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Senate Hearing with TSA Chief: "Have You Received the Law Enforcement-Style Pat-Down?"

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Head of TSA, John Pistole, goes before a Senate Committee to discuss new changes to airport security, asserts that he will listen to concerns but nothing will likely change.

Head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), John Pistole, went before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, to deliver a statement and answer questions on new security initiatives--the full-body scanners ("porno-scanners") and pat-downs ("grope-a-dopes"). The Committee, which is responsible for oversight of the TSA, attempted to address criticism from civil liberties groups, pilot and flight attendant unions, and passengers.

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The hearing with Pistole opened with a statement from the Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Jay D. Rockefeller (D-W. Va.), who has in his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), received nearly half a million dollars in campaign donations from the air transport industry. He attempted to talk about balancing the need to protect the public with citizens' rights to privacy but talked very little about whether the new procedures violated the Fourth Amendment or not.

Instead, Sen. Rockefeller mostly expressed his conviction that the "threats are very real and extremely ongoing and evolving every day and something hasn't happened because the intelligence has been so good and that won't always be the case. So, we've had kind of a lucky run here." This meant normal Fourth Amendment protections might not be able to be afforded. And, why the U.S. could not expect intelligence to always be good was not explained. This seemed to be Sen. Rockefeller's way of scaring anyone in the "traveling public" that dared to doubt the decisions behind adding the new procedures.

Sen. Rockefeller expressed great frustration, as he seemed to urge Pistole to have TSA be more totalitarian in their security.

"I don't like going out to Dulles Airport, walking onto an airplane. Not a pat-down, they don't even look at me," remarked Sen. Rockefeller.

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Surely, each senator or congressman could probably get themselves a personal TSA agent to meet them at the gate every time they fly out. Like at a gentleman's club, they probably could get a favorite girl (or guy depending on whether the senator or congressman is suppressing homosexuality or not). They could run their hand up and down in a non-threatening but authoritative fashion and make sure the senators have peace of mind when traveling to their destination. If that's what Sen. Rockefeller would like to see happen, the Ministry of Love, I mean, Department of Homeland Security could probably do that.

A round of opening statements took place after Rockefeller completed his statement in defense of government violating your civil liberties (he even slipped in a jab at Democrats who didn't like "the FISA" because they said it violated privacy).

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) was particularly interesting because she used her opening statement to treat the many outraged constituents who have been calling her as petulant, unreasonable and unrealistic people:

"I want to say a few words on passenger screening at my own risk given the calls that have been coming into my office on these screenings. I appreciate the steps forward that you made. I have been a fan of the AIT [Advanced Imaging Technology]. I think it's going to show things that you didn't know about before."

She seemed to suggest that perhaps dangerous objects or non-metallic explosives have gotten through prior to now and the escalation would now ensure those objects and explosives didn't get through. That just sounded like more conjuring of fear with no basis in reality at all. Plus, in March, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report that said, "It remains unclear whether the AIT would have detected the weapon used in the December 2009 incident based on the preliminary information GAO has received."

The most awkward and revealing exchange took place when Sen. Byron Dorgan, who in his career, according to CRP, has received over $300,000 from the air transport industry, asked Pistole to explain the pat-down checks:

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SEN. BYRON DORGAN: Pat-down checks. There's reason for people to be concerned and to express that concern publicly. You explain precisely why it is necessary for us to have Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT). Have you been subjected to the law enforcement-style pat-down implemented nationally?

JOHN PISTOLE: I insisted that I receive that pat-down before I ordered that it be deployed nationwide. Also, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Loot, and other senior members of Homeland Security received that pat-down to see--not see, experience--so they would know what that involved before we rolled that out.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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