When will full-body scans become mandatory?

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By Christopher Elliott

If you’re a fan of conspiracy theories, you might suspect the latest terror scare is just another cleverly-timed event that pushes us toward mandatory full-body scans at the airport — not unlike the clumsy underwear bomber, who conveniently ended a lively debate about the privacy problems of strip-search machines.

If you aren’t a conspiracy theorist, then last weekend’s foiled bomb plot will just strike you as an interesting coincidence. Which it certainly is.

No matter who you are, though, the happenings of the last two weeks, which include the Transportation Security Administration’s imposition of new enhanced pat-down procedures for passengers who refuse the full-body scans, the terrorism scare, and a pilot who refused to undergo the TSA’s new screening, all lead to the same question: When will the government force us to go through these new machines?

Probably a lot sooner than we think.

Consider this: No one bothers to opt-out of walking through the magnetometer. It isn’t even addressed on the TSA site. Everyone goes through, and if they fail the test, they’re wanded by hand.

Metal detectors are safe

Are the metal detectors safe? It doesn’t matter. (They almost certainly are, in case you were wondering.)

There’s talk that TSA may increase some of its security around packages, in light of the latest terrorism incident.

It’s far more likely our TSA friends will do what they do best — leverage a terrorism “event” to tighten security even further. And in a way that some travelers feel is completely unreasonable. (Here’s how to handle the TSA when you travel.)

They did it with shoes (remember when we didn’t have to remove them?) lotions and potions (ah, the days when we could walk through security with a latte) optional full-body scans (thanks, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab) and now, probably, mandatory scans.

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Last week I called for people to opt-out of these unconstitutional and invasive strip searches. Next week, we may not have a choice in the matter.

What do you think?

I closed the poll at 400 responses. The “yeses” have it with 79 percent. There’s your answer.

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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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