Bunker anti-hijacking plan” was simple and effective. Just give everyone on the plane a gun, and the first person to start anything will be shot by the rest of the plane 🙂

  6. Attila Girl says:

    I’m curious about how much space these explosives take up.

    It seems that part of the problem is just that there haven’t been screens around the area where this takes place. After all, many of us are used to having our boobs manipulated, from all the mammograms (and I doubt that the breasts are actually squished during an airport search).