It’s Body Scanner Opt-Out Day but I Don’t Support the Protest

I know it’s Wednesday and I should be going dark, but with Thanksgiving tomorrow, I decided to switch things around and post today instead. Here we are on November 24, and if one group has its way the lines will be jammed at airports. If you’re flying today, get to the airport very early just in case. I hope that most people don’t participate in this, but if they do, you should be ready. So while you’re sitting in a long line nervously hoping you don’t miss your flight, let’s talk security.

TSA Opt Out Day

The idea behind National Opt Out Day is to fight the latest Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security measures. As we all know by now, in those airports where there are body scanners, you either have to go through them or opt-out and get a full body pat-down instead. That would be fine except for the fact that the new pat-down is very invasive. Instead of using the backs of their hands, Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) use the fronts of their hands and get right up into your “junk” as the saying now goes.

Do I like these new procedures? Certainly not. I don’t think it keeps us much safer, and there are plenty of other recommendations out there for ways that we can do things better. (Israelification seems to be a nice buzz word these days, and I agree with the premise.) But I don’t agree with how people are going about protesting this.

First of all, the TSA is not going to listen to opt-out protesters. The problem with security is that they can always just claim that it’s a “national security issue” and keep doing what they’re doing. Sure, maybe if the President told them to back off, things would change, but I can’t see these particular protests making that happen. There is plenty of noise being made right now about this, and if it’s going to change, people should just keep up the noise as is. But an opt-out day? It’s not going to do anything but ruin travel plans for people trying to see their families for Thanksgiving.

Those TSOs get to go home at the end of their shifts regardless of how long the lines are. But the passengers who opt-out of the body scanner and try to overwhelm the line with lengthy pat-downs? They just get delayed and might miss their flights. More importantly, they delay the people behind them who really want to get home. If someone misses his flight home, there’s a good chance that he’ll miss Thanksgiving because flights are very full at this time of year. Not good.

And while we’re on the topic, let me address the issue of the TSOs. Go easy on them when you fly. These are people who are just doing their jobs. They don’t make the rules, but they are paid to enforce them. Do you think they like feeling up a 500 pound dude? I don’t think so. But they have jobs to do. I’ve heard some people say they should quit their jobs in protest. Are you crazy? You may be gainfully employed, but the job market is very weak at best. If I had a good job with good benefits, I wouldn’t be walking away.

I have heard that TSOs hate this rule just as much as you do. It’s awful to get yelled at by people all day long, and they don’t deserve it. If I fly, I’ll flash a smile and maybe even say thank you. If I get the pat-down, I won’t be pretending to enjoy it. It’s bad enough for these guys. I may not support what they’re doing, but I do support them doing the job they’re given.

So with that, let me say that I hope you all reach your destinations on time and without any trouble. I’m already with my family (we drove), and this is my favorite holiday of the year. Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I’ll put up a discussion topic on Friday and then I’ll be back again on Monday with a new post.

[Original photo via Flickr user silas216]

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44 Comments on "It’s Body Scanner Opt-Out Day but I Don’t Support the Protest"

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Andrew
Guest
But of course, delay is the whole point of these proposed acts of civil disobedience. If you really want to get the currently ridiculous TSA procedures changed then *enough* people have to be miffed that there is immediate political pressure. And the best way to miff a lot of folk is delay them as they try to get home to thanksgiving. Indeed, given that you agree that the new procedures don’t really help security—”I don’t think it keeps us much safer, and there are plenty of other recommendations out there for ways that we can do things better”—then it seems… Read more »
Mike Collins
Guest
“And while we’re on the topic, let me address the issue of the TSOs. Go easy on them when you fly. These are people who are just doing their jobs. They don’t make the rules, but they are paid to enforce them. Do you think they like feeling up a 500 pound dude? I don’t think so. But they have jobs to do. I’ve heard some people say they should quit their jobs in protest. Are you crazy? You may be gainfully employed, but the job market is very weak at best. If I had a good job with good… Read more »
Aviation Geek
Guest

As much as I sympathize with some TSOs, when they are screaming at you, it becomes significantly more difficult to smile. In Canada, for example, the security performs the same exact policies on flights to the US, but the officers are much more professional about it. Then again, that may be the consequence of being paid $25 more/hour.

