OptOutDay.com the website and group is urging air-travelers on November 24 (one of the busiest travel days of the year) to refuse to submit to a full body scan. Described byWonkette as "Child Porn Airport Death Machines," they can choose the "enhanced" pat-down option, described by others as public molestation. National Opt Out Day, created by "ordinary citizen" Brian Sodegren, is one of many groups pushing for action against the new backscatter full-body imaging machines that produce naked images of passengers and have questionable effects on health.
Dave Bates, president of the Allied Pilots Association, urged pilots to decline the scan, saying, "It is important to note that there are "backscatter" AIT devices now being deployed that produce ionizing radiation, which could be harmful to your health."
It isn't an easy choice, though. The enhanced pat-down, which includes a rigorous examination of the genitals and other parts of the body, has resulted in horror stories, including anaccount from a rape survivor who said the experience was like reliving her assault again. And it seems that this very publicly traumatic experience is meant to be horrifying in order to "encourage" passengers to choose the machines. Why? Because as the pat-down does not include a cavity search, it is little more than "security theater," contributing nothing to the security of a flight. It certainly wouldn't deter a motivated terrorist from sneaking a weapon onto a plane.
When Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic confronted a TSA agent with this question the agent admitted that the point of the enhanced pat-down was to scare people into the machines.
What about people who hide weapons in their cavities? I asked...."We're just not going there," he reiterated.
I asked him if he was looking forward to conducting the full-on pat-downs. "Nobody's going to do it," he said, "once they find out that we're going to do."
In other words, people, when faced with a choice, will inevitably choose the Dick-Measuring Device over molestation? "That's what we're hoping for. We're trying to get everyone into the machine."
"The effectiveness of pat-downs does not matter very much, because the obvious goal of the TSA is to make the pat-down embarrassing enough for the average passenger that the vast majority of people will choose high-tech humiliation over the low-tech ball check.
As Goldberg and others have suggested, perhaps the TSA ought to focus on enhanced background checks rather than finding new ways to humiliate and violate innocent travelers. Perhaps the TSA should allow airlines the option to opt-out of using the backscatter machines and let passengers vote with their dollars whether or not security is worth this loss of dignity and personal privacy. Perhaps the federal government should revisit its decision to create the TSA in the first place, when it nationalized airport security in the wake of 9/11.
While many people opt-out on the 24th and for as long as the backscatter machines remain in use, many more will opt-out of flying all together. Fewer fliers means less money for airlines and less money to spend on repairing planes and conducting real security checks. Personally, I'm far more worried about the wings falling off of my plane than a terrorist with a pair of scissors.
In addition to a loss of revenue, fewer fliers means more drivers on the road and likely more accidents. All of this leads me to wonder whether these new security measures have made us a safer freer society?
Personally, I'm going to opt-out of the scanner every time I fly and I don't plan on taking my molestation/pat-down quietly.