Pat Down or Full Body Scan? Security Gets More Personal at Airports

As TSA changes airport procedure, some ask if security has gone too far.

ByABC News
October 28, 2010, 6:29 PM

Oct. 28, 2010— -- Next time you pass through security in some airports around the country, you may face a difficult dilemma: Would you rather have a revealing, full body scan or what some are calling an X-rated pat down?

Some passengers opt out of the full-body scan, concerned about the low doses of radiation emitted by the high-tech body scanners that are being put in place in many terminals. The machines also are able to see beneath clothes, creating a photo-realistic picture of the passenger's body.

But for those who refuse the scan, the alternative pat down is about to get equally thorough.

Watch "World News with Diane Sawyer" for more on this story tonight on ABC.

Starting Friday, the TSA is changing its pat-down procedure. TSA officers used to pat down passengers with the backs of their hands, but now they'll use the fronts of their hands to search more than ever before, in some cases touching body parts that once were off limits.

A security expert who demonstrated the new procedure on a mannequin for ABC News explained the changes.

"You go down the body and up to the breast portion," said Charles Slepian of the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center. "If it's a female passenger, you're going to see if there's anything in the bra."

The new pat-down protocol could be used at any of the nation's 450 airports on passengers who require additional screening.

Experts say there's a solid reason for the more invasive examinations: It's possible to slip a gun through the existing pat down, and there's even concealment clothing for sale to make it easier.