09/26/2011 09:25 am ET Updated Nov 25, 2011

TSA Policy Changes For The Better, Slowly

Last week, the TSA announced that child screening procedures will change "soon," which seems to be another way of saying they'll change "mostly."

Children under 13 will not be routinely required to remove their shoes and will not be subjected to intrusive pat downs that touch private areas of their bodies. However, DHS Secretary Napolitano said that some children will still need to remove their shoes to keep the process somewhat random. Pat downs will be replaced by marching the kids through metal detectors or body scanners several times "to capture a clear picture" and by using more trace detection tools.

No mention is made of "mostly" with regard to pat down replacement and FlyersRights sincerely hopes that TSA will not randomly touch our children in areas we all teach them to never, ever let anyone touch them. Each intrusive child groping is a victory for the terrorists and the decision to stop this came later than it should have.

Beyond this change, we've already reported on changes such as the coming "Trusted Traveler" programs and a pilot program to find the bombers, not the bombs. In addition, in spite of EPIC's attempts to stop further body scanner deployments, TSA is procuring another 300 of the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines. However, these machines use millimeter wave technology, not the much more dangerous X-Ray technology of Rapiscan's machines. TSA is also installing new software on the millimeter wave machines (but possibly not the X-Ray machines) that eliminates what they delicately call "passenger-specific images" (meaning electronic strip search) with a cartoon-like image.

FlyersRights supports TSA efforts to return some sanity to our air travel experience; however, these programs are either pilots or have extended roll-out schedules. We have a number of questions, beginning with: If a new procedure is a good idea, why not just do it? Why are extended roll-out schedules necessary?

A year ago, the TSA insisted the X-Ray machines were far and away the best AIT technology, yet their new machines will be millimeter wave, despite evidence that the whole body scanner technology is ineffective. If X-Ray machines are not absolutely necessary, why not replace them with millimeter wave machines sporting the cartoon images?

Shoshana Hebshi's nightmare, which I discussed last week, vividly illustrated the need for change, and FlyersRights will remain at the forefront of the fight for that policy shifts.

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