Groped For Safety? No Thanks

At airports across the country, screeners have been ordered to be more aggressive and more personal in their search for explosives hidden under passengers' clothes. Female passengers in particular have been coming under closer scrutiny, reports CBS News Correspondent Kelly Cobiella.

It's a reaction to the bombing of two Russian jet liners this past August. The planes were brought down using plastic explosives hidden, investigators believe, around the waists of two women wearing baggy clothes.

When Gwen Laine set out to visit her daughter, the 62-year-old grandmother had no idea a trip to the airport would bring her close to tears. "It was very humiliating. I almost started to cry there," she told CBS News Correspondent Kelly Cobiella

Laine was pulled aside by a security screener, for a pat-down search around her breasts.

"She was going to put her hands on me and I put my hands up and said, 'No! What are you doing?'"

Gwen is not the first passenger to complain.

"They did a breast exam! And not with the side of the hand, with the palm!" said singer and actress Patti LuPone after being publicly frisked at the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Transportation Security Administration said it's trying to be sensitive.

"It's much less personal if you use the back of the hands and that's what we're using. Sometimes it involves touching intimate places and that's not comfortable for us either," said George Naccara of the TSA.

The TSA says its gotten 250 complaints -- but with two and a half million people passing through the nation's airports every day-- there may be many who don't complain. Other passengers say they'll suffer through the patdowns if they're safer in the end.

"Are they effective? Not at all," said Airline security expert Charles Slepian. He believes that screeners need more high tech equipment and bomb-sniffing dogs, because pat-downs don't do the job.

"They're very good at finding that little pen knife you have on your key ring, which can't bring down an airplane by the way, they are not good at detecting plastic explosives."

For Gwen Laine, one pat-down was enough, "I will not fly again unless it's a life or death emergency."

Or unless screeners are told to keep their hands off.
  • Ellen Crean

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