The latest idea in the ongoing debate over searches of passengers at airports? Official consumer advocates.

The concept seemed to move forward Wednesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, where Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano endorsed an idea for passenger advocates in airports. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., have proposed the RIGHTS Act (for Restoring Integrity and Good-Heartedness in Traveler Screening), which would require advocates who would be responsible for interceding on the passengers’ behalf at major airports.

The Transportation Security Administration has been the target of complaints for inappropriate and harassing behavior and invasive scans and searches. The complaints largely, but not exclusively, involve women.

Napolitano said the TSA will move toward doing this administratively at major airports.

Under Napolitano’s plan, TSA agents would be cross-trained as passenger advocates. An employee, then, might be screening passengers one day and serving as a supposedly neutral third party in disputes involving his colleagues the next. Other than the cost of initial training, it’s not expected to involve more staff or significant cost, Schumer says.

What do you think? Does this sound like a good development, or is this likely to just be for show? Have you flown since 9/11 prompted new security measures at airports? How has your own experience with airport security been? Do you agree all the security now is needed, or do you think it should be scaled back? How?

© 2012 Times Union

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