WASHINGTON, Nov 19 (Reuters) - The Obama administration could soon announce new airport security screening measures for airline pilots, who have complained about full-body scans and invasive pat downs, a top U.S. official said on Friday.
Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole acknowledged in an interview with ABC’s “Good Morning America” that scans and pat downs intended to find explosives and other weapons would offer little protection against any pilot determined to bring down an aircraft.
“We’ve had a number of very good discussions with pilots and hope to be announcing something very soon in terms of a good way forward for the pilots for that very reason, using a risk-based intelligence driven process,” he said.
Pilots’ unions, which have raised health concerns about scans and objected to rigorous pat downs, say their members already have gone through security background checks, making further screening duplicative. U.S. officials contend that radiation from the scans pose no health risk.
Pistole gave no indication that screening rules for passengers are about to change, despite calls for alternative measures including Israeli-style one-on-one interviews with travelers.
“That’s a good topic of public debate. Obviously we use layers of security and hopefully we’re informed by the intelligence,” he told ABC.
But the television network also reported on Friday that TSA is testing new X-ray technology that would show a “stick figure” instead of a passenger’s full-body image.
As the U.S. airline industry enters one of the year’s busiest seasons, administration officials face an uproar over invasive new screening techniques intended to foil attacks such as the 2009 Christmas Day bomb plot in which a Nigerian man is charged with trying to detonate explosives in his underwear aboard a Detroit-bound airliner.
Travelers and U.S. lawmakers have objected to scans that produce revealing body images and pat down procedures that are highly personal.
Critics have called for a boycott of the screening procedures during next week’s heavy U.S. Thanksgiving travel season. Some airports have threatened to privatize screeners rather than use TSA staff. And pilots have sued in federal court to halt the screening procedures. (Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Eric Beech)