Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Showdown at the Airport Body Scanner
September 3, 2013 7:07 PM   Subscribe

"As I watch fellow passengers walk into the machines, posing with their arms raised over their heads like prison inmates submitting to a strip search, I feel proud of my small act of protest. Then I spread my legs and await my public groping."
posted by paleyellowwithorange (136 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
I've found that carrying an infant is a good way to escape the cancer machine. They don't even grope you! Of course, you need an infant for this to work.
posted by goatdog at 7:10 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I still opt out if the cancer machines. I've never gone through one yet, and I fly often.

I never see anyone else opting out; it's a lonely frisk for me.
posted by Windigo at 7:17 PM on September 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not just an infant. I have twin five-year-olds. The TSA agents see them bouncing and twitching all around in line and know there's no way that they could stand in position for as long as necessary to be scanned. We've always been waved over to the metal detector (even in Atlanta, which is the toughest airport I've been through, TSA-wise).
posted by candyland at 7:20 PM on September 3, 2013


Is frisking so unpleasant? Honest question. (I don't live in an area where this is a thing.)

The way the author describes it, it sounds like the person doing the frisking is the more uncomfortable party.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 7:21 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Possible increase exposure risk versus lifelong memories of repeated intimate patdowns, hmm? I'll take the scanner, I guess.
posted by planetesimal at 7:23 PM on September 3, 2013


I've done the scanner, but now opt for the pat down. I do it as a gesture of frustration at the security theatre we are forced to be complicit in rather than any fear of radiation or invasion of personal privacy (I'm assuming the NSA already has by genitals on file).
posted by arcticseal at 7:24 PM on September 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


Is frisking so unpleasant? Honest question. (I don't live in an area where this is a thing.)

The way the author describes it, it sounds like the person doing the frisking is the more uncomfortable party.


I always "opt out" as well, and the attitudes of my friskers have ranged from put out to bored. As for the process itself - I guess it depends on your aversion to touch. I don't mind it.
posted by Noms_Tiem at 7:24 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, I rather like being touched, even by strangers, so perhaps that's influencing my perspective.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 7:25 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I always "opt out" as well, and the attitudes of my friskers have ranged from put out to bored.

One time I got such obvious internalised homophobia I was trying hard not to laugh.

I generally don't like being touched, but I don't find the patdown too horrible. I do get anxious about having to speak up to demand a patdown, though.
posted by hoyland at 7:29 PM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's horrible and TSA leaves my bag and laptop out to be stolen. The cancer machines are just as bad. It's all a sham.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:30 PM on September 3, 2013


Last time I went flying I was apparently sweaty enough (in fairness it was 105 outside) the magical machine didn't work right so someone had to pat down my sweaty body, so I got the best/worst of both worlds.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:30 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mr. Rich doesn't seem to draw any medical distinction between the types of scanners which use low levels of ionizing radiation and the scanners which use extremely low levels of non-ionizing radiation. There are plenty of reasons to distrust and dislike security theater but surely we can do better than this kind of scientific illiteracy? You're not going to get cancer from low levels of non-ionizing radiation and acting like it's the same as X-ray machines makes me want to ignore you.
posted by Justinian at 7:32 PM on September 3, 2013 [39 favorites]


They don't like it when you moan.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:33 PM on September 3, 2013 [37 favorites]


Frisking wasn't so much unpleasant as inconvenient. When I've opted out it's added 20 minutes to the security process.
posted by schroedinger at 7:33 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Count me as someone who seeks out the porno scanners.

Given that TSA metal detectors tend to be overly sensitive to certain *ahem* items of clothing that some of the more blessed among us need in order to combat the ravages of gravity, going through a metal detector for me pretty much always results in a pat-down, which is neither fun for me nor for the lady who ends up having to do it. Not to mention how much longer it takes.

The worst problem with the scanners is their racisminability to account for the density of thick, nappy hair. So sometimes someone pats the back of my head with a gloved hand. I'll take that to the same hand up in my business any day.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:34 PM on September 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


The anti-scientific alarmism on display in this article is both comical and depressing. If the author would "prefer to avoid being irradiated, even a little bit", then he shouldn't take a flight at all:
For a typical cross-country flight in a commercial airplane, you are likely to receive 2 to 5 millirem (mrem) of radiation, less than half the radiation dose you receive from a chest x-ray. People in the United States receive an average of 360 mrem of radiation per year from natural and man-made radiation sources, which includes cosmic radiation exposure during commercial flights.
The millimeter-wave machines currently in use, for the record, do not use ionizing radiation. There is more energy in the visible light hitting you when you're in the scanner than there is in the millimeter waves themselves. In other words, avoiding the scanners because you think the radiation will kill you is akin to making sure that there are no sabre-toothed tigers in your backseat before driving off without your seatbelt on.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:36 PM on September 3, 2013 [49 favorites]


Anything we can do to make people less likely to fly reduces the carbon cost of flying. I do not know if this means opting out helps because it slows the lines down or hurts because it might eventually get the machines that annoy so many banned.

Airplane travel is also a source of radiation exposure in humans. The cosmic radiation varies from flight to flight, but is generally considered safe by the FDA. (so are the scanners)

For a while I was happy about the scanners, as I have a metal plate in my arm after a motorcycle accident. Then I went through the metal detector and nothing was detected. I still do as much as I can to avoid the attention of the authorities, as I have seen our farcical criminal justice system in action. I even dress up to fly.
posted by poe at 7:36 PM on September 3, 2013


I also opt out every time. I don't think the scanner machines are a cancer risk, the radiation levels involved are very small. I just want to cause the TSA as much trouble as possible, while still being allowed to board my flight. If I can make the program more expensive to operate, it makes them look worse to Congress and increases their chances of being disbanded.

How much does it cost to have everyone queue up at the airport? Let's say every day, one million people have to wait one hour. Let's assume their time is worth $20/hour. 365 * $20 * 1 million = $7 billion dollars annually, down the drain. And for what? They've never even caught a terrorist!
posted by foobaz at 7:36 PM on September 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


More importantly, they've never caught a saber tooth tiger either.
posted by arcticseal at 7:40 PM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


saber tooth tiger

That is one pat down I would pay good money to see.
posted by poe at 7:43 PM on September 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


I won't go through the scanners, so I always get the patdown. It adds about 5-10 mins. on average. I will say that every TSA worker who's frisked me has been perfectly pleasant and professional.

