Monday, November 15, 2010

The TSA's New Pat Down Procedures; Maybe I'll Just Stop Flying

I posted last May about my experiences opting out of the TSA advanced imaging technology.  The pat down then was intrusive, and that was before the “new” pat down procedures that just went into effect, and seem to be the equivalent of getting sexually molested.  I didn’t like what I went through before at all – I can’t imagine going through a “groin check” in front of an airport of people.  It's pretty unbelievable that a security person in an airport can -- without any reasonable cause for suspicion or probable cause -- essentially force a person to let them touch their genitals.  If you opt out and don't agree to this pat down, guess what, you aren't flying anywhere.  Oh, and you might get a civil fine. 

Drudge has been posting a number of articles about the outrage over these new procedures over the past couple of weeks, including vast articles about pilots and flight attendants complaining about these procedures.  Today he linked to an article that linked to a blog post by John Tyner who attempted to opt out of the AIT procedure when flying out of San Diego’s airport, and recorded the entire exchange with his cell phone.  It’s a pretty interesting read and listen.

Last night I flew out of Detroit Metro to Chicago Midway. There was one AIT open at DTW, and three metal detectors open. I got in the metal detector line, so I was able to avoid any of this nonsense. (I explicitly ignored the agent who kept trying to wave me into the AIT line; no one wanted to get into that line.) As long as there is at least one metal detector line, I’m happy to continue flying. (Unless, of course, as happened to me on my Vegas flight I get pulled out of that line for no apparent reason and told to walk through the AIT.)

However, eventually, there will only be AIT machines at airports in this country, and no standard metal detector option. This means that in order to fly anywhere, the choice is to (1) potentially expose yourself to radiation by going through the AIT machine, along with the whole virtual strip search issue; or (2) allow yourself to be extensively groped by a TSA employee. If I had children, I would not want them to do either option. Can you imagine an agent giving a “groin check” to a six year old? Or letting your child walk into radiation exposure?  Part of the problem is that when you are at an airport attempting to fly somewhere, you have already spent money on a plane ticket and possibly hotel and other reservations at the other end.  If you don't comply, you don't go.  If people aren't complaining about the new pat downs or the AIT devices, it's because once you get to that point at the airport, you have no choice but to comply if you want to make your flight.  I'm inclined to call that duress. 

The ACLU of Massachusetts is reporting this about the new pat down procedure:
Women in tight skirts that don't allow an agent to feel the thigh area may be asked to remove the skirt in a private screening area and will be given a gown or towel to put on.
I frequently wear skirts when I fly for work, since I am usually in a suit. Are you telling me that with this new enhanced pat down I have to let an agent put their hands up my skirt or remove my skirt entirely? Or wear pants?  Is it me or is this getting entirely out of control? What’s next?  Are we all going to have to strip down to our underwear?  Submit to a full body cavity search?  If this is what is necessary, then why aren’t other countries going to these lengths?

Why don’t we do security like they do at Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel, which is lauded as one of the safest airports? You know what they do? Profile. Passengers who look suspicious or are acting suspiciously are questioned. Of course we can’t do that here because someone might get offended. Well, you know what? I’m offended that I have to consent to being sexually molested to take a trip to Las Vegas.  I honestly do not want to fly anymore over this.  With work things I don't have a choice.  At some point I am going to have to decide what I will do when I opt out of this AIT.  Submit to a "groin check"?  Let a TSA agent stick her hands up my skirt?  I really hope I don't flip out and get arrested, because this issue really gets me going.

Of course, a lawsuit has already been filed in the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit regarding, inter alia, the privacy and 4th Amendment issues raised with all of this.  The opening brief in The Electronic Privacy Information Center et. al. v. DHS et. al. can be found here.      


  1. This whole thing makes me so angry. I'm a flight attendant and the idea that I might have to be molested in order to go to work makes me sick. Luckily for me, I haven't been forced to go through the body-scanners yet, but I'm dreading the day I am.

  2. Ugh, I can't imagine having to deal with it as often as you do! I only fly probably 15-20 times a year, and am already dreading my upcoming flights in December. Hopefully you and the pilots will be able to bypass some of this nonsense.

  3. Check this out! An Orlando airport is firing TSA and getting private security.

    I have been researching the backscatter body scanners. The person goes inside a chamber and they can get a 3-D view of the person because the x-rays bounce around. Well... a scholarly journal article I found on industrial radiation was talking about how backscatter x-rays need to be surrounded by iron and then the actual walls should be lead-lined. I feel so bad for the operators of these machines and all the people who have to work around them all day. I really think these things are dangerous, as much as they're trying to insist that they aren't. Wasn't it just revealed that x-rays and CT scans are much stronger than anyone had expected. I'm all for using Israel's profiling system. Enough is enough.