TSA screenings: What protections do you have?

3. The pat-down

Craig F. Walker / The Denver Post / AP
A TSA agent performs an enhanced pat-down on a traveler at a checkpoint at Denver International Airport on Nov. 17.

If you are selected for a secondary screening, if you opt out of the full-body scan, or if you are physically unable to stand in the scanner, you will receive a pat down. (Those who opt out will also walk through a traditional metal detector.)

The “enhanced pat-down,” rolled out Nov. 1, is not the familiar quick brush with the back of the hand that passengers are accustomed to.

This “enhanced” screening involves the palms and fingers, not the back of the hand, and requires contact with every crevice that could conceivably hold contraband: under the armpits, under the breasts, between the legs, against the genitals, between the buttocks.

Children who opt out of the scan or who need secondary screening will receive a “modified pat-down.” The TSA won’t explain just what this entails, citing security, but it is meant to be significantly less invasive than the pat-down for teens and adults.

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