DHS Boss: 'Very, Very, Very Few People Get A Pat Down'; Reality: ~1.8 Million People Per Month

from the ministry-of-truth dept

With all of the talk about the TSA airport gropings, Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano has been a bit on the defensive about the procedure. In answering questions at a press club lunch, she claimed specifically that “very, very, very few people get a pat down,” and that it only happens in “under very limited circumstances.” She also joked that whenever anyone does get groped, those “tend to get on YouTube.”

The obvious suggestion here is that people are making a big deal out of nothing, and very few people are getting “legally” sexually assaulted by our government. Of course, when you claim “very, very, very few” people are getting this kind of “service,” it seems you ought to be able to back that up. The folks over at Politifact decided to dig in, and while no one was particularly forthcoming, they got enough info from enough sources (including some data from the TSA) that suggested approximately 1.8 million people per month are getting groped for their own safety. That doesn’t sound like very, very, very few. Hell, it doesn’t even sound like very few.

Of course, it’s unlikely that there will be any ramifications for Napolitano out and out lying to the press concerning government mandated groping. Instead, plenty of people will continue to believe this is an issue that doesn’t really affect that many people. Until they get groped.

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Comments on “DHS Boss: 'Very, Very, Very Few People Get A Pat Down'; Reality: ~1.8 Million People Per Month”

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:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics.

Well, given that about 2 million people each day fly, then around 60 million people fly each month.

So, he should have said “Only around 0.03% of people get groped.”

The best way to misrepresent something is to place it out of context. If you see a news show that says “1200 people dying from ‘insert stupid thing there’!” and you do a little digging, it’s 1200 people a year across the entire US–or something like 0.00000017%. Who cares?

If the percentage can be more shocking, then they’ll user a percentage–especially if the source data is wrong.

“In our survey of 100 people paid to say something controversial, there was 99% controversy with a margin of error of +-1%!” Which, of course, is also utter lies and BS.

What am I saying here? I forgot. Kinda got lost in the rant. Need more coffee…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics.

She said people not Americans or even American travelers.

There are about 7billion people in the world so only .025% of them are getting groped. No one would argue that this is a large percentage.

In fact, by some estimations, there will be 20billion people by 2020 or so. That puts it down to .009% of the people of the world being groped by the TSA.

This is a favorable trend. Why are people complaining?

JoeK says:

Re: Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics.

1.8/60 = 0.03 = 3%.

I appreciate your comments about percentages vs. absolute values, but let’s not be off by a factor of 100.

And even if it is 0.03%, when the activity is wrong, useless, and sensationalist, who cares how small the number? It doesn’t need to be happening, and already DOESN’T happen in far “hotter” places. Go read up on security at Israeli checkpoints — they don’t do very many random pat-downs because they know how to screen folks properly and accurately with more suitable means.

Anonymous Coward says:

I find the pat down funny. I travel with a fair amount of wire in my backpack(home automation programmer by trade) and I always get to go through the metal detector while my wife(5ft little blonde woman) always gets subject to extra security(Pat down, naked scanner).

Though last time they did swipe my sealed water bottle and then drank it in front of me. Guess being male middle class and white means I am not a threat, regardless of the suspicious amounts of electronics in my bags, though that factory sealed water bottle must have been a high security risk.

Zach Mollett (profile) says:


According to the policy posted to their website:

You will next walk through a metal detector, (or you may request a pat-down inspection instead). Additional screening occurs when an individual sets off the alarm on the metal detector, or if he or she is selected for the additional screening. This screening includes a hand-wand inspection in conjunction with a pat-down inspection that includes the torso. A pat-down inspection complements the hand-wand inspection. In order to ensure security, this inspection may include sensitive areas of the body. Security Officers are rigorously trained to maintain the highest levels of professionalism. You may request that your pat-down inspection be conducted in private.

This seems like a bit much to go through however it stipulates that this only happens when you set off an alarm or request it. Sounds to me that there may be a few people out there that don’t mind being touched so much.

greg42 says:

Re: Procedural?

