This is Lamar Alexander's response.
December 13, 2010
Thanks very much for getting in touch with me and for letting me know what's on your mind regarding the airport security.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a tough task: keeping flights safe while respecting Americans' privacy. The agency doesn't always strike the right balance, and the actions of individual TSA agents can seem misguided and demeaning at times. I have heard from many Tennesseans who have shared their concerns about airport security procedures, and I personally have been subjected to extra screening as an airline passenger. There have been congressional hearings on TSA screening procedures, and I'm sure that Congress will continue to show a lot of interest moving forward. TSA has already adjusted some procedures in response to concerns expressed by the public, and those procedures are subject to constant review in the face of ever-changing threats.
Many Americans have concerns about the "full body" scanners and "pat-down" screenings we've all heard about. Independent evaluations by various medical and scientific experts indicate that the health effects of x-rays from a full body scan are equivalent to the amount of radiation exposure faced by airline passengers during two minutes of flying at high altitudes, but Congress and TSA must carefully review any evidence suggesting the scanners aren't safe. Congress also needs to conduct close oversight to ensure that privacy safeguards are truly protecting the American people if, in fact, these scanners are needed to keep us safe. All passengers who go through pat-downs have certain rights - such as requesting the pat-down be conducted in a private room and witnessed by a person of your choice - but we need to do more to ensure that such screenings are done in the most consistent, considerate, and discreet manner possible. Because pat-downs are very intrusive, we need to make sure they are only used in limited circumstances when alternative procedures are not sufficient.
Keeping Americans safe is TSA's paramount mission, but I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to help TSA strike the right balance and avoid subjecting airline travelers to unnecessary and embarrassing procedures. These are important issues, and I'm glad you took the time to let me know where you stand. I'll be sure to keep your comments in mind as airline security is discussed and debated in Washington and in Tennessee.