Earlier this year, the LA Times reported: "TSA quietly launches new 'enhanced' pat-down procedure." The Times noted that TSA would not describe precisely how the new procedure is different from the old one: "TSA officials declined to detail the new universal procedure or the previous pat-down tactics, but the industry is bracing for passenger unhappiness about more invasive searches."
For those curious about what the "enhanced" pat-down involves, I had a first-hand experience (no pun intended) Sunday evening September 10 in the Kansas City airport. (This is going exactly where you think it's going, so feel free to stop reading right now.)
After going through a metal detector in the TSA-Pre security line, I was randomly selected to see if a machine would detect explosives on my hands. My palms were swabbed and the machine detected explosives, even though I had not recently handled a gun, flammable liquids, or any sort of explosives. Another airline passenger told me the same machine had detected explosives on the hands of another passenger who had gone through the line minutes before I did.
So what precisely does the "enhanced" pat-down seem to entail, you ask?
Well, since you asked, the agent runs his hand inside a passenger's waistband and also runs his hand up the back of each leg until he "meets resistance" and then does the same from the front of each leg. And then the TSA agent swipes the front of his hands 3 or 4 times right over the zipper area of one's Gap Outlet comfort-stretch khakis. That last part was the most unpleasant.
For what it's worth, this isn't the story of an agent who didn't know how to do a pat-down. The agent described exactly what he was going to do before he did it and seemed to be simply carrying out the government's policy. I'm sure he'd like a job that involves less groping.
I'm not a crazy ACLU-type. I've had no problem with body-scanners or previous TSA pat-downs. In 2009, a terrorist famously smuggled a bomb in his underwear aboard a U.S. flight. But an agent of the state should probably only touch a citizen's genitals seven or eight times if the agent has reasonable suspicion, and not because a machine is malfunctioning or calibrated, intentionally or unintentionally, to detect explosives on everyone who is tested.