Peninsula News

DA promises to prosecute overly touchy pat downs

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The San Mateo district attorney's office has a warning for all TSA personnel at SFO -- anyone inappropriately touching a passenger during a security pat down will be prosecuted.

Incoming San Mateo DA Steve Wagstaffe says any complaints of inappropriate touching during an airport security pat down will land on his desk.

"The case would be reviewed and if we could prove the elements of it, that it was inappropriately done with a sexual or lewd intent, that person would be prosecuted," he said.

The charge -- sexual battery.

"If it is skin to skin, if someone were to take their hand and put it underneath somebody's blouse and touch someone inappropriately and go skin to skin, that's a felony, and if it's done simply over the clothing, according to California law, that's a misdemeanor," Wagstaffe said.

More pat down searches are expected because some passengers are refusing to go through the image scanning device. Homeland Security announced more scanners are on the way as part of the enhanced security measures at all airports.

Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano has said a passenger's privacy is protected.

"We built privacy concerns into the procedures when they were deployed," she said.

Not all travelers are buying Napolitano's claim.

"It's ridiculous and it's not safer, they are just doing it to have us more fearful and there is no reason for it," passenger Cathlyn Daley

But many passengers at SFO do not mind the enhanced security.

"I would much rather go through a little uncomfortableness and know that I will be safe or a least know that everything was done to protect me," passenger Suzanne Beaty said.

A few however, do.

"A stranger groping you basically," passenger David Barth said.

Passengers should know once they go through security, a TSA officer can ask them to submit to a pat down.

"At that point somewhere in that process you get to a point where you can't withdraw and you will be searched whether you like it or not," ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson said.

Wagstaffe has yet to receive a complaint.

SFO security screeners work for a company contracted by the TSA but undergo the same training and comply with the same regulations as TSA employees.

As for the assurance that the images from body scanners are never saved, tech blog Gizmodo obtained 100 saved photos after filing a request through the Freedom of Information Act, just a few of the 35,000 photos that were stored on a machine at the federal courthouse in Miami.

Gizmodo eliminated identifying features before posting them, but the pictures demonstrate the security issues still being worked out with the machines.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
airport security, crime, terrorism, airline industry, TSA, san francisco international airport, san mateo county, peninsula news, lyanne melendez
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