Today, I opted out of the TSA’s “advanced imaging” system at San Francisco International airport. To the TSA’s credit, they behaved very professionally. As soon as I said I was opting out, a manager came over and asked me why, wrote down my reason, and very politely directed me to a patdown. The TSA agent who performed the patdown was very clear, explained what he was going to do before he did it (“I’m now going to use the back of my hand to check your groin area”), and looked about as annoyed as I was about having to do this.
Now, let’s be clear: this is a very intrusive patdown. I would be very uncomfortable having my child go through this experience. I decided that, in my case, (a) I preferred momentary discomfort to a permanently stored digital image of my naked body stored on TSA computers for who knows how long, and (b) I wasn’t willing to miss my flight, so I had to consent to something. I’m also not quite sure about the safety of these new advanced imaging systems.
On this issue I concur wholeheartedly with EPIC: it is incredibly disheartening that our airport security has to come to this, a basic violation of our dignity every time we fly. Even if the TSA has intelligence indicating that terrorists are trying to sneak in explosive material taped to their inner thigh, this approach to airport security makes no sense because it is predictable, and so terrorists will adapt. Oh yeah, and there’s that little detail that this violates every principle of freedom and dignity we hold dear.
I will continue to opt out as long as I can. I hope others do, too.