Thank you for contacting me to express your concerns regarding the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA's) heightened security measures. I appreciate hearing from you and having the opportunity to respond.
The safety and security of those traveling aboard our Nation's airliners is a paramount concern, but the protocols the TSA uses to increase security must be weighed against a passenger's reasonable expectation of privacy. The TSA has recently upgraded its security screening protocols to include an enhanced pat-down and full-body scanners. I understand the enormous task that the TSA faces. After all, ensuring the safety of air travelers is no small task. We must, however, make every effort to ensure that any and all privacy concerns are addressed.
I am a frequent traveler between Alaska and Washington, D.C. I have had first-hand experience with both the full-body scanners and the enhanced pat-down procedures. I understand the concerns of many Alaskans and the traveling public as a whole, that the pat-down procedures are overly invasive. Even though the TSA Officers seem to be doing their best to implement the security protocols that they are directed to employ, the touching of a passenger's waistline and other sensitive locations on their body raises significant concern regarding the breadth and scope of the reach of the TSA.
Part of our problem is that the TSA seems to come up with a new technology every year, costing taxpayers billions of dollars with seemingly little improvement in security. Recent reports have shown that since its founding in 2001, the TSA has spent roughly $8 billion on new technologies alone. The agency is also asking for more than $1.3 billion for airport screening technologies in the next year. We must develop new technologies to keep abreast of new threats, but we must not deploy these technologies before we fully understand how they can be integrated with what we already have in place. We do not need to spend millions on equipment that does not work in the real world, just as the TSA did with "puffer" machines several years ago.
When considering the drawbacks of security, however, we must all remember that there are people in this world that intend to do us harm. Just last year, a terrorist was able to gain access to a commercial airliner with a bomb hidden in his underwear. I will keep your comments in mind as the Senate considers this issue. I expect we will have several hearings this year, and I will closely scrutinize funding requests that come before me in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Again, thank you for contacting me.
United States Senator