Monday, May 31, 2010

Opting Out of the TSA Image Scanner

I encountered one of the new image scanner screening devices as Las Vegas airport at 7 a.m. Sunday morning. These are the screening devices – used in lieu of the metal detectors – which allow the TSA agent to see through your clothing.

The line that I was in employed both metal detectors and the new imaging screening devices. The majority of people got to go through the standard metal detector. I was lucky enough to be picked to go through the imaging device. I opted out, even though it was 7 a.m. and I had been up all night drinking. You are allowed to do this, but they do everything possible to make you never want to opt out again.

Why did I opt out? Because fuck you TSA. Every time there are random bag checks, my bag gets checked. Every time there are random searches, I get searched. I am blonde, green eyes, very white, and female. Usually I am traveling in business attire. I do not meet any “terror” guidelines. Yet I always get searched. I’ve been through puffer machines, people. Sunday was no exception. While nearly every passenger walked through the metal detector without a problem, I got pointed to this stupid imaging device.

Oh, and did I mention that it can see through your clothes? Look, I have nothing to hide. I don’t mind stripping down for a man of my choosing or for a doctor who has spent years in medical school, but it’s frankly no one else’s business what I look like without my clothes. While I generally despise the ACLU, it calls these machines “virtual strip searches.” They are. And while the agent is viewing the image somewhere else, so they don’t know who it is, and the face is blurred, I don’t care. I’ve had enough. I also can’t find anything about the pay grade or level of the person viewing the images, but it would appear that these people wear at least a D/E band, which means pay starts at around $25K per year. Nice.

The agent yelled out “opt out” and then directed me toward the metal detector, which I walked through without a hitch. Then I was told to stand to the side while they found a female agent who could pat me down. (Apparently by opting out, I “requested” a pat down. I did not request a pat down. All I wanted was to walk through the metal detector like everyone else. Newsflash: the machines won’t work if not used on everyone.) I stood there for a solid fifteen minutes waiting for this agent, while in the meantime, people poured through the metal detector, which I had just also walked through without a problem.

You see, even though they tell you it is perfectly fine to opt out of this device, apparently if you opt out you are deemed a threat, so you must be thoroughly searched, even though you were randomly chosen to walk through the device to begin with, and even though you have to walk through the metal detector anyway.

So, while I was waiting for my purse and all of my possessions to get stolen from the conveyor belt twenty yards away, I waited for the agent. She finally arrived, and we got my stuff from the conveyor, and I was escorted to a small glass booth where I got more action than I’ve gotten in the past year. She did a thorough patdown. I should mention that I had on shorts and a t-shirt. There was nowhere to hide anything unless it was inside of me, and she wouldn’t have found that anyway. She touched my boobs, my butt, pretty much my entire body. It was gross. Then she had another agent wipe something on her gloves, I guess to make sure I hadn’t put radioactive material all over my body.

Altogether, the opt out took about an extra half an hour. While it was a huge pain, I will do it every time I am confronted by one of these devices, until and unless that is the only option.  Enough is enough.

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