TSA opposes scan 'opt-out day'

  • Article by: RAY HENRY , Associated Press
  • Updated: November 22, 2010 - 10:40 PM

A boycott of the new security measure would only "tie up people who want to go home."

A passenger held up his arms during a full-body scan Monday at the Seattle-Tacoma airport

Photo: Elaine Thompson, Associated Press

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ATLANTA - The nation's airport security chief urged travelers not to boycott full-body scans on Wednesday -- one of the busiest flying days of the year -- as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches with some Americans in a foul and rebellious mood.

Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole said Monday that such delaying actions would only "tie up people who want to go home and see their loved ones."

"We all wish we lived in a world where security procedures at airports weren't necessary," he said, "but that just isn't the case."

There was little if any indication of a revolt Monday as passenger screening appeared to go smoothly at many U.S. airports, with very few people declining the X-ray scan that can peer through their clothes. Those who refuse are subject to a pat-down search that includes the crotch and chest.

Recipe for 'huge delays'

A loosely organized Internet campaign is urging people to refuse the scans on Wednesday in what is being called National Opt-Out Day. The extra time needed to pat down people could cause a cascade of delays at dozens of major airports, including those in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.

"Just one or two recalcitrant passengers at an airport is all it takes to cause huge delays," said Paul Ruden, a spokesman for the American Society of Travel Agents, which has warned its more than 8,000 members about delays. "It doesn't take much to mess things up anyway."

At the White House, press secretary Robert Gibbs said the government is "desperately" trying to balance security and privacy and will take the public's concerns and complaints into account as it evaluates the new, more stringent boarding checks.

Ricky McCoy, a TSA screener and president of a union local in Illinois and Wisconsin, said the atmosphere has changed in the past two weeks for officers in his region. Since word of the pat-downs hit the headlines, officers have been punched, pushed or shoved six times after they explained what would be happening, McCoy said. "We have major problems because basically TSA never educated the public on what was going on," he said.

Pistole ignored advice

Pistole acknowledged Monday that he disregarded internal advice and decided not tell the public in advance about the aggressive new screening and pat-down procedures, fearing terrorists could try to exploit the information.

Stories of alleged heavy-handed treatment by TSA agents captured people's imagination. Tom Sawyer, 61, a bladder cancer survivor from Michigan who wears a bag that collects his urine, said its contents spilled on his clothing after a security agent at a Detroit airport patted him down roughly.

A cell-phone video showing a shirtless young boy resisting a pat-down Friday in Salt Lake City became a YouTube sensation. The TSA said the boy triggered a metal detector and his father removed the shirt to speed up the screening.

Pistole on Monday expressed "great concern over anybody who feels like they have not been treated properly."

McClatchy News Service contributed to this report.

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