The description about metal detector is wrong now. You most assuredly get a pat down if you refuse to go through the whole body imaging device. These are the default at some checkpoint lines or are used by pulling people out of a metal detector line.

And even if you submit to the naked scanner, you STILL will get a pat down if they have an anomaly on the scan. This can happen even if you just move slightly at the wrong time or accidentally leave something in your pocket or whatever.

PW (profile) says:

Oh yeah, and there's that lil' thing...

She seems to forget that the reason for the groping was to make people so uncomfortable that they would submit to the scanners. I guess it’s working somewhat, people don’t want to be molested in airports, so when faced w/cancer inducing machines versus not flying (for biz or to see a loved one), they choose the machines. This should not be an endorsement of her groping techniques.

Imagine if instead of groping they shot people. “We only had to shoot very very very few people, most comply and go through the 4th Amend. stripping machines.” 😉

jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Oh yeah, and there's that lil' thing...

Ummmm I think you missed the point, you wrote:

“….and by voluntarily[emphasis mine] being searched, nobody’s rights are being stripped.”

Perhaps you would have a point if it was in any way voluntary. I have yet to hear about any airline traveler that said; “Please Mr. TSA man touch me in a morally inappropriate way.” and then went on to complain about it.

If you enter the screening area the TSA reserves the right to ‘screen’ you. Don’t even start with the, ‘… well you volunteered when you decided to fly.” nonsense. Because if you go to fly and they say they want to assault you, even if you change your mind and decide not to fly they still reserve the right to assault you.

So the original poster did have a point, it’s your response that I found rather pointless.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Oh yeah, and there's that lil' thing...

Its not voluntary, you either get searched or scanned, otherwise they won’t allow you to fly.

Or are you saying taking an airplane is voluntary? Sure, I suppose. You could also ride a bus for ten days to get to your destination, or take a boat to get to the other side of the continent.

Common sense = UnAmerican, though, so you will obviously forget about something called “feasibility”.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Further comment

“Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano has been a bit on the defensive about the procedure. In answering questions at a press club lunch, she claimed specifically that “very, very, very few people get a pat down,”….

She followed that up by saying, “And another thing, can we get over the whole Holocaust thing? So a handful of people died. No biggie.”

CarlWeathersForPres (profile) says:

So you’re saying that .6% of the US population is groped every month by the TSA(assuming you only get groped once a month)? Even if we assume that everyone who has been groped will be groped again, we come up with 3.5% of the population in the US receiving a fondling by the TSA every year(upwards of 7% if we assume everyone is fondled just once). Call me skeptical, but it seems like 1.8 million/month is somewhat of an exaggeration, but that’s just me.

CarlWeathersForPres (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

My other problem is that the politifact article is pretty bare bones, and it matter of factly claims Allen acknowledged 3% of passengers during March. I don’t necessarily doubt this, but why not link to primary material, or even quote him directly? Also, was March especially high(percentage wise) because there were less travelers? Is 2 million travelers a day the average for the month of may, or for the entire year? If it’s the entire year, are you not skewing the numbers? It just seems like a wild extrapolation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Well, as it seems there are 14,000 airports in the US, that averages out to roughly 129 passengers per month (4.3 passengers per day) per airport. Given the MASSIVE amounts of throughput some airports see, I would almost agree that 1.8 million/month is low…

That being said, this isn’t a question of scale, it’s a question of principle. The government should not be allowed, according to our Constitution, to just pull you aside at random and frisk you. It doesn’t matter if it only happens ten times in a year, it shouldn’t happen at all.

CarlWeathersForPres (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

14,000 airports? Are you counting all of the tiny municipal airports? Wiki
makes it look more like 300-400 Commercial Airports(ones that actually have the TSA presence). You seriously think that there is an airport for every 2,200 people in the United States(300 million/14,000 airports)?

I agree with your second point though, I just don’t understand why you’d need to make such ridiculous accounting errors to make it. That’s my whole issue, don’t let exaggerations deter people from the whole point, just let the real facts(which are probably still compelling) and actual issue do the talking, not misinformation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Sorry, I was being intentionally lazy to play to the opposition — if there are 14,000 airports, then that’s about 4 people per airport per day, and that’s a small number. I didn’t check the 14000 figure; if it’s only 400 airports, we get much further away from the “very small number” idea.