The strangest part to me is that the patdown is more thorough and precise than the patdowns I used to get when I would get frisked at maximum security prisons in Illinois when I used to visit inmates on death row.
posted by scody at 7:50 PM on September 3, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm another person who opts out every time. I generally think of the rubdown as a gentle, relaxing massage and try to enjoy it. If I wanted airport security to see me naked, I'd be happy to take my pants off.
posted by Nomyte at 7:51 PM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


scientific illiteracy
anti-scientific alarmism

Yeah, it's all just fun and games until it breaks your insulin pump.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:52 PM on September 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am forced to opt out every time, as my insulin pump manufacturer insists I do. It's no fun and I can see how it would trigger some folks, though it's mostly just an inconvenience for me. When someone comes to administer the grope right away it's fine; it's the unnecessary and probably deliberate ten minute waits that get my blood boiling.
posted by stevis23 at 7:55 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I not only opt out every time, but I also report when they leave my bag unattended on the belt before allowing me through, when they make me wait more than 5 minutes for an opt out, when they don't carefully announce where they are going to touch before they touch and so on and so forth. It's the only practical act of civil disobedience.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:56 PM on September 3, 2013 [16 favorites]


The millimeter-wave machines currently in use, for the record, do not use ionizing radiation.

There are literal full-body xray machines also in use. They typically look more like two giant boxes or walls, rather than the star trek translucent tube. I also opt out for the symbolic act of not supporting this insane theatre. However, it's also the case that proper testing and documentation of the x-ray equipment isn't being done. There's a lot of money to be made on the contracts for the scanner devices, and it's a revolving door between the government agencies procuring these devices and the manufacturers of the devices. If you had to pass these same devices through a typical FDA audit you'd never get it done, but in the name of security we've skipped that whole matter.
posted by odinsdream at 7:56 PM on September 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


The cancer machine is the god damned airplane. 10uSv per flight vs 11.1nSv from a full body scan.

Stick up for your rights because they're your rights. Not these piss poor fucking excuses.
posted by Talez at 8:03 PM on September 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


The whole this is total bullshit. I don't know what happened to this country. I paid a relatively large sum of money and I should be able to get both if I want.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:04 PM on September 3, 2013 [12 favorites]


The cancer machine is the god damned airplane. 10uSv per flight vs 11.1nSv from a full body scan.

That's not the choice here, until the body scanner is also a teleporter.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:05 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's not the choice here, until the body scanner is also a teleporter.

It's your choice to fly. If you're paranoid about cancer from radiation either drive or take a boat because you're picking up a thousand-fold more from the plane flight.
posted by Talez at 8:07 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just want to cause the TSA as much trouble as possible

I applaud this kind of dedication, but, you know, it's a job; no one's working more or getting paid less because they have to pat you down.

I admit, though, it is nice to imagine that you can stick it to the Man simply by sticking it in the Man's face.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:07 PM on September 3, 2013


Anything we can do to make people less likely to fly reduces the carbon cost of flying.

Not if they drive instead.
posted by goethean at 8:09 PM on September 3, 2013


dirigibleman: "They don't like it when you moan."

Or give them your number.
posted by Samizdata at 8:17 PM on September 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


As others note, this is a terrible article because out of all the possible objections to airport body scanners he fixates on the worst reason. You'll get more radiation standing next to all the granite in Grand Central Station.

I've heard of people who had to rip out granite countertops because they sent geiger counters off the charts because of their inherent radioactivity.
posted by GuyZero at 8:22 PM on September 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


odinsdream: "The millimeter-wave machines currently in use, for the record, do not use ionizing radiation.

There are literal full-body xray machines also in use. They typically look more like two giant boxes or walls, rather than the star trek translucent tube.
"

I will happily submit to the full body scanners when we get something like Total Recall (I).
posted by Samizdata at 8:24 PM on September 3, 2013


As others note, this is a terrible article because out of all the possible objections to airport body scanners he fixates on the worst reason.

This is one of the reasons I post stuff like this to MetaFilter - I read it, find it interesting, then subject it to community scrutiny. Helps me learn.
posted by paleyellowwithorange at 8:26 PM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am a scientifically literate person who actually worked at a nuclear power plant for a short while but every time I hear about cosmic radiation or gamma radiation I wonder if it will turn me into the Thing or the Hulk respectively.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:27 PM on September 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


As a Canadian I object to these scanners on principle, so this article accurately reflects what me and my coworkers endure each time we travel through the US of A. Fight the power and all that good stuff. To be fair I don't think I've ever waited more than 5 minutes and those giving the pat down have always been very cordial, and walked me through each step in order to avoid surprises for the both of us. His job is to follow orders, my job is to question.
posted by furtive at 8:33 PM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've never been pornoscanned either; I'm an opt-out every time. Why? Because fuck them, that's why.

My main port of call is SFO, and it's now at the point where it hasn't really been a trip to San Francisco unless I've felt a man's hands, gliding up my thighs until they meet resistance.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:36 PM on September 3, 2013 [7 favorites]


Saying you shouldn't be ok with the radiation from flying unless you are also ok with DOUBLING that radiation by going through an unnecessary extra scanner is a little scientifically illiterate for my tastes. There's a lot of things I do that I would probably stop if someone introduced an unnecessary step that doubled my risk.
posted by jacalata at 8:37 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem is the regulation of the X-ray backscatter detectors. How do we know they are only putting out what is claimed? There is at least one and likely more peer-reviewed articles that suggest these scanners are putting out more radiation than is stated by the manufacturer. I worry more for the TSA agents who stand next to the backscatter machines for 8 hour shifts 5 days a week though.

The millimeter wave machines use radio waves. Non-ionizing, non-carcinogenic. Not "cancer machines," but certainly a useless piece of privacy-invading security theater. These are the machines with the rotating arm in the glass booth.

Not sure about the insulin pump thing; not able to find reliable accounts with a couple minutes of googling. US News and World Report suggests that the X-ray machines can damage them, but pair that with a picture of a millimeter wave device. Some insulin pumps appear to have RF communication capability, so perhaps the millimeter wave devices interfere with that.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:38 PM on September 3, 2013


I enjoy opting out for reasons of principle, but I actually started for a practical reason: Something about my chest structure alerts them to something that makes them feel the need to put their hands all over me after the porno-scan anyway, so I just go for the groping immediately now...
posted by rollbiz at 8:54 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Saying you shouldn't be ok with the radiation from flying unless you are also ok with DOUBLING that radiation by going through an unnecessary extra scanner is a little scientifically illiterate for my tastes.

Read those units again. 10uSv is almost 1000 times more than 11.1nSv.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 8:57 PM on September 3, 2013 [9 favorites]


I also object to the scanners on principle, and always opt out.

One time, I was traveling with my wife and daughter, who was like five at the time. They were allowed through the metal detector; I was directed to the porno-scanner. I was asked if I wanted to go into a private room. I declined, and, in fact made sure my wife and daughter were witnessing this.

As he patted me down, he said that he wished he didn't have to do this in front of my daughter. I wish I had thought to report him. If you don't want to do your job, perhaps you are in the wrong line of work. If there is nothing wrong with this examination, then it only makes sense for children to get used to the police state they will inherit.

I'm quite bothered by the notion that "you choose to fly, therefore you agree to this." First, there are a million reasons that my "choosing" to fly is in name only. I have to fly for work, for instance. "You could get a different job." OK, but how much should I be expected to alter my life in the name of "security."

