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Posted at 2:27 PM ET, 11/22/2010

Who is exempt from airport security?

By Ed O'Keefe

Increased scrutiny of airport security means public officials are being asked if they have or would be willing to endure airport security pat-downs.

"Not if I could avoid it. I mean, who would?" Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told CBS on Sunday. But Clinton, who travels on government aircraft with a large security detail, is a rare exception.

Here's a review of who can and cannot bypass airport security, according to the Transportation Security Administration and conversations with congressional and Obama administration aides:

Members of Congress: Congressional leaders who are assigned a security detail, including the speaker of the House, the House minority leader and the Senate majority leader, are allowed to pass through airport security checkpoints when flying commercial jets, according to the TSA. All other members of Congress are expected to stand in line and wait.

And lawmakers are no stranger to the potential embarrassments of airport security: Screeners ordered Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) to pull down his pants at Reagan National Airport in 2002 after a knee brace, surgically implanted pins in his ankles and a steel hip joint set off metal detectors. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) last year cursed at Salt Lake City airport security screeners and claimed he was unfairly targeted for voting against collective bargaining rights for transportation security officers.

Government officials: President Obama, Vice President Biden and Cabinet secretaries who travel on government aircraft or with security details (Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates) obviously don't pass through security checkpoints.

Former presidents flying commercial with Secret Service agents, Cabinet secretaries who use commercial aviation and travel with bodyguards and some foreign ambassadors also traveling with guards are exempt from screening, according to the TSA and congressional aides. Cabinet secretaries without protection and other senior government officials flying commercial must be screened.

Members of the military: Members of the military traveling in uniform must pass through security checkpoints but are not required to remove their footwear unless it sets off a metal detector, according to the TSA. The agency also allows airlines to issue special access passes to military family members who are not flying but want to say goodbye or greet a loved one at the gate.

Law enforcement officers: State, local and tribal police officers who must fly with a firearm have to obtain an identifier code from the TSA before flying. The officer must present the code and law enforcement credentials before passing through security.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | November 22, 2010; 2:27 PM ET
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Comments

Everyone should be subjected to anal probes before boarding a commercial aircraft. We have some pretty loopy Congressmen and even US military personnel have led terrorist attacks against Americans. Trust no one.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 22, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Leaders set the example and do not require sacrifices of constituents they are unwilling to undergo themselves. Regardless of any legal or regulatory authority to bypass airport screening, each and every federal elected and/or politically appointed official should volunteer to undergo at least one public, on camera enhanced pat down by a TSA agent even if they have to make an appointment to have it done in their office.

If these procedures are still in place November 2012, the voters will remember who did, and did not, step up to share this burden with their consituents.

Posted by: WoodbridgeVa1 | November 22, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Just cancel this TSA screening farce.

Doesn't work, as any counter-terrorism expert could tell you, and as the TSA security audits prove.

Save the money from that and put it into more useful things.

Posted by: WillSeattle | November 22, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

A good friend is a flight attendant and she's not exempt. Why these idiots in Congress? What makes them special? I can see law enforcement, and the military, especially the rank and file who actually do the work. I am less than impressed with the "TSA." This WILL be remembered come November, 2012.

Posted by: kodonivan | November 22, 2010 4:52 PM | Report abuse

In the name of supporting safety measures, there should be no exceptions. In fact, those that are exempt, should show the rest of us idiots that the highly invasive, humiliating, insulting, and sexually harassing increased security practices are really no big deal.

I mean pulling down your pants in the middle of an airport?? That's NOT okay.

Busting someone's urine pack by "patting" harshly is NOT okay.

It is a right of an American citizen to say no I will not take off my pants in public! We have the right to fly with pins, plates, bolts, stints, etc. without having to be felt in private places.

I am actually shocked no one has slapped a TSO yet.

Posted by: hebe1 | November 22, 2010 4:53 PM | Report abuse

I'm still eagerly awaiting a study that demonstrates that airport checks actually do make flying safer--and what the cost of that safety is. Frankly, DHS is one of Bush 43's greatest con jobs: a huge agency the role of which made it immune to questions, it has sufficient police powers to drain away the Bill of Rights bit by bit.

Posted by: amstphd | November 22, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

You forgot private and corporate aircraft. Security procedures for passengers on private aircraft are minimal.

Posted by: carlin80 | November 22, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

So is the DHS secretary exempt? It would be (something negative) if he used this exemption.

Posted by: reston75 | November 22, 2010 7:58 PM | Report abuse

So is the DHS secretary exempt? It would be (something negative) if he used this exemption.

So has anyone gone through security wearing only a Speedo?

Posted by: reston75 | November 22, 2010 8:03 PM | Report abuse

The real problem, which TSA will never admit, is that screeners were told to be as aggressive as possible with opt outs in order to discourage the behavior and make their job easier. No professional law enforcement officer has ever engaged in such pat downs. (TSA is not populated with professionals.) What Mr. Pistole (who should already have been fired) never expected was the aggressive response from the media and the traveling public.
What makes this sadder still is that it is sham security. Nearly all travelers bypass the full body scan and the pat down, merely passing through a metal detector. However, metal detectors are useless for detecting ceramics, organic explosives, chemical explosives, and most non-ferrous metals. Thus most people aren't really checked for anything more than conventional guns and knives. TSA merely puts on a very expensive show. When did you ever hear of a report of a terrorist being caught at a TSA checkpoint? Never. Wow--they must have scared them all away.

Posted by: unclebill1 | November 23, 2010 12:46 AM | Report abuse

LOLOLOLOL. Hillary Clinton offering to be felt-up ? LOLOLOLOL Even Slick gave that offering up a long time ago, and for a fat intern almost as fat as Rottencrotch. If Hillary and the " First Moose " were ever in a line to get on a plane , there wouldn't be one security guard who would volunteer to search them. In fact , they would offer the explosives to someone to blow the damned plane up after they boarded . However, we know that neither they nor Pelosi would ever mingle with the unwashed of the country unless it was to steal a vote. Please lock all of them up. The average stomach can't stand the shock.

Posted by: politicsiscrooked | November 23, 2010 6:29 AM | Report abuse

When is Wapo and the rest of you going to learn... this is mainly Chertoff's doing. While millions are being abused, he is getting richer and richer. And there should not be allowed anymore exceptions of anyone with guard details. THAT is a bunch of bull.

This is just more of the Nazi modern day 1941!!!! Show me your papers or be shot!

Posted by: darbyohara | November 23, 2010 6:34 AM | Report abuse

Wjen you see a three year old girl screaming "Don't touch me" while a TSO is patting her down and a nine year old boy being patted down, then it is time to start asking more questions about the TSA agency, its TSOs, the training and the reason for actions such as those mentioned.

A three year old? And if those parents had objected, do you think they would have been allowed to fly? Power - and the misuse of it - are dangers in this so-called airline safety program. No one dare object - but a few brave souls have told the stories of the mistreatment they had to endure before making their trips.

It is a wonder to me that the reactions to the TSOs have been merely verbal - if that had been my three year old child, the TSO would have been on the floor in the dirt where she belonged.

Posted by: Utahreb | November 23, 2010 7:06 AM | Report abuse

PROFILE...PROFILE...PROFILE

The Israelis do it and it works.

What's next? Anal probing and vaginal probing? Strip searches? Checking semen for explosives?

I can easily name three ways of getting explosives past TSA's checkpoints. So far I've resisted the temptation to publicly post them but if TSA keeps up their increasingly insulting approach to security I just may post them everywhere I can. Why? Because that just might force them to look at the only thing that's going to work in the long term...profiling.

Invest in private jet stocks. Their sales are going to skyrocket as the super-weslthy proves once more they don't want to live by the rules that their puppet government imposes on the hoi polloi.

Posted by: lahhtims | November 23, 2010 7:43 AM | Report abuse

You forgot private and corporate aircraft. Security procedures for passengers on private aircraft are minimal
---------------------------
You want to blow up your own plane at 35,000ft no one cares. Commercial planes are public transportation. It the public that is being protected. Whenever anything goes wrong ( like a highjacking, ect) the families of anyone involved goes after the airline and the government. The GOv is just covering their butts. Problem on a private jet, thats a private court matter.

Posted by: schnauzer21 | November 23, 2010 8:04 AM | Report abuse

How about exempting civilian federal employees? My security clearance is probably as high or higher than the screeners.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | November 23, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

You go throught the scanner and you don't abuse the TSA folks for doing their jobs. I am a physician and I go through the scanner and have been "patted down". The TSA official was professional and I was on my way quickly.

I don't want an exemption, I want Americans to stop whining and complaining and move on. This isn't about privacy, it's about getting on with life after 9-11.

Posted by: nb3c | November 23, 2010 8:50 AM | Report abuse

nb3c, I don't care what your job is - it doesn't mean your opinion is any more important than someone else's. And guess what, you can't dictate how people should think or feel, or what they should do.

Clearly, many people are concerned that these screenings are intrusive. Everyone is potentially subject to them due to political correctness.

I and many other freedom loving Americans will continue to make our voices heard.

Posted by: thinker16 | November 23, 2010 8:58 AM | Report abuse

TSA and HSA seem to be always REACTIVE rather than PROACTIVE ... everytime something is used, THEN we start to look for it ... and the terrorists move on to another venue ... like cargo ...

From what I seen in video and photos the pat down targets are totally inappropriate - the elderly, young children are NOT folks to be targeted. Just look at those who have attempted to sabatage a plane ... they are young.

Posted by: backhome1 | November 23, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Enter the self-absorbed bureaucrat, anarcho-liberal-tarian, to announce its superiority to the stinking masses.

