Here’s what happens when you say “no” to the TSA for a full-body scan

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By Christopher Elliott

The TSA Transportation Security Administration is fond of releasing surveillance video when it suits its purpose, like to debunk this woman’s claim that she was separated from her child at a checkpoint.

Then again, some passengers come to the airport looking for trouble. The TSA would like us to believe that Meg McLain was one such air traveler.

When she was randomly selected to go through the full-body scanner in Fort Lauderdale yesterday, she refused both the scan and the “enhanced” pat-down. She told a horrifying tale of being yelled at, cuffed to a chair and then escorted back to the terminal by no less than a dozen police officers.

The TSA, in response, released footage that suggests none of that happened.

Its public statement on the incident is dispassionate and, at the same time, disingenuous.

We diligently review claims of improper conduct. But when inaccurate passenger accounts are made either via media outlets or on the blogs, TSA works to resolve them and present both sides of the story. In this case, TSA has made the decision to post the CCTV video of the incident online.

You can listen to her radio interview, and then you can view our airport CCTV footage. We’ll let you decide what really happened.

We’ll let you decide? Oh, that’s cute.

Here’s what I think most people will decide: McLain was scared. She didn’t want to be scanned and she didn’t want an enhanced pat-down. When you’re being yelled at and detained by the TSA uniformed officers, your brain is bathed in adrenalin, and two police officers become twelve. You’re not just detained, you’re cuffed.

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I’m less worried about the details of McLain’s story — which certainly appear to be exaggerated — than what led to them.

This is the direct result of a bad policy. The government has no business giving anyone an enhanced pat-down or scanning their private parts. McLain was brave to resist.

It’s something we should all consider doing. It’s the only way the TSA will stop using these foolish strip-search machines.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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