TSA screenings at airports too invasive? 'Opt Out' protest planned.
Internet grass-roots groups urge passengers to 'Opt Out' of the digital whole-body imaging scan on the day before Thanksgiving. The alternative to these TSA screenings is an 'enhanced' pat-down.
(Page 2 of 2)
In Pictures The wide world of air travel
In Pictures Airport security
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Actually, the scanner is the less invasive option. The enhanced pat-down, on the other hand, requires screeners to use their palms and fingers to make physical contact with every surface of a passenger’s body.
"I stood there, an American citizen, a mom traveling with a baby with special needs formula, sexually assaulted by a government official," writes blogger Erin, who does not publish her last name on her blogs to protect her family's anonymity. "I began shaking and felt completely violated, abused and assaulted by the TSA agent. I shook for several hours, and woke up the next day shaking."
When American John Tyner refused to go through the AIT or have his genitals touched in the pat-down, he was threatened with a civil suit and a $10,000 fine.
During initial tests of the machines, in a few airports, TSA found that more than 98 percent of passengers chose AIT over the pat-down.
“I think National Opt Out Day is an ineffective and poorly timed protest of the current TSA policies in place,” writes Steven Frischling, an airline consultant who blogs about the airline industry. “In the United States you are free to voice your opinion,... but you do not have the right to refuse current airport security procedures and still board a flight.”
But if thousands of passengers decide to protest the technology by opting for the slower pat-down at busy airports before Thanksgiving, it could cause big delays.
“If going through the pat-down significantly increases the amount of time that it takes to get through the checkpoint process, then [Opt-Out Day] is going to slow down an already congested process,” says David Castelveter, spokesman for airline industry group Air Transport Association (ATA). “If people choose to do this – and I emphasize the if – you stand the risk of not getting to your gate in time to make your flight. Secondly, airplanes are going to be full…. If you miss your flight because you opted out or others opted out, the odds of being re-accommodated in a timely fashion lessen.”
“Nearly 2 million will fly that day,” estimates Mr. Castelveter, who recommends that passengers at high-traffic airports in places such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago allow several hours to get to their gates.
“At the end of the day, what’s important to me is flying safe,” he says. “I want to get on the airplane and know I’m as safe as possible flying, so if that means going through the AIT machines or getting the pat-downs – if I’ve chosen to fly, those are the choices I’ve made.”
Privacy groups, however, are hoping that the public outcry combined with the threat of delays will get the TSA to change course.
“These agencies do respond to public pressure,” says Mr. Calabrese. “TSA backed down from a very similar proposal in 2004,” when a short-lived policy involved searching for explosives against women’s torsos after Chechen women managed to sneak explosives onto a plane in Russia. “Hopefully, similar good sense would prevail here,” he says.