Just in time for the holiday travel season, air travelers must decide if they prefer a full body scan, which reveals what is under their clothing, or be subject to a thorough pat down by a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer of the same gender.
Full Body Scans
Metal detectors are still in place. So is the x-ray equipment that scans your luggage and carry on bags. The new equipment, known as a full body scanner, shows an image on a screen detailing everything that is under your clothing. A full body scan will show if a passenger is carrying contraband or explosives. It will also show prosthetic devices. Some passengers are complaining that the full body scan is too revealing and that it is an invasion of privacy. Other passengers feel that it is necessary and they prefer the scanner to a thorough pat down.
Passengers who refuse or opt out of a full body scan are subject to a thorough pat down. The pat down involves a TSA officer of the same gender running their hands (palms toward you) over your entire body. Men will have a groin check as part of the pat down. Women will have a breast and groin area check as well. Passengers can request that the pat down be performed in a private room.
Pat downs are also required if a full body scan or other scan gives an unexpected result. In small airports, full body scanning equipment may not exist. In these situations, a pat down is required.
According to an article by Sharon Theimer of the Canadian Press, passengers have only two options if they wish to fly this holiday season. Submit to either a full body scan or a pat down. Refusal to comply will prevent you from getting on a plane. Passengers cannot opt out of the scan or the pat down; not even if they object for religious reasons. The new regulations are in addition to current security requirements such as taking off your shoes.
There are issues with the new technology. The full body scanners give off low levels of radiation. Frequent flyers, and airline staff, including pilots, may wish to opt for a pat down instead of being subjected to frequent doses of radiation. Pregnant woman may also want to consider opting out of a full body scan.
TSA feels this is the only way they can make airline travel safer. According to a CBS Poll conducted on Nov. 15, 2010, 4 out of 5 passengers are in favor of the full body scans. The poll also stated that Americans do not approve of ethnic profiling of airport passengers.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Are the new rules in the best interest of airline passengers or are they too invasive? Drop me a line or leave a comment.
Sharon Theimer U.S. Authorities say passengers will have body imaging, pat-downs despite religious objections, Canadian Press
CBS Poll: 11/15/10, Complete Data and Questions on the CBS News Poll on Airport Security