WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Continuing to grope for an answer to the conundrum of how to provide enhanced security against terrorists who are targeting airline travel while it tries to satisfy the traveling public, the Transportation Security Administration today announced a set of initiatives and refinements to existing policies and technologies.
"We're feeling our way through this sensitive process," said transportation security chief John Pistole. While he wanted to make clear that the changes in protocol are "still being massaged," Pistole enumerated a series of policy adjustments being put into place immediately.
Those who are offended, or might potentially be offended, by the revealing visual full body scans, may use lead aprons like those used during dental X-rays. For others less sensitive, 9x12 glossy prints suitable for framing will be made available at a nominal cost.
In order to reduce delays caused by those opting out of the body scans, passengers will no longer be allowed to request repeat pat downs, said Pistole.
The TSA will change its hiring criteria. "Using licensed masseurs and masseuses for the manual body screenings seemed like a good idea at the time, but we are re-thinking it," he added.
Passengers will be pre-sorted before passing through the security portal according to threat level, but, to avoid profiling, the passengers will self-assess. The preliminary categories will be labeled "Not a Terrorist at this Time," "Incompetent Terrorist" and "Competent Terrorist."
Said Pistole, "We expect to spend the most time with the 'Not a Terrorist' and the 'Competent Terrorist' categories as our current screening and detection protocols have been shown to work well with incompetent terrorists."
Pilots, flight crew members as well as passengers traveling commando will no longer be subject to underwear searches.
The Air Travel Liquid ban, which was initiated by the TSA in 2006 after British police foiled a plot to blow up airliners with liquid explosives and which limits Americans to bringing only 3.4-ounce-and-smaller bottles in plastic baggies through the security gate, has been relaxed to allow non-clear liquor in mini-bottles, as it has been determined to be forbidden under Sharia law.
Printer toner cartridges in general will no longer be banned from carry-on luggage, as they were immediately following the incidents on Oct. 29 in which bombs crafted from laser printer toner cartridges were discovered on flights from Yemen to Canada and the United States.
"Careful further examination of those bombs shows that they all were constructed from Canon products, and from a limited range of models. To reduce the burden on the public, especially those who like to print hard copies while in flight, we will only exclude model numbers CRG-104, L104, 104 and 104-compatible cartridges," said Pistole.
Following a careful analysis of the attempt by “Shoe Bomber” Richard C. Reid to blow up an American Airlines flight out of Paris on Dec. 22, 2001, Pistole said the TSA will limit its requests to remove shoes to those wearing Bass "Weejun"-type cordovan loafers of men's size 11 wide.
Further, Pistole said he had followed up on the recent report of an ABC News employee traveling through Newark Liberty International Airport Sunday morning, who said that the TSA officer who checked her "reached her hands inside my underwear and felt her way around." Pistole said the report was verified and the TSA employee has been charged with practicing medicine without a license.
Per a request made by Pistole as he concluded this interview, all travelers are asked not disburse information on these new procedures to any known or probable terrorists regardless of competency as the TSA would like to keep them secret for as long as possible.
Gary D. Gaddy likes to make jokes about almost everything to just about anyone -- but not around Transportation Security Administration employees.
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday November 26, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy