3 troubling ways the TSA punishes passengers who opt out

Africa Studio/Shutterstock
Africa Studio/Shutterstock
If you don’t want to walk through a poorly tested full-body scanner or have a TSA agent belittle your anatomy before your next flight, then you still have the right to opt out and submit to an “enhanced” pat-down.

That’s exactly what I did on a recent trip from Orlando to Atlanta. Actually, I do it every time I fly.

But as I waited for a male agent — who would ask me to spread my legs, would touch my torso, rub the inside of my legs, and feel the back of my neck and arms — I began to understand what the TSA really means when it says it’s focusing its efforts on “intelligence-driven, risk-based screening procedures.”

It means that when we’re screened at the airport, we’re separate, but we’re not equal.

A new passenger underclass

The TSA likes to talk about the “haves” — the elite-level frequent fliers, the soldiers in uniform, the crewmembers, who can now almost always bypass the scanners, the shoe-removal, and the pat-downs, and get to the gate quickly. It’s received a lot of positive coverage from an unskeptical mainstream media about those programs.

But it doesn’t really say much about the “have-nots” — the passengers with medical conditions and implants that set off the magnetometers, the folks who don’t fly frequently enough to be part of the Pre-Check club, and yeah, the opt-outs.

Actually, opt-outs are arguably the biggest segment of the new passenger underclass. The TSA doesn’t release statistics on air travelers who refuse a full-body scan, but anecdotal evidence suggests their numbers are large and growing.

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Let’s take a closer look at how the TSA treats opt-outs as second class citizens.

Intimidation. As I waited for my TSA screener in Orlando, I noticed an attractive young woman standing next to me. “Opting out?” I asked her. She nodded. I made eye contact with her, which is when I saw a look that can be best described as raw terror. It is the anticipation of what may come next, whether it’s a botched pat-down that violates your human dignity or a public humiliation, that stokes those fears. I admit, I experience similar misgivings every time I tell an agent that I’d rather not go through the scanner. My only consolation is that if something goes wrong, I can write about it.

Harassment. As it turns out, our fears are somewhat justified. Last week, I heard from Maura Maia, a flight attendant for a major airline, who says that while she enjoys breezing through the crewmember line when she’s in uniform, the treatment is vastly different when she’s off the clock. She recently flew in civilian clothes and opted out. “The TSA agent started yelling at me when I said I wasn’t going into the full-body scan,” she says. Maia stood her ground, but says “I was humiliated in public.” She adds, “When I came back to the same airport, that time on my uniform, and tried to file a complaint with the TSA supervisor, he waved me away.” The TSA can’t force you through the scanners, but it will try. Yelling at passengers is unacceptable.

Retaliatory wait time. That’s a term believed to be widely used within the TSA, and it means exactly what it says. If you opt out, you could be forced to wait — and possibly miss your flight. But it’s not just the length of the wait, it’s also the place. Passengers are sometimes herded to a secure holding area, which functions like a penalty box in a hockey game. You can see who is in it, and by being in it, you’re assumed to have done something wrong. It’s embarrassing, and the TSA agents keeping you in the box know it. Of course, some would argue that the “enhanced” pat-down is also retaliatory, and in the hands of some screeners, it certainly can be.

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But why is this happening? For TSA agents, opt-outs are a pain. They have to explain the pat-down procedure, put on a pair of blue latex gloves, get moved from their duty station, and, worst of all, there’s a pretty good chance the traveler will object to the manual screening in some way. When that happens, a supervisor must be summoned and possibly the airport police, since TSA agents have no law enforcement authority. It can get really messy.

For the TSA as an institution, opt-outs are an easily identifiable group of contrarians who do inconvenient things like vote for candidates who push for more agency oversight, write to their congressional representative when they fail to hold the TSA accountable for its failures, and demand common-sense security instead of the circus we still have today, more than a decade after the 9/11 attacks. Punishing these passengers makes sense on an institutional level, so it’s no surprise that supervisors would look the other way while agents threaten, intimidate, and humiliate the opt-outs, if not encourage it.

The false choice between a dangerous scan and an invasive pat-down must end, and the sooner it happens, the better.

In the meantime, here’s an idea: Why not give anyone who opts-out the same treatment as the folks with Pre-Check clearance? Why not just send them through the metal detector, allowing them to keep their shoes and jackets on?

No self-respecting terrorist would ever ask for a pat-down instead of walking through the easily foiled body scanners.

The opt-outs present no meaningful threat to airport security. The TSA should screen them with the pre-checks and pilots instead of penalizing them for doing what every passenger should be doing in the first place.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • dourdan

    yeah it always frustrates me when the “economy class” line is diverges in to 2- one for the body scanner, one for the metal detector.

    if my and my husband get separated guess what line always moves faster. it just seems like they (SFO 1 year ago- the last time i flew anywhere) use the body scanners because they’re there. SFO could work just as well with out them.

  • crash025

    Not all of the agents harass people that opt out. i’ve had more than 70 flights last year, and I have not been put in the queue for opt outs. I got UA gold, and the CLT TSA people have even recommended that I go for global entry. Last year I always got to the airport with more than enough time to spair so I could wait.

    There have been only 2 times where an agent has inappropriately screened me. The first was an issue with the glove scanning machine [enough to where it was questionable, and then he never statated why there “was remediation” only to say “this is what happens when you opt out” [sic] The other time had a bit of a power trip with demanding that I sit infront of everyone else, rather than stand to the side. [I wasn’t impacient and I don’t mind standing] This was that same night I had the major issues with Delta CLT-LGA-ROC.

    For most of the other TSA people at CLT, they know me quite well by now.

  • EdB

    “For most of the other TSA people at CLT, they know me quite well by now.”

    And that is probably why you have not been subjected to any of the retaliatory actions.

  • BillCCC

    I needed a third selection. I don’t know. The times that I have flown in the US I have never seen any problems at security. My daughter flew last week and opted out without any hassles.

  • cjr001

    TSA humiliates our government every day it remains in operation, so why not pass the buck along to those that have to deal with them?

    “opt-outs are an easily identifiable group of contrarians who do inconvenient things”

    Like stand up for their rights. How dare they!

    Edit for a side note: My wife does a lot research on which airports have backscatter & MMW machines for when we travel. For all the talk about how they were removing the backscatter machines from larger airports, she found that they were moving them from Chicago’s O’Hare, but now they’ve appeared at “smaller” Midway. And we really preferred going to Midway over O’Hare…

  • SoBeSparky

    Isn’t it great that getting in an airplane is almost infinitely safer than getting in a car, mile for mile?

    That shows no clear cause and effect relationship between the TSA and air travel safety. I also can see no clear discrimination between going with the lemmings or opting out. Sure, you are segregated which in itself sets you apart. Then you must wait. If several people have set off the body scanner, then you might have to wait a while longer for the hand scan. Processes take time.

    Perhaps Christopher and others who travel a lot but are not airline loyal should adopt the decades-long advice to concentrate your air travel with one airline or at least one alliance to reap the benefits of the program. You can object to the theoretics of these loyalty programs. However, they are not going away anytime soon. In other words, reality check time. Get your Pre-Check Status.

  • Joe Smith

    OPT OUT!!!! WE GOT AN OPT OUT!!!!!

  • Saul B

    Why should the amount of money a citizen spends with a private company (the airline) have any bearing whatsoever on the trustworthiness the government assigns to said citizen?

    Maybe drivers of sports cars should also be given a special lane with a higher speed limit?

  • Joe Smith

    Safer?? Everything I’ve heard/read says that is someone were to keister contraband they wouldn’t find it with the x-ray or the pat down, making the whole process basically useless.

  • SoBeSparky

    The statistics speak for themselves. Source: USA Today comparing NHTSA and NTSB statistics. “In absolute numbers, driving is more dangerous, with more than 5 million accidents compared to 20 accidents in flying. A more direct comparison per 100 million miles pits driving’s 1.27 fatalities and 80 injuries against flying’s lack of deaths and almost no injuries, which again shows air travel to be safer.”

  • SoBeSparky

    Why, yes! There is a whole expertise called “risk assessment” which is employed by the insurance industry as well as the government.

    I would rather be on the Alligator Alley (I-75) straight-away with a bunch of professional race car drivers than the amateurs I encounter everytime. They go below the speed limit in the left lane. They keep their turn signal on for miles. And they are texting as they travel 70 miles per hour. or 103 feet per second.

    P.S. You do not get to be an elite flyer on spending money. You usually cannot buy status. You must sit in an airplane seat anywhere from 25,000 to 100,000 miles a year on any fare basis. It’s the experience and track record which counts.

  • Saul B

    >> You do not get to be an elite flyer on spending money.

    You mean I can fly tens of thousands of miles per year for free? Nice! Where do I sign up?

    Please show me the data that shows that a passenger who flies 50,000 miles per year is less of a threat than a passenger who has flown 10,000 miles per year for the past decade.

    Or that a passenger who flies 50,000 miles per year on United is less of a threat than a passenger who flies 10,000 miles each per year on five separate airlines.

    PreCheck is an extortion racket: Imagine if a stadium had a policy where season ticket holders went right to their seats, but where other fans were given a police-style frisking.

  • emanon256

    I voted yes, I opt out, and 4 out of 5 times I get an argument, or get yelled at, and the like. Its nuts. I have written TSA and my Senator and Congresswoman and sadly nothing has changed. My congress people always say that they have it on their agenda, but nothign happens.

    I also disagree with the “Haves” comment. I am an elite frequent flyer, but I am always herded to the body scanners and have to take off my shoes and belt just like every one else. The Pre program is not at all airports, and the few times I have been at an airport that had it, the Pre line was either closed, or if it was open, after my pass was scanned I was still told I have to go through the regular line, take off my shoes, etc.

  • emanon256


  • Mundane Lustrator

    And how does one fly more miles without money to pay for more tickets?

  • SoBeSparky

    You are certainly entitled to your opinions. I doubt any of us will gain access to specific professional risk assessment information for reasons of national security, as it should be.

    However, consider this. The government has a track record, many times for hundreds of thousands of real air miles (no bonuses, etc.), of certain frequent flyers. It is intuitive (but not necessarily proven) that a long uneventful track record of flying gives some indication of future behavior.

  • SoBeSparky

    And you need to spend money to establish a credit record. So what?

    This is not class warfare. This is professional risk assessment. Some people fly far more than others. In just this column, we have people who fly only once a year, and others once a week.

    There is a clear track record (think again of a credit report analogy) for those who fly once a week. Twenty-five thousand real “butt-in-seat” miles (frequent flyer slang) is a lot of flying, considering New York to Miami is about 1,100 miles.

  • Nancy Nally

    Headed to MCO this afternoon for a flight and I always opt out of their backscatter scanners. Thanks for the reminder of the PITA – or possibly worse – I have coming. Ugh.

  • Joe Smith

    Those numbers were likely the same before the TSA, not counting 9/11.

  • Bluto

    I always ask the TSA rep to change his gloves before he gropes me; you never know what the last person had on them or their bags. Last time I did that – simply asking for a change of gloves – the agent said, loudly, “DO I NEED TO GET A SUPERVISOR?” to which I replied, “Just change your gloves to a clean, new pair, please.”

    He was openly hostile, and ready to call for a Supervisor at any moment, simply because I a) opted out and b) exercised my right to have him change his gloves.

    It’s an example of the intimidation that is used to pressure us into the Nude-O-Scopes at all costs.

    Or perhaps the guy was just having a tough day.

  • SoBeSparky

    Please read my original post. Second sentence is: “That shows no clear cause and effect relationship between the TSA and air travel safety.”

  • cmbaker69

    I agree with BillCCC – it’s really a matter of who’s on duty. I always opt out of the xray type machines due to a history of past radiation exposure. I travel by air at least 8 times a year and often more. I’ve only had one experience that was less than professional since it started. No one, whether opt out or TSA, likes the process, but that’s life. Now, I also agree that the system is ridiculous and unnecessary. And as a member of the Global Access/prechek programs, I’ve yet to avoid anything in the way of the normal screening – my last entry from Argentina had a separate line for us, but no difference in screening, and to add to the issue, the “special” line was longer and slower than the regular one.

  • SoBeSparky

    Unbelievable. Sometimes a bit of “bonding” works wonders, like “You know, there is a lot of Asian and that rat flu going around with these passengers. No one wants to get that crap. Could you please change your gloves?” I forget the bonding technique 50% of the time. I am like you, direct and to the point, and then they take it personally and feel insulted.

  • Victoria Dossey Findley

    Chris.. I have a pacemaker . My home airport in Sacramento is the WORST. I present my card identifying myself as a pacemaker recipient & ask for a pat down. I am bullied & harassed by the TSA agent most every time I fly. The agent tells me there is nothing harmful about the unit., smirking, rolling his eyes & shaking his head. I stand my ground & again ask for a pat down. ( who would want that ? ) Then I wait.. As you said in the article.. it’s a power trip for sure. If you don’t go with the flow.. then expect attitude. I am 100% dependent on my pacemaker to make my heart beat. I am appalled that these TSA agents have the nerve to make comments about the healthcare choices that my Cardiologist & I have made. I have spoken with the Medtronic rep ( who are the makers of my pacemaker). While the machines appear to be safe there has not been enough testing to determine the long term effect on this medical device. At the end of the pat down I proceed to the security desk & make a complaint about the bullying that has taken place. I can hold my own but I worry about the timid or infrequent flyers that are BULLIED into the process.

  • john4868

    Get a DL Reserve Amex or UA Presidental Plus MC (I’m not sure if they are taking applications anymore) either one grants status miles in addition to reward miles.

  • john4868

    This is one of the conversations I normally stay out of but last time I checked isn’t Pre Check exactly what Chris has been asking for? How many articles about the little old lady who he decided isn’t a threat and why is she being treated the same etc… So the government put in place a threat assessment system. You can be deemed lower risk by a) fly a lot so you’ve been inspected multiple times (think credit rating) or b) paying $20 a year for an in depth background check. Ultimately, those the TSA knows more about get less attention than those it knows nothing about. Isn’t that exactly what the talking heads wanted? Not treating everyone like a criminal?

  • Frank Windows

    I opt out every time (except for pre-check, which is only at major airports), and I haven’t experienced anything like this, aside from the occasional 5-minute wait. Of course, I also keep a friendly attitude, reminding myself that these are poor schlubs who enforce the rules but don’t write them.

    I wish you wouldn’t paint such a negative picture of opting out, because I think it discourages people from doing so. If you add an extra fifteen minutes to your schedule, and if you don’t have issues with being touched (I call it my “TSA massage”) — and I know those are big ifs — opting-out is really not a big deal… and it’s one of the BEST ways we can demonstrate how ridiculous TSA’s “security” is.

    Fact is, is more travellers opted out, the lines at security would quickly get ridiculous, more people really would miss flights (and wreak havoc with the airlines), and the People Who Make The Rules might start paying attention. I know it’s not your intention, Chris, but by painting such a negative picture of civil disobedience, you’re encouraging us to be good little sheeple… just what the TSA wants.

  • Frank Windows

    “Bob, can you take it?” “No, I’m filling out my TPS cover sheets, and besides, I’ve done three today, and I’m homophobic enough as it is. Give it to Bill, he likes touching men’s junk.” “Where is he?” “He’s walking back from the bathroom at the blistering pace of one foot every century.”

  • Saul B

    John, you’re right: I am terrified every time I see those unwashed non-business travelers who only fly a few times a year to visit family and go on vacation. I am terrified that they might blow themselves up at any moment.

    But when I see a business traveler with his or her briefcase, knowing they have flown countless flights each year without hurting anyone, and they they have undergone a thorough government background check and paid the appropriate sum? Phew, what a sense of relief I experience.

    Please show me the data that anyone who flies a few times a year is in any way more likely to attack a plane than the road warrior who flies 50 segments a year. Thanks.

  • pauletteb

    Enough already! Chris does so much good for the traveler and yet loses so much credibility with me because of his continual anti-TSA whinging. And, yes, I’m ready for the barrage of Ben Franklin misquotes!

  • Saul B

    >> Ultimately, those the TSA knows more about
    >> get less attention than those it knows nothing about.

    John, how many non-frequent fliers that the TSA has inspected over the past decade have been found with bombs in their shoes or laptops?

    That’s right, none.

    So remind me again, why do frequent fliers get to keep on their shoes but lowly infrequent fliers don’t?

  • john4868

    Saul B Reread what I said. I made the statement that FF have more history with the TSA in a short amount of time and therefore are lower risk.

    To answer your question, thankfully, the sample size of people who have attack aircraft is very low. However, I’m not aware of a single Elite FF that has attacked an aircraft.

