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Few TSA Protests On Thanksgiving Getaway Day

Scattered 'National Opt-Out' effort fails to materialize
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(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES (CBS/AP) — An Internet campaign threatening to disrupt Thanksgiving travel plans by having passengers refuse full-body scans failed to materialize at Los Angeles International and airports across the nation on Wednesday.

The Transportation Security Administration said very few passengers opted out. And there were only scattered protesters — including a woman wearing a bikini in Los Angeles on one of the coldest days of the year.

After days of tough talk on the Internet and warnings of possible delays, some passengers decided to go to the airport especially early and were pleasantly surprised.

Retirees Bill and Margaret Selfridge arrived three hours ahead of schedule at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport for their flight to Washington. It took only 10 minutes to get through the checkpoint at 8 a.m.

“Now we get to drink a lot of coffee,” Bill Selfridge said.

Catherine Pfeiffer, 40, of Austin, Texas, changed planes at the Atlanta airport and said she had no major objection to the security screenings: “If you don’t want to go through the hassle, don’t
fly.”

A loosely organized effort dubbed National Opt-Out Day planned to use fliers, T-shirts and, in one case, a Scottish kilt to protest what some call unnecessarily intrusive X-ray scans and pat-downs. The security screenings have been lampooned on “Saturday Night Live” and mocked on T-shirts, bumper stickers and
underwear emblazoned “Don’t Touch My Junk,” from a line uttered by a defiant traveler in San Diego.

KNX 1070’s John Brooks reports from LAX

But the weather was shaping up as a much bigger threat, especially in the West: A ferocious, early-season snowstorm pummeled the Rockies, bringing whiteout conditions to parts of the region and closing roads. It was expected to delay air travelers and people who probably thought they were doing the smart thing by
driving. Also, heavy rain was forecast in the Midwest. And windy weather in New England could create snags.

More than 40 million people plan to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA, with more than 1.6 million flying — a 3.5 percent increase from last year.

One Internet-based protest group called We Won’t Fly said hundreds of activists would go to 27 U.S. airports Wednesday to pass out fliers decrying the scans and the pat-downs.

“If 99 percent of people normally agree to go through scanners, we hope that falls to 95 percent,” said one organizer, George Donnelly. “That would make it a success.”

If enough people opt for a pat-down rather than a body scan, security-line delays could quickly cascade. Full-body scans for passengers chosen at random take as little as 10 seconds. The new pat-downs, in which a security agent touches a traveler’s crotch and chest, can take four minutes or longer.

The full-body scanners show a person’s contours on a computer in a private room removed from security checkpoints. But critics say they amount to virtual strip searches. Some have complained that
the new enhanced pat-downs are humiliating and intrusive, too.

TSA officials say the procedures are necessary to ward off terror attacks like the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound plane last Christmas, allegedly by a Nigerian man who stashed explosives in his underwear.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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