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.


Merry Lu said...

Thia ia such a crazy world, and these scanners are making it crazier. I thought no one was supposed to be able to see the scan except for the readers, and they were not supposed to see the person. What you are describing is just not right. I hope some corrective action, or maybe total elimination of the scanners, happens soon.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure what I will do when and if I am faced with this decision. But I applaud your standing up for what you believe in.

Anonymous said...

I applaud you! We teach our children that our bodies are "private', it is part of our moral code to keep them that way, a full body scan or a 'pat down' is an invasion of that privacy.

KH said...

I admire you, too, for having the courage to do what you believed was right for you. And for maintaining your dignity in a undignified situation. We can all learn and follow your example.

Aimee said...

Here's my problem - my 9 year old daughter. I refuse to allow either to happen to her. I guess we'll be driving everywhere from now on. But I will be damned if I will subject her to either invasion of her person.

Unknown said...

Having been in the airline Industry for 16 years before retiring due to illness in 1996..and having my husband still working in the industry and around airplanes daily, I find myself conflicted often..but the ultimate side that wins for me is SAFETY...I want that pat down to find a hidden device. I want that scanner to find a hidden device. We came so close to another disaster just weeks ago with Fed Ex..and with the shoe/underwear people previous to that. The body scan would have shown that on those people.. Granted they were coming in from another country..but those men from 9/11 didn't. They originated here in the US.

As for the radiation..the amount of radiation is equivalent to approximately 3 minutes of flying time at 30,000 feet. So you get a lot more during your flight than you do during the scan.

I want my privacy..but I'm not willing to sacrifice our safety because of it. I was offered the scanner 2 weeks ago, and due to my health limitations I had the pat-down. It was more invasive than before, but in my mind, I just thought of that person doing their job, being on the lookout (or feelout) for something that could be so dangerous. I am sure it isn't easy to do their jobs..but I have to put my privacy (& pride) on the back burner when it comes to security.

As for the whole body only issue with it is that of other people seeing the scan..they should make the readers hooded like a voting machine with tall partitions around it so no one else can see. It would be very embarrassing to have my body on display for everyone.

There are more close calls on a daily basis than anyone knows. I can't begin to imagine what could happen if we didn't have the security measures in place that we do now.

Thank You for letting me share my feelings..I do respect everyone's right to privacy, and I understand your feelings. The fact is, we live in a much rougher world than we did 9 years ago.

Andrea said...

The full body scanners here in Germany are still in test stage. They have a lower radiation exposure but a lot of false alarms.
I'm opting out as well.

It's ridiculous that all the people should use the body scanners but the cargo goes without any serious check - as we have seen in the latest news.

Glynis Peters said...

I worked as a Nuclear medicine nurse. I do not want anymore radiation in my body. With my job I wore a badge, it covered the exposure rate.
My cousin flies back and forth to US and UK three times a week for his job. He opted out, and they made an example of him too. He has no badge, and would be exposed regularly. He has a right to protect his body. Keep us safe but treat us with respect should be the motto for all. What if a female is not aware she is pregnant? All females able to conceive should opt out.

I applaude your stand.

Anonymous said...

Radiation is good for diagnosing some illnesses, and causes some of those same illnesses. Consider what my dentist told me about digital radiation: having a dental x-ray is safer than standing in the sun unprotected for 15 minutes. Okay, then why does every one of her patients get to wear the lead apron every time an x-ray is taken? (Should I start wearing one when I garden?)

I've heard our brand of airline security called SECURITY THEATER because it does nothing but sway fliers into THINKING they're being protected from terrorists. Instead, passengers are being protected from grandmas, small children, women with breast prostheses, men with urostomy bags and other people who are made examples for opting out of full body scans.

Israel, that has seen its share of terrorist attacks, has tough screening procedures against terrorists getting on their flights, and oddly enough none of them include full body scans and sexual assault.

I used to feel ashamed that I find flying to be a terrifying experiencing. No more!

Tonya Kappes said...

Good for you Kate! I don't mind all the new procedures, but if they give you the option to opt out, I think they should do it with dignity because it is uncomfortable for everyone. I'd opt out too!! Happy Thanksgiving.

mary kennedy said...

This is a great blog! I wonder if they will come up with an alternative solution...not the scan, not the patdown. Or at least something less intrusive.

Anonymous said...

I applaud you. The scanning/pat down situation has become absurd and, most infuriating , probably is not making us safer. We are devoting hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours to scanning/patting down people who are not and never will be a risk to our security. Meanwhile, people who may be a risk do not receive any increased scrutiny. So at any given moment we could easily have a 26-year-old man with a Yemeni passport going through routine security while my grandmother or your 10-year-old daughter is going through enhanced screening. Completely ridiculous and a scary waster of effort.

JP's gma said...

I must say, I have to agree with PeaHeath60. The world we live in is getting scary, and I want the airlines to do what is necessary to make it safe to fly.

Aryn said...

Good for you! I am 6 weeks pregnant today and will be taking a trip the first week of Janueary (destination unknown as it is our 10 yr anniv trip and hubby is planning the whole thing and refuses to give any details). I cannot go through the naked scanner while pregnant! I hope it is not a huge problem.

Miki Willa said...

Good for you! I have decided not to fly until things change dramatically. I don't need any more radiation, and I refuse to be groped.

Annette said...

Good for you Kate. Way to go.
I agree, this is positively the kind of stand Abby Knight would take.

Kay said...

Good for you Kate! Haven't flown in years, always felt I would if need be. But now, nope, not happening. Every single report I've seen or read brings up the humiliation & invasiveness of the "pat downs." If someone wanted to grope me like that, they'd best plan on buying dinner & giving me some flowers ;-)

I'm curious to see if this affects the airline industry, i.e. less people flying. If it does, I bet there will be changes.

Publius said...

Kate, I am super-proud of you ... personally, I'm not wild about having someone feel me up (either alone or in front of others), but it beats the alternative.

Barbara said...

The problem seems to be that the airport personnel in this country make a point of humiliating people. When I went to Korea in 1975, everyone was patted down before being allowed to enter, but there were individual curtained booths, and the person doing the pat-down wore gloves. They even apologized before performing the pat-down. In addition, everything went quickly and efficiently. No long lines anywhere.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Way to go, Kate!

Kate Collins said...

Thanks for all your support! What bothered me most about the full body scanner/pat down was that 4 out of 5 lines were given normal scanning. So the odds of someone boarding the plane hiding something was very high! People were avoiding the full body scanner like crazy, making long lines at the other stations. That's why I was called over. Little ol' me. This is not how to keep an airplane safe. A pundit on TV asked, "What's next? A proctologist at every airport?"

Deborah said...

Three cheers to you for opting out. While safety is of high importance, these scanners have not been shown to be either safe for the individuals subjected to them or assuring that hidden objects will be detected. If someone wants to hide something there are places that neither a pat down nor a naked body scanner will detect. As for the yelling about your opting out - its intent is obvious: discourage anyone else from doing so. Let's embarass anyone daring to assert their right to opt out by doing the pat down in full view of everyone and making sure everyone is looking. It's more smoke and mirrors to lull the public into thinking we're safer than we are. Shame on them and cheers for you.