Alex
Guest
“That gives me chills. There was probably a well-meaning Jewish journalist in late 1930?s Germany who made the same arguments about those poor boys with the swastika armbands.” Of all the hyperbole floating round about this issue, this is the one that I couldn’t let slip. Everywhere one turns in America these days there is some idiot comparing this or that to 1930/40’s Germany. People seem to flippantly compare figures they dislike to Hitler. The holocaust is perhaps the worse moment in human history. Something that haunts the history of millions around the world. Your throwaway references to this because… Read more »
Rachel
Guest

I absolutely can’t believe you are equating Nazis with TSA agents….you are WAY off base here and shame on you. TSAs have a legitimate job to do and there is nothing immoral or unethical about it. Maybe the US needs to get away from this Puritanical way of thinking….nobody cares about your “junk”, so what’s the big deal with getting it scanned? And if it’s radiation you’re worried about…they already debunked that…enough already…..

KeithL
Guest
Cranky I agree totally with Andrew’s sentiments. This country has a record of changing the way the government governs via civil disobedience (the Boston Tea Party and the Civil Rights movement to name two). Just the threat of the “opt out day” protest as well as the “don’t touch my junk” video has even gotten the president to ask for a review of the procedures. Actions like opting out are one of the few ways the flying public can get the message across to the TSA, that we understand that what they do is “security theater” and except for the… Read more »
BigSix
Guest
I don’t understand why everyone is blaming the TSA for this. This entire issue was caused by 9/11 and the subsequent bombing attempts on commercial aircraft. The flying public should be demanding that the U.S. military (and allies) take action against the groups that caused the increase in security measures (not action like we are taking now – something more aggressive). Lets assume that the TSA would relax the security measures recently put into place and there would be an incident on a US commercial airliner where there would be loss of life due to a militant suicide bomber that… Read more »
Aviation Geek
Guest

Perhaps some of the populace would, but most frequent flyers wouldn’t whine. The issue at play here is that a suicide bomber could blow something up anywhere, not just on a plane. If the TSA continues to curtail our 4th amendment rights, then one day, we might find ourselves in a totalitarian society. The TSA has already began to screen people at train stations, and they put a highway stop in near atlanta a few days ago, just to prove they could. Sure, I don’t mind some security, but to what end?

Matt
Guest

So I’m supposed to receive a dose of unneeded radiation to “help out the line?”

thisworldtraveler
Guest

You get that by flying in the first place.

Aviation Geek
Guest

I would be proudly opting out at BOS today, but the TSA turned off all scanners. Just this action shows that the protest is getting to them. And as much as I agree with you, cranky, that the TSA won’t change by itself, congress has the power to make them

dave
Guest
Cranky – Other commenters have suggested this before – I would love to see you do a detailed post about what you think airport security should look like, given that we are not Israel, considering the huge number of passengers we have in the States, as well as the cultural constraints in play here, such as how we think about race and religion as the potential base for screening decisions. You would certainly distinguish yourself. There are a million articles out there about what people hate, and _very_little about proposed alternatives. I don’t think privatizing security at MCO is going… Read more »
Melisa
Guest
“Given that we are not Israel” Really? Do you think they have fewer Muslim fliers than we do? What would be wrong with having database checks for flying history, visa history, and passport history? What would be wrong with asking questions of anyone for any reason security feels is worth checking out? They do it at border crossings, they do it for international flights at Customs…why is “regular” flying less important to selectively screen and use judgment and discernment than international flying and border crossings? Not profiling is America at her dumbest. If Muslims of good will have a big… Read more »
Karthik
Guest

Google “Jihad Jane”. This is why you randomly profile.

MeanMeosh
Guest
“Google “Jihad Jane”. This is why you randomly profile.” No, this is why you profile INTELLIGENTLY based on a variety of criteria. The current “random” criteria really does nothing to promote security, except for making the system acceptable to CAIR and the PC-types who don’t want to offend certain groups of people. Instead, you humiliate poor guys with urostomy bags and peg legs. Sounds real effective to me. Singling anybody who looks Middle Eastern or appears to have a Muslim name is also useless and won’t solve anything. You’ll unnecessarily harass thousands of Indians, Southeast Asians, even some Mexicans because… Read more »
Karthik
Guest
My bad, sorry. I did mean intelligent profiling. Really my post was in response to the line: “Where does it say lady business travelers…” and by all accounts, LaRose going through security could look just like a “lady business traveler.” I agree with your post, except to add that you do need an account of true randomness (as in, a random number generator chooses which people to scan again), to make it a bit more unpredictable. I bet that various terrorist organizations have at least a couple of people who would pass all clearances and checks. This is true even… Read more »
MathFox
Guest
The first thing you should have to accept is that there is no check that gives 100% certainty that there will be no terrorist attack on a plane in the future. (What do you do against a gliderplane loaded with explosives, launched from a helium balloon at 50.000 feet?) So you’ll have to do a cost-benefit analysis: How much are we willing to spend for security. I am all in favour of walking all passengers through a metal detector, to keep guns off a plane. But if you do that, it should expend to all people getting near or in… Read more »
gtjay
Guest

LOL!

Bert Michaels!!!!! (Not Bret, Bert)

Emily
Guest
I agree with you. Making a point is one thing, but inconveniencing other people for the sake of your own viewpoint, which they might not agree with? Super lame and disrespectful of others. It amazes me how people who want to make a point about a particular inconvenience, do it at the expense of someone else’s inconvenience. If I was behind these people in the line, I wouldn’t be ticked off at the new TSA rules, the agents, the government, or even terrorists – I’d be ticked off at the douchebag who thought it would be a good idea to… Read more »
nealberk
Guest

Why does this image of dozens of people copying the scene from “When Harry met Sally” come to mind?

Greg
Guest
Sorry. I disagree. It is the threat of these protests, at least in part, that has brought this issue to the forefront. This is one of the only ways we can make our voices heard. The TSA security checkpoints are de facto extra-Constitutional zones and they are taking full advantage by infringing on our 4th amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. (“I’m sorry, I’m going to have to seize this completely harmless bottle of water because my bosses are complete morons who are just trying to cover their butts in case it all hits the fan.”) I also don’t… Read more »
jyarmis
Member

Bravo, bravo and bravo.

Mark
Guest

As someone who has had 31 colleagues from my current and previous employer murdered by terrorists, I just don’t have an issue with the pat down. I could have just as easily been on any of the airplanes that were blown up or crashed and the knowledge that there are people still out there trying to kill me and my crew and passengers makes me appreciate anything that is being done to insure they don’t succeed.

Melisa
Guest

They attacked so you would be submitters, not free men. Now your colleagues are dead and you are submitting.

They are winning if you have shrugged off freedom. Profiling and targeted questioning and databases might have saved those flights and your colleagues.

I am terribly sorry for your loss and work every day to expose these monsters for what they do to humanity on a daily basis.

James Williams
Guest
I think that the problem is that it was marketed as a protest. Protest is a loaded word and reeks of frivolity. I flew on Tues so the point is moot but I chose to no get in the line for the nude-o-scope and was able to go through the metal detectors just fine. For those who say that we are inconveniencing people, I ask “Where does it stop?” I do blame the TSA for this because they are the ones that overreact every time a new challenge occurs. Just like if one chooses to pay for a buck’s worth… Read more »
David SF eastbay
Member
At travel times like now people just want to get where they are going so will just do the quickest thing and walk into the x-ray chamber and not be happy if people are slowing them down even if by doing pat-downs. Seems to me if a lot of people are trying to slow the system today they would be the ones waiting in long lines for pat-downs and other people would be sailing in and out of the x-ray chamber. But like I’ve been saying about the pat-downs, at least the police read you your rights before they do… Read more »
BW
Guest

Last time I checked access to air transportation is not a right guaranteed by the constitution. If you don’t like the screening procedures then work to change them in a way that doesn’t harm somebody else. The TSA is a stupid reactionary government bureaucracy and it’s that way because we made it that way as a response to 9/11, etc. They do things the way they do because every time something happens we tell them they have to find a way to stop it.

David SF eastbay
Member

I was just reading a news item that there are people protesting today and one guy is wearing a traditional Scottish Kilt with no underwear. The TSA agent who pats him down will have to rethink his method……LOL

I wonder how many people are opting out and going for the pat-downs because they want to be ‘fondled’ by someone of their own gender? And the flip side, how many of those TSA agents are liking being able to ‘fondle’ people of their own gender?

MeanMeosh
Guest
I agree with Cranky on a couple of things: First, sorry to break it to you, but the TSA, Pistole, Napolitano, et. al. really don’t give a flip if you choose to opt-out of the scanner and voluntarily endure a groping instead. Makes no difference to them at all, and if anything, you’ve just submitted to the more egregious piece of the new security regime. I would argue that the results you’re seeing are more a result of airlines being worried about hits to their profits, and Congressmen being inundated with nasty phone calls and e-mails, then the threat of… Read more »
johnny
Member

Cranky! I agree with you 100%. Well said.

Karthik
Guest

Here’s why making a TSO’s holiday weekend miserable is a good idea: the more disgruntled they get, the more likely they are to complain to their supervisors. The more the front line workers complain, the more likely the rules will be changed. Pistole doesn’t care about the general public (seriously: the new scanners really don’t prevent anything) but he had better care about his employees

David SF eastbay
Member

I’m waiting for the first video to hit youtube where some guy just gets fed up and drops his pants and underwear and yells out “Here do you see anything threating?”

cjensen
Guest

Doesn’t it look like Bret Michaels is carrying a drink through the check point? How did he manage that?

Kai H
Guest

Just wait until we get the first incident with a “Body Cavity” bomb. Maybe the future is to fly naked and no luggage. That should decrease the line up at security check point and all you have to do is bend over for the cavity check.

halp
Guest

“A Man Chooses, A Slave Obeys”…
BioShock anyone?

Alex
Guest
I remember being in MCO a year or so ago and they had “Extra Assistance”, “Standard” and “Expert” security lines. I suggest we implement a two lane system in our airports. A “Paranoid Attention Seekers” line, where those who want to make a giant fuss, spout out about their constitutional right and be generally abusive to TSA staff just doing their jobs can wait. Then we could have a “standard” line for those of us who have got better things to do and just want to get to our destinations with the minimum fuss. Regarding the much vaunted “Israelification” of… Read more »
Rob Marais
Guest
BOS has had the scanners since March, and no one has had a problem with those AFAIK up to now. I’ve been through those scanners many times. I don’t care what the scanners see, I have nothing to hide and I’d rather be safe. Plus having had a hip replacement, those scanners are a lot more convenient to me than having the metal detector go off and having an enhanced pat-down: not a pleasure for me or for the TSA. I detect a different kind of conspiracy here. NPR reported this AM that a group called Americans for Prosperity organized… Read more »
Stephen
Guest

There are some will grounded scientific health concerns about the scanners:
http://www.npr.org/assets/news/2010/05/17/concern.pdf
And here are the plans to deal with you if you opt out:
http://homelandsecurityus.com/archives/4254
By leaving this comment I am now a “Domestic Extremist” subject to investigation by the IA.