Sometimes I embarrass my wife. And on our July trip to Haiti I offered her one very embarrassing moment when I refused to go through the new backscatter TSA screening machines while opting for a manual pat down instead.
The TSA made the process of opting-out a hassle. While there were plenty of officers on duty they managed to make me wait for about 10 minutes while they played their keystone cop routine.
Call me a jerk all you want. But I don’t like that the government wants to take pictures of its people naked for the sake of “security.” The media has shown over and over again that all of this extra screening doesn’t stop people from smuggling weapons aboard a plane. It’s really just for passengers to feel safe while traveling and little else.
Back at the Ft. Lauderdale airport. I had completely dug in on my decision.
Kristen quickly went through the line, got her nudey pic taken, put her shoes back on, and glared at me in the way only a wife could.
Finally, an older TSA agent had me go through the metal detector and directed me to the screening area. He explained that he was going to pat me down and that he intended to touch my private parts with the back of his hands.
Obviously, I’m not dangerous and they didn’t find anything.
As the officer took his gloves off he looked in my eyes and asked asked me why I had opted out. My reply, “When it comes to governmental invasions of privacy, I prefer personal over digital.”
That moment revealed the heart of the matter. If the TSA agents had to look hundreds of thousands of passengers in the eyes and manually search them– we’d actually be safer.
Dehumanizing the screening procedure is not how you make airline flight safer. Humanizing it is.
I’m not alone in this desire to resist the new scanners
The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg shares his desire to resist as well as documents the new procedure to feel up your thigh until they feel “resistance.” (Obviously, women lack resistance.)
“But what about people who hide weapons in their cavities? I asked. I actually said “vagina” again, just to see him blush. “We’re just not going there,” he reiterated.
I asked him if he was looking forward to conducting the full-on pat-downs. “Nobody’s going to do it,” he said, “once they find out that we’re going to do.”
In other words, people, when faced with a choice, will inevitably choose the $%*#-Measuring Device over molestation? “That’s what we’re hoping for. We’re trying to get everyone into the machine.” He called over a colleague. “Tell him what you call the back-scatter,” he said. “The $%*#-Measuring Device,” I said. “That’s the truth,” the other officer responded.
The pat-down at BWI was fairly vigorous, by the usual tame standards of the TSA, but it was nothing like the one I received the next day at T.F. Green in Providence. Apparently, I was the very first passenger to ask to opt-out of back-scatter imaging. Several TSA officers heard me choose the pat-down, and they reacted in a way meant to make the ordinary passenger feel very badly about his decision. One officer said to a colleague who was obviously going to be assigned to me, “Get new gloves, man, you’re going to need them where you’re going.”
Here is another story of a pilot who refused the pat down and was suspended from his job. Ridiculous.
So– it’s come to this. If you want to fly you are left with an awful choice. Do you want someone looking at you naked or someone touching your genitals? We aren’t talking about a doctor here… we’re talking about a TSA agent. A person hired by the Department of Homeland Security for just above minimum wage with no qualifications. Seriously, TSA screeners either have to have a high school diploma or GED or one years experience working security.
Call me crazy. But I think if enough people opt-out we can force the issue and make the government remove these devices.
Call me a conspiracy theorist: But I would like to know how much American Science & Engineering, Inc gave to their members of congress and senators to lobby for selling these machines. (They are $170,000 each!)