Alaska House urges TSA to reconsider pat-downs

AP News
Posted: Mar 11, 2011 5:56 PM
Alaska House urges TSA to reconsider pat-downs

The Alaska House of Representatives passed a resolution Friday urging the Transportation Security Administration to reconsider its use of full-body pat-downs and calling on Congress to exercise greater oversight over the agency.

The resolution came after state Rep. Sharon Cissna was singled out for a pat-down in Seattle last month following a full-body scan. Cissna is a breast-cancer survivor who had a mastectomy.

The TSA has defended its procedures, saying it uses scanners to show anomalies on a person's body, with pat-downs a way of determining the nature of those anomalies.

The Alaska resolution passed 37-1, with at-times impassioned speeches from lawmakers arguing the agency had overstepped its bounds.

Rep. Carl Gatto, R-Palmer, said he considered the current security procedures overdone. Rep. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, who recently went through a full-body scanner, said travelers "are all treated like criminals under the system we have in place right now."

Rep. Bob Lynn,, R-Anchorage, opposed the resolution, saying these are dangerous times, and he supports efforts to keep the country safe.

The scanners became prominent after a man was accused of trying of blow up a plane using explosives hidden in his underwear in late 2009.

Cissna said she had submitted to such a search before but considered it invasive and vowed not to endure it again. To return to Juneau, a city accessible only by air or water, she opted for a four-day journey that included a rental car, small plane, taxi and ferry.

Next week, Cissna is scheduled to testify before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee in Washington, D.C. She also plans to meet with staff from the Department of Homeland Security.

Cissna, a Democrat from Anchorage, told The Associated Press she believes the TSA agents are trying to do a good job.

"But I believe they screwed up," she said.

Since returning to Alaska, she said she's received calls and e-mails every day from people sharing their stories or concerns about current security measures.

"I think the American public has been humiliated in a way that they've kept quiet," she said.

The goal now, she said, is to see how the situation can be addressed.

Dwayne Baird, a TSA spokesman, did not immediately return an e-mail message seeking comment.

The Juneau airport does not have body scanners. Still, Cissna said she had nightmares about how she would return to Alaska from the trip.

She said her husband has been working on plans that would allow her to avoid scanners _ plans that likely will involve another round-about, more expensive, trip home.