TSA Watch: Should we avoid screening — or embrace it?

Full-body scan or pat-down?

It’s a choice that hundreds of thousands of air travelers will make for the first time this summer.

Not willingly, mind you. Some passengers are even going so far as to change the way they dress in an effort to avoid the whole thing. Susan Jones, an executive from Bellevue, Wash., wears clothes that won’t set off the airport magnetometer, hoping to pass through the checkpoint quickly.

“I have a favorite underwire garment that gets caught going through the machine,” she says. “So I try to remember not to wear it when I’m traveling.”
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Another kid gets the once-over by TSA — what can the agency do to improve its image?

Seems the TSA just can’t get a break. First there’s the fallout from the pat-down video of a six-year-old, which I covered yesterday.

This morning comes the unbelievable story of Bill Gordon, a 63-year-old air traveler from Colorado who was pulled aside and patted down for the crime of having something in his pocket while passing through the security checkpoint in Memphis.

Yes, apparently that’s enough to make the TSA suspicious. That, and criticizing the agency. (More on that in a minute.)
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Are you traveling more after the TSA’s unpopular scandowns?

Compelling journalism connects dots, telling a story by revealing a bigger picture. But what happens when you connect the wrong dots?

For example, here are two facts that should be connected only with great care and perspective: The latest Transportation Department numbers, which show domestic airlines carried 58.1 million passengers in November, up 6.1 percent from a year ago, and the introduction of the TSA’s unpopular scans and pat-downs, which prompted many air travelers to say they would stop flying.

Put them together and you get headlines like, Despite new security measures, airline travel soars.

Oh, really?
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Do the TSA’s new body scanners solve our screening problems?

The TSA is at it again. Earlier this week, it announced that in an effort to “enhance security while strengthening privacy protection” it had begun testing new scanning technology that doesn’t show screeners naked images of passengers.

But that is not why I’m writing about the beleaguered federal agency again. I promised you, dear reader, that I would pace myself with these TSA posts, and I am trying. It’s been five days since my last one.

It seems we’re at it, too. Just as the government made a big splash with its new scanning technology announcement (and we had the usual cast of critics and apologists trading insults, which was disappointing) so, too, have passengers and their advocates made some important — yet largely unreported — progress.

Before we get to that, a few words about the “new” scanners, which are actually just a software upgrade. The application is being used in existing scanners at Las Vegas McCarran International Airport and will be loaded into machines at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in “the very near future,” according to the agency.

In a blog post accompanying the announcement, the TSA claims that only a “small percentage of travelers have had privacy concerns” with the screening process, and that this fix “eliminates” them.

That’s an interesting perspective. I wonder what the tens of thousands of passengers who are subjected to a physical pat-down would have to say about that. What’s more, I wonder how that flies with the passengers who are worried about radiation from those scanners?

(If you can’t wait to answer the question, please scroll down and take today’s poll.)
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The government admits it really wants to see your genitals at the airport

And we thought things couldn’t get any stranger.

Earlier this week, I suggested it might be the end of the world for travelers, thanks to a preponderance of odd events. I was kidding, of course.

But I should have written that post yesterday when the TSA out-bizarred all of us by publishing a post delicately titled, A Friendly Suggestion on Products Designed to Conceal Sensitive Areas, on its blog.

I’m not kidding this time. Read it for yourself.
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Do corporate travel managers support body scans and pat-downs?

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find anyone who supports the Transportation Security Administration’s controversial body scan and pat-down procedures. But this morning, it seemed as if I had: corporate travel managers.

Travel managers are the folks who manage multi-million dollar travel programs for big companies. They are represented by the National Business Travel Association (NBTA), which bills itself as the “world’s premier business travel and corporate meetings organization.”

In a press release issued today, the NBTA announced that it had met with TSA Administrator John Pistole and expressed “its support for the security measures the TSA has introduced over the last several weeks.”

Oh really?
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TSA and Nazis: What federal screeners do — and don’t — have in common with their Third Reich counterparts

To call someone to a Nazi is the ultimate insult. So when commenters began comparing the Transportation Security Administration to their Third Reich counterparts on this site and elsewhere, I wondered: Do they have a point?

Is the modern-day TSA in any way similar to Germany security in the 1930s?

My initial response was: absolutely not. It seemed “Nazi” was a cheap shot (and a poorly-chosen one, at that) not unlike “fascist” or the more benign “socialist.”

But then I reviewed what others have been saying on the subject.
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Yes, pat-downs are “more invasive” but here’s what you can do about them right now

So TSA Administrator John Pistole had his day on the Hill, testifying in front of the Transportation Security Administration Oversight Hearing. I predicted earlier this week that this could be an interesting meeting, but I was wrong.

Far from the “grilling” that mainstream media outlets claimed Pistole got, I found the exchange to be more of lovefest.

Guess the TSA isn’t the only part of government that has lost touch with the people.

Pistole did say a few interesting things. First, he admitted the pat-downs were “more invasive.” Duh! But watch his expression when he makes that confession after the opening statements (link to video at top). Is that defiance I see in his eyes? Why yes, I believe it is.

Second, he suggested children under 12 wouldn’t be patted down. We’ll see how long that policy lasts, or how uniformly it’s enforced.

The TSA administrator also said John Tyner, the San Diego-area passenger who who left Lindbergh Field under duress on Saturday morning after refusing to undertake a full body scan and is being investigated by the TSA, is basically off the hook.
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It’s time to say “no” to the TSA’s full body scanners

Michael Roberts said no.

Karen Cummings said no.

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.”
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