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Rand Paul's TSA moment: airport patdowns around the world

Sen. Rand Paul says US airport security officials are invasive without being effective. How are air passengers treated in other countries?

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Passengers queue up for a security check at Pudong International Airport in Shanghai, last week. As US Sen. Rand Paul's TSA moment sets off a minor debate on US airport security, what do airport security people do in other countries?

Eugene Hoshiko/AP

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When US Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky set off the scanner at Nashville airport and refused to submit to a more intimate pat-down by Transportation Safety Administration officers, he set off a minor debate about the efficacy of security at US airports.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, American support for aggressive security checks was strong, but in the past decade, bipartisan complaints about the TSA have begun to mount. But while Americans may be getting annoyed at all that wanding, patting, and scanning, there have been very few security incidents at US airports over the past decade. And compared with the intense scrutiny other countries give travelers at their own airports -- in India or England, Israel or Indonesia – it’s fair to ask how the US methods compare.  

In a recent congressional report, “A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform,” Congress noted that the TSA has grown into a massive agency, spending $57 billion over the past decade, with a workforce of 65,000 employees. But there have been more than 25,000 security breaches at US airports, and 17 “known terrorists” have managed to travel on 24 different occasions through airports monitored by TSA. Fewer than half of the US’s 35 largest airports have complete in-line explosive detection systems to screen baggage.

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