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TSA screeners under fire over privacy issues

Published: Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Updated: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 22:11

tsa scan

DAVID GOLDMAN | AP

Passenger at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport enters a full body security scanner. The scanners have been controversial because people believe they are an invasion of privacy.

The newest airport security measures have some passengers fuming over their rights. The new Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) scanners connect to a screen that an official looks at in a separate room. There, they can see what is under the passenger's clothes, essentially showing their naked bodies.

Those who reject the scanners must go through a full-body pat down, which some passengers say are done too aggressively. Both methods have caused controversy because of privacy issues. Passengers who opt out of both methods can face up to $11,000 in fines.

The debate began earlier this month when John Tyner, a 31-year-old software engineer, got into a scuffle with a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent in San Diego. Tyner refused the scanner, opting for a pat down, and told the TSA agent "if you touch my junk, I am going to have you arrested." Since then, there have been various complaints from passengers concerning the new methods.

National Opt Out Day on Nov. 24 protested the scanners. According to their website, "It's the day ordinary citizens stand up for their rights, stand up for liberty, and protest the federal government's desire to virtually strip us naked or submit to an ‘enhanced pat down' that touches people's breasts and genitals in an aggressive manner."

A reporter from the Associated Press talked to Virginian health care worker Brian Sodergren, who initiated the opt out day.

"I just don't think the government has the right to look under people's clothes with no reasonable cause, no suspicion other than purchasing a plane ticket," he said.

TSA chief, John Pistole, asked passengers for their cooperation since Nov. 24 is one of the busiest traveling days of the year.

Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) recently introduced the American Traveler Dignity Act, which "establishes that airport security screeners are not immune from any U.S. law regarding physical contact with another person, making images of another person or causing physical harm through the use of radiation-emitting machinery on another person. It means they are subject to the same laws as the rest of us."

"We know through intelligence there are determined people, terrorists, trying to kill not only Americans but innocent people around the world," Pistole said. The TSA does not release detailed records of the positive effects of screenings for security reasons, but they said that during the week of Nov. 8, screeners found six prohibited items, 11 firearms and arrested six passengers because they had dangerous or prohibited objects.

"I'd rather be screened and safe than worry about my safety. As long as it is private, I am fine with it," said Georgia State senior Ashley Clarks.

"I'd be comfortable with it as long as females were checking females and males were checking males," Zeldayah Wright said.

Sophomore Victoria Raby said that though she appreciates the measure taken by the government to keep citizens safe, she would not want her naked body to be displayed. "I don't mind them scanning me as long as the image is not a full-out image of my actual naked body. I do appreciate the government trying to keep us safe as we fly though."

Hartsfield-Jackson Airport has a tool available on their website that updates passengers on security wait times. Visit www.atlanta-airport.com/Passenger/waittimes for more information.

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