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A woman says her pat-down was more like a sexual assault

11:52 PM, Nov 19, 2010   |    comments
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By: Casey Nolen

St. Louis (KSDK) -- Many see them as one more air travel hassle.

"I can take whatever they dish out," said passenger Heather Cullen as she waited in the security line at the Lambert St. Louis International Airport. "Just comply and do what's fastest."

But the new TSA screening guidelines have others up in arms.

Body scanners taking near nude images, and personnel giving more personal pat-downs for those who opt out of the scanners.

"I'm appalled that our government requires these measures to be taken," says Penny Moroney.

En route to Chicago from St. Louis, Moroney's metal knee replacements were apparently cause enough for the aggressive pat-down when she set off the metal detector and was told the body scanners were unavailable.

She's has filed a formal complaint with the TSA after she says her search in St. Louis left her shaking and in tears.

"If anybody else touched me like that I'd have them arrested," says Moroney. "I have no recourse."

Invasive or not, there are some who say the real insult is that the new security procedures do not make passengers any safer.

"It's essentially a dog and pony show," says Robert Herbst who is an airline consultant, retired airline pilot and founder of

After more than 30 years of commercial flying and thousands of trips through security checkpoints around the world, he says the new procedures do little to improve air travel safety.

"There's reason to be outraged at what is being wasted on what could be a valuable security system," says Herbst.

He says the best model for airline security is in Israel, where the approach is focused on interviewing individual passengers.

"Before you ever get through security you'll have had two, three, four interviews. And the people they're suspicious about they'll scrutinize a lot more."

For now it seems the scrutiny in the U.S. is mostly on the methods.

There is a loosely organized online effort to get people to opt-out of the body scanners this holiday season, to try and slow down security and send a message to the TSA.

In response, TSA Administrator John Pistole said in a statement,

"On the eve of a major national holiday and less than one year after al Qaida's failed attack last Christmas Day, it is irresponsible for a group to suggest travelers opt out of the very screening that may prevent an attack using non-metallic explosives."

"After coming to TSA with 26 years of intelligence and law enforcement experience at the FBI, I understand the serious threats our nation faces and the security measures we must implement to thwart potential attacks," says Pistole. "This technology is not only safe, it's vital to aviation security and a critical measure to thwart potential terrorist attacks."


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