Memphis International Airport gears up for explosive testing

By Jamel Major - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Passengers at Memphis International Airport are gearing up for the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) explosive trace detection testing.

The TSA will soon begin randomly swabbing people's hands at Memphis International Airport for traces of explosives.

"Well, safety is the most important thing," said Josh McKinley.

Officers will use the suitcase sized testing device to swab travelers' hands or luggage at checkpoints, in security lines, and in the gate area.  Passengers will be selected at random.

"Right now we do it on a randomized basis," said Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security, "so somebody who is a potential terrorist can not predict there will be a swab or not a swab."

The device works in about 30 seconds and will alert officials if there is any residue of explosives.  

While some passengers may be worried about delays the tests could cause, the TSA said there should not be a significant inconvenience.

"I guess I consider it a necessary inconvenience," said Cynthia Collins.  "If it'll make us safe, then I'm willing to put up with that inconvenience."

Some passengers felt that the new security measure might not be needed.

"I don't know if this is necessarily needed at this moment," said Judy Albright.  "I'm hoping they're doing it because they have a need for more security."

Jay Stanley with the American Civil Liberties Union said he did not want to see the new measure used as discrimination.

"We would not want to see it implemented in a discriminatory fashion," said Stanley, "in a disproportionate way against Muslims and Arabs."

Many passengers, including Josh McKinley, felt the test could improve airport security.

"You go overseas and there's a lot more security," said McKinley.  "America is too lax.  They really need to step it up and protect this country."

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