TSA Watch: Pistole tries to soothe holiday travelers as agency silences gun talk

TSA Administrator John Pistole was busy making the rounds during Thanksgiving week, trying to assure holiday air travelers that their screening experience would be better than last year.

Which it was, thankfully.

That’s probably because the agency backed off some of its more absurd practices, like forcing children to take off their shoes. (Ever heard of a two-year-old shoe bomber? Neither have I. Richard Reid was 29 when he tried to take down an American Airlines flight to Miami.)
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Holiday air travelers coming home today — here’s what to expect

Today is, by some estimates, the busiest air travel day of the year. Here’s what to expect if you’re flying.

No significant delays have been reported yet, although there are a few potential challenges that you should know about.
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TSA trouble: It’s not over yet

The TSA body-scan/pat-down crisis isn’t over — yet.

Yes, National-Opt Out Day is history, with both sides incorrectly declaring victory. But this Sunday is just as busy as Wednesday, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. (By some estimates, it is the busiest travel day of the year.)
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How to survive a flight on National Opt-Out Day

Now what?

The TSA won’t change the way it screens passengers, even when threatened with a major protest action on one of the busiest air travel days of the year.

How do you survive what, even under ideal circumstances, is a dreadful day to be flying?
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Thanksgiving air travel disaster!

Flying somewhere this Thanksgiving? You might want to read this first.

This probably isn’t going to be like past Thanksgivings.

• The full-body scanners issue hit a critical mass this morning when a technology blog released images taken from one of the machines in Orlando and obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. People are upset about the pictures.

• The controversy over the new pat-down procedures for those who refuse to be scanned also climaxed this morning when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a newspaper, “if people want to travel by some other means,” they have that right. In other words, don’t fly if you don’t want to be patted down or scanned.

• TSA didn’t exactly help when it announced it will formally investigate 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. TSA says the investigation could lead to prosecution and civil penalties of up to $11,000.

• AAA added fuel to the fire when it predicted a double-digit increase in the number of Thanksgiving travelers. It projects the number of Americans traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday will increase 11.4 percent from 2009, with approximately 42.2 million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home. (Fortunately, 94 percent of these trips will be by car.) Separately, the Air Transport Association has said it expects 24 million air travelers this Thanksgiving, up 3.5 percent from a year ago.

I’ve also just learned that several consumer rights activists, including Ralph Nader, have taken a stand against the new body scans and pat-downs, raising the possibility that even more air travelers will participate in Opt-Out Day on Nov. 24, when passengers are being asked to refuse to walk through the machines.

If even a small number of air travelers turn down the scans on Nov. 24, which is one of the busiest travel days of the year, it could significantly slow an already overburdened air transportation system — maybe even bring it to a standstill.

What to do?
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