Travelers flying out of Will Rogers World Airport won't have to pass through full-body scanners this holiday season, but enhanced pat-downs are a possibility and airports on return flights home could have body scanning technology.
Reports across the country of travelers being roughly handled and searched after refusing to go through body scans has brought scathing criticism of the Transportation Security Administration's Nov. 1 implementation of more aggressive passenger screening.
But those problems aren't being seen in Oklahoma, officials said here.
Tulsa International Airport in 2008 was the 11th U.S. airport to run full-body scans and has had few complaints.
Karen Carney, spokeswoman for Will Rogers World Airport, said travelers from Oklahoma City won't see many changes, but enhanced pat-downs are a possibility if a person repeatedly sets off a metal detector or is selected for random screening.
She said about 14,000 travelers a day, excluding Thanksgiving Day and Friday when numbers decrease, will fly into and out of the airport this week. The increased number of travelers, the added security measures and national attention has increased anxiety, particularly about the body searches.
â€œThey are specifically feeling in some more sensitive areas during those pat-downs,â€ Carney said. â€œBut only a small number of people traveling will go through these.â€
TSA says 69 airports have scanners. Oklahoma City is expected to join that list next year.
Luis Casanova, TSA regional spokesman, wouldn't say in detail what parts of the body are checked.
But he said the pat-downs are â€œvery thorough.â€
â€œWe need to know that underneath your clothes there are no dangerous objects or explosive devices,â€ Casanova said.
A cell phone video of a California man went viral after he refused a body scan and told TSA agents if they touched his groin area, he'd have them arrested.
This week, a story about a Michigan bladder cancer survivor being patted down so roughly a bag he wore to collect his urine spilled over his clothing increased the furor.
Others stories include parents standing by as their children were patted down and others being humiliated as they were patted down in front of other travelers.
Concerns about the new requirements have been overblown and there have been relatively few complaints, TSA's Casanova said. About 34 million people have gone through airport screenings since Nov. 1. About 700 of those have filed complaints.
â€œIt's not punitive or picking people out,â€ he said. â€œRight now, this is what works.â€
Casanova said the imaging and pat-downs are the next evolution in an already layered security system at airports.
He said incidents like the December 2009 attempt to blow up an airplane headed from the Netherlands to Michigan is a key example of why screening techniques have become more detailed. The suspect is alleged to have boarded a flight with enough explosives under his clothing to bring down the airplane. His attempt failed, but Casanova said TSA isn't taking chances.
Nina Lyons, 23, of Midwest City, said she isn't either. As she waited in line at Will Rogers World Airport to check her bags Monday evening, she said the more aggressive screenings didn't bother her.
â€œI know there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes,â€ she said. â€œThose who are in the know and do those jobs know what needs to be done.â€
She scoffed at some calls to boycott the full-body scans later this week.
Muriel Rosen, 84, of Encino, Calif., flew into Will Rogers World Airport on Monday evening. Rosen has had a pacemaker for the past 14 years and cannot go through metal detectors or full-body scans.
â€œIt felt the same as they always do,â€ she said of the pat-down. â€œThey do a very thorough job, and I'm used to it.â€
Rosen said she is offered a private room for the pat-down that lasts about 10 minutes. She's so unbothered by them she allows the TSA agents to check her in public view.
â€œThey always give me a woman, and before she touches me, she has plastic gloves on and tells me which parts of the body she's going to touch,â€ Rosen said. â€œShe says â€˜Excuse me, I'm sorry' and you aren't a bit surprised about where they go with their hands.â€
Casanova said concerns about the radiation levels in the body scans also are blown out of proportion.
â€œYou get more radiation being on the airplane than you do going through the scans,â€ he said.
Symbolic, opportune time for attacks
David Cid, executive director of the Oklahoma City-based Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, disagrees with attempts to boycott or opt out of the new screenings. Protecting life is the fundamental function of government and the holidays provide a symbolic and opportune time for terrorist attacks.
â€œAs a thinking people we've appointed people to do the jobs they're doing,â€ he said. â€œWhile we are examining this, we should comply because we don't want to leave ourselves vulnerable.â€
Cid said it's incumbent upon government officials to explain their rationale for choosing the methods they have. The public also must decide whether the new screenings go beyond an acceptable level of intrusiveness.
â€œWe are not privy to the detailed things going on,â€ Cid said. â€œOften measures are perceived to be excessively intrusive when they are, in truth, a prudent and necessary response.â€
• Have your boarding pass and photo ID ready.
• All liquids and gels must be three ounces or less and contained in one quart-sized plastic bag. The bag must be placed separately in a bin.
• Coats, jackets and shoes must be removed and placed in the same bin as the plastic bag.
• Laptops must be removed from the carrying case and placed in a separate bin.
• Any liquids such as bottles of water, juice or soda must be disposed of.
• Place all valuables such as jewelry, cell phones and wallets in a carry-on, purse, or the pocket of a jacket.