  • john4868

    Which always begs the age old question… Is the lack of testing a sign of a good defense or wasted money? A bank near me installed a bullet proof air lock with a metal detector after they were robbed. You can’t get in unless you have no metal or your buzzed in. The bank hasn’t been robbed since then but other banks in the are have. Did they waste their money? In your view of the world “yes they did.” In mine, “no they didn’t.”

  • crash025

    That or “Male dynamic”

  • crash025

    Optout is easy to for them to spot. They just see me. Their opt out times at charlotte have improved :)

    I liked going through midway last August… why? More doc check points and the use of metal detectors. Although, I do like the terminals of Ohare [more stuff there and its right on the L]

  • Saul B

    I’m also not aware of a single woman who has attacked a plane the past decade. So all women should be given a pass through the checkpoints, right?

    So, tell me, what’s the magic number-of-miles-flown at which a passenger becomes less of a risk?10,000? 20,000? 40,000?

  • crash025

    Like I said it was only one serious, and one “minor” [the guy was on an ego trip]

    Most of the other airports aren’t that bad. IAD was a bit funky. [The guy seemed genuinely pissed off :)]

  • EdB

    Can’t go in with any metal? Really? Guess the little kid with the jar full of pennies can’t deposit them there. If that was my bank, I would be switching.

  • Saul B

    Huh? I’ll ask again: The TSA has screened several billion people over the past decade, nearly all taking off their shoes, and not one has been found to have a bomb in their shoes.

    Yet there is obviously enough data to show that those who only fly 10,000 miles a year are more likely to be hiding a bomb in their shoes than the road warrior who logs 100,000 miles.

    Someone needs to retake Statistics 101.

  • john4868

    No… notice I said that they can buzz you in… so a known customer gets buzzed in but someone who is unknown and hiding their face wouldn’t… Back to the whole risk assessment thing

  • Saul B

    So a passenger who flies 15,000 miles a year — say eight or so flights — and has no status is an “unknown” passenger?! But 10,000 miles more and having achieved the lowest elite status, the same passenger is no longer a threat?

  • Mary j

    The T.S.A. disclosed theofficial Airport Screening Results October
    2012 Statistics On Airport Screening From The Department Of Homeland

    Terrorists Discovered 0
    Transvestites 133
    Hernias 1,485

    Hemorrhoid Cases 3,172
    Enlarged Prostates 8,249
    Breast Implants 59,350
    Natural Blondes 3

    It was also discovered
    that 535 members of Congress had no balls.

    Thought you’d like to know.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And either one of those incidents are ENTIRELY UNACCEPTABLE! You’re okay with them doing this to you? You’re okay with the fact that some low-paid government worker has the opportunity to be on a “bit of a power trip” and demand that you “sit in front of everyone else”? And because you’ve only had two bad experiences, as far as you’re concerned the TSA is fine by you?

    THIS is why they keep getting away with their abuse. Because people like you take it, and say “well, garsh, it doesn’t happen every time”.

  • Harry

    Yes, TSA agents who are touchy with no feely. I imagine some of them become a bit touchy after a few days in that thankless job. Each time they have an “opt out”, they get that “look” from the fifty other folks in line who do no believe cancer results from scanners (or cell phones, microwave ovens, televisions, overhead power lines, cell phone towers, or whatever secret rays are being directed on us by a foreign enemy, or that crazy neighbor. Look, you have a right to opt out but when you do so, you slow the line down for the rest of us who figure that, with all the risk we face now anyway, the way our food supply is handled, radon in the soil, the radiation we already absorb from the sun, the ride to the airport on a freeway we share with people of various mental states, texting and talking on the cell phone while driving… many of us would rather take our chances with the machine at the airport than be felt up by someone who looks like Uncle Charlie. I understand why some people prefer the pat down. I respect that (really, I do), but do not expect that the TSA agent or the fifty people in line behind you are going to be happy about it. The TSA and the scanners provide a layer of imperfect protection. If you want touchy feely, call your therapist.

  • DavidYoung2

    I’ve never opted out because I just don’t care. And I know I get more radiation playing in the park with my daughter on a sunny day than a lifetime of those scanners. But when I’ve been selected for ‘enhanced screening’ — the pat down — they’ve always been nice.

    Hey TSA-crazies, ever think it might be YOU and not them. Just be nice — it’s not that hard.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And what about the people who feel that the government has no right to view our naked bodies? What about the cancer survivors who, like my mother, have been strictly instructed by her oncologist to stay out of the scanners? What about the fact that we have a legal right NOT to subject ourselves to untested radiation generators…whether you personally think they are going to cause cancer or not?

    The fact that you’ve fallen for the TSA fiction that they generate no more radiation then cell phones or microwave ovens is hilarious. You might want to actually ask an expert about that, rather than believe what some low-paid, uneducated, barely-trained mall cop wearing a tin badge says.

  • Saul B

    You have to winder whether these same people would so gleefully obey a postal worker or DMV employee who gave the same demands. Because really, a TSO has no more authority than those other two government employees.

    Outfitting TSA workers in cop-style uniforms and calling them officers was at once the worst and most shrewd move TSA management ever made.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Typical “it hasn’t happened to me so it’s not happening” claptrap from another sheeple. As always, I look forward to hearing you change your tune the first time you get selected for a “random patdown” and a TSA screener in a bad mood slams his hands into your testicles. Oh, but of course we WON’T hear from you when that happens…you’ll be too embarrassed to come back and say you were wrong.

  • Harry

    they can drive, ride Amtrak,,, until they can come up with a better idea. You should complain to someone who cares. Your Mother, for example. Oops, I’ve got a flight to catch…

  • Saul B

    The TSA worker put his hands over my genitals.

    But he was soooooooooo nice about it. He really was.


  • Saul B

    Thank goodness the daily plane bombings that happened before the TSA started feeling passengers up and virtually strip-searching them have ended.

    Phew, what an awful eight years for this country.

  • Extra mail

    Classic “if it hasn’t happened to me, then the problem doesn’t need fixing.” And, that’s how we turn into sheep!

  • LeeAnneClark

    Riiiight…so my elderly, disabled mother can drive 2000 miles across country to visit me. Uh huh.

    Yep, THIS is why the TSA continues to mete out its abuse. Because so many Americans happily let them…and even thank them for it.

  • LeeAnneClark

    And all the baby bombs! Remember all those? All those poopy diapers filled with explosives? I’m SO glad the TSA now molests our babies, to make sure they’re not carrying all those horrible poop bombs that killed so many people.

    And the old lady bombs! Yeah, there were so many feeble old ladies carrying bombs in their Depends before the TSA stopped them.

    And of course the boob bombs! All those attractive young females who carried bombs in their bras, before the TSA started feeling them up and putting a stop to that.

    Yes, I’m so thankful for the TSA! Keeping us safe one molestation at a time.

  • crash025

    The major issue [the ‘remediation’ without explaination] I complained when I got to my connecting airport. I had a generic apology from the head of the tsa group at CLT within 36 hours.

    The minor one… I ticked the guy off. I stood near where he wanted me to sit. Then when he came back and demanded I sit down I looked at him funny, sat down and a minute later he asked for me to come get a pat down. It was hilarious.

    Really, most of these guys, unless they’re disabled, hate doing this and are homophobic. This is a benefit for me. :) They hate doing it, and opting out makes them miserable. As long as you don’t give them [a justifiable reason to screw with you they can’t screw with you. Their supervision is within 20m.

    In their attempt to stop you from getting an opt out they’ll try to tell you about the safety of the machine, or how its “good” about privacy (bullshit). I just repsond with the Hamburg study about the false positive and that I would prefer to go to the opt out instead.

    LeeAnneClark The problem isn’t with flying too little.. the problem is that you don’t fly enough. The more you go for the opt outs, the more they hate you.

    I have had a patdown by the same guy that I complained about the next monday. He was grumpy as hell the next week. I was VERY amused.

  • crash025

    I’d agree with the officer bit. Just find ways to screw with them.

  • Harry

    in a 7-day period ending September 20, TSA screening caught the following items at US airports: “47 guns (38 of them loaded, including six with rounds in their chambers), three inert hand grenades, supplies of black powder, hunting knives, timing fuses and a sword”. That was ONE week. The New York Times, September 28, 2012

  • Saul B


    1,448 firearms confiscated in the first half of 1985. That’s over 50 per week.

    Were those guns — in 1985 and 2012 — found by passengers removing their shoes or by virtual strip search machines or by friskings? Nope, they were found by metal detectors and bag x-rays.

