Tales from the Trail

TSA defends extra airport screening for kids, elderly

Almost every traveler through U.S. airports has seen little children and the elderly go through extra screening and often are left shaking their heads in disbelief that those individuals could be a threat and questioning whether someone else is slipping through the cracks.

AIRLINES-SECURITY/However, the acting head of the Transportation Security Administration Gale Rossides told Congress that all sorts of dangerous items are smuggled with kids and older travelers.

“Every day I will tell you that we see things coming through checkpoints in the United States that are amazing, either on their persons, in wheelchairs, in canes, people will conceal long knives, swords in canes,” Rossides told the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

“At least a couple times of year, particularly around the holidays, we find guns in teddy bears, we find component parts in children’s toys, it is amazing what we see,” she said.

That prompted Republican Senator Susan Collins to point to the news that a blond-haired, green-eyed American woman living in Pennsylvania was charged with working with militants overseas in a plot to kill a Swedish man.

DHS chief tries to allay fears about airport full-body scanners

After the failed attempt to blow up up a U.S. commercial jet with a bomb hidden in a passenger’s underwear on Christmas Day, U.S. authorities have been racing to deploy full-body scanners in airports and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has been working in overdrive to allay fliers’ concerns about their privacy.

The Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Security Administration plan to have some 450 full-body imaging scanners — known as Advanced Imaging Technology machines  — deployed this year and Napolitano has been ramping up her public appearances over the last couple of days offering a defense for the need to beef up aviation security with the devices.

“I went through one in California, in San Francisco and I saw the image and I’m very comfortable with it,” she said in response to a caller to National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show on Tuesday. “We always offer passengers the option to go the standard way with the greater likelihood of an actual pat down.”