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TSA tests letting elderly keep shoes, jackets on

Posted by Paul Makishima, Globe Assistant Sunday Editor  March 15, 2012 10:56 AM

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In the wake of public uproars over recent events in which elderly women alleged they were strip-searched, the US Transportation Security Administration said it will test allowing passengers who are at least 75 to keep shoes and jackets on when passing through security checkpoints.

The changes will go into effect Monday at airports in Chicago, Denver, Orlando, Fla., and Portland, Ore., and if they prove successful will be taken nationwide.

TSA officials note that the new rules will not absolutely eliminate the possibility of patdowns or requests for removal of shoes if agents detect anything suspicious or if elderly passengers set off alarms.

The new guidelines mirror changes made in the fall for passengers age 12 and under. Similarly the TSA was facing flak from the public over highly publicized incidents involving searches of young children.

The agency says that the easing of guidelines in both cases were made because intelligence suggests that children and the elderly are unlikely to be involved in terrorist attacks.

TSA came under fire in November after two elderly women complained about searches at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. One woman said she had to remove a back brace for a scan and the other said she had to lowered her pants to allow screeners to check out a colostomy bag. TSA officials said no strip-search occured and they denied asking anyone to remove their clothes. They did, however, issue an apology and said agents would be offered refresher training.

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