Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, today applauded the Obama administration's new airport screening procedures and suggested that critics don't understand what they're talking about.
During a hearing, Lieberman told John Pistole, head of the Transportation Security Administration that "you're doing the right thing" in implementing new security regulations that give air travelers a choice of invasive pat-downs or full-body scans that show what a person looks like naked. (See related CNET story.)
"I think perhaps the reaction to the pat-down procedures got ahead of TSA's or the department's description of what you were doing and why you were doing it," Lieberman said. He added that "it's necessary for the security -- homeland security of the American people." Lieberman is an independent senator from Connecticut who caucuses with Democrats.
As the Thanksgiving travel season draws near, the reaction to TSA's new procedures has been visceral and sharply critical, driven by cell phone recordings of security line incidents, privacy and health concerns, and Web sites including the Drudge Report, which published a photograph of a hands-on examination of a nun with the caption: "THE TERRORISTS HAVE WON." Yesterday's Colbert Report called them machines "that X-ray your X-rated parts," and a software engineer from Oceanside, Calif. became an Internet sensation after telling a TSA screener: "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested."
Thanks to the federal stimulus legislation, TSA has been able to buy approximately 373 whole-body scanners and install them in at least 68 airports around the country. A few weeks ago, with only a one-paragraph mention on TSA's Web site, the screening procedures were changed to offer air travelers a choice of either full-body scans or what the TSA delicately calls "enhanced patdowns."