National Security

Hand swabbing is latest in airline security passenger screening

With every failed attempt to blow an airplane out of the sky, along comes tighter security.

First, we had to take our shoes off. Then we had to pack our liquids in bottles no bigger than 3 ounces. Now, we may have our hands swabbed for explosives.

Starting this week in Kansas City and at airports nationwide, security screeners are expanding efforts to sniff out explosives with random tests of passengers and their luggage.

Screeners already use technology to search for traces of explosives on your luggage. Now, they may swab the palms of your hands before you board your plane.

Passengers have been swabbed before, but only if they stirred suspicion or set off an alarm as they moved through a checkpoint.

But screeners are getting more aggressive after the underwear bomber tried to blow up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day.

Security experts praised the initiative as another way to keep would-be terrorists off balance. "You're just adding to the stress potential for the bad guy," aviation security consultant Richard Roth said.

But experts also cautioned that the test could flag soldiers who've been near gunpowder, gardeners who've worked with certain fertilizers or maybe even passengers who've handled nitroglycerin tablets for heart problems.

The machines also can detect drugs, although officials say they aren't calibrated to look for narcotics. Officials say they won't be collecting DNA.

To read the complete article, visit