It’s time to say “no” to the TSA’s full body scanners

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By Christopher Elliott

You may have though of saying “no” to the Transportation Security Administration’s new full-body scanners, too, despite the agency’s decision to impose a more aggressive pat-down technique on passengers who do.

Well, now is the time. It’s time for all of us to say “no.”

I called Roberts, a pilot for ExpressJet, yesterday to verify his story. He tried to opt out of a scan in Memphis but was turned away when he also declined to be “groped.” By his own account, his employment status with the airline is on “hold” during an investigation. He may be terminated.

“The very bedrock of our way of life in this country is under attack from within,” he says. “Please don’t let it be taken from us without a fight.”

Cummings was allowed to fly when she refused a scan, but subjected to a “completely thorough” pat-down, “as though I was a common criminal or a drug pusher,” she says. “The only place I was not touched was in my crotch — and isn’t that the one place they should be checking, after the underwear bomber?”

What if we all opted out of these invasive scans, like Roberts and Cummings?

The TSA would have to give us an aggressive pat-down, each and every one of us. The system would slow to a crawl and the agency would be forced to rethink the deployment of these unwanted devices, to re-evaluate the prison-style pat-downs.

Did I say “unwanted”?

Sure. I don’t recall anyone asking for these machines. Did you?

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Oh, now I remember what we wanted. We asked for the airport security process to become more efficient, for the TSA to focus on the people who are likeliest to commit a crime on a plane. We didn’t want to see any more images of nuns being frisked.

The TSA is doing a terrible job. We’re tired of being treated like criminals. (Here’s how to handle the TSA when you travel.)

But these scanners — machines that may bombard us with dangerous radiation, or maybe not; machines that we never asked for — that’s where some of us are drawing the line.

It’s where all of us should draw the line.

So the next time you’re at the airport, say no to the scan. Tell everyone else in line to refuse.

If anything, we should be opting in to the scans — not out. And we shouldn’t be punished with an even more invasive pat-down if we refuse.

America is better than that.

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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 São Paulo.

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