It's also a slippery slope. Practically any abuse could be "voluntary" by this standard. Already, valet parking means you could be subject to search. Any search, or any inconvenience can be justified in the name of security, and subject to no oversight in the clothes of a "voluntary" act.
posted by MrGuilt at 8:58 PM on September 3, 2013 [24 favorites]


I opt out. Not sure exactly why, but there is some sort of principle there. I was traveling with my 16 and 17 year old sons. They went through the porno machine. Then they waited on a bench while I got patted down. They were cheering the TSA agent on. "Grab him," they yelled. "Harder". Finally a supervisor walked over and told them to pipe down. My wise guy 16 yo said, "That is what we wanted, to grab his pipe down." The TSA agent just muttered what I believe to be "asshole" as he walked away.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:03 PM on September 3, 2013 [25 favorites]


Oops, my bad - didn't even see the different units there.
posted by jacalata at 9:20 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll just leave this here. TSA meets 4chan.
posted by thewalrus at 9:28 PM on September 3, 2013 [10 favorites]


I always opt-out. Initially it was an act of protest, but then I realized it really didn't make any difference. Now I just do it for the hell of it.

The TSA seems to be getting better at it — now they usually stop my carry ons from going through the X-ray until they're ready to pat me dow, and they've gotten a lot faster at finding someone to pat me down.

TSA agents have ranged from professional to friendly and humorous. I've never had anybody who seemed upset with me, and no one has ever asked why I opt-out.
posted by Renegade Duck at 9:36 PM on September 3, 2013


Woo-hoo, we should form a club of people who always opt out, as I am also of that ilk. I opt out for political reasons (that the scanning is pointless bullshit and I refuse to assume that submissive position required for the scan). I don't really see how requesting the pat down is inconveniencing the TSA agent though, as it's part of their job to do them, so it should be neither here nor there as far as they're concerned. I'm basically middle-aged now so I've never had what seemed to me to be an indecent pat-down; the agents have always been polite verging on bored and never stuck their hands anywhere inappropriate (as they clearly realize that the pat down itself is also bullshit, but whatever). The only time I experienced any kind of delay or inconvenience was in Miami in 2011, where my husband and I requested the pat-down and the guy who had been trying to herd us into the bodyscanner then loudly and pointedly shouted through the security area, "Opt out! We have an opt out!!" He then penned us in a little holding area to wait about 10 mintues for agents to come and pat us down while trying to quiz us about our decision to opt out. My husband, who is usually more measured than me, actually started taking his bait, but I very quickly just said, "I don't have to justify my reasoning to you," and ignored any further attempts to engage with me. The pat-down itself was not a problem, and both the agents who did us were polite. My husband even said that his was apologetic.

Also, whenever they ask if I want to do the pat down in a private area, I *always* decline and have it done right there in public.
posted by Hal Mumkin at 9:39 PM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


But as long as there is any question of risk, no matter how small, I will continue to avoid the machines.

But he'll get on the plane?
posted by schoolgirl report at 9:41 PM on September 3, 2013


> I worry more for the TSA agents who stand next to the backscatter machines for 8 hour shifts 5 days a week though.

The fact that they weren't supplied with dosimeters was negligent.

Those machines aren't in use (in US airports by the TSA) anymore.

Besides the intrusion and health risk, it's also a big fucking waste of (no-bid contract) money. Taper the edges of your C4, terrorists, or your bindle, drug mules, and you might get through.

When the camera sensor company I worked for in 2001 joked about the emerging lucrative security industry, they weren't even wrong. I don't know if I'm mad that they didn't get on the OMG-fear money river and stay in business or glad I got laid off.
posted by morganw at 9:43 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sabre-toothed tiger?!
posted by stevil at 9:48 PM on September 3, 2013


I opt out because the scanners which are not supposed to store or transmit data do exactly these things according to Federal agents. (Old article, I know, but I remember that moment of "of course, they TSA and Feds are full of shit. Now we have [know about] PRIZM.)
posted by mistersquid at 9:58 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


The strangest part to me is that the patdown is more thorough and precise than the patdowns I used to get when I would get frisked at maximum security prisons in Illinois when I used to visit inmates on death row.

Meanwhile it is innocent child's play compared to the searches given at The Sound Factory during the Guiliani years.
posted by elizardbits at 10:03 PM on September 3, 2013


Jesus. Every time I'm traveling in a country where I'm patted down at an airport by a person in a soldiers' uniform with a machine gun I think: Americans are so fucking priggish.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:05 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyway I opt out of the nudie scanner every time and it is always the feeler-upper who is the more uncomfortable party. I smile pleasantly and make eye contact throughout, which I have been told is very unsettling.
posted by elizardbits at 10:05 PM on September 3, 2013


Every time I'm traveling in a country where I'm patted down at an airport by a person in a soldiers' uniform with a machine gun

I've been through a fair amount of that, but the difference here is the mandatory junk swipe.
posted by planetesimal at 10:16 PM on September 3, 2013


Note that this article is from last May.

I thought it sounded familiar.
posted by intermod at 10:23 PM on September 3, 2013


I opt out because gratuitous displays of authority annoy me. If I have to be inconvenienced, so do they. Plus, I actually am pretty scientifically illiterate, and I don't understand the machines, and no reputable source I trust has been able to investigate them and assure me that they're safe. I'm especially bothered by the fact that the machines, apparently, aren't regularly tested while in use, and that the people who work around them all the time aren't specially trained in how to work around radiation. I wouldn't let some dude hired from the back of a pizza box give me an x-ray at a hospital, and I'm not going to let him give me some sort of scan I don't understand at an airport.

I also ask every TSA employee (I refuse to say "agent" or "officer," because they are neither) who touches me for her name and badge number. I write that information down as soon as I'm done. I've never done anything with it, but I find that I get substantially better and more polite treatment when the person touching me knows that I know exactly who she is. And I want government employees who might have the urge to mess with me to know (or at least think it's possible) that she can be held accountable if she decides to give me a hard time.
posted by decathecting at 10:25 PM on September 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


I always opt-out on principle as well. The worst thing is waiting what seems like forever (and is often at least 10 minutes) for someone to come get me for the pat-down. And while I wait to get groped, I do get indignant about my carry-on and I politely-yet-firmly constantly insist on the TSA agent checking in with me about where it is and whether it's secured.

I honestly can't say that I've had any negative attitudes from the person patting me down; they've always done the appropriate warning announcements and have ranged from bored and detached, to slightly embarrassed, to relieved that I obviously know the drill. I'm a woman, though, which certainly has something to do with both the wait time and the attitude of the TSA agents patting me down. No penis and less homophobia about the touching.
posted by desuetude at 10:28 PM on September 3, 2013


I get the patdown because given the iffiness of the whole scanner thing, I'd rather be safe than worry about a Logan cancer cluster. Nobody seems to have confirmed safety once and for all yet, and I'd rather just not worry about it. And I say that as someone who generally does not give a shit about this sort of thing at all, but this one makes me go, "Yeah....this sounds hinky."

