Sunday, May 24, 2015

Invasion of the body scanners: A national "opt-out" planned for Thanksgiving eve

Ahhh, what a mess we've created for ourselves when it comes to airport security screening. Our political leaders, responding to anguished cries after 9/11 for aviation security at practically any price, created a massive burearacry -- the Transportation Security Administration -- that did what we asked and devised one new way after another to check for bad things bad people might try to carry on a flight. Now we're paying the price, with the choice a full-body scan that reveals everything under your clothes or an "enhanced patdown," or frisking, that some are calling sexual harrassment by government agents.You will find other posts from the last two weeks on these issues if you scroll down.

Invasion of the body scanners: A national "opt-out" planned for Thanksgiving eve

In this photo taken Sept. 1, 2010, Transportation Security Administration employee Anthony Brock, left, demonstrates a new full-body scanner at San Diego´s Lindbergh Field, with TSA employee Andres Lozano in San Diego. The American Civil Liberties Union has denounced the machines as a "virtual strip search." Across the country, passengers must choose scans by full-body image detectors or probing pat-downs. Top federal security officials said Monday, Nov. 15, 2010, that the procedures were safe and necessary sacrifices to ward off terror attacks. (AP Photo / San Diego Union Tribune, Eduardo Contreras)
In this photo taken Sept. 1, 2010, Transportation Security Administration employee Anthony Brock, left, demonstrates a new full-body scanner at San Diego's Lindbergh Field, with TSA employee Andres Lozano in San Diego. The American Civil Liberties Union has denounced the machines as a "virtual strip search." Across the country, passengers must choose scans by full-body image detectors or probing pat-downs. Top federal security officials said Monday, Nov. 15, 2010, that the procedures were safe and necessary sacrifices to ward off terror attacks. (AP Photo / San Diego Union Tribune, Eduardo Contreras)

Ahhh, what a mess we've created for ourselves when it comes to airport security screening. Our political leaders, responding to anguished cries after 9/11 for aviation security at practically any price, created a massive burearacry -- the Transportation Security Administration -- that did what we asked and devised one new way after another to check for bad things bad people might try to carry on a flight. Now we're paying the price, with the choice a full-body scan that reveals everything under your clothes or an "enhanced patdown," or frisking, that some are calling sexual harrassment by government agents.You will find other posts from the last two weeks on these issues if you scroll down.

Here are today's stories and links to the ongoing media coverage of this brouhaha.  First, a link to national opt-out day, an effort that could create terrible airport terminal jams on Wednesday Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving when airline passenger counts are at their peak for the year. The leaders of the movement are calling for all travelers to ask to "opt out" of use of the body scanner and ask for the more time-consuming patdown. This movement appears to be somewhat nonpartisan, although much of the noise generated so far seems to have come from ultra-conservatives and / or libertarians.

Warning: The www.optoutday.com site is a volunteer effort. Scroll down to see images of what full-body scanning really means. The post starts with the news that a Senate oversight committee will question TSA officials about its efforts at a hearing tomorrow.

The newspaper columnist who has been writing about this the longest, Joe Sharkey of the The New York Times, reported today on the call he got from the head of the TSA, worried about the additional security concerns raised by big jams at  checkpoints. Best of luck if you're flying on Nov. 24.

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About this blog
Tom Belden has been reporting about Philadelphia International Airport and other air travel subjects for more than 20 years, writing columns for The Inquirer's Travel and Business sections. His reporting (with colleague Craig McCoy) on baggage handling problems in Philadelphia have been credited with helping to improve the system. His previous blog was called Road Warrior. He can reached at tbelden@phillynews.com. Reach Tom at tbelden@phillynews.com.

Tom Belden