Much has been written lately about new security pat-downs and scanning machines at the nation’s airports. Here’s an update on whether the more intimate scanners will be at use soon in Arkansas.

PEEKABOO: One of the new body scanners.

  • PEEKABOO: One of the new body scanners.

It’s a good bet that body-scanning x-ray machines — the so-called “digital strip search,” which can see hazy gray images of the naked torso through your clothes — are coming soon to an airport near you, but the Transportation Security Administration won’t say when they’ll land at Little Rock National Airport (or the Northwest Arkansas airport), citing security concerns. TSA spokesperson Sari Koshetz said the machines are now in place at nearby airports in St. Louis, Gulfport, Miss., Dallas, New Orleans, and Memphis, but said it’s TSA policy to not discuss when the machines will be installed elsewhere until a formal announcement is made.

For now, travelers going through the security checkpoint at Little Rock National Airport may be singled out for one of the more thorough hand searches the TSA rolled out nationwide in October, which include TSA agents purposely touching the clothed genital area as part of the search. Koshetz said the more thorough searches — which many travelers, along with pilots and flight attendants unions, have characterized as a “grope” — are always performed by a same-gender officer, and can be performed in an area out of view of the public if the traveler requests it. Koshetz said the more thorough searches were instituted in response to a specific threat that terrorists would seek to “manipulate societal norms to evade detection.” When asked if that translates to: “hide a weapon near their crotch, because Americans generally don’t like anybody other than their doctor or significant other touching them there,” Koshetz wouldn’t comment for the record.

Koshetz said that travelers may be subjected to the more thorough body searches randomly, because they set off the metal detectors, or — in the case of airports with body scanners — because they opt out of going through the machine.

— David Koon

BE WARNED: Lest you think you can simply throw up your hands in disgust and leave the airport when a TSA agent comes at you with the rubber gloves, here’s the story of a California man who may face an $11,000 dollar fine for opting to leave the airport rather than submit to either the body scanner or a genital-fondling search.

PS — This might be a good place for a link to the Arkansas Business coverage of other news at the Little Rock National Airport today — a ceremonial beginning to a 10-year $53.6 million expansion that will add gates to the concourse among other improvements.