As others have pointed out, I am literally the only one who ever does it, and there's a long wait (though in my case, it's because I'm female and they have to dig up the lone female TSA agent anywhere to do it), and the women forced to do it to me have been nothing but reasonable and professional about it. You can live with that for 10 minutes of your life once in awhile. But then again, I say this as someone who's fairly low target for such things, and doesn't fly often, and hasn't had a dreadful experience yet beyond the TSA getting grumbly at me about my luggage.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:39 PM on September 3, 2013


The way the author describes it, it sounds like the person doing the frisking is the more uncomfortable party.

I always fly in a kilt these days.

Yes, exactly what you think.
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:51 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know what, I feel bad for TSA employees.

Don't get me wrong, I opt out too because yeah, fuck the establishment, I don't want a police state. I ask my wife to opt out too because I don't want her going through the porno machine that uneducated sloths try to bully people into thinking its mandatory. The horrible responses, the ignorance and rudeness and anger and laziness and everything else I've gotten in response to the words "opt out" have been sickening.

But here we are, as a democracy, or what still serves for one as yet, where we've elected leaders who have built and employed a government agency to provide a national security service to us so we can be safe from a largely foreign and unseen threat. Which, to be fair - there's been nothing more of a 9/11 scale - they've done a fucking blundering bad job of, but they've gotten the job done so to speak.

And they've done that by employing people with the same qualifications and experience, as far as I can tell, that you need to mop floors at the mall. And they've given them fake badges and a false sense of authority and let them run amok, and so we have the theater we have today. Its not hard to figure out how this happened. Just go stand there and look at a tattooed teenager asking you "Why are you opting out?" as if he has any right to ask you that. Do the math.

If you've never worked in a service industry for minimum wage or less (and I think everyone should at some point), you don't know that basically you are taking whatever work you can get in exchange for the general public to treat you however the hell they want, which most times equates to pretty shitty. That's all TSA is, its burger flippers with badges. So we've taken all these kids and semi-literate social misfits of slightly more years and mis-educated them on a big security theater in which they now get to be an actor. We title them Officers (sorry decathecting, its true, even if they can't use force or arrest). We even give them big fucking props they can use to see through people's clothes. Neat!

What do you think is going to happen in this equation? Maybe, just maybe, your average TSA employee might be tempted to utilize all these tools and false pretense to actually act out in response to the general shittiness of the frustrated public? They have an opportunity to keep their job and not take shit from anyone, what the hell do you think they are going to do?

And we're paying them to do it, effectively.

From Wikipedia:

Private screening did not disappear under the TSA, which allows airports to opt out of federal screening and hire firms to do the job instead. Such firms must still get TSA approval under its Screening Partnership Program (SPP) and follow TSA procedures.

I'd pay money (above and beyond the tax I'm forced to pay that in part goes to the TSA) to use a private firm and no longer have to deal with the joke. More airports should start offering that, the private firms should charge for it, and the TSA would be no more. And their employees could go back to being treated like shit at Taco Bell instead of the goddamn airport.

But that will never happen. Just go count 100 people going through the TSA checkpoint at any of our 450 airports and see if even one opts out. If even one person even knows they have the right for that. I would bet money against it, every time, and I'd win out big time. Nobody writes their congressman anymore. Hardly any of us vote. Its TV-programmed sheep, all the way down.

BAA.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:56 PM on September 3, 2013


I object to the scanners, but I go through them anyway.

I am very very uncomfortable being touched by people I don't know, never mind being touched in intimate areas. A pat down just reminds me of all the times people on the street have felt free to help themselves to my body, and how horribly dehumanized and powerless that makes me feel. And, as a large busted lady, going through a metal detector is just an automatic ticket to a pat down anyway.

I dunno, I guess I'd rather face unknown risks than spend an entire flight trying to forget that powerless feeling.

If there was an option to just strip down, I'd do that in a heartbeat, oddly. I have no problem with people looking at me naked, but I'd rather they keep their hands to themselves.
posted by mollymayhem at 10:59 PM on September 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Several months ago at the Sacramento airport, I told a TSA employee that I'd like to opt out. She called out "I have a male here opting out!" and almost immediately another TSA employee stepped in to let her know that they're supposed to say "male assist" instead of using the words "opt out." The subtext here, I'm assuming, is using the latter alerts the other passengers in line that they do in fact have a choice in the matter.

I've also had a TSA employee remark to another employee during my patdown, with no trace of sarcasm or irony, "I don't know why we even do these. We never find anything."
posted by Zaximus at 11:13 PM on September 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've never gone through a scanner. I know the difference between the X-ray and millimeter-wave machines, and realize that the first one is mostly harmless, while the second one is completely so.

Doesn't matter. If someone's going to feel me up, at least I get to look them in the eye. If I were to strip naked in the middle of the terminal, at least I'd retain some small sense of control of the situation. Submitting to private scrutinizing of my naked form by someone I never even get to see? The memory of that humiliation would keep me up at night for weeks.
posted by tigrrrlily at 11:16 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always opt out on principle... except for this one time. Last time I flew out of SFO they'd changed the rules about showing your ID as you approached security. I was used to the process where they check your ID and boarding pass as you enter the security queue, so I had my documents out and ready to go, then stowed them away before I hit the scanner. THEN just as I put my bags on the conveyor belt there was a new procedure where I had to show both ID and boarding pass again: I was hurried through the process, told to put my passport etc in the tray with my bag and it was put through the scanner before I could say "I opt out".

I then had the option of opting out and having my passport sit out in the tray out of my line of sight OR going through the scanner. I waited for five minutes then figured that the risk was too great and went through the scanner. However, apparently my control top tights set off the scanner and so I got a pat down anyway.

I figured I deserved a mimosa after that.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 11:43 PM on September 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


the last time i took an airplane was the first time since i'd started transitioning and i was really freaking out the entire time i was carrying my shoes, laptop and carry-on through the serpentine security line. i was anticipating some kind of trouble because i was trying to look like a dude but all the papers had chick stuff on 'em and my undergarments might show up weird on the backscatter even though i was only wearing the chest binder because i was afraid compensating for my dick with a Weird Harness Under My Clothes might be suspicious and i'm amazed i wasn't just wading through this little personal puddle of flop sweat and drawing the attention of all the security guards by being so damn Obviously Afraid Of Something Here

but it was okay, i'm white and extremely innocent-looking even when my hair is funny colors, like some kind of little baby bird apparently

and all my concerns about whether it would be worse to go through the backscatter or get felt up came to naught as it turned out the backscatter was broken that day

i set off the metal detector, got asked to step aside, a guy came over and knelt down and patted me down from the knees down and then stood up and said i could go

there is no point to this story, and there is no point to the TSA's security theater
.....so perhaps that is the point of the story after all
posted by titus n. owl at 11:44 PM on September 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I haven't flown since the porno scanners where installed everywhere. I don't know what I'll do when the time comes. I want to protest, but I'm just weary of the whole farce. And I know how difficult they can make it for you if the want.

