WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) — The backlash over full-body scans and pat-downs conducted at airports by Transportation Security Administration agents is growing as new details are revealed as to exactly who is permitted to skip the controversial security measures.
Cabinet secretaries, top congressional leaders and an exclusive group of senior U.S. officials are exempt from toughened new airport screening procedures when they fly commercially with government-sanctioned security details.
New heightened security procedures by the TSA, which require either a scan by a full-body detector or an intimate personal pat-down, have spurred passenger outrage in the lead-up to the Thanksgiving holiday airport crush.
The senior government officials can opt out of such measures if they fly accompanied by government security guards approved by the TSA. The agency would not explain why it makes these exceptions, but many of the exempted government officials have gone through several levels of security clearances, including FBI background checks.
Flights attendants are joining pilots in getting to skip the new enhanced security procedures at airports, as well.
The TSA confirmed the change on Tuesday after The Associated Press asked about it.
On Friday the TSA said pilots could skip the more intense screening, including full-body scanners. Flight attendants argued they, too, should be exempt.
TSA spokesman Nick Kimball confirmed that flight attendants and pilots will be treated the same. Both groups must show photo ID and go through a metal detector. If that sets off an alarm, they may still get a pat-down in some cases, he said.
The rules apply to pilots and flight attendants who are in uniform when they’re traveling.
On Friday, TSA chief John Pistole said pilots ensure the safety of millions of passengers every day, and that putting them through a faster screening process would be a more efficient use of the agency’s resources.
The TSA still plans a nationwide rollout for CrewPass, a program that clears pilots through security faster. It’s currently being tested in Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Columbia, S.C.
However, the program does not currently include flight attendants. Kimball said TSA is committed to discussing the issue with them.