Protesting the TSA’s Security Checks

New Rules Lead To A New Backlash
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(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

(AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

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It’s gettin’ ugly out there: more air travellers are protesting the TSA’s security measures at airports, which now are more restrictive than anytime before, including the immediate aftermath of 9/11.

Over the weekend, a grass-roots movement was born, urging fliers to protest on the busiest travel day of the year, next Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. The ‘organizers’ are calling it National Opt-out Day.  I’m not sure they’re allowed to use the word “National,” but anyway….

A large majority –80%, by some counts– of air passengers go through standard metal detectors. But passengers also are being directed to the newer Advanced Imaging Technology  detectors. Known to their detractors as a virtual strip search, the new detectors use low-level radiation to see under your clothes.  All this, you already know.

Air travellers can ‘opt-out’ of the detectors, and instead get the new pat-down, which is much more intimate (if that’s the right word) than the old one. Some see it as a choice between being shown naked, and being groped.

The newly formed opt-out crowd wants fliers to demand pat-downs next Wednesday, with the goal of slowing long security lines even more.  Hmmmm: passive resistance, an effective form of protest since Gandhi, and  Selma.

I’ve never had any serious run-ins with the typically humorless TSA folks. At bigger airports, I have wondered why it appears some are just hanging around at checkpoints, with no real duty. Once,  I spotted a guy who took my carry-on behind a screen, not just flipping through the pages of a car magazine I had, but reading an article. He seemed embarrassed I saw him through a crack in the partition. Once a woman told me my clear plastic shaving kit looked ‘excessive.’ I asked what she meant, and she said “Looks excessive.”  It was an odd moment, without any real resolution.

After next Wednesday, such irritations may seem trivial, as Uncle Sam and private citizens build toward a showdown.  Shall we mention the obvious? There are ways for men and women to conceal whatever they want to conceal on their bodies, that are undetectable to the new scanners and pat-downs. I am hesitant to bring this up, because cavity searches are not my idea of the way to start a trip.

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