TSA reviewing Chaffetz incident at SLC airport

by Thomas Burr

The Salt Lake Tribune

Salt Lake Tribune
Updated:09/25/2009 10:14:31 AM MDT


Washington » The Transportation Security Administration says it is reviewing an incident at Salt Lake City International Airport in which Rep. Jason Chaffetz questioned whether he was singled out for additional screening because of his vote against unionizing TSA officers.

Chaffetz, who also has sponsored legislation to ban whole-body imaging machines because he says they're invasive, charges that TSA agents Monday tried to force him to use a body scan machines and interrogated him when he refused.

After going through a standard metal detector, the Republican congressman says he was told he was randomly selected for a pat-down search. He says he then confronted a TSA supervisor who wouldn't identify himself or his badge number.

Chaffetz -- who says he only identified himself as a congressman after clearing security and when the supervisor would not give his name -- acknowledges he touched the agent's identification badge but says that he didn't do it in a threatening way.

"Did I touch the officer? Was I obnoxious? Absolutely not," he said.

Chaffetz was not detained after the incident and boarded his plane to Washington, D.C. No incident report was filed.

TSA spokesman Dwayne Baird said Thursday that the incident is under review and that his agency will respond directly to Chaffetz if he has further concerns.

Video of the incident was being shipped to Washington and was not made available to reporters.

"TSA's job is to keep the traveling public safe and using advanced imaging technology is an important tool to mitigate known threats," Baird said in a written statement. "This safe screening option is always 100 percent optional to all passengers."

Passengers who decline whole body image screening use the walk-through metal detector and undergo a pat-down search, Baird added.

Baird declined further comment, but Chaffetz' description of the event closely mirrors the policy Baird outlined.

Chaffetz said Thursday afternoon that he was putting in a call to TSA after waiting three days for someone at the agency to call him back.

The freshman congressman pushed legislation through the House earlier this year that would ban the use of the whole body imaging machines as a primary screening option because he says they allow government officials to peer through passengers' clothes and lack enough safeguards to prove the images won't be copied or saved.

The legislation has yet to have a hearing in the Senate.

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