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As a rallying cry, "don't touch my junk" doesn't have quite the eloquence of "give me liberty or give me death," but it is heading in that direction. The news has spread of a software programmer who was tossed out of the San Diego airport after he got into an altercation with a TSA screener about the new, more aggressive pat-down which is required for those who opt-out of the full body scan security check.
Things are starting get testy at the airport, amid threats of a national opt-out day. With Thanksgiving travel just around the corner, will TSA officers hear more pleas of "don't touch my junk?"
Homeland Security is going to have to address the problem soon, as John Tyner's video comes on the heels of protest by airline pilots and flight attendants over the aggressive security tactics. According to ABC News, as of Oct. 29, the TSA implemented new rules allowing its officers to pat-down passengers with the front of their hands, instead of the backs of their hands. The full hand pat down involves touching that borders on invasive. ABC reports the pat-down highlights for female passengers include the following: "You go down the body and up to the breast portion," said Charles Slepian of the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center. "If it's a female passenger, you're going to see if there's anything in the bra."
Other descriptions of the pat down say they involve checks of the inside of travelers' thighs and buttocks, reports the Associated Press. So even though the ACLU has called the full body scan a "virtual strip search," it does sound slightly less intrusive than the virtual assault of the new pat-downs.
The AP reports the body scanners do give TSA screeners essentially nude images of travelers. To ensure privacy, faces are blurred and the images are deleted once the TSA officer reviews the image for possible threats. The person viewing the images is in a remote location and communicates with the on-site screener via radio.
Neither option is anything but invasive, but what is the alternative? Would the full body scan or a groping pat-down have caught the Christmas Day underwear bomber? If the answer is yes, Homeland Security needs to tell the public just that. Concerns by the public regarding radiation from the scanners (very minimal) or the proper training of TSA screeners need to be addressed. "Almost to a person, travel managers are concerned that TSA is going too far and without proper procedures and sufficient oversight," Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, an advocacy group representing corporate travel departments, told the AP.
Comments from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that the public "use some common sense" are not going to be effective against the growing outcry. Protests are planned, reports ABC, and if John Tyner's "don't touch my junk" makes him the Patrick Henry of American air travel, the Obama Administration is going to have to play a major game of PR catch-up to convince the American public that they are not the bad guys.
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