Senator Bennet’s Reply to My Concern About the TSA

Dear Rachael:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the new Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security procedures for airline passengers. I appreciate hearing from you.

I am committed to ensuring that TSA has the resources it needs to keep our airports secure. We face serious threats to our airport security and must ensure law enforcement has the tools it needs to do its job. With that said, we must not unnecessarily surrender our individual right to privacy.

As you may know, TSA was established under the Bush Administration as part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act in 2001 as a response to the September 11th terrorist attacks. TSA is responsible for screening all passengers and all checked and carry-on baggage in all major U.S. airports in order to prevent another potential terrorist attack.

As part of TSA’s overall approach to improving the detection of explosives and non-metallic weapons at passenger screening checkpoints, it is currently exploring the use of whole-body imaging technologies for detecting concealed items carried by passengers. Whole-body imaging scanning devices offer an integrated approach to passenger screening insofar as these technologies can reveal concealed items carried on a person, including traditional metallic weapons, non-metallic weapons and explosive devices. TSA reports that all images captured by the scanners are deleted from any of its facilities or records immediately upon viewing and cannot be stored, exported, printed, or transmitted. Also, the officer assisting the passenger cannot view the image, and the officer viewing the image never sees the passenger.

In addition, TSA offers an alternative for passengers who prefer not to use the full-body scanners. The alternative procedure, a search by a TSA security officer of the same gender as the passenger, has caused public angst as some feel it is overly intrusive. According to TSA, these procedures have only been used on three percent of passengers. My office has been briefed by TSA on these procedures and we will continue to closely monitor how the agency responds to potential threats with a special eye towards the privacy rights of passengers.

It is my view that a cornerstone of training TSA officers must be comprehensive sensitivity training. Americans entrust medical professionals and law enforcement officers because they are trained professionals. We should be able to reach that same level of trust with airport security officials too.

If you would like to pass on concerns to TSA regarding your experience, you may submit written complaints at the checkpoint, which are referred to the airport’s Customer Service Manager for appropriate follow-up. You may also contact the TSA Contact Center by e-mailing TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov or calling 1-866-289-9673.

To help aid the TSA in investigating any matter, you can file a complaint and include the airport, date and time of travel, and any other pertinent information. For those with privacy concerns about whole-body imaging: please see http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ait/privacy.shtm, or health concerns: http://www.tsa.gov/approach/tech/ait/safety.shtm. For general information, please visit: http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/screening_experience.shtm.

I value the input of fellow Coloradans in considering the wide variety of important issues and legislative initiatives that come before the Senate. I hope you will continue to inform me of your thoughts and concerns.

For more information about my priorities as a U.S. Senator, I invite you to visit my website at http://bennet.senate.gov/. Again, thank you for contacting me.

Sincerely,

Michael Bennet
United States Senator

So basically, I’m getting: “The naked scanners are okay because the pictures are deleted and the person who gets to look at them is in another room anyway, and those patdowns you all are whining about are only 3% of travelers anyway. So it’s no big deal. Suck it up.”

Thanks, Senator Bennet. It reminds me that voting for you was really just voting against Ken Buck for being a total misogynist nut. Glad to know that assaultive patdowns as a form of punishment for opting out of the creepy scanners are okay when it’s only a few people getting them. And that you think complete invasion and trauma can somehow be fixed by sensitivity training.

You know what? I’ll trust the TSA employees like I trust other professionals when you start training them and paying them like professionals. And you also seem to be under the mistaken impression that no medical or law enforcement professional has ever abused the public trust and it’s not something we should worry our pretty little heads about.

GRRRRR.

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