I'm still pissed to the day that during a "random" bag search shortly after 9/11, I lost my favorite necklace. And I put random in quotes, because I couldn't hear a boarding instruction, and asked one of the boarding staff if it was me while showing my ticket. She was very annoyed, told me to get to the back of the line. I apologized and said I had trouble hearing the announcement and she just rolled her eyes and waved me away. I saw her point me out to the people doing the random check, and next thing I know, I'm being pulled from the line for apparently inconveniencing someone with a question.

My other experiences with TSA have been fine, though I've had my bag checked after the x-ray machine because of suspicious looking objects, usually aquarium pumps and hosing. The funny, or perhaps sad part is that the TSA agent usually has to ask what it is, and I explain. But if he didn't know, I could just as easily have it be something dangerous and tell them the same thing and get waved through.

It does irritate me a bit though because I've mastered the art of packing a lot in a small carry-on, and the manual check ruins my perfect packing, requiring lengthy repacking at the airport. And it's never as good because I'm rushed, so I end up doing the sitting on the suitcase thing, and all my clothes end up wrinkled. Way to go, TSA.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 11:51 PM on September 3, 2013


I opt out most of the time too, and I was under the impression that a lot of people opt out. Looking at the TSA wiki page surprised me at how many people like the TSA as an organization, especially considering how they are pretty much one of the worst. They consistently have failed to detect guns and bombs in security tests, sexually harassed passengers, stolen peoples' possessions, etc. They didn't even catch that guy who snuck explosives in his underwear. When people talk about wasteful organizations they're pretty much the pinnacle.
posted by gucci mane at 12:06 AM on September 4, 2013


Count me in as another "always opt out". The scanners are a waste of money for the security benefits. When they still had the x-ray ones, I didn't trust them to be kept calibrated well (there have been well-documented cases of medical x-ray equipment not being maintained properly), but that's obviously not the main concern now. The agents doing pat-downs have always been polite and professional, though about half the time I get push back from the agent waving people into the scanners ("it's not radiation", "it's not dangerous"). Most airports I've been at, it's regularly easy (depending on how many lines they have open) to arrange going thru the metal detectors instead. Sigh.

This is, unfortunately, not a great piece to argue these points though, given the phase-out of the x-ray machines and the lack of emphasis on the cost/benefit question.
posted by R343L at 12:07 AM on September 4, 2013


I always opted out of the xray boxes, but I go through the mm wave ones. I would also always choose lines that didnt yet have either type, back when those existed.

My experiences opting out were always totally professional. Mostly happened at LAX, where they were speedy, professional, and I was never the only one opting out. Always chose to do it in full view, because my choice was largely political. Never got asked why I opted out by TSA folk, although occasionally other passengers asked. I kind of wonder if the total number of opt outs an airport has influences their response.

Now I have a different problem-- I somehow qualified for TSA precheck. But frankly unless I can share that with my fellow passengers, I dont want it. TSA people have griped at me for going through the regular line. But no one here is special. What percentage of our congress critters fly commercial flights and dont have precheck? It worries me.
posted by nat at 1:10 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's all just so unpleasant that I don't fly commercial anymore. (I will drive or fly myself if the weather is good.) I used to take 20 to 50 flights a year.
posted by Hello Dad, I'm in Jail at 1:23 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I will happily submit to the full body scanners when we get something like Total Recall

Sorry, two breasts per woman is still the norm.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:50 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Last time I flew out of SFO they'd changed the rules about showing your ID as you approached security. I was used to the process where they check your ID and boarding pass as you enter the security queue, so I had my documents out and ready to go, then stowed them away before I hit the scanner. THEN just as I put my bags on the conveyor belt there was a new procedure where I had to show both ID and boarding pass again:

Hah, I have learned to NEVER EVER LET GO OF THE ID AND BOARDING PASS at any point in time until you have to put it down for the pat down/scanners. They change from airport to airport or minute to minute if they require you to be checked yet again, even if you were checked at the start,and god forbid you not have that on you at all times. Even if they tell me I don't "have" to, even if they think I'm an idiot for holding on to it. You never know and they can do whatever they like to you, so.....
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:19 AM on September 4, 2013


It's all just so unpleasant that I don't fly commercial anymore. (I will drive or fly myself if the weather is good.) I used to take 20 to 50 flights a year.

I refuse to fly to the US for this sort of thing. Soon I will be unable to fly in my own country, and driving isn't an option. Eh.

Sorry, two breasts per woman is still the norm.

Three nipples are okay, right?
posted by Mezentian at 2:31 AM on September 4, 2013


It's all just so unpleasant that I don't fly commercial anymore.

Add me to the "I haven't flown commercial since ______" club ( 1/1/2000. It's a long story, I'll tell you later. )
posted by mikelieman at 3:00 AM on September 4, 2013


Triple agreeing with the frightening lack of scientific knowledge in the article. Complaining about the xray exposure when the plane ride itself is many orders of magnitude worse is almost purposefully ignorant.

Jesus. Every time I'm traveling in a country where I'm patted down at an airport by a person in a soldiers' uniform with a machine gun I think: Americans are so fucking priggish.

When I visited Wall Street in NYC and saw the various fencing and guys with giant guns, I was really pissed off. Why can't we have the nice free society I imagine I grew up in?

But I gotta say, I agree completely about the airports. I have no ethical or moral problem with the concept of airport security. Other countries have been dealing with it for years. Even if I was the sort of free wheeling nihilist who doesn't mind taking his chances with having an incident on board a plane, my personal feelings are outweighed by the fact that plane crashes of any kind have far greater effects on society than just the lives of the victims.

The security process can always be improved. Annoying the front-line workers is probably the least effective way of doing it. How about coming up with a better idea?
posted by gjc at 3:09 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd like to opt out but As A Woman (sorry), I feel pretty uncomfortable getting molested in public.

When I flew through ORD a few weeks ago, I had a hair stick in my hair and a necklace with wood beads. The male TSA employee suggested I lose both before going through the scanner, awkwardly adding something like, "I just love doing patdowns." I was tired but more or less a cheerful traveler at that point but that made me feel uncomfortable. And I felt badly because I don't think he was trying to make me feel uncomfortable.

