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One Take on TSA

November 20, 2010
tags: ,

Like a lot of people, I’ve been reading, hearing, and talking about the new TSA procedures this week. I’m not a fan of the choice between overly familiar imaging and overly familiar pat down. I think it’s likely to go to court in order to work out whether it might violate the 4th amendment. I’m not entirely convinced by arguments that the small amounts of radiation from one type of scanner are very harmful to human health, but I think people should have a choice about being deliberately irradiated (however small the dose). There’s no good option here that doesn’t impinge upon the body and privacy in some problematic ways.

As a flyer, I haven’t decided what I will choose. As an information professional, I’d like to see people presented with appropriate level and language materials explaining the procedures and their rights as they enter the airport, including potential harms of either choice. Not just on the TSA website, not just in English.

I just came across a blog post (sorry, I’ve lost the referring trail) that talks not just about the invasiveness of the options, but the timing of the focused attention on TSA procedures. The author reminds us that women have been complaining about groping from TSA screeners for a decade, and that the experience of “private citizens being arbitrarily singled out for intrusive searches and rough treatment by authority figures” is one that happens to minority and disenfranchised people routinely. So why so much outrage now? The new enhanced pat downs just started for everybody on Nov 1, so the obvious answer is that now inappropriate TSA touching affects everybody who flies, not just those who might have been singled out in the past. The writer, Sheila Addison, puts a finer point on it:

“Suddenly an able-bodied cisgender white man is the one who was complaining.”

It’s a pretty compelling rant, and I couldn’t find any way to excerpt it further without giving you both too much and not enough here, so just go read it. The author also has a slightly more polished revised version up at California NOW’s place.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2010 10:41 am

    Don’t just “opt out” of naked scanners only to be sexually molested/assaulted, instead. Boycott Flying COMPLETELY, until sanity returns! Please join us: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-Flying/126801010710392

    • November 21, 2010 11:15 am

      Mark, thanks for commenting. I understand the urge to opt out of air travel completely, but it’s not going to be an option for some work-related travel, when it’s not going to be possible to take a few extra days and drive cross-country. I totally respect that as a choice for people who can manage it, though. It would be easier if the U.S. were a smaller country with better high-speed mass transit!

  2. Tom permalink
    November 23, 2010 6:14 am

    Hi Rachel,

    There’s never been any question that being an attractive female has long been a cause for “inappropriate attention” from screeners, and it goes way back to before the creation of the TSA.

    Recently, though, an airline pilot caught a TSA screener red-handed directing an attractive girl into the “naked scanner” and letting them know he was sending them a “cutie” to look at.

    The info is here:

    http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/travel-safety-security/1147497-tso-saying-heads-up-got-cutie-you.html

    The article says it all . . . no need to add more verbiage here.

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