Just in time for the holidays, the Transportation Security Administration changed the rules for its full-body scanners to find out who’s naughty or nice at airport checkpoints.

The change is aimed at safeguarding airline security at a time of heightened tensions over terrorism. But legal and security experts complain that TSA rules are ambiguous and that changes come without the opportunity for public comment.

TSA announced Friday it would require full-body scans for some travelers rather than allowing everyone the option of a pat-down search instead. The scanners can detect non-metallic weapons hidden beneath clothing, such as the plastic explosives hidden in the underwear of a man who attempted to detonate a bomb about a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009.

“Generally, passengers undergoing screening will still have the option to decline a (full-body) screening in favor of physical screening,” said Bruce Anderson, a TSA spokesman. “However, some passengers will be required to undergo (full-body) screening if warranted by security considerations in order to safeguard transportation security.”

“This will occur in a very limited number of circumstances where enhanced screening is required,” Anderson added. “The vast majority of passengers will not be affected.”

The change is controversial.

“We’re in bizarro-world with TSA,” said Marc Scribner, a research fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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