National Opt-Out Day: Groping vs. Radiation

Since the first of this month, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has implemented new controversial full-body airport security scanners in which security agents essentially see your naked body to make sure you’re not carrying any weapons or other contraband. These new machines utilize radiation and many people are questioning their safety, especially for frequent fliers. The TSA responded to these concerns by claiming the machines only omit negligible amounts of radiation, and by giving fliers the option of refusing to be scanned and to instead be privately pat-down. Talk about lesser of evils.

Well, an online campaign is growing in protest of the body-imaging scanners, urging people who are flying on November 24, the day before Thanksgiving and heaviest travel day of the year, to opt-out of being scanned and insist to be pat down. The idea is to not only protest the intrusive scanners but to slow down the checkpoints and show the TSA that enough people are against these new regulations. The New York Times reported that even some pilots are organizing separately to refuse the body scanners.

The jury is out on the safety of these scanners. They are apparently safe and only expose passengers to levels of radiation lower than a typical cell phone…that is, if the machines are properly set and monitored which involves keeping detailed records of radiation levels. That seems like a big “if” to me and a lot to expect from already overloaded TSA agents. It also notes that children, the elderly and pregnant women are more susceptible to the radiation as well as those who have ever had (or currently have) skin cancer or certain genes related to breast cancer. Instead you can opt for a pat-down which is done in a private room away from the main security checkpoint. This option is no more comforting because the pat-down will include some sort of touching of breasts and the genitalia of both sexes.

The machines also can detect sanitary napkins which according to the TSA may warrant further investigation. So on top of being seen naked, they will also know if you are menstruating and could use that as reason for a pat-down. I don’t know about you but that is not a time where I’m trying to have some stranger grope my body in the name of national security.

The “We Won’t Fly” campaign which is supporting the “National Opt-Out Day” aims to get people to stop flying altogether by hitting the airlines in their pockets with less ticket sales. I don’t see that as a realistic result but it is one way to get attention for these problematic regulations aimed at ensuring passenger safety. But do you think creating longer lines and wait times on the busiest travel day of the year is an effective way to change policy? Do travelers really want to draw extra attention to themselves at a security checkpoint? Is this going to make a difference to the TSA decision-makers or just piss off a bunch of TSA agents doing the dirty work?

Will you be participating in this? Have you flown and been subject to the machines and/or the pat down? I haven’t experienced them personally but I’m not excited by the prospect since getting through security is already enough of a pain in the ass. What are some other effective ways to protest?

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