Protest over airport body scanners

Protest over airport body scanners

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A sign informing travellers about the use of full-body scanners at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle (AP)

US airports could see more disruptions than they usually would over the busy Thanksgiving holiday, because of a loosely organised internet boycott of new full-body scanners.

The full-body scanners show a traveller’s physical contours on a computer in a private room removed from security checkpoints. But critics say they amount to virtual strip searches.

Body scans take as little as 10 seconds, but people who decline the process must submit to a full pat-down, which takes much longer. That could cause a cascade of delays at dozens of major airports, including those in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.

The protest, National Opt-Out Day, is scheduled for Wednesday to coincide with the busiest travel day of the year.

“Just one or two recalcitrant passengers at an airport is all it takes to cause huge delays,” said Paul Ruden, a spokesman for the American Society of Travel Agents, which has warned its more than 8,000 members about delays resulting from the body-scanner boycott.

The protest was conceived in early November by Brian Sodergren of Ashburn, who created a one-page website urging people to decline the scans.

Public interest in the protest boomed this week after a Californian man named John Tyner famously resisted a scan and groin check at the San Diego airport with the words, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” A cell-phone video of the incident went viral.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has a new pat-down procedure that includes a security worker running a hand up the inside of passengers’ legs and along the cheek of the buttocks, as well as making direct contact with the groin area.

Pat-downs often take up to four minutes, according to the TSA’s website, though that could be longer if someone requests it be done in a room out of public view or if an ill-at-ease traveller asks for a full explanation of the procedure beforehand.

Ironically, one person who will not take part directly in Wednesday’s protest is its instigator, Brian Sodergren. He said his wife is too uncomfortable with the prospect of either a body scan or a pat-down, so they are driving the several hundred miles to a relative’s home.

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