    So, Harry, what’s your point? These guns would have been equally found in 1985 checkpoints.

  • john4868

    From the TSA Blog for just last week …

    26 Guns found… of those 17 were loaded and 7 of those had a round chambered (ie ready to fire).

    Also …

    Items in the Strangest Places –It’s important to check your bags prior to traveling. If a prohibited item is discovered in your bag, you could be cited and possibly arrested by local law enforcement. Here are a few examples from this week where prohibited items were found in strange places.

    A knife was discovered in a bag at Dulles (IAD). It had been sewn into the lining.

    A bladed multi-tool was discovered concealed in a package of socks at Albuquerque (ABQ).

    A knife was discovered at Burbank (BUR) concealed underneath the lining of a bag between the handle and wheels.

    A belt buckle knife was discovered at San Francisco (SFO).

  • Saul B

    John, how were those items found again? Yep, you got it: metal detectors and baggage x-rays.

    So what’s your point?

    And as an aside, do you sincerely think a passenger with a blade will ever again commandeer a plane? Just look at what happened to that unruly Icelandair passenger the other day.

  • john4868

    I don’t know how those were found… How do you know? I you suffer through Blogger Bob long enough to look back… They find intentionally concealed weapons almost every week.

  • Harry

    Good point Saul. On the other hand, the average nut job is not going to board a plane with plastic explosives strapped to his body ( or to her baby ), that is something we will likely see from someone with the will and the wherewithall to kill another 2,000 Americans. That’s my view and is, apparently, a view shared by others. We will not agree, but this is a wonderful country- we do not have to agree, do we? See you in line Saul.

  • john4868

    Didn’t take long to find a weapon that only a scanner could have found:

    From the week prior to Dec 7.

    A razorblade was detected in a sock at Newark (EWR).

  • Saul B

    Because Bob used to crow weekly about the body scanner finds.


    Every one of those blades would have been found without friskings and shoe removal and virtual strip searches.

    And again, suppose a small blade did make it through: do you believe a passenger will ever again take over a plane with a blade?

  • Dutchess

    While I don’t travel as often as I did before I still opt-out every time I go through security. I’ve never once felt harassed or molested or violated by a TSA agent during a pat down.

    I’ve always politely said, “I would like to opt-out, please.” and I’ve never been treated poorly by the person screening me. I did have one TSA agent say “You aren’t very observant. They’re calibrating the back-scatter machine so you would have only gone through the magnotrometer but you said opt-out so now you have to be patted down.” I just smiled and said “Thanks!” (I was tempted to say “Oh, I don’t mind I rather enjoy the pat down.” but abstained for obvious reasons.)

    I’m not a female, perhaps their experiences are different but I’m just not that bothered by it and I’ve never felt targeted as a result.

  • Saul B

    Oooohhhhh. Think of the casualties if that razor blade had been used to saw through the cockpit door.

    Or perhaps think about all of the other permitted items that could be easily fashioned into a razor-sharp blade (DVD, glass from a lens, aluminum soda can, …).

  • Saul B

    >> See you in line

    You mean the TSA line that often has more (unscreened) people packed together than on a single plane, and that would make an ideal target?

  • Dutchess

    Really? So your idea of bonding is insulting a race of people and categorizing Asians as being walking disease carriers? You must be lots of fun at parties.

  • Dutchess

    Rather than showing your card and giving a medical excuse why not simply state “I would like to opt-out” it’s your right and losing the medical excuse it doesn’t give them any reason to make a comment.

  • Harry

    I don’t care for the digital examination by my doctor, but I can’t avoid that by walking through a machine.

  • Dutchess

    Please explain how opt-outs are “slowing the line down” for everyone else. These secondary screeners aren’t people that would be manning other security stations. The people performing pat downs are there for that express purpose, secondary searches. So, please go on and tell me how I should go into a back-scatter machine that takes semi-nude photos of my body and has no independent studies on health risks (unlike the millions of studies on all the other items you mention) and tell me I should “think of the others” because it’s wasting your precious time.

    Perhaps the person who egotistically suggests everyone else should bend to the whim of an intrusive, ineffectual security machine because they can’t be bothered to have a moments patience while others are screened should be the one seeking the advice of a psychiatric professional.

  • harry

    Elliot, a “journalist”? why are comments with an opposing point of view deleted?

  • Harry

    you can’t fly a line of people into another target.

  • Saul B

    And you can’t take over a plane with locked and hardened cockpit doors and where passengers will no longer meekly put up with anyone making a scene.

    Your point?

    So if someone bombs the landslide area (see Moscow’s airport a few years ago) and kills scores, no problem?

  • harry

    oops, I was wrong. Would the court please strike my last comment from the record?

  • SoBeSparky

    Your ignorance is insulting to me–leveling a slur at me when the facts speak for themselves. See National Geographic, ”
    Flu Viruses Originate in Asia, Hitch Across Globe.” http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080416-flu-migration.html

    There are numerous other citations on these facts also. Asia is the known incubator for North American flu viruses.

    You really should be banned for making scurrilous statements without any research or facts. I am tired of people guessing things without any basis in research or truth. Just spread lies.

  • The woman next to you in Orlando had a look of RAW TERROR? Terrified of a TSA inspection? God forbid there should be an emergency on the airplane, what would she do then? She should not be travelling by herself. The TSA procedures are annoying … not terrifying for gonnessakes. Please don’t slip into the sleaze-media mode, Chris.

  • Saul B
  • LeeAnneClark

    Wow. I’m just blown away that you talk about this stuff like it’s normal!

    These are low-paid, uneducated, ill-trained clerks. They have NO LAW ENFORCEMENT AUTHORITY over you. And yet you find it to be marginally irritating that one of them felt he had the right to ORDER you to sit? And you COMPLIED? And thought it was HILARIOUS?

    Wow. Just…wow.

    As for them “hating” it…yeah, well, maybe that’s the last shred of humanity in them, recognizing that sexually molesting innocent civilians is simply WRONG. Or, it could just be that they are uneducated, ill-trained low-wage workers who realize they are among the most hated people in America today. Either way, I sure as hell don’t want ANY of them touching my genitals!

    I have to say I find it disturbing that you find this whole thing amusing. I did NOT find it amusing when a brutish TSA screener shoved her thumb up into my vagina. I did NOT find it amusing when a TSA goon pressed so hard on my recent surgical wound that she made me cry out in pain. I did NOT find it amusing when a TSA brute squeezed my mother’s breast, 3 weeks after her breast-cancer surgery, until she cried out in pain. I did NOT find it amusing when a TSA thug made my mother wait for 45 minutes, refused to let her use the restroom, then SCREAMED at her for “pissing her pants” when she finally did the patdown and realized her trousers were damp.

    No. Not amused at all. But I’m glad you are getting such entertainment from this.

  • crash025

    I don’t know your whole situation. You should have filled a police report against them. I’m not a lawyer but that sounds like sexual assault, report and pursue it.

    As long as I’m just groped, I’m not over sensitive so I couldn’t care less. Its a biweekly massage, and it makes them hate life [which makes me happy]. See what irritates me as well is that I have to wear pants… now if they’d allow me to take off my pants while going through security, thered be no need for this whole silly waist band checking.

    On to their policy: They do ask if there are any sensitive areas or recent medical issues [sic]. If you’ve had surgery recently you must point it out to them.

  • harry

    Saul, you have confidence in your knowledge of risk/security. Why not apply for a job with the FAA, Homeland Security, the FBI… your expertise lacks credibility here. I do not mean that disrespectfully, but it is a matter of fact. I’ve got the rely upon the training and fact-based judgement of someone. Protection of individual freedom and dignity is terribly important, but so is the need to protect the flying public as well as those on the ground who might be victimized by falling debris. Seriously Saul, I am ok with the present, albeit imperfect, system. You are not. Become involved. Come up with a better solution. I’ll tell you this, there are- no doubt, terrorists who post comments to blogs such as this one, with the intention of stirring up opposition to the security measures that make the next attack more difficult. These issues Saul, are not just about you or me.

  • Flip44

    I had a happy happenstance when I checked in for my flite at the Minneapolis airport. An officer checked my ID and boarding pass. I noted the line in front of me for the full body scan was very long and moving slowly.
    Adjacent to that was the metal scanning line that was moving very rapidly: so I walked over to that line. I told the check in officer there my ID had been OK’d.
    Then SHE gave me the answer why I switched, “Oh, you are unable to raise your arms, right?”

