TSA defends new screening procedures

WASHINGTON, DC (RNN) - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is defending the use of new, more invasive pat-downs and body scanners in spite of public outcry.

Many people, from passengers to privacy experts, say they're a little too intrusive for comfort.

Testifying before a Senate committee, TSA Administrator John Pistole said Wednesday a pat-down he submitted to was uncomfortable but necessary to the safety of the flying public.

"It was more invasive than what I was used to," Pistole said. "Of course, what is in my mind, from almost 27 years with the FBI and all of the counter-terrorism work since 9/11 is, what are the plots out there and how are we informed by the latest intelligence and the latest technology, and what do we need to do to assure the American people that, as they travel, that we are being thorough? So yes, it is clearly more invasive."

While many say the new pat-down amounts to groping, the body scanners have been criticized as a virtual strip search. Passengers can opt out of the full body scan, but will then be subject to the pat-down.

"The use of AIT remains optional for travelers, but the requirement of screening, equivalent of screening is not," Pistole said. "We need to ensure for everyone, for all the traveling public, that when they get on that plane, they have the high confidence that everybody else on that flight has been adequately screened."

Michael Roberts, a pilot from Memphis, TN, filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming the new procedures violate his constitutional rights.

However, for one woman who still feels the stings of 9/11 fresh every day, the screenings are a tool to protect other families from enduring the grief her family suffered.

"The biggest insult to those murdered on September 11, 2001 is to ignore the lessons we have learned to prevent future attacks," Carie Lemack said in a statement.

Lemack's mother, Judy Larocque, was on American Airlines flight 11 that crashed into the World Trade Center.

"No one wishes to have to go through in-depth security measures in order to board a commercial aircraft," she said. "But the difficult truth is that the threat to commercial aviation continues, and perhaps has grown, since the tragic day more than nine years ago when my mother and nearly 3,000 others lost their lives because those who were in charge of aviation security did not take the threat, nor their obligations to prevent attacks, seriously.

"The safety and security of the American public is not a political issue," she said.

Copyright 2010 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved. WMC-TV contributed to this report.