In response to an internal study that discovered major security lapses at US airports, the TSA has eliminated a handful of different pat-down procedures that involve varying levels of invasiveness and replaced them with one universal pat-down procedure the agency describes as more "comprehensive," according to a report by Bloomberg News. As a notification sent to agents at Denver International Airport put it, the new approach "will be more thorough and may involve an officer making more intimate contact than before."
"I would say people who in the past would have gotten a pat-down that wasn’t involved will notice that the pat-down is more involved," a spokesman said, per the report. Thankfully, the pat-downs will still be conducted by agents of the same sex as the traveler. You'll also be able to request that the search take place in private or in public with the option of having a witness present.
But if the thought of more rigorous screening isn't enough to make you uncomfortable, this particular passage from the Bloomberg report might do the job: "TSA officials didn’t immediately address whether the new universal pat-down protocol will mandate touching of passenger genitals."
The universal pat-down procedure comes as a response to the alarming results of a 2015 audit of the TSA by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General, which found that TSA agents failed to discover handguns and other weapons on passengers who passed through security in 95% of the tests. In other words, the invasive pat-downs are the price we all have to pay for increased safety.
Investing in TSA PreCheck may have just become more appealing.