The U.S. Transportation Security Administration has started scanning airline passenger documents for traces of explosives, but has stopped opening funeral urns to inspect cremated remains. The federal agency also said this week it will pay more than $1 million to passengers whose luggage was ransacked by its agents.
Scanners to inspect documents were installed this week at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., and will be added at O'Hare Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and John F. Kennedy Airport in New York later this month.
Passengers selected to go through additional security checks will have their personal documents -- including boarding passes, driver's licenses and passports -- scanned for traces of explosives.
"If someone was tinkering with explosives or in the vicinity of them, they'll touch their driver's license or passport and we'll be able to detect it," TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said.
Meanwhile, TSA is partnering with funeral homes nationwide to make sure cremated remains are inspected but not disturbed by screeners. Remains are now to be transported in temporary containers that allow contents to be easily scanned by an X-ray machine.
"Sometimes [remains] were going through in containers that were unable to be scanned and they had to be opened up," Melendez said. "We didn't want to do it, nor did the passenger. But we had to maintain a level of security."
Security agents will no longer open urns to inspect the contents even at the passengers' request.
Also this week, TSA officials said about 21,000 passengers who claim their luggage was stolen or damaged will receive about $110. Since June, 20 of the agency's screeners have been charged with stealing from checked luggage. None worked in Chicago, TSA officials said.
For months, passengers were stuck in the middle of negotiations between TSA and the airlines about claims, Melendez said.
"TSA did not want to have that linger any longer," Melendez said.