That said, my husband and I share giggles when we fly out of the airport we use to visit my family and can see the brand name of the scanner (Rapiscan - very subtle).
posted by kat518 at 3:48 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Both of these procedures sound perfectly horrible and are the main reason that, last time I traveled, I took the train.
posted by DU at 4:16 AM on September 4, 2013


I hate security theater and abuses of authority as much as anyone else, but whenever I hear "porno scanner" or "cancer machine", my mind puts it in the same category of phrases as "sheeple".
posted by kyrademon at 4:16 AM on September 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


For a typical cross-country flight in a commercial airplane, you are likely to receive 2 to 5 millirem (mrem) of radiation, less than half the radiation dose you receive from a chest x-ray. People in the United States receive an average of 360 mrem of radiation per year from natural and man-made radiation sources, which includes cosmic radiation exposure during commercial flights.

Thank-you for the link. I was vaguely aware of these facts, but the specific facts are most welcome.

However, I also had to chuckle about the source: Welcome To RadTown USA
posted by fairmettle at 4:16 AM on September 4, 2013


[The TSA] didn't even catch that guy who snuck explosives in his underwear.

I'm not a fan of the TSA, but this has less to do with TSA incompetence than it does with Schiphol not being in the United States.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 4:20 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Mr. Rich doesn't seem to draw any medical distinction between the types of scanners which use low levels of ionizing radiation and the scanners which use extremely low levels of non-ionizing radiation

No medical distinction at all. Nothing to fear, please move along and stop reading.

A new model of the way the THz waves interact with DNA explains how the damage is done and why evidence has been so hard to gather
posted by rough ashlar at 4:24 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


the TSA would be no more. And their employees could go back to being treated like shit at Taco Bell instead of the goddamn airport.

But without the ability to use their nose to detect (Carlos) Danger! for the good of mankind, such value will be lost.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:30 AM on September 4, 2013


There are an awful lot of people in this thread who say they opt out. I fly a lot - I have never seen anyone voluntarily opt for a pat down. Pretty much everyone just files on through quietly.
posted by double bubble at 4:51 AM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are an awful lot of people in this thread who say they opt out. I fly a lot - I have never seen anyone voluntarily opt for a pat down.

MetaFilter and its users are not the general public. As evidenced by the recurring theme of "OMFG - Did you read the comments from the local newspaper?"

Because it is not the general public is why you are here.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:58 AM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


The airport in N. Ireland submits passengers to 'random' obligatory scanner checks - anecdotally, it seems wearing a suit goes a long way towards not being selected.
posted by ersatz at 5:05 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are an awful lot of people in this thread who say they opt out. I fly a lot - I have never seen anyone voluntarily opt for a pat down. Pretty much everyone just files on through quietly.

I've flown a lot (for a person who doesn't travel for business weekly/monthly/etc) in the last year and opted out twice. The rest of the time, it's been possible to position myself so as to go through a metal detector. (MSP has a checkpoint that doesn't have scanners, for example, so I have no cause to opt out for roughly half my flights right there.) Only a percentage of the 'I will opt out if I have to' group will have to opt out on a given trip through a checkpoint. Throw that in with, like rough ashlar said, Metafilter not being representative of the general public and it's only mildly surprising to me that you haven't seen someone opt out.

I think there is also a domino effect to opting out, where if one person does it, a bunch of people after them will as well.
posted by hoyland at 5:42 AM on September 4, 2013


When I visited Wall Street in NYC and saw the various fencing and guys with giant guns, I was really pissed off. Why can't we have the nice free society I imagine I grew up in?

But I gotta say, I agree completely about the airports. I have no ethical or moral problem with the concept of airport security.


If it was limited to the purpose of keeping weapons off the plane, I would agree. But since it's not limited to that, and since it's predicated on a presumption of guilt, I have reservations.

Here's a legal analysis I dug up from the early 70's which shows that there's nothing 'new to work out' here except why we permit it, or rather choose not to..
posted by mikelieman at 5:52 AM on September 4, 2013


I recently flew through the New Orleans airport, which has the scanners. Once I got through, I looked back to see what was on the display and it was an image like the one in this article. I don't know how widespread the use of that display is, but it didn't seem like a porno scanner to me.
posted by A Bad Catholic at 6:05 AM on September 4, 2013


Flew to my son's wedding earlier this year. The evening before, I remarked to one of my daughters-if anyone gets groped in security tomorrow it's gonna be you.

Next day, we all trot thru the porn machines with the exception of my other daughter who opted out. After the screening, TSA groped my right leg, and that was it.

The daughter I had spoken to the night before also had a body part groped. (Well, technically two body parts. I bet you can guess.)


Mama is always right.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:08 AM on September 4, 2013


I should say (cause I've been feeling bad about this all night) I don't make my reports singling out TSA personnel by name unless they actually do something awful. Like, when it's 20 minutes until I can get an opt out, I don't report the woman who finally shows up to do it; I report the time and place and gate because it's not the people doing their shitty jobs who are the problem; it's the shitty job that is the problem. It's the failure of the cost/benefit calculus. It's the failure of respect for the 4th Amendment and for the creeping concept of keeping Good/Safe People Lists and the encroachment on peaceful quiet private passage within the United States that I find so offensive.

Also, it's the arbitrariness of the rules and the slipshod implementation of everything. Traveling with a five year old? Of course, you don't have to be body scanned. Over the age of 70? Of course you can keep your cardigan on! Forget to take your baggie of cosmetics out of your carryon? The last six times I've traveled, no one has noticed. It's the fact that it's both a search and a seizure, which I have to submit to, in order to board a plane, even though there is no reasonable belief there is a risk in allowing the thousands of domestic flights each day without those searches. The TSA rules and bodyscanners hysterical window dressing and a nasty kneejerk reaction to a belief that there is a They and that Those People Hate Freedom. There's also the very real question about the contractors and how the machines were funded.

But in the end, I don't submit quietly to unreasoned intrusions on my liberty because I believe they are wrong. So I opt out and I write Congress every single goddamned time I do because they are wrong to treat us this way.
posted by crush-onastick at 6:24 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'd pay money (above and beyond the tax I'm forced to pay that in part goes to the TSA) to use a private firm and no longer have to deal with the joke. More airports should start offering that, the private firms should charge for it, and the TSA would be no more.

So you hate being screened by the federally-hired TSA slobs so much you badger your wife to get a pat-down, but you'd pay extra just for the privilege of being screened by a privately-hired slob?

Obviously, for a percentage of the take, the TSA should contract with businesses to perform pricier screenings by privately-hired slobs for "preferred" travelers.

"Platinum Club members, step this way to be groped by non-unionized minimum-wage earners!"
posted by octobersurprise at 7:08 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is an excellent article. Opting out of the TSA's scanners because they are "cancer machines" is a brilliant idea. I should say that I've been doing a lot of good things for my health lately; I stopped eating greasy fast food because the fast food corporations put alien parasites in it, and I've quit drinking sugary soft drinks because the government puts a chemical in them that turns me into a drone. It's so nice to know that I'm doing the right things for the right reasons.
posted by koeselitz at 7:11 AM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


If it was limited to the purpose of keeping weapons off the plane, I would agree. But since it's not limited to that, and since it's predicated on a presumption of guilt, I have reservations.

Here's a legal analysis I dug up from the early 70's which shows that there's nothing 'new to work out' here except why we permit it, or rather choose not to..


Where is the presumption of guilt? It seems to me that the presumption is nobody knows.

What are they looking for besides weapons?
posted by gjc at 7:42 AM on September 4, 2013


So glad I never fly.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:44 AM on September 4, 2013


The millimeter-wave machines are _probably_ safe. _probably_. See, the thing is, we have no fucking idea, actually. This wavelength is so attenuated by the surrounding atmosphere that it's only very recently that we have been able to actually generate strong enough signals to reach the human body.

Our bodies have never been exposed to mm-wave light before!

We have no idea if this will cause problems or not. Remember when they discovered x-rays and every shoe store had an X-Ray box? Yeah. mm-wave is probably safe. I'll still take the pat-down, thanks.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 8:22 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Opt out 4evar! F da man.

The moaning thing is an awesome idea...
posted by Windopaene at 8:55 AM on September 4, 2013


Has anyone tried tipping the frisker? I bet that would shift the balance of power a bit.
posted by Naberius at 9:13 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I work as an engineer, and my co-workers and I are all opt-outers, for various reasons that are basically variations on "this is ridiculous". But I'm always polite to the TSA crew, and they've always been nothing but friendly and polite with me. I had a long discussion with one guy in a small airport who wanted to know why I opted out, and who seemed curious and interested in my answer.
posted by ariel_caliban at 9:21 AM on September 4, 2013


See, the thing is, we have no fucking idea, actually

We have a pretty good idea, really.
posted by Justinian at 9:30 AM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


We have a pretty good idea, really.

This, from the same brand of government that wants us to believe that "God" on the money is not an endorsement of religion... and that the teaching that people rode dinosaurs is acceptable as "science" is perfectly okay.

No. I don't believe my government is malicious. Just stupid and lazy.

And stupid+lazy is waaaay more dangerous than evil. Any day of the week.
posted by Blue_Villain at 10:05 AM on September 4, 2013


every time I hear about cosmic radiation or gamma radiation I wonder if it will turn me into the Thing or the Hulk respectively.

I don't.
It would be different if there were actual Hulks and Things walking around, but unfortunately, no.
posted by Rash at 10:09 AM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've never been frisked and never gone through the pornoscanner. I just tell them I can't raise my hands above my head (which is true) and they send me through the old school metal detector.

It kind of proves it's all bullshit security theater if they only peform the same security checks on me that they did 15 years ago.
posted by desjardins at 10:17 AM on September 4, 2013


It kind of proves it's all bullshit security theater if they only [perform] the same security checks on me that they did 15 years ago.

Yes, despite the inevitable protestations, this has never been in doubt.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:31 AM on September 4, 2013


This, from the same brand of government that wants us to believe that "God" on the money is not an endorsement of religion... and that the teaching that people rode dinosaurs is acceptable as "science" is perfectly okay.

Ally Oop is federally-mandated science these days? Heavens, this is news to me.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:38 AM on September 4, 2013


Blue_Villain: Whether or not the government is stupid or malicious doesn't change the physical laws of the universe. We know about extraordinarily low levels of non-ionizing radiation.
posted by Justinian at 11:57 AM on September 4, 2013


Re "pornoscanners." Hasn't the TSA gotten rid of all the machines that produce actual images of the scanned body (not that even those images was anyone's idea of "porn"--unless you generally jerk off to ghostly x-ray images). The machines currently in use produce a generic outline image of the body with a yellow blob indicating any areas the scanner deems suspicious. If the machine shows a blob, an actual human agent will investigate once you step out of the machine. The only image generated by the machine is actually on public display.

So if your reasons for avoiding the scan have to do with either modesty or fear of cancer you're kinda wasting 5-20 minutes of your time.
posted by yoink at 12:38 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


yoink: "The machines currently in use produce a generic outline image of the body with a yellow blob indicating any areas the scanner deems suspicious." [...] "The only image generated by the machine is actually on public display."

Nope.
posted by desuetude at 1:18 PM on September 4, 2013


the TSA should contract with businesses to perform pricier screenings by privately-hired slobs for "preferred" travelers.

TSA Pre✓™
posted by nev at 1:19 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The airports I fly out of most frequently are also used frequently by celebrities. I often stand in the security line in their vicinity, and to a person they have always opted out. It generally causes people behind them in line to opt out, as well. (Peer pressure?) I am never the only person opting out when I fly, I often see several people ahead and behind me in line do it, even when there aren't celebs around. Interestingly, none of the celebrities are made to wait any less long than us regular shlubs.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:43 PM on September 4, 2013


They probably don't want scanner images leaking out to the public.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 2:05 PM on September 4, 2013


Nope

Yep.
posted by yoink at 2:35 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


To expand on the "yep" for those who don't want to read the link:
The full-body scanners that used X-rays to create what look like nude images of passengers have been packed away and removed from airports across the country.

...

The TSA now relies solely on millimeter-wave scanners, which previously generated similar nude images but have been upgraded to portray a generic figure on which they point out objects concealed on travelers' bodies.
posted by yoink at 2:36 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Another always-opt-out here. I was really nervous about it the first couple of times. Now I can basically mouth the words along with them.

I do it because it's basically the only low-risk yet maybe kinda sorta meaningful act of protest I get to engage in on a regular basis. If I'm going to be forced through the theater of the security state to do my job, I'm not going to pretend it's not humiliating. Let's be honest with ourselves about what this is, Mr TSA agent. This is an ritual exercise of submission. Let's put on a show for the crowd.

Plus I like to pretend that maybe if the cost of administering the ridiculousness in time and money gets to high things will change.

"... and as long as I'm dreaming, I'd like a pony."
posted by PMdixon at 3:30 PM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Let's be honest with ourselves about what this is, Mr TSA agent. This is an ritual exercise of submission.

Why is that any more true of going through a millimeter-wave scanner than of going through a metal detector? The "principle" that is being upheld here is completely obscure to me.
posted by yoink at 3:45 PM on September 4, 2013


Why is that any more true of going through a millimeter-wave scanner than of going through a metal detector? The "principle" that is being upheld here is completely obscure to me.

For me, it's less to do with the particulars of the mm-wave scanner and more to do with the ridiculousness/heavy-handedness of the entire enterprise in security theater that is boarding a plane in the US. It's something like saying, to myself, if no one else:

"No, I do not consent. No, this process is not for my own good. I do this because I am being coerced by threat of force, and at least in this little way I can make that manifest."