The point of my post was the “it shouldn’t haoppen at all.” If 1.8mil/14000 is unacceptable, then 1.8mil/400 is VERY unacceptible.

CarlWeathersForPres (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

I just find a lot of the posting that Mike does hypocritical because on one hand you have a post where he decries the use of shoddy statistics(see the ITC post he has today) and then wholeheartedly accepts a throw away statistic. I don’t mind his critique of the ITC where there is actually a methodology and report that you can disagree with how they dots(that’s a logical venture), I just think that it’s poor “scholarship” to accept numbers when they fit your world view and question those that don’t.

Sherry (profile) says:

Bullshit, TSA is bullshit

I have been groped on EVERY trip I’ve made in the last few months as well, which has been about 6 flights and YES, I REFUSE to get in their radiation naked scanners EVERY time. BUT I have been with a group every time I’ve flown and seem to get picked every time for the scanner which I refuse and then they get nasty and rude and tell me “Do you know what you’ve done by refusing the scanner?” YEah……..do your groping job!!! I have been raped before and this is VERY uncomfortable for me, but so is the scanner, where the perverts are looking at your pics as you walk through. The TSA has NEVER stopped a terrorist yet and this is against my constitutional rights. But hey, the government doesn’t use the constitution anymore.

Anonymous Coward says:

Over 90% of those who receive pat downs do so because it’s their own fault, so yes, very, very few people get one. It’s always either the people who refuse to the non-intrusive scanning methods, or those that are too stupid to follow instructions (remove all metal items, etc.) and who set off the scanners. Obviously, if you set off the scanner, or refuse it, you NEED a pat down. This is a complete non-issue.

Sherry (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Non-intrusive scanning methods”???? it IS intrusive. If it wasn’t intrusive then I guess you should be willing to just walk through naked for them.

I REFUSE to bow down to the government that tries to fool us into believing that they are “protecting” us and that this all somehow makes me feel safer.

I want to see EVERY government politician go through these interrogations with their children and wives, husbands, etc. and see what they think. Oooops I forgot,….they are exempt from that………they fly around on million dollar jets for just one or two of them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Backscatter and Cancer

Here’s a starting source for the backscatter x-ray health risk:

What that article doesn’t mention is that ionizing (penetrating) radiation exposure is also cumulative. Every single time you pass through one of those scanners, you increase your risk of cancer. It never goes away.

If I had the option, I too would avoid airline travel until both the backscatter machines AND the “enhanced” pat-down stop being used (one or the other) on each and every citizen.

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Random question

Has anyone ever done a blind study that determines the ratio of male to female random pat-down candidates? Possibly a hot or not study? Yes, I’m questioning if the TSA is choosing their random candidates based on who they would like to feel up.

The question got some validity when I saw that Sherry got a pat-down on every trip and AC didn’t, but his blond wife did (always).

Oblate (profile) says:

Make the most of it

They should also teach the TSA employees some useful skills, like checking for testicular and/or breast cancer. They’re apparently already doing about 99% of the work anyway. This might also counteract the (debated) negative effect from the radiation used by the scanners. There’s precedent for this too, with the head of DHS already doing prostate self-exams, although they’re usually not done visually (or on females, but you have to admire her dedication). Looking forward to my health report next time I fly…

Anonymous Coward says:

As a fairly die hard libertarian I completely disagree with the whole idea of these searches, however we need to be carefull to avoid using strawmen for our reasoning. He you claim you are worried about ionizing radiation, you should not be flying in the first place. Although the estimates vary somewhat based on location and solar activity (and from model to model of the scanners), it’s fairly consistant that the amount of additional radiation you’re exposed to on a six hour flight (less atmosphere @ 30,000 feet = less protection from solar radiation) is at least 50 times what you are exposed to in a properly calibrated backscatter scanner. What I do have an issue with, is how invasive of a search this is without probable cause.

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