TSA Head John Pistole: If Passengers Don’t Undergo Screening, ‘They Don’t Have a Right’ to Fly

Nov 22, 2010 11:46am

ABC News’ Huma Khan reports: Transportation Security Administration head John Pistole today defended controversial new security procedures and argued that if passengers want to get on a plane, they have to undergo new screening procedures.

“I see flying as a privilege that is public safety issue. So the government has a role in providing for the public safety and we need to do everything we can in partnership with the traveling public, to inform them about what their options are,” Pistole said at a breakfast with reporters organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “I clearly believe that passengers have a number of options as they go through screening. But the bottom line is, if someone decides they don’t want to have screening, they don’t have the right to get on the plane.”

Some passengers have complained that the pat-downs, implemented Nov. 1, are too invasive. One ABC News employee said the security officer put her hand inside her underwear and felt her way around. Thomas Sawyer, a bladder cancer survivor, said he was left covered in his own urine after a pat-down broke his urostomy bag.

Pistole has admitted that those screenings went too far, and that the biggest challenge the agency is facing is how to implement security procedures while respecting a passenger’s privacy.

“The goal is to be as at least invasive as possible while still detecting the type of bombs that we saw on Christmas day or even the well-designed concealed devices in toner cartridges, if those could be on a person or in bags,” he said. “We want to treat each passenger with dignity and respect.”

The TSA is concerned about a grassroots internet campaign calling for travelers to “opt out” of the full-body scans on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving.

Pistole advised people to give extra time for security checks.

The procedure could be “potentially complicated by a group of people protesting,” Pistole said. “If there are no protests then we’ll just have the normal crush of holiday travelers."

"People should anticipate or just plan on some more time, just in the normal Thanksgiving rush," he added.

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