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Roving TSA screeners to swab hands, bags

February 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
For the first time, airport screeners will begin roving through airports to check passenger bags for explosives.TSA is calling their new method "flexible screening technology" that can be used on flyers past the regular security checkpoints. It can happen as late as right before travelers board, and travelers are chosen randomly.

"I feel adequate, but more is better with everything that's going on," said Stanley Pounders, a traveler at LAX.

According to USA Today, officials would use swabs from passengers and their bags that can detect explosive material. The newspaper says the screeners will rove through airport gates and checkpoint lines with bomb-detection machines for any hint of explosives.

"If I feel safe on an airplane, I will go through whatever it is, short of getting completely undressed or whatever, but if I have to go through two minutes of swabbing, I'm comfortable with that," said Jim Bruce, a traveler at LAX.

The action comes after the failed Christmas day bombing, when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly hid powdered explosives in his underwear to get through a checkpoint in Amsterdam.

Metal detectors cannot spot materials like powdered explosives, so the TSA will now begin swabbing passenger hands and carry-on bags.

The ACLU does not have a problem with the roving screeners, saying it's less invasive than other techniques.

The "flexible screening technology" has been tested at a handful of airports, including Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, Orlando International, Raleigh-Durham International, Pitt-Greenville (N.C.) Airport and Coastal Carolina (N.C.) Regional, and will expand nationwide in a few weeks.

While some travelers were OK with the new technique, others were skeptical.

"I think it's ridiculous. I think they're looking for a needle in a haystack," said Ines Klein, a traveler at LAX. "Besides that, if they do that, someone will come up with something else."