Gibbs: Airport security measures evolving

Nov. 22, 2010 at 4:34 PM
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SALT LAKE CITY, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Enhanced security measures at U.S. airports are always evolving to maximize security while minimizing invasiveness, a White House spokesman said.

"(Our) charge is to do all that we can to protect those that travel, but also to do so in a way that's, as I said, minimally invasive," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday during a media briefing. "And that's a balance that we will continue to search for."

Video posted on the Internet of a shirtless boy's patdown at the Salt Lake City airport fueled an already building backlash against passenger patdowns, but the Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole says procedures won't change.

Screeners searched the boy after he set off an alarm, TSA spokesman Dwayne Baird said.

"The father removed his son's shirt in order to speed up the screening process. Once screening was complete, both proceeded to the gate for their flight," Baird said in a statement.

In an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, Pistole said he was sympathetic to public concern but the agency wouldn't change its procedures in light of known terrorism threats.

"We welcome feedback and comments ... and we will work to make [searches] as minimally invasive as possible while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve," Pistole said.

Gibbs said travelers 12 and under would go through "something much more modified."

"I would say, first and foremost ... has all of this been done perfectly? No," Gibbs said. "If somebody feels as if they have been unduly subjected to something that they find to be far more invasive than the line of convenience and security, they should speak to a TSA representative at the airport."

People wanting to harm others using an airplane as a weapon are looking at less common ways to carry out their missions "through explosives and devices or luggage or on themselves, that we know can get around and through security, and we have to be careful about that," Gibbs said. "Again, I think we are trying and TSA is trying desperately to strike that balance. That will evolve."

The public must be protected, the spokesman said, and President Obama has asked "that we do all that we can to protect the public and do so in a way that is the least inconvenient as possible. It's not an easy task."

A chorus of complaints by civil rights and privacy advocates, scientists and pilots say full-body scan and patdown measures are too invasive, ineffective and possibly unsafe. Some have called for a "National Opt-out Day" on Wednesday, urging travelers to refuse a full-body scan.

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