The Transportation Security Administration is catching flak after a news report saying the agency forewarned local law enforcement that its new methods of conducting pat-downs could disturb some passengers. In this photo, a TSA agent performs a pat-down check on an airline passenger at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in 2004 in Phoenix. (Jeff Topping/Getty Images)

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has already been accused of touching passengers in ways that would land other people in jail.

But now passengers who opt out of electronic screening will have to undergo a full pat-down instead of one of five others that were slightly less aggressive.

Things may be getting so intrusive at TSA checkpoints these days that the federal agency thinks it is necessary to alert local police about its new method of conducting pat-downs, according to a Bloomberg News report.

The TSA says the full, one-size-fits-all pat-down doesn’t involve any different areas of the body that were frisked under the previous methods. Speaking on background to talk frankly about the change, a TSA official said Monday that although little has changed in the procedures for pat-downs, the agency has taken steps to make the searches more uniform and thorough.

On the TSA’s website, the agency stipulates that everyone, including passengers in its Pre program, may be required to undergo a pat-down from a person of the same gender. A passenger might be required to undergo a frisk after the TSA’s screening machines trigger an alarm, as part of “random or unpredictable security measures,” or as an alternative to machine screening. The agency says its officers use the backs of their hands on sensitive parts of the body but, “in limited cases,” may use the front of the hand in “sensitive areas.”

The official said the revised measures have been developed in response to a 2015 report by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Inspector General that found troubling lapses in the TSA’s screening procedures, including the failure by TSA screeners to find a fake explosive taped to the body of an undercover officer who was part of an operation designed to test airport screening measures.

“It’s probably the least favorite task they have to do,” the official said.

But Bloomberg — citing a security notice sent by the TSA to the Airports Council International-North America, which is a trade organization — says some passengers may be in for a frisking that’s a little friskier than usual. The news agency also says that the TSA will not specify what a “comprehensive” pat-down means, exactly. But the TSA wanted to alert local law enforcement in case anyone calls to report an “abnormal” pat-down, Bloomberg says.

And yet American travelers have been complaining about TSA frisk jobs for years now. The TSA security notice cited by Bloomberg talks about replacing five existing methods, but these already range in intensity — using only official classification here — from “Prohibited at Any Strip Club” to “Proctologists Only.”

This isn’t news to any airline passenger who’s traveled since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks or anyone following social media.  A producer from Martin Scorcese’s movie “Silence” made a wisecrack — the TSA staff mistook “IUD” for “IED” — that led to a body search that included her groin, and CNN commentator Angela Rye raised questions about her pat-down.

 

 

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