  • Saul B

    >> I’ve got the rely upon the training and fact-based judgement of someone

    You mean people like Michael Chertoff and the like who parlay from homeland security jobs to the private sector and then make a killing selling their wares back to the government?

    If you think that every move made by TSA leadership is about your security, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

    And if you think these fora are teeming with terrorists looking to stir the pot to make their pending attacks easier, well … have a nice day, Harry.

  • harry

    Mr. Elliott, your editorial comment, “poorly tested full-body scanner”, might have a sound basis, but how are we to know that? It would have been helpful to have seen a counterpoint from TSA- for the sake of journalistic integrity. Just my humble opinion sir.

  • harry

    Saul, a troll on the internet could be anybody (but most are nobodys).

  • harry

    In recent months, we’ve seen unthinkable crimes carried out by unbalanced people. We need more security in this country, not less. Metal detectors are inadequate. We can’t stop every terrorist and mental case, but we can stop some. Our cooperation with security measures is part of the deal.

  • Saul B

    I fully agree, Harry.

    Before entering any movie theater, mall, classroom, office building, or public plaza where more than 100 persons are assembled, each citizen of this great country needs to go through a body scanner or an optional frisking. If things get really bad, we will hire more cops so that we approach a ratio of one cop for every two citizens, and enact random stops on the street to check the citizens out.

    Only then will we be free (from crime).

  • Shannon Stout

    I opted out at FLL on 12/28 and it was fine. Didn’t take too long and I didn’t feel violated (I’m female). I was annoyed, however, with myself and the policy, that I said I wanted to opt out because I was in a body scan lane. Immediately I noticed an electronic screener in the next lane but since I had already opted out, I had to go with the pat down.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Crash, there are literally THOUSANDS of reports of TSA gropes that were at least as sexually invasive as mine. Many people have tried to file reports. The police will not take them. The TSA is immune from prosecution. There are others who can explain why this is better than I can. But my assault was no different than thousands of others.

    As for pointing out my recent surgical wound, not only did I point it out but I begged them not to touch it. And the thug who screened me not only touched it, but RUBBED it and pressed on it so hard I cried out in pain, and was left in severe pain for hours.

    Same thing happened to my mother. She told the goon that she’d just had breast cancer surgery on her right breast, and that it was still tender. So which breast does the goon choose to devote her time to? The right one. She circled her hands completely around it, rubbing on the incision area, and then SQUEEZED it, like she thought explosives might pop out of it. My mother was in tears.

    There are literally hundreds of reports of the same thing happening. The TSA apparently uses the information of “sensitive areas” to enhance their screening of that spot. Based on the number of reports, this is not an anomaly, it’s a policy.

    Complaining does nothing. It changes nothing. You might get a generic, meaningless “apology” like you did, but…big deal! Nothing changes. I’ve been sexually assaulted twice. My mother has been physically abused twice. THOUSANDS of reports of similar abuse are received every year. Don’t believe me? Go check out http://www.travelunderground.org and look for the TSA abuse master list. These are not made up. These are real. What happened to me, and my mother, is real. And we have NO RECOURSE.

  • cjr001

    Pre Check doesn’t guarantee anything. People have tried to get into the program and cannot, for whatever silly reason. People find that the pre-check lanes aren’t open at airports.

    Or, the whole program is utterly useless because it does NOT guarantee that you won’t have to deal with the same worthless security that everybody else not paying for the program will be going through anyways.

    With Pre Check, you’re paying to MAYBE not get groped by TSA, and if you’re at the wrong airports, you’re getting irradiated regardless.

  • cjr001

    Those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it.

    So maybe it’s time you read up on those ‘misquotes’ yourself and – regardless of who said them – why they were said in the first place.

  • Dutchess

    AND your racist remark is insulting to me. In essence you said I don’t want to be touched by something that touched an Asian person because they have diseases. Re-read your studies and don’t confuse causation with correlation. I can’t see in a single context that mentioning a person’s race is pertinent to weather they’re generally healthy or unhealthy people.

    I could show you studies that say most pedophiles are men, would another version of your idea of “bonding time” be “look at all these men around here I don’t want you to use gloves that touched a pedophile.”

    What’s more disturbing than your blatant racism is your complete lack of ability to recognize it. You disgust me.

  • Abused in Vegas

    I am the guy that Chris wrote about a few months ago, who was bullied and had a hand slammed into my testicles, not once, but TWICE because I wasn’t moving fast enough, or wanted to keep an eye on my expensive laptop and tablet. I was polite and non-threatening and I was continually shouted at, and received all the treatment Chris writes about above, because I opted out. The intimidation and abuse is REAL. Stop kidding yourselves about it. The only thing that prevented a physical response from me to that TSA agent was that I was traveling with my girlfriend, didn’t want a scene or miss my flight. It was abusive and incredibly humiliating. I hope it never happens to you.

  • cjr001

    “We need more security in this country, not less.”

    All hail, harry, another fan of the police state.

  • Daddydo

    I have been advised that the X-Ray is 100, yes 100 times stronger that a dental e-ray. My wife had breast cancer, her Oncologist says no way to the scanners. For the normal 1 or 2 times a year traveler, it may make no difference, but we travel 5-10 times a year, and that may just be too much exposure.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Hi Harry,
    We never delete anyone for simply having an opposing point of view. When you see a delete, it’s because it contained a threat, over-the-top obscenity, or some sort of psychotic rant. We allow a lot.

  • Saul B

    >> a threat, over-the-top obscenity,
    >> or some sort of psychotic rant

    Kind of like the murmurings of TSA Administrator John Pistole

  • Sasha

    Last week I opted out at JFK. I did this because 15 people in front of me were allowed to go through the old school metal detector, then it was my turn and they herded me to the full new scan. I opted out. I then stood there as my bags and computer and purse were left unattended on the other side of security. for 25 mins. i told the person that my bags were out for anyone to take and he said “there are cameras everywhere.” Unfortunately, those cameras don’t have legs to chase after the person who subsequently was rifling through my purse. I watched this from the other side of security and started shouting at the person to put down my bag, this was the same time when the female assist was walking over. She then started yelling at me “stop yelling at me, I didn’t make you opt out and wait” i was clear and said ” i wasn’t yelling at you at all, i was yelling at the person who just went though my purse.” She then walked away saying “i can’t search her with her attitude like that!” Then when she finally came back 15 mins later with a supervisor to take me to my frisk, i had 2 supervisors talk to me telling me how safe these machines were. Extensively. My tax dollars are paying for this nonsense, wasting time talking to passengers. Meanwhile at LAX they had these insane machiines for over a year that I travelled through and then took them out of service after they realized they released too much radiation. After I heard that I decided that I wont be going through any of these new machines because the gov’t is so quick to rush them into service that they don’t do reserach until its too late. What I learned is that I have to hold my baggage until I get a female assist, then I will put my bags through. Moreover, I will say I am pregnant and don’t feel comfortable and my doctor told me not to go through them, that way when the supervisors lecture me on how safe they are, I’ll say I have a fetus to care for and if I can’t eat soft cheese I’m sure as heck not going to radiate that baby.

  • SoBeSparky

    Unfortunately you do not understand English syntax nor usage.

    Pedophile refers to people. It is a noun. A rock cannot be a pedophile. Asian as an adjective refers to one of the seven continents. It is a location. There are Asian rocks, Asian flu, and Asian food.

    I used Asian as an adjective, as National Geographic and many other sources have reported on the scientific proofs that virtually all influenza strains in North America originate about nine months earlier somewhere in Asia, a continent. Therefore, the flu virus is Asian in origin, just like wine from Burgundy is French wine and imported steel-cut oats are usually from Ireland, so they are Irish Oatmeal.

    My quote is a suggested line to convince the TSA personnel to change gloves: “You know, there is a lot of Asian and that rat flu going around with these passengers. No one wants to get that crap. Could you please change your gloves?”

    I have proved that virtually all North American flu viruses originate in Asia, This is scientific. There is nothing racist whatsoever. Further, many waves of flu viruses over time have been officially named “Asian flu.”

    If I were to intend to imply something racist, the sentence would read, “You know there ARE a lot of AsianS carrying flu going through this airport,” a completely different–and wrong–concept. Note that Asian is a noun in this racist example, wherein in my actual quote it is an adjective to the prepositional object “flu.”

