TSA uproar highlights national security balancing act

Tuesday - 11/23/2010, 1:03pm EST

The public uproar over the Transportation Security Authority's enhanced safety measures highlights the challenge the Obama administration faces in national security.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gates said the administration is "trying desperately" to strike a balance between security and individuals' privacy, The Washington Post reports.

"Everyone is a little bit surprised that less than one year after a suicide bomber was sent to the United States to blow up a plane over Detroit with a bomb in his underwear we would be having the debate that we're having right now," an administration official said in the Post.

Despite push back from the public, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the new measures are needed for public security.

"Of course we will make adjustments or changes when called upon, but not changes or adjustments that will affect the basic operational capability that we need to have to make sure that air travel remains safe," Napolitano said in the Post.

The online outcry over the security measures lean strongly in favor of individual privacy. Online campaigns have waged war against the screenings that show the outlines of naked bodies and the aggressive pat-downs. Those campaigns have been spurred by specific stories of humiliation.

In one incident, a man told a TSA officer that the pat-down was too rough and would break his urostomy bag. The bag did break, leaving the man covered in urine and "weeping," Politico reports.

However, overall, the public doesn't seem to have a problem with the security measures. According to a Post poll, nearly two-thirds of Americans support the full-body scans. However, about half say the pat-downs go too far.

TSA said only three percent of travelers receive the pat-down.

And in the middle of the debate about security are the TSA officers themselves who are "just doing their jobs," said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, in an interview with Federal News Radio.

"Everyone ought to cool down," Gage said.

Gage said TSA needed to do a better job of communicating the new procedures to passengers.

How can TSA get out of this mess? GovLoop is taking your ideas.

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