November 20th, 2010
06:51 PM ET
LISBON, Portugal (CNN) - President Barack Obama was thrust into the spotlight when asked at a NATO press conference what he thought about the new screening methods passengers must endure at airports. Calling the pat-downs and body scans a "tough situation," the President struck an empathetic tone.
"One of the most frustrating aspects of this fight against terrorism is that it has created a whole security apparatus around us that causes huge inconvenience for all of us. And I understand people's frustrations. And what I've said to the TSA is that you have to constantly refine and measure whether what we're doing is the only way to assure the American people's safety. And you also have to think through are there ways of doing it that are less intrusive."
The Christmas Day bombing involved Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who boarded Northwest flight #253 from Amsterdam to Detroit with a bomb hidden in his underwear, which went undetected by ordinary metal detectors. Abdulmutallab failed to set it off the bomb in flight and kill the nearly 300 passengers, yet the attempt has brought about new airport screening procedures which have caused a holiday travel uproar.
Mr. Obama said, "In the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing, our TSA personnel are, properly, under enormous pressure to make sure that you don't have somebody slipping on a plane with some sort of explosive device on their persons."
The President admitted however that he was not personally familiar with the new security techniques which some passengers have compared to "groping" and "sexual advances."
Mr. Obama said "let me, first of all, make a confession. I don't go through security checks to get on planes these days, so I haven't personally experienced some of the procedures that have been put in place by TSA."
But the President vowed he'd try to find a way to make passengers feel more comfortable and safe despite the intrusions.
"Every week I meet with my counterterrorism team and I'm constantly asking them whether - is what we're doing absolutely necessary? Have we thought it through? Are there other ways of accomplishing it that meet the same objectives?"
But for now, the President says the TSA has told him, the current full-body scanners that produce a virtual naked image, and its alternative, the groin and breasts pat-downs, are the only way to assure airline safety.