And maybe that's juvenile. I dunno. Gonna keep doing it though.
posted by PMdixon at 3:53 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, it's like security theater theater?
posted by octobersurprise at 3:57 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Look, if you're gonna put me in the play, I'm gonna put my own spin on the script.
posted by PMdixon at 4:00 PM on September 4, 2013


Yeah, that's pretty much it for me. If they're going to force me to go through this humiliating farce, I'll return the favor as best I can. It may not be a good protest but it's the only one I have.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:07 PM on September 4, 2013


Play on, friend. Play on!
posted by octobersurprise at 4:13 PM on September 4, 2013


Look, if you're gonna put me in the play, I'm gonna put my own spin on the script.

But offering getting frisked as an alternative to the mm-wave scanner is part of the script. I mean, all they care about is that you get searched, whether by the mm-wave scanner or by an agent patting you down. From the TSA's point of view, the more people who refuse the scanner the better; it increases their justification for more funding for more agents. I guess it's nice of you to bolster employment for TSA agents, but I can't see how you're throwing off the 'script' of the 'security theater' one iota. Put it this way: the mm-wave scanners are the "alternative" search for people who don't like being frisked, and the pat-down is the "alternative" search for people who don't like being scanned. It's no skin off the TSA's nose whether you've got an irrational fear of human contact or an irrational fear of trivial doses of radiation. Either way, they're happy to oblige you.
posted by yoink at 4:18 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, all they care about is that you get searched, whether by the mm-wave scanner or by an agent patting you down.

Here's I think the point of divergence: I don't think this is true. They (for certain values of they) also care that I am searched quickly, that I don't cause a fuss, that I don't make them have to fill out paperwork, a jillion other things.

If they really didn't prefer people go thru the mm-wave scanners, there would be two separate lines: one for pat downs and one for the scanners. The scanners make it easier and faster for the theater (and it is theater; the way confiscated liquids are treated by itself makes that clear) to proceed. I think it is safe to say, having been thru it as many times as I have, that they dislike patting me down as much I dislike being patted down.

I'm not under the illusion that I'm somehow going to cause the whole edifice to collapse, or the whole terminal to one-by-one-turning-into-a-slow-clap-flood opt out or whatever. But hey, there's a built in way for me to give the finger to the system, and I'm choosing to take it.

Gestures are important.
posted by PMdixon at 4:46 PM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


yoink: "The TSA now relies solely on millimeter-wave scanners, which previously generated similar nude images but have been upgraded to portray a generic figure on which they point out objects concealed on travelers' bodies."

"Portray." A generic figure is displayed to the screener. The machine still uses a "nude" image of the passenger. Yes, I see the claim made in the article that the machines are not saving images. This claim has been made before and was revealed to be a lie.
posted by desuetude at 9:16 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just so gratified to know that I am not the only person opting out. I have never been through the scanner, but have also never seen anyone else choose the pat-down over the device. Going through airport security just makes me so angry and frustrated about the current state of American civil rights that paradoxically, the public search actually helps keep me calm enough to not utterly freak out every time I fly. It has gotten faster over the years, and I am much less apt to be quizzed about my reasons.
posted by obloquy at 10:08 AM on September 5, 2013


This claim has been made before and was revealed to be a lie.

Mmmm, hot off the press from 2010. You know, back before they developed the machines that generate the generic image. It really is the case that the machines currently in use by the TSA at airports sole output is a generic, outline human figure with yellow blobs to indicate areas of concern (if any). The image you see as you exit the machine is the only image the machine is making and the only image any human being is seeing.
posted by yoink at 10:14 AM on September 5, 2013


Court: Federal Law Allows Lying in TSA-Related FOIA Requests
posted by homunculus at 11:16 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It really is the case that the machines currently in use by the TSA at airports sole output is a generic, outline human figure with yellow blobs to indicate areas of concern (if any). The image you see as you exit the machine is the only image the machine is making and the only image any human being is seeing.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof to support them. Source-code talks and bullshit walks.
posted by mikelieman at 12:44 PM on September 5, 2013


Bullshit has to turn 90° to the right and put its hands above its head first, though.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:01 PM on September 5, 2013


> Mmmm, hot off the press from 2010. You know, back before they developed the machines that generate the generic image.

This isn't a new type of machine that was developed since 2010. The generic image is generated by software which has been installed on millimeter wave machines. Same type of machine that was exposed in a big fat lie in 2010 -- allegedly not possible to extract/save/store digital images of passengers, but "not possible" turns out to mean "requires a little bit of special effort and is against the rules."

Backscatter machines are the ones which have been "packed away," they are no longer used because Rapiscan refused to modify them to display a generic image instead of the detailed digital image.
posted by desuetude at 10:56 PM on September 5, 2013


I guess my main question for the many people here who choose to "opt out" of the body scanners is:

Why aren't you milking the experience for all its worth and writing an entire article about it, complete with exaggerated headlines calling it a "showdown"?

What's next? Guy refuses to pay with "exact change only" on a city bus, because "fuck The Man"?
posted by ShutterBun at 2:50 AM on September 6, 2013


That doesn't make much sense.
posted by planetesimal at 5:29 AM on September 6, 2013




I always opt out, so power to the people, brother.

The eye rolls, groans, and sassy "ugh it's NOT A CANCER MACHINE" replies from TSA make me giggle. Although in Chicago at MDW, they were laughing with me at the absurtidy of the whole thing. Vegas though? Not so much. A female TSA watching a male TSA frisk my husband decided it was part of her job to bitch about the process the entire time. I reminded her that baradding passengers in their right and decision to opt out is not a wise behavior to have.

posted by stormpooper at 7:25 AM on September 6, 2013


> I guess my main question for the many people here who choose to "opt out" of the body scanners is: Why aren't you milking the experience for all its worth and writing an entire article about it, complete with exaggerated headlines calling it a "showdown"?

Because I can disagree with a policy and make a personal decision without the need to be a big drama queen about it?

This isn't complicated for me. I simply believe that I shouldn't have to let government officials see me naked in order to travel using a service I've paid a private company to provide. It crosses a line of what is reasonable, without providing any meaningful benefit to public safety as practiced.

Both a pat-down or a scanner invade my privacy, but there's a big difference between consenting to a pat-down over my clothing in public by someone I'm looking in the eye, versus allowing gods-know-who to have images of me which may or may not be stored or transmissible.
posted by desuetude at 7:31 PM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always opt out, but I want them to know I'm opting out. I'm not worried about cancer either, well the newer machines are probably less dangerous than the flight itself. I want to tell them Michael Chertoff is corruption incarnate.

I've always felt Anonymous needed an #OpTSA where people distribute leaflets advocating opting out. I donno if leafleting at the airport is safe, but elsewhere sure. In fact, you might wear your best right-wing impression in case a right-wing talk radio show speaks with you.

Another activity for the Million Mask March on 5 Nov maybe (twitter, fb events)? Don't forget The TSA Is Hiring!
posted by jeffburdges at 5:04 PM on September 10, 2013


« Older 25 Celebrities When They Were Young. You'll be sur...  |  If perception of sound depends... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments