Opt Out

November 15, 2010

Remember those X-ray glasses we longed for as children? The advertisements were in the back of comic books: See right through clothes!

The TSA has those now. They cost $100,000 a set* and are in use in airports throughout the United States (and have been in use in some airports since 2008).

Next time you fly it’s quite likely that you will have the opportunity to walk through a body scanner, which will digitally strip you of your clothing and show an image of your naked body to the TSA agent. The machines have been said to “give airport officials the ability to essentially see underneath people’s clothing: the scans are detailed enough to identify a person’s gender. In addition, the beam is powerful enough to identify a passenger’s surgery scars, or to discern whether a woman is on her menstrual cycle or not.

The TSA argues that only one person ever sees these images, they can’t be saved, emailed, or printed, and that the x-rays of the body scanner are not harmful. All of these claims have been refuted. (Google around and decide for yourself.)

TSA procedures are always been too random, inane, and bordering on abuse. The use of the body scanner is blatant abuse and is additionally, useless to stop a calculated attack on an airplane, airport, employees, and the public.

Really. I am allowed to carry on a 7 inch screwdriver and a pair of knitting needles. I can carry on a quart bag of 3.4 ounce bottles of fluid. And so can each other passenger on the plane.

And do note, the body scanners do not reveal anything that is carried within a body cavity, or concealed beneath folds of flesh.

So, setting aside issues of privacy, decency, and health, I object to these body scanners because they provide only a sense of security–they are ineffective for actually preventing danger or harm to air travelers and airport crews. (Again, Google around and decide for yourself, in case you don’t already have an opinion about this.)

And in this light–that the requirements for getting through an airport security checkpoint, provide mostly false security–I encourage all air travelers to Opt Out.

Opt Out means that you request a physical pat-down rather than subject yourself to the body scanners (recently nicknamed Porno Scanners).

The physical pat-down is known to be invasive and is rumoured to be intentionally humiliating (so as to encourage use of the body scanning machines). But I don’t know how the most aggressive of physical searches can really be more humiliating than knowing that we are acting like sheep in our acceptance of the TSA’s conduct.

So, Opt Out. It is an effective way to protest this nonsense. Opting out will cause delays and will make a public spectacle–showing other, less aware passengers what the TSA is doing.

Read up. Know what to expect. Opt out. Then, as We Won’t Fly says, Raise Hell, including:

And for a little encouragement, you might read some of the recent personal encounters with the TSA and their machines and regulations. Here are a handful, including an older one by Penn of Penn & Teller:

Here’s a bit about how Israel actually tends to matters of airport security.

*Some reports give a price of $200,000 each machine.

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