Question: My understanding is that the October change went from using the back of a hand gliding across a person to a different approach. You might describe that, number one and—well, go ahead and describe that, if you would.
Pistole: Well, there's—the back of the hand is still used in some aspects. I would prefer not to go into specific detail in an open hearing, simply because I don't want to give a road map to anybody to say, "OK, here's exactly what the technique is, and so how can we defeat that?"
Sunday, in an interview with NBC, he dodged the question again.
Question: Are there specific guidelines to how these TSA agents are supposed to pat them down or touch these passengers?
Pistole: There are standard operating protocols, which should be adhered to strictly. And we have ensured that each security officer is properly trained and versed in how to go about doing the pat-downs. One of the keys is clear communication with these passengers: Say, "Here's what I'm going to do," and then to work with that person to help them understand not only what is about to happen, but as the pat-down occurs.
In other words, we won't tell you what we're going to do until we're about to do it.
On CNN's State of the Union, Candy Crowley showed Pistole three video clips of TSA officers touching fliers. She asked him whether the kinds of contact shown in the clips were TSA-approved. In each case, Pistole said yes:
Question: This is a hand obviously going inside the pants. That's OK?
Pistole: That's OK around the belt line. …
Question: All those things were fine? You saw a woman whose breasts were being felt. You saw a man whose—you know, had another man's hand in his crotch. What's over the line?
Pistole: I think that's for the public to help inform that discussion.
An amazing statement. Does TSA have guidelines or not? What are they? Instead of answering the question, Pistole dumps it back on the people he's keeping in the dark. Crowley presses him:
Question: You've driven everybody to the TSA website and said, "Look here." But because you don't want to reveal to terrorists what's going to be checked, there's no way for anybody to look at that website and know where they're going to be touched and where it's not allowed to be touched. And so what you seem to be saying is, "You can be touched anywhere."
Pistole: No, no, no, I'm not saying that at all, Candy. There are standard operating procedures for the pat-downs. … I did not advertise this, if you will, and say, "We are going to do this new type of pat-down," because I did not want to provide a blueprint or a road map to the terrorists to say, "Here's our new security procedure, so here's all you have to do ..."
OK, so he won't tell us what the pat-down entails. But at least we know we can avoid it, right? All we have to do is go through the body scanner. That's what Pistole said on Hardball last week: "If you want to go through the [scanner] or walk-through metal detector and there is no alarms, no alerts, then there's no pat-down."
Except—oops!—apparently that isn't what happened to Sen. Mike Johanns. At last week's hearing, Johanns, a Nebraska Republican, asked Pistole why he'd recently been scanned and patted down at an airport. Pistole assured him: "In almost all instances, you would not be subject to a pat-down. There is a very, very small percentage that is done at random … so it can be unpredictable to the terrorists."