Monday, November 22, 2010


by Kate Collins

I’m sure you’ve heard of the controversy surrounding the full body scans now being given at airports across the US. Concerns about the health hazards from radiation exposure, invasion of privacy, sharing of naked images by TSA employees, and more, have caused the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) to bring claims under the Administrative Procedure Act, the Privacy Act, the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Fourth Amendment.

The Allied Pilots Association has urged all pilots to reject the naked body scanners and request to opt out. And consumer advocate Ralph Nader agrees that the TSA's use of naked body scanners must be challenged. But until something happens, what are travelers to do?

Personally, I’ve had more than my fair share of x-rays, CT scans, and mammograms over the years. I don’t need more radiation. It takes years to get it out of the body, and its carcinogenic, to boot. Here’s something else I don’t want – everyone standing in the various security lines viewing my naked image. How do I know this happens? Because I was standing in line this past week and saw all the people in front of me go through. How humiliating!

I deliberately chose a line that had the normal “quick pass” scanner. There were four of those lines and one naked body scanner. I was just about to pass through the quick scanner when the woman in charge of the naked scanner pointed at me and said, “You. Step over here. And hold your arms over your head.”

Instantly, I said, “No, I’m opting out.” I mistakenly thought she would then let me rejoin my line with my family members. No such luck. She was going to make an example of me.

In a loud voice she called, “FEMALE OPT OUT.” Twice. When no one appeared to give me a pat down, she yelled it. Finally I was led to an area in full view of everyone standing in all five lines. There I was given a full body pat down by a nice young woman who knew the situation was awkward. She gave me an apologetic smile and told me to hold my arms out and look away.

And when I did, I saw a sea of faces staring back at me. This was my punishment for daring to opt out. But you know what? It wasn’t that bad. I’m proud for taking a stand. It’s exactly what my sleuth, Abby Knight, would do – take a stand against injustice.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says ..."The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Was it reasonable to search my person either by the naked scanner or by a full pat down? If you’ve seen my photo on my website or Facebook page, you know I am not a frightening-looking person. At 5' 4", and small-boned, I hardly see myself as resembling a terrorist. More like a school teacher. So what was their point? And what about those other four lines of people who didn’t get that scan? Did they look less threatening than me?

No matter what the reason is, if it happens again, I will opt out then, too. If everyone opts out, there is no way the TSA can find the time or personnel to conduct all those pat downs. So if you believe the full body scan is harmful or just wrong, don’t be afraid to take a stand. Don’t let an unreasonable search and seizure happen to you against your will. Make your forefathers proud.

Kate, opting out.
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