But the agency does expect some passengers to consider the examination unusual.
Still, the pat-downs have always been disliked by travelers and a more rigorous, invasive search will not be liked by some. The agency did, however, describe the new procedures as more "comprehensive", and according to Bloomberg, which reported that it obtained a relevant memo from an airport trade association, the procedures involve a shift from using the back of the hand during pat downs to using the front of the hand on passengers who test positive for explosives during routine swab screenings. This includes the inspection of sensitive areas such as breasts, groin and buttocks.
In the past, TSA employees had some leeway in what type of physical search they used on a passenger.
Ron Paul, the Republican former congressman, tweeted: "TSA Launches "Invasive" Pat-Downs With 'More Intimate Contact Than Before.'" He republished an article on his website that referred to the new procedure as a "universal method which would involve heavier groping". Almost two million travelers go through the screening process at the nation's airports every day.
"When we had multiple ways of doing the pat-down search it was a little bit complex and depending on the individual there were some inconsistencies in how it was applied", said TSA Federal Security Director Aaron Batt.
Typically, travelers only get a pat-down if something was triggered during screening or they opt out of going through the body scanners.
Until last week, TSA screeners could employ any of five pat-down procedures to check the few passengers who chose not to go through a millimeter wave imaging booth or walk-through metal detectors. However, for those who would rather not be patted down in public, TSA is offering private screening rooms with two officers present and the option of having a companion witness the pat-down. TSA requires all pat-downs to be conducted an officer of the same sex.
Margerie Micklos, passing through Jacksonville International Airport from CT, said the TSA has gone as far as reaching inside her trousers during a security pat-down. "Knowing our specific procedures could aid those who wish to do travelers harm in evading our measures", Anderson said.
In anticipation that some passengers may consider the physical examination unusual, the TSA has briefed local law enforcement agencies in case a passenger calls to report that he or she has been subjected to an "abnormal" screening practice. And now at airports nationwide, there are big changes in how that's done.