In a climate of protests over airport-screening procedures, some airports are considering another way to show dissatisfaction: Getting rid of Transportation Security Administration agents altogether.
Federal law allows airports to opt for private-sector screeners. The push is being led by a powerful Florida congressman, who is a long-time critic of the TSA and counts among his campaign contributors some of the companies that might be an alternative.
John Mica this month wrote letters to the nation's 100 busiest airports asking that they request private security guards.
'I think we could use half the personnel and streamline the system,' Mr Mica said on Wednesday, calling TSA a bloated bureaucracy.
TSA spokesman Greg Soule would not respond directly to Mica's letter.
Invasive: A passenger goes through the new pat-down check at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago
Airport staff were warned today they face prosecution if they touch passengers 'inappropriately' as the national outcry over 'pat-down' security checks gathered momentum.
The move by the California District Attorney represents the first sign of authorities taking a tough stand against the controversial new security checks.
With millions of Americans preparing to travel for Thanksgiving, experts today warned the measures could trigger a deluge of lawsuits from angry passengers.
Yesterday the man in charge of the new security measures faced a grilling in Congress, with one Republican senator telling him: 'I wouldn't want my wife touched like that.'
Incoming San Mateo County DA Steve Wagstaffe said any complaints would land on his desk and staff could be charged with sexual battery.
He told ABC: 'The case would be reviewed and if we could prove the elements of it, that it was inappropriately done with a sexual or lewd intent, that person would be prosecuted.'
Defiant: Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole, centre, said the new checks were necessary to detect a new generation of explosive devices
Images: A passenger stands in one of the full-body scanners and, left, the X-Ray image of his body
Concerns have been raised about the effects of radiation exposure from the full-body scanners at U.S. airports could lead to increased risk of cancer.
The technology works by bouncing X-ray beams off a person's body to create a full image showing contours and any bumps or protusions from potential weapons.
But the Transportation Security Administration said the amount of radiation was just a thousandth of that received during a chest X-ray.
Peter Rez, a physics professor at Arizona State University in Tempe, told MSNBC the risk of getting cancer was around one in 30 million.
'That puts it somewhat less than being killed by being struck by lightning in any one year,' he said.
He added that the risk of getting cancers was aroudn the same as the probability the aircraft could be blown up by terrorists.
He said that if the contact was skin-to-skin, it would be counted as a felony, while if it was done over clothing it would be a misdemeanour.