    There is no hair splitting here. This is common American English usage. It is not optional or discretionary. To communicate we have rules, and one of the most common involves the differences between nouns and adjectives. Calling the flu Asian is no more racist than calling diseases tropical. Just because a person lives in the tropics does not imply at all that they are diseased. It only says that in the tropical weather zone the diseases tend to thrive. It does not say, “You know there are a lot of people from the tropics who are diseased…” I never even hinted that Asian people had the flu, only that nonspecific “these passengers” (presumably in the screening area) might be carrying types of flu.

    Before you type a response, you should be certain you understand what you have read. If you do not understand, then perhaps a friend can help you.

  • $16635417


    She claimed to have a bomb and the aircraft was diverted. Not quite a year ago.

  • Dutchess

    You keep talking in the same circles and whether you use Asian as a noun or adjective, in relation to people it’s a description of their race and you can’t separate the two. Therefore, there is no other way to interpret what you said other than Asians carry diseases. The base of the statement is racist regardless of your studies. And yes, I know swine/bird flu in terms of epidemiology originates in asia but that doesn’t mean statistically asians carry more diseases which is the general idea of your statement.

    I will end this by saying the fact that you can’t recognize using the race of an individual in relation to a diseased prone person in general conversation is at the very least a bit inappropriate and at the worst vile and racist than you have more problems than I can assist you with. No amount of semantics can change that. Good luck in life sir and crawl back under the rock from whence you came.

  • $16635417

    Good point, I wonder if any of the 9/11 19 held elite status.

  • Grant Ritchie

    Oh, stop it. :-)

  • Scott

    Please keep this civil; this discussion seemed to have wandered far from that.

  • MarkieA

    Is it really $20 a year? What kind of “in-depth” background check do you suppose they can do for $20?

  • TonyA_says

    Same here (except we were not pregnant). We went through JFK recently.
    We were 5 in line. Me and my 2 other sons went through the magnetometer but for some reason my wife and other son were directed through a scanner.
    Since this was not the x-ray version, they decided NOT to opt out.
    Wow, that machine is HORRENDOUSLY SLOW.
    Plus it is so far away from the carry on x-ray machine.
    An agent grabbed by son’s backpack from the x-ray machine because he left a laptop on the TSA approved part of the backpack.
    Then they started FIGURING OUT WHO OWNED the backpack by asking around. Since I was done and waiting, I told them it was my son’s.
    She opened the backpack (after asking me permission), got the laptop, swabbed the battery section and checked. Then she put the bag back on the belt for one more x-ray without the laptop. When this was all done, my son finally came out of the scanner.

    This body scanning thing is just plain stupidity. Not only is it too slow and causing a traffic nightmare, it is out of pace with the hand carry checking. Besides, it is the hand carry x-ray machine where they catch most of the problematic items. Whoever bought these scanners should be retired together with the scanners. Let’s just go back to magnetometers and common sense.

  • Cybrsk8r

    I’m going to make a t-shirt that says: “BEING PUNISHED FOR OPTING OUT”. Then, when they put me in the penalty box, my shirt will tell everyone I did nothing wrong.

  • Thank you, Chris. So good to have your articulate voice telling it like it is. Keep it up! We need and appreciate you.

  • Dutchess

    Scott, so you think it’s okay for someone to openly make racist or insinuate that a race of people are disease carriers and should be avoided? Yet I’m being asked to keep it civil?

  • Nigel Appleby

    We flew out of Phoenix a couple of months ago. We were directed through a scanner before we realised it was a scanner, we could probably have opted out but dodn’t. However I did notice that until they were ready for you in the scanner they stopped you putting your luggage into the Xray machine until they were ready for you at the scanner. It meant only one person’s luggage was waiting for collection after the Xray machine and it was very easy to keep an eye on your luggage the whole time. I was impressed by the way they timed the process but not so impressed that it was a scanner not a magnetometer. Plus they were friendly and cheerful.

  • Zorba

    I decided to opt out….of flying. For now.

  • Don Roberts

    I opt out all the time – I despise the TSA and make no pretense otherwise. I don’t pretend to be pleasant or forgiving.

  • Howard

    I agree with this post. I used to opt out, but after reading several of your scary articles about how you might miss your flight, I’ve weighed the risks and benefits and stopped opting out. I fly monthly through major airports and they’ve pretty much stopped using the back scatter machines. I don’t really care about the millimeter wave machines or the metal detectors as they are not dangerous.

  • EdB

    I thought the same thing when I read Scott’s post. Who is less civil, the one making the racist comment or the person explaining how it is racist? I just put it down to Disqus poor threading and figured it was to everyone.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    I’m not asking for me, thanks. I’m fine. :-)

    SBS said it wasn’t about money, but unless one flies for work, there is no way to fly more without paying more out of pocket.

    @ SBS: And the difference between a building a credit record and a “flying record” is that the credit record is for transacting with private businesses and the “flying record” is being used by a GOV’T AGENCY to determine benefits denied other citizens.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Really? Someone downgraded me for asking a simple question? LOL!!!

  • Mundane Lustrator

    You might ask if they are a medical doctor and mention “practicing medicine without a license” if they try again to force you into a scanner by saying it won’t harm your pacemaker.

    Report any screener who refuses or resists your legit medical opt-out.

    Damn, why does anyone have to reveal private medical info to a low-level, non-medical, civilian gov’t employee in the first place? HIPAA anyone?

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Why should any of our backgrounds be checked to get on a plane?

  • Mundane Lustrator

    And she didn’t have a bomb and wasn’t a terrorist. Just a mentally ill woman.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    How about a paraphrase of something TSA critics have heard for years:

    Don’t like it? Don’t read.

    (said ironically, of course)

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Hmmmm…how many were going to be used by terrorists on a plane? None.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    If the items were in a bag, they were found by x-raying the bag.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Those scanners cost Americans billions of dollars, all to find one razor blade?

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Isn’t that stupid? Not allowing someone to change their mind on screening method.

  • Daisiemae

    Must have been SBS.

  • Daisiemae

    HIPAA is only for the protection of the medical providers and the government and any other entity that wants to access and use our information. It doesn’t protect our information from anybody but ourselves.

    Notice how they always force you to sign the disclosure like you are the one doing something wrong.

  • Daisiemae

    She did not claim to have a bomb. She claimed to have a surgically implanted device (which presents a wide range of items other than a bomb) and was seeking medical attention in the US.

    Bottom line, she did not have a bomb, and no woman has attacked a plane.

  • Daisiemae

    So a known customer would never commit a crime? Have you ever heard of an inside job?

    A regular customer of any business could commit a crime against that business at any time. People change. Their circumstances change. Their mental status changes.

    To think that frequent flyers are any less likely to commit terrorist acts than the rest of the general public is naive.

    BTW, what is to prevent an al Quaida operative from achieving frequent flyer status? So there goes your theory about how safe all those frequent flyers are.

  • Daisiemae

    Probably as in depth as the one they do on there own employees.

  • Saul B

    Yeah but saying she had a bomb sure ratchets up the fear. And the TSA lives off fear.

  • Saul B

    Recall how several TSOs have been fired for accepting bribes to smuggle drugs. Swap “drugs” with “explosives” and such morally corrupt employees are prime candidates for an inside job.

  • Kristin

    I consider it doing my part, since i have to sit at the airport w/o family (ticketed only past this point!) for hrs anyways, i might as well let TSA wast time searching me and laugh to my self the whole time since they keep wasting time/resources searching me repeatedly because i wont take off my shoes. I’ve got the time, now they’ve got the hassle. The whole security check process is stupid really – esp. considering 1 airport will allow xyz when others wont. No One Wins!

  • JenniferFinger

    Yes, you are. You and everyone else who posts in this thread. The nature of the comment you’re replying to doesn’t exempt you from the responsibility to be civil and polite yourself.

  • bkoehn

    I avoid flying commercial whenever possible. I got my private pilot’s license and joined a flying club and can typically beat the airlines anywhere within about 700 miles of my house. I know it’s not a panacea solution and won’t work for everybody, but flying yourself is rewarding and not as expensive as you might think. (I’m talking about single-engine, piston-powered aircraft, not jets. I’m not a 1 percent-er, just a working guy.)

  • Poorly-tested is a factual declaration, since no evidence of the body scanners’ effectiveness has ever been promulgated by TSA. TSA says “just trust us” while claiming any information about the scanners is Sensitive Security Information (secret). Meanwhile, on German television and again in YouTube sensation form (Jon Corbett) people are documenting left and right that many dangerous items can be easily carried through a body scanner undetected. The guy on German TV set off a rather large explosion with the things he carried undetected through a body scanner. So, yes, poorly tested is a fact not requiring counterpoint.