Terrorists get security clearances all the time. See, for example, the Fort Hood Massacre.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 23, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Can anyone delineate for "We, the People" the specific education level, training, qualifications, psychiatric evaluations, etc. a candidate must possess or pass in order to become a TSA agent, along with the pay scale and benefits that go along with these jobs? I'll bet there are hundreds of thousands who would like to know, and I certainly hope we don't get the usual cop-out that's "it's classified."

Posted by: catherinezandruskevich | November 23, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse

It's all OK. Full body scans were conceived and programmed for YOU by the administration of George Walker Bush... now YOU can feel safe.

Posted by: whocares666 | November 23, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

That is an horrifying idea ... what prevents a potential terrorist to hijack a private jet or a Medevac copter, load it with explosives, and crash in a public place - a ballpark, a big rally, any place that is not well guarded? Should the government also screen private, firefighter and medical aircraft too?

Posted by: teplicky101 | November 23, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse

It would be a lot easier (and safer) if everyone was required to fly naked. The entire airport could be designated a "no clothes zone". Most Americans are too fat and ugly to care much how they look anyway.

Posted by: DaveHarris | November 23, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse

I flew in October, and was full-body scanned and patted down. I'm a 53 year old chubby woman with a military ID and grey hair, flying on a government ticket. It was humiliating being groped by a woman with a thick accent who seemed determined to inflict pain. Yet the very sharp scissors in my carryon bag caused no problem. Was this logical?

Posted by: padre1957 | November 23, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Somebody please just tell me WHY these people are exempt? Why should the likes of John Boehner be spared the experience of going through the body scan and having his image, in all it inglorious detail displayed on a computer screen? Why should John Boehner be exempt from being groped if he refuses to go through the body scan? Why should he be allowed to board an airplane without passing through TSA security checks?

If our lawmakers had to live under the same laws as "We The People" then maybe they would be a bit more careful about the laws they passed.

Posted by: mehrenst1 | November 23, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

here's a thought: if those scanners are so good, why don't they stop irradiating the passengers and CHECK THE CARGO with them?

Last I checked, the cargo probably wouldn't develop cancer after prolonged exposure, and TSA could close it's biggest air safety loophole. The money is already committed, so just move the machines downstairs. AND TSA might actually prevent something through the use of the screening technology.

Posted by: anonymouslurker | November 23, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

padre1957, you think you're so special with your military id and taxpayer-funded ticket? How are you any different than the Fort Hood Jihadi?

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 23, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

here's a thought: if those scanners are so good, why don't they stop irradiating the passengers and CHECK THE CARGO with them?

Last I checked, the cargo probably wouldn't develop cancer after prolonged exposure, every piece could be scanned, instead of just the ones that set off an alarm or are pulled at random to ensure that no one particular ethnic or age group is singled out.

TSA could close it's biggest air safety loophole. The money is already committed, so just move the machines downstairs. AND TSA might actually prevent something through the use of the screening technology, rather than a tip-off.

Posted by: anonymouslurker | November 23, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Where's the comment asking why WE'RE being patted down, when all the so-called bombers were put on planes overseas?
And government, as usual, put out the process before they finished the training. Are they saying they didn't expect all these prosthesis? And they can't put up a curtain somewhere for these people to disrobe? And OUR children are carrying explosives?
Profiling doesn't mean picking out dark skinned young men. As the Israelis say; they know who's going where and why before they ever hit the airport. It would mean REAL work, not all these expensive toys meant to make us THINK they are doing their job!
If they were serious, they would have hired former military and police officers, just like they do for base security; someone who understands that they can listen without losing face, and would have known to find out what a urostomy bag was, before humiliating someone to the fullest extent of their so-called authority.
I don't know 'bout you, but from now on; I'm drivin!

Posted by: dragonlady45 | November 23, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

no body should be exempt from checks when flying commercial lines. no body in congresss or government is better than me or more trusful. Why should they be exempt, that rule should also include the pilots.

Posted by: paulohearnsr | November 24, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

it was a pilot, not a grandmother, that killed 100,000 at Nagasaki

Posted by: getjiggly1 | November 24, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

The El Al way is the best - profiling is what is needed. Also people with government security clearances should be exempt. TSA security is just to make the public feel good, and it's purpose is to inconvenience those of us that mean no harm. It doesn't actually reduce the threat of terror. Those that mean to do harm will bypass security, just as they did on 9/11. The measures in effect today would not have prevented an attack if they had been in place then. G-d, not the TSA, decides who lives and who dies.

Posted by: BMG4ME | November 29, 2010 10:15 PM | Report abuse

The El Al way is the best - profiling is what is needed. Also people with government security clearances should be exempt. TSA security is just to make the public feel good, and it's purpose is to inconvenience those of us that mean no harm. It doesn't actually reduce the threat of terror. Those that mean to do harm will bypass security, just as they did on 9/11. The measures in effect today would not have prevented an attack if they had been in place then. G-d, not the TSA, and not the terrorists, decides who lives and who dies.

Posted by: BMG4ME | November 29, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

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