The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new security procedures are ruffling a lot of feathers. These procedures include the roll out of the new whole-body-imaging scanners … and for those who “opt out” of the scanners, the experience of an ‘enhanced pat down.’
These two options are upsetting airline passengers throughout the United States. Many dislike the whole-body-scanners because the scanner depicts a complete ‘naked’ body image of the person in the scanner, with a greyed out image and facial details missing. Others are against the whole-body-imaging scanner because of the low dose radiation it emits. Some are against the scanner … well because they like to complain.
For those who wish to avoid the whole-body-imaging scanner, passengers have the right to say “I opt out” and then pass through a standard walk through metal detector, followed by an ‘enhanced pat down.’
The new ‘enhanced pat down’ is more controversial than the scanners, as it allows TSA screeners to physically feel passengers all over their bodies, with the front of their hands. This includes buttocks, breasts, genitals, inner thigh, and other sensitive areas. This is done over the clothing with a gloved hand.
For “National Opt Out Day,” on the 24th of November, activists hope to have travelers around the nation “opt out” at the 68 airports in the United States where whole body imaging scanners are in place. The intent is to bring the message to politicians that travelers demand change. For those looking at a calendar, the 24th of November is the day before Thanksgiving, the busiest travel day of the year in the United States.
Having passengers ‘opt out’ in protest has multiple down side, and in all likelihood will fall on deaf ears.
For starters, the news cycle on the 24th of November, the busiest travel day of the year in the United States is a day when many people turn off the news to drive, fly, get on a train, prep a turkey, prepare for guests and otherwise tune out. The news stories the day before Thanksgiving tend to focus on fuel costs, packed airports, weather delays, football previews and ‘make the world a better place’ stories. While National Opt Out Day would fall under packed airports, chances are news crews will be focused on other stories, since National Opt Out Day only impacts 68 airports … out of more than 400 airports under the TSA’s authority.
In the execution of National Opt Out Day, should thousands of passengers choose to ‘opt out’ in protest, they will add further stress to fellow travelers on the busiest flying day of the year by slowing down security lanes. A day when more families fly than any other day of the year, this could actually spark backlash towards those participating in National Opt Out Day … should it drive thousands of people to participate.
Additionally … by asking people to opt out of the scanners in protest, travelers will be subjected to being physically touched all over their body, in a way that is very uncomfortable for many travelers. Having asked dozens of frequent flyers their preference in whole-body-imaging scanners vs the enhanced pat down, not one preferred the enhanced pat down to the whole-body-imaging scanner.
If activists want to make changes, doing it while at the airport in the security lane is not the appropriate place. The security lane is the front line of the TSA, where screeners have a job to do. If you refuse the scanner, then refuse the pat down, you’ll simply be denied access to the airport and miss your flight. While it is all well and good to make a stand … you need to make this stand by consistently contacting your elected officials in Washington. Write your Congressional representative, your two Senators and write to the House & Senate Committees that oversee the TSA.
I’ll reserve my opinions on the whole-body-imaging scanner and the enhanced pat downs for another post … but regardless of my opinion … I think National Opt Out Day is an ineffective and poorly timed protest of the current TSA policies in place.
In the United States you are free to voice your opinion, you have the right to speak your mind … but you do not have the right to refuse current airport security procedures and still board a flight … no one has that right anywhere in the world.