  • What I want is that the standard for searching me when I get on the plane is exactly the same as when I’m walking down the street – give probable cause or a warrant before you detain me or search me. So, no, Pre-Check is NOT what I’ve been asking for. TSA and the police should only harass people against whom they have an articulable suspicion.

    Global entry costs $100 plus flying to an airport where the program is administered if you aren’t near one. Let’s also remember that fewer than one in 1000 travelers qualifies for Pre-Check, so that leaves the other 999 of us treated like criminal suspects or prison inmates.

  • Thank you for opting out and objecting to these despicable machines on behalf of all of us who oppose them.

  • No, you can’t. The false positive rates on body scanners are quite high, and the TSA can select you for a full patdown at any time for no reason at all whether you go through the machine or not. Every person going through a TSA checkpoint is being threatened with sexual assault.

  • TonyA_says

    Wow get this. I made a comment here about how slow those nudeoscopes were compared to a magnetometer after our recent experience at JFK. After I posted, I asked my son what really happened? Why it was so slow?

    Here is his explanation. As he put his backpack down on the belt of the xray machine and while he was about to remove his belt and put them on a tray, a TSA agent told him to move to another line farther to the right and pass through the nudeoscope. Fearing that he would be separated from us, he did not opt out. So he passed through the scanner. Unfortunately, he did not remove his belt and they asked him to remove it, place it on a tray, and put it on belt on the xray machine. Then he need to walk through the nudeoscope one more time. He did. But during the second time, a T S A agent told him to stay right there and put his hand in between his pants and lower stomach area and felt all around his waist. Because his pants were tight, it took a little while.

    Hmm, isn’t the reason why you do not opt out is because you do not want someone to touch you near your you know what? Well apparently not. My son went through the scanner and still had someone put their hand on his lower area. Disgusting.

  • I am so sorry that your son was assaulted. This disgusting abuse makes me ashamed for all of us. I think it is important for everyone to remember that going through a scanner does NOT mean that a passenger will avoid being sexually assaulted by the TSA. If you buy an airline ticket, your genitals may be inspected by a government thug. It’s dehumanizing, abhorrent, and I will never ever stop fighting to stop it.

  • I don’t cooperate with sexual assault. The TSA’s patdowns are sexual assaults. I will never, ever stop fighting to get these people away from my sex organs and out of the pants of children. The fact that you think I should cooperate with a stranger who wants to rub my labia makes me sick. What kind of a man are you? Protecting people means NOT sexually assaulting them.

  • TonyA_says

    Thanks. It shocked me. I should have asked my 18 yr old son earlier.
    So now even if you go through a nudeoscope, they can still feel you up if they want to. What is the purpose of these machines ???
    Heck, you might as well OPT OUT all the time.

  • Smartone

    The TSA keep the sky safe. If you don’t like it, then don’t fly. I rather be safe and not have any more planes flying into buildings. You should be ashamed of yourself.

  • There will never be another U.S. commercial jet flown into a building, and that’s not because of the TSA, but because the cockpit doors are locked and the government no longer requires flight crews to cooperate with hijackers. The TSA is not making you or anyone else any safer. In fact, by physically assaulting innocent travelers and by concentrating huge groups of people in the unscreened area and by diverting would-be flyers onto the roads, the TSA makes us all very much less safe. I’m not ashamed of myself for fighting back after being sexually assaulted by the TSA, but I am ashamed of you for being ignorant of the facts.

  • shishibeach

    I’m writing this without reading any of the comments yet. Just saying that one recent trip, around about spring break time last year ~ my husband and I were waived through without issue. No need to go thru the x-ray machine or any other investigative invasion. We did have our “stuff” in the plastic trays as required, shoes off, jackets in the bins, of course.

    What I thought was interesting was that the 5 girls in front of us – all lovely, svelt, young women wearing uggs and yoga pants etc…with their “stuff” in the plastic bins, exactly the same as us old fogies – were required to go thru the x-ray machine…and then ALSO thru the pat-down. I couldn’t see any reason for it other than pure tactile stimulation. It was disgusting – but in that environment…and needing to catch our own flight – there was no way other than an email to the airport to complain – because if we had stood up for those girls, we would have risked missing our own flight or worse. It’s a scary world we’ve entered….

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Good point.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    True. Americans in general allow TSA to abuse flyers because of fear.

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Why should anyone feel ashamed for criticizing a gov’t agency and its employees? Isn’t that one reason we love this country?

  • Mundane Lustrator

    Yup. Not all TSA screeners are perverts, but the ones who are take advantage of their alleged power.

  • EdB

    What fantasy world are you living in?

  • Scott

    Exactly correct. I understand that each of you seem to feel strongly on this, but it is not a conversation that others should need to skip over. Please remember to have respect for other posters, Christopher Elliott and yourself.

    Stick to the topic without the personal attacks that have no place in this discussion. You can disagree with each other, but disagree in a manner that stays on topic without lowering oneself to personal attacks or inferences about others.

  • Dutchess

    I agree I may have taken this a bit far but I found it a little repugnant that no moderator stepped in to address a comment they themselves (see EdB’s comment above) admit to finding racist, and only chose to step in and address me.

  • bodega3

    I agree! It is no different than any other law enforcement agency.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Here’s the startling fallacy in your statement: TSA IS NOT A LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY.

    Sorry to put that in all caps, but that fact seems to go missing in so many of these discussions.

    REAL law enforcement agencies have entry requirements, educational requirements, actual training. REAL law enforcement agencies do background checks, and it takes a long time and much effort and education to get into a position of power over citizens…education and training that will include the importance of not abusing that power. And most bad seeds, those who are most likely to abuse their power or prey on citizens, are usually weeded out. That doesn’t mean they ALL are weeded out, but you will have far fewer in an actual law enforcement agency.

    On the other hand, the TSA will literally take anyone – including known pedophiles. They openly admit they don’t do adequate background checks. You don’t even need to have a highschool diploma to get hired. And their training consists of some very rudimentary orientation, and then on-the-job training performed by other uneducated, ill-trained, otherwise unemployable low-wage workers. Hence, it is INEVITABLE that they are going to end up with a high percentage of power-mad, abusive thugs. When you are willing to take anybody and give them total power over our bodies and valuables, with nothing stopping them from abusing that power, of COURSE a large percentage of them are going to do just that.

    So to compare the bad behavior of the TSA with actual law enforcement agencies is an absolute travesty, not to mention absurd.

  • bodega3

    They are enforcing rules/laws despite your views.

  • bodega3
  • EdB

    That link is for the Air Marshal program, not flunkies doing the screening. Those people have no enforcement authority. If they find someone breaking the rules/laws, they have to call the real cops to deal with the person.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Hilarious. Um…your link is to the Federal Marshal program, which is, in fact, the ONLY actual law enforcement faction of the TSA.

    TSA screeners are NOT law enforcement officers. This is a fact, whether you want to accept it or not.

    Federal marshals are actually “marshals”. They have the ability to arrest you.

    TSA screeners are NOT. They have NO legal right or power to arrest you. They have to call actual police officers to do that.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Enforcing laws, and being an actual “law enforcement agency”, are not the same thing. Lots of people enforce laws who are not officially law enforcement officers. Security guards come to mind. Security guards enforce laws, but are not sworn law enforcement officers.

    TSA agents are nothing more than glorified security guards with fake badges. Similar to mall cops. If a mall cop tried to strip-search you, would you let him? If a mall cop told you to stand in the middle of the mall and let him run his hands all over your body and between your legs, would you let him? That’s essentially what you are doing at the airport checkpoint.

    Once again, in case the concept is still difficult for you: TSA agents are NOT law enforcement officers. They have no legal jurisdiction over you…no power to arrest. If they want to have you arrested, they have to call the police, just like any other private citizen.

    I realize that is a fact that you don’t want to accept, but the sky is also blue, and water is also wet. Whether you want to believe it or not.

  • LeeAnneClark

    “Modern legal codes use the term peace officer (or in some jurisdictions, law enforcement officer) to include every person vested by the legislating state with law-enforcement authority – traditionally, anyone “sworn, badged, and armable” who can arrest, or refer such arrest for a criminal prosecution. Hence, city police officers, county sheriffs’ deputies, and state troopers are usually vested with the same authority within a given jurisdiction.”

    TSA screeners do are NOT vested by the legislating state with law enforcement authority. They are not “sworn and armable”, and their fake badges hold no more validity or authority than than a fake cop badge from a Halloween costume. They do not have the authority to arrest you.

