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US to continue to patdown travelers

[ 2010-11-23 13:43]     字号 [] [] []  
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United States homeland security officials have no plans to back away from airline passenger security patdowns, despite traveler complaints that they violate constitutional rights and growing congressional concerns about the policy.

As the heavy holiday travel season got under way, John Pistole, head of the Transportation Security Administration(TSA), acknowledged on Sunday that the law enforcement-style patdowns, performed as an alternative or additional screening measure, can be unexpectedly intrusive.

"It's invasive; it's not comfortable," he told CNN's State of the Union program. The TSA estimates that roughly less than 2 percent of the 2 million passengers screened daily - or some 40,000 - are given the new patdowns.

But Pistole stressed that tighter security, including a wider use of controversial full body scanners at airports by year's end, is necessary to mitigate terrorism risks.

"I want to be as sensitive as I can to those folks. I'm very attuned given all the concerns that have been raised," Pistole said. But, "no, we're not changing the policies."

With pilots allowed to carry guns and cockpits hardened against hijacking threats following the 2001 hijack attacks on New York and Washington, screening in recent years has focused on potential bomb plots using sophisticated explosives that are hard to detect.

Obama administration officials have pointed to the thwarted bombing of US-bound air cargo flights last month and last year's Christmas attempt to blow up a Delta Air Lines flight to Detroit with a bomb hidden in a passenger's clothes.

The Yemen-based group al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for both plots.

The issue has drawn the attention of US President Barack Obama who said in Lisbon on Saturday that the TSA is under "enormous pressure" after the Detroit incident to guard against a similar attempt. Obama said the TSA has indicated that new procedures are "the only ones" they consider effective against that threat.

Obama said at a news conference that he is "constantly asking" whether the security approaches are absolutely necessary. "Have we thought it through? Are there other ways of accomplishing it that meet the same objectives?" he said.


(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

US to continue to patdown travelers

About the broadcaster:

US to continue to patdown travelers

Lee Hannon is Chief Editor at China Daily with 15-years experience in print and broadcast journalism. Born in England, Lee has traveled extensively around the world as a journalist including four years as a senior editor in Los Angeles. He now lives in Beijing and is happy to move to China and join the China Daily team.