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American Furor Builds Over More Invasive TSA Security Measures

Kevin Douglas Grant |
November 16, 2010 | 9:23 a.m. PST

Executive Editor

Denver Airport Security (Creative Commons)
Denver Airport Security (Creative Commons)
Americans are letting the Transportation Security Administration know that they are not alright with being groped, fondled, and peeked upon by TSA agents.  

Even if it's in the name of national security.

As the agency rolls out full-body scanners and intimate pat-downs to more airports around the country, travelers are losing their post-9/11 timidity about criticizing security procedures.

San Diego resident John Tyner has gained a national reputation after refusing a full-body scan (technically known as Advanced Imaging Technology), then the pat-down the TSA mandates for those who refuse.  His now-legendary line:

"If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested!"

He went further, telling an agent:  "OK, I don't understand how a sexual assault can be made a condition of my flying." 

"This is not considered a sexual assault," replied the female supervisor.

"It would be if you weren't the government."

Pilots, scientists and Congresspeople are getting in on the wave of discontentment too, while Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defends the increasingly rigorous procedures.  

So has the Drudge Report, which has taken to calling Napolitano "Big Sister" or "Big Sis" and has declared that the "terrorists have won" based on the way the government treats its citizens at airports. 

In an editorial in USA Today on Monday, Napolitano defended the TSA and asked for citizen support:  "We face a determined enemy. Our security depends on us being more determined and more creative to adapt to evolving threats. It relies upon a multi-layered approach that leverages the strengths of our international partners, the latest intelligence, and the patience and vigilance of the American traveling public."

In the same piece, she defended Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT), which has enraged different parties for different reasons. Part of the outcry stems from the realistic depiction of the subject's naked body.  Some from the fact that the AIT machines store these images (despite the TSA's claims to the contrary).  Some because the machines could emit a dangerous amount of radiation.  

Hero pilot Capt. Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger said that pilots should not have to undergo the advanced screenings at all:  "The fundamental reason is that airline pilots are already the last line of defense for anyone who poses a threat to the airplane. We are - and would like to be considered - trusted partners in that important security mission."

Florida Rep. John Mica wants the TSA out of airports altogether, stressing there ineffectiveness:  '"As TSA has grown larger, more impersonal, and administratively top-heavy, I believe it is important that airports across the country consider utilizing the opt-out provision provided by law," he wrote, calling their anti-terror measures "security theater .. It's a big Kabuki dance."

Though most Americans are still willing to make sacrifices in the name of security, more people are now unwilling to sacrifice their privacy.

A National Opt-Out Day, scheduled for Thanksgiving Eve (Nov. 25) encourages travelers to choose the pat-down over the body scan.  Based on some passengers' experiences, that's not a very good choice either.



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