MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Airport full body scanners and enhanced pat downs are creating a nationwide backlash that could affect travel plans on the busiest travel day of the year.
A national grassroots movement is calling for airline passengers to opt out of the body scans, which is their right. If they do so, in order to fly they must instead agree to a time-consuming and more invasive “enhanced pat-down” by a screener from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
John Tyner of Oceanside, Calif. started a website calling for the protest after an incident in San Diego. Hoping to fly to a family hunting trip in South Dakota, he opted out of the body scan.
“I didn’t want to be viewed naked,” Tyner told John Williams on WCCO Radio Monday morning.
He said he didn’t want to be “felt up by the TSA,” either, and decided not to take the flight.
“Only my wife and maybe my doctor, if it comes to it, are allowed to touch me,” said Tyner.
The day that is being targeted for the protest is the busiest travel day of the year — Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving.
At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, only one of the security checkpoints has the scanners, so the impact of a boycott would cause less disruption than at some bigger airports like New York, Atlanta and Chicago.
The internet is providing a platform for concerns about the full body scanners and the pat-downs. A Facebook page is urging fliers to participate in the protest.
Some passengers said they don’t mind the scanners, which project a silhouette of a person’s naked body on a screen for TSA workers to look at. Any problem a scanner detects will lead to a pat-down that involves someone of the same sex running their palms over the entire body, including the breast and crotch areas.
While traveling through Chicago O’Hare International Airport, WCCO Web Producer Sara Boyd forgot she had a penny in her jeans and ended up having a pat-down.
“She started at the very top [of my hip] and then just kind of worked all the way down,” said Boyd. It was very awkward and kind of uncomfortable, I guess.”
Some frequent travelers feel the added security isn’t worth it.
“If somebody wants to sneak something on a plane they are going to find a way to do it or beat it, and I don’t think this does anything. I don’t think it makes us safer, I just think it causes more hassle,” said traveler Peter Quist.
But other travelers strongly defend the measures, saying in a post-9/11 world, it’s necessary.
“You go to the doctor to a gynecologist you don’t even know. A body scan doesn’t seem to be a very big a deal,” said traveler Lissa Weimholt.
Those who are organizing the opt-out protest hoping major delays and long lines will get the government to reconsider the scanners and pat-down procedures. But the TSA in a statement said they are planning to install 1,000 more of the full body scanners by the end of 2011.
Interview by radio host John Williams: