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Someone recently sent me a link to the website the ACLU has set up to collect reports of TSA abuse.  Boost the signal, if you're inclined. The rest of this is rather long, potentially triggering or maybe just rage-inducing, and a fair bit political -- so I've put it behind the cut.

Now, I've just recently been through the brand new backscatter full-body imager x-ray machine  -- sometimes called the "porno-scanner" or "nudie-scanner" or even the "dick-measuring device" depending on who you're talking to, but more formally referred to as  "whole body imaging technology" for the more squeamish or genteel. I was pulled out of the ordinary metal-detector line I'd been in, made to leave my laptop and carryon on the conveyor belt (thankfully I was traveling with someone I trusted to keep an eye on my bag, as well as her own), sent through the body imager (there were no signs, by the way, about what the machine was, and TSA agents refused curtly to answer any questions besides rather belligerently asking if I was trying to "opt out."  So I walked through and did as I was told. Then I was submitted to a metal-detector wanding and a pat-down, on the other side, for good measure. Meanwhile, the young woman behind us in line who advised TSA she was pregnant and would prefer not to go through the machine was simply taken by the arm and pushed in, told to raise her hands and stand still for ten seconds. I could hear TSA agents making speculative jokey comments about whether or not the female passengers were wearing tampons.

Apparently, to refuse a full-body scan or "opt out"  means you go automatically into the pat-down lane: "The T.S.A.’s position is that anyone can “opt out” of a body scan for reasons of privacy or whatever, but will then be subjected to a thorough physical pat-down and careful search of belongings." The pat-down, by the way, is no longer the back-of-the-hand check that it was just a few months ago.
There are reports of a whole new system of  heckling that goes along with this procedure: "'Opt out! We got an opt out!' one bellowed about me in a tone that people in my desert neighborhood in Tucson usually reserve for declaring, 'Rattlesnake!'"

This, from The Atlantic:

At BWI, I told the officer who directed me to the back-scatter that I preferred a pat-down. I did this in order to see how effective the manual search would be. When I made this request, a number of TSA officers, to my surprise, began laughing. I asked why. One of them -- the one who would eventually conduct my pat-down -- said that the rules were changing shortly, and that I would soon understand why the back-scatter was preferable to the manual search. I asked him if the new guidelines included a cavity search. "No way. You think Congress would allow that?"

I answered, "If you're a terrorist, you're going to hide your weapons in your anus or your vagina." He blushed when I said "vagina."

"Yes, but starting tomorrow, we're going to start searching your crotchal area" -- this is the word he used, "crotchal" -- and you're not going to like it."

"The Transportation Security Administration implemented what it calls "enhanced" pat-down procedures at airport checkpoints nationwide on Oct. 29":

As for the enhanced pat-downs, [The head of the US Airways pilots union, Capt. Mike Cleary] told union members this week that if they must submit to a pat-down, request the procedure in private, and have it witnessed by a fellow crew member.

Cleary said one US Airways pilot who went through a pat-down had his "genitals grabbed repeatedly" and was "highly traumatized. When I was talking to him on the phone a few days later, he told me that he had just thrown up in his driveway. He was so worried about going to work. This particular fellow has two hip replacements, and so he cannot go through the backscatter machine [the full-body scanner]."

"We're telling pilots, 'Don't go through the machines anyway because of the health risks,' " Cleary said. "But, in this instance, he can't go through them. He knows that he's going to be subjected to pat-downs for the rest of his career, and the prospect of it is making him sick to his stomach."

Passengers with medical devices, such as defibrillators, also have expressed concern about the safety of the new scanning technology.

Remember a little over a year ago, the campaign volunteer who recorded TSA interrogating him about how much cash he was carrying, and refusing to advise him of his legal rights?

Now we have this:

Thankfully, these days I'm not flying nearly as much as I've had to in previous years, but typically I can count on being pulled out of line and wanded, then patted down and I can count on having my bag messily tossed, no matter what I'm carrying. Usually without explanation or justification (on occasion, someone will mutter something about "random selection" but it seems improbable to me that I get "randomly" selected for secondary screening