    Neither do mall cops or security guards.

    Is this becoming clear yet?

  • LeeAnneClark

    Exactly. Good to know someone else out there actually grasps this (relatively simple) concept.

  • bodega3

    That was just to the page to look further. There are many facets to the TSA and many are considered law enforcers.

  • EdB

    The only law enforcement position they talk about under the Office of Law Enforcement is Federal Air Marshals. And besides, the conversation was about the flunkies doing the search so those other items aren’t really relevant.

  • EdB

    They are enforcing squat. All they do is monitor for violations and then report it to real law enforcement personnel.

  • Daisiemae

    Totally! TSA employees have a higher rate of criminal activity than the passengers they are screening…frequent flyers or not.

  • Daisiemae

    Again, she did not say that she had a bomb.

  • JenniferFinger

    Dutchess, both you and the other person were asked to remain polite and civil to each other-twice now. Whether you think the comment was “racist,” “offensive,” “repugnant,” or whatever, it is time to consider the subject closed. No more posting about how “offended” you are or how “repugnant” you found the comment. It’s time to move on.

  • EdB

    And that’s why you brought it back up two days after the last comment about it was made? Seems everyone else had let it dropped but you come in and stir it back up with your comment.

  • JenniferFinger

    EdB, I’m advising you to let it go as well. I want everyone to stop the snide remarks. Snarking back at a moderator who is doing their job isn’t acceptable either.

  • EdB

    I am not commenting on the original comment, just your comment, that appears to be out of line. So I am not continuing the original thread, but a new topic that you started.

    If you got notification in private, which I am guess what is happened, then you should address the person in private, not in public. In public, there had been no remarks for 2 days until you came back.

    And I will “Snark” back at any moderator who appears to be acting out of line and will not be intimidated by one throwing that title around.

  • Scott

    Hi Dutchess, my request was actually to you both, but the way the reply posted may have seemed I was only replying to you; that was certainly not my intent and I am sorry if it was taken that way. I will do more to be sure to be more specific in the future.

  • Scott

    Ed, yes, that is what happened. I also replied to Dutchess on this, but want to be sure that I address it, since it appears my posting was not clear.

  • JenniferFinger

    EdB, because of your lack of respect, you have been blacklisted. As noted, there will be no snark or other disrespect for moderators here.

  • blacklisted

    Ahhh…. So that;s how it is. You don’t like the criticism you black list someone.

  • JenniferFinger

    No, what I don’t like is the lack of respect-whether it’s one poster accusing another of being “racist” or another being snide to a moderator. For this reason, you will not be allowed to post.

  • Whoa. Hang on, everyone. Let’s take a breather here. Can’t we agree to disagree in a civil way?

  • I’m really sorry it’s come to this. Our policy on blacklisting is that unless it’s an obvious spammer, we first need to have a discussion with the other moderators and all of the parties involved. We’re going to do that now.

  • SarahJ88

    Does anyone know what it’s like to opt out at Boston’s Logan Airport? I have to fly to Europe from there in April and am nervous about it.

  • SarahJ88

    Huh. I didn’t know Amtrak goes to France. Thanks for the enlightenment.

  • Carolena

    I have a titanium knee replacement that sets off the metal detector. I always ask for a pat down. I have always been treated with respect and dignity. Maybe it’s because I’m older (64). Maybe it’s because I am polite and not confrontational. Not wimpy–but as Mom taught me, if you respect people you receive respect .

  • kinkajou007

    The way one’s carry-on luggage is handled while awaiting a pat is absolutely unacceptable. I recently spent 25 minutes at LAX waiting for a female agent while my luggage was left unattended and barely visible from my ‘holding corral.’ (How on earth is THAT secure??) I am obliged to travel with a ton of computer equipment for my job, and it’s non-stop high alert stress to try to monitor one’s belongings from afar in that crush and confusion of re-shoeing and bag / jacket reclaiming. I don’t often have to wait quite as long as the LAX instance, but the stressful distance-monitoring is *always* an issue. Wouldn’t it be possible for an opt-out to wait in some sort of open cubicle, with a separated shelf / bin to keep carry-ons beyond touchable range, but close enough that an eye can be kept one’s things? Any available agent could lead the opt-out over to said waiting area, collecting the pointed-out personal items from the belt en route.

  • tristinsgram

    I fly several times a year, in and out of the US. I am female, in my 70’s, use a 4 wheel walker with a seat that is welded together (that several times some brillant TSA person has tried to take apart, even when told it doesn’t come apart). I have a balance problem, so cannot stand in the scanner, I also wear a leg brace, and have an ostomy bag. Obviously I have to opt out, and most of the time it is a horrible, time comsuming process. Good places, Denver, if you use the walkway to A gates, Des Moines Airport, Guadalajara, Fort Lauderdale. Bad, LAX, Phoenix, San Francisco and Houston.

  • suezeke

    Recently when I was traveling from El Paso to Orlando with my 5 & 6 year old great-grandchildren I was wearing medical wraps on my legs for Lymphodema and a boot on one foot because of a fracture. I was pulled out of line, my kids were told to move away from me and they then proceeded to take off the boot to examine it and wanted to unwrap my legs. I refused and they were very unpleasant. they really frightened the kids and now they are reluctant to fly.
    Thanks TSA-I’m sure lots of crippled 70+ year olds are terrorists, especially those accompanied by children.

  • Susan Richart

    Did you report this to the TSA and to the DHS Inspector General?


    Issues with poor, disrespectful treatment MUST always be reported.

  • Susan Richart

    What reason do you give them for refusing to take off your shoes? I truly applaud you for refusing to capitulate. More people should follow your example.

  • Susan Richart

    If the flying public would fight back, the TSA would be gone. The only reason they survive is because the agency has hoodwinked the gullible travelers into thinking they are keeping them safe in the air.

  • Saul B

    Why should I respect a government employee who is about to feel me up as a condition of traveling within my own country?

    Would you also respect a mailman or DMV employee who also demanded to feel you up as part of his job? They both have the same law enforcement authority as a TSO: None.

  • Carolena: blaming the victim. Lots of people who are respectful get abused by the TSA.

  • TonyA, it’s awful what your son went through. As we’ve noted so many times over the past two years, just because you go through the scanner doesn’t mean you won’t also be singled out for a grope. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. But I realize that a lot of people still aren’t aware of this.

  • The purpose of the machines is to line the pockets of Rapiscan, L-3, American Science & Engineering, Smiths, etc. So they can bribe our Congresspeople.

  • Harry, you obviously haven’t heard of VIPR. The TSA infestation is everywhere, including buses, trains, subways, and ferries. Which was predictable.

  • John Baker, metal is detected by — uh — metal detectors. Not by scoping and groping.

  • Gasp — a razor blade! Oh, the horror!

  • crash025, you should check out some of the stories in this Master List; LeeAnne’s story is also in there, along with thousands of others:


  • Rowan

    I didn’t read SoBeSparky’s post as racist in the slightest. I’ve heard of the Asian flu for many years and it never occurred to me to even THINK I should be so concerned about people with Asian heritage as being a threat. I think you are a very uptight person who isn’t getting enough attention in your life. For someone to be so insulted from something that isn’t even directed at you personally is ridiculous. SoBe doesn’t know you. He wasn’t speaking in racially derogative terms towards your or anyone else. This wasn’t about you. The Asian flu isn’t about the Asian people. SoBe didn’t wake up one day to make a comment to upset you, he doesn’t care about you and why should he? He doesn’t know you! So why would you be so offended that someone who doesn’t know you, who wasn’t talking to or about you, made a comment about a comment made to a TSA agent? Ask your therapist that next time you go in for an appointment. And make that appointment soon.

  • Dutchess

    Wow, you spent the time to read the comments but skimmed over the moderators requests to keep this civil and avoid personal attacks. You also revived this after what? A month?

    Perhaps you should take a look into the mirror before you condemn others.

  • Just saying…

    What a joke this forum is….. Get a life! All of you, including the almighty moderators.

  • Just saying…

    You must have a very exciting life :-(

  • Teresa

    Yes – opting out will cause you to be retaliated against – just try it sometime and you will see. Here is the catch – just do it anyway. Make a scene like I do – cry, pretend you are about to throw up, have a panic attack. This causes a huge back up and then they let everyone behind you go through the metal detector. It’s fun and they deserve it. Make their lives as miserable as they are making ours.

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