Napolitano: ‘Adjustments,’ ‘More to Come’ on Women in Hijabs Undergoing Airport Full-Body Pat-Downs

November 15, 2010 - 3:00 PM

janet napolitano

Homesland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

(CNSNews.com) - When asked today if she will insist that Muslim women wearing hijabs must go through full body pat downs before boarding planes, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano did not say yes or no, but told CNSNews.com there will be “adjustments” and “more to come” on the issue.

“On the pat downs, CAIR [the Council on American-Islamic Relations] has recommended that Muslim women wearing hijabs refuse to go through the full body pat downs before boarding planes,” CNSNews.com asked Napolitano at a Monday press conference. “Will you insist that they do go through full body pat downs before boarding planes?”

“Look, we have, like I said before, we are doing what we need to do to protect the traveling public and adjustments will be made where they need to be made,” Napolitano responded. “With respect to that particular issue, I think there will be more to come. But, again, the goal here, you know, we’re not doing this just to do it.  We’re doing it because we need to keep powders and gels and liquids off of planes that are unauthorized just as we need to keep metals off of planes.

“This is being done in recognizing that we all have a collective role in our security and we all know and can recognize that there are threats and risks that have been articulated by those who seek to harm the United States, particularly in the aviation environment," said Napolitano. "And, so, you know, what we are doing is designed to really be risk based, to be intelligence based, to be layered like I said, when you get to the airport at that screening center, that’s really--these TSO’s [Transportation Security Officers] are really the last line of protection we have for the aircraft and that’s the way we’re going to evaluate things.”

Napolitano responded to CNSNews.com’s question at a Monday press conference held at Reagan National Airport outside Washington, D.C., that she called to announce that the department’s “If You See Something, Say Something” campaign was going to be placing advertisements around the Washington, D.C. area to encourage people to report what she called “indicators of terrorism” to law enforcement agencies.

"As Americans head into the busy holiday travel season, it is important to remember that every individual has a role to play in keeping our country safe and secure," Napolitano said in a statement. "The ‘If You See Something, Say Something' campaign encourages travelers and those who work in the hotel industry to identify and report indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats to the proper law enforcement authorities."

Napolitano was joined at the press conference by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator John Pistole, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Police Chief Stephen Holl and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Police Chief Michael Taborn.

Last week, the Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a “Travel Advisory” that included “[s]pecial recommendations for Muslim women who wear hijab.” These recommendations suggest that women wearing the hijab decline to undergo fully body pat-down’s when boarding commercial airflights.

“In this situation [when a woman has been selected for secondary screening], you may be asked to submit to a pat-down or to go through a full body scanner,” the CAIR recommendations say. “If you are selected for the scanner, you may ask to go through a pat-down instead.

“Before you are patted down, you should remind the TSA officer that they are only supposed to pat down the area in question, in this scenario, your head and neck,” says the recommendations. “They SHOULD NOT subject you to a full-body or partial-body pat-down.”

“Instead of the pat-down,” say the recommendations, “you can always request to pat down your own scarf, including head and neck area, and have the officers perform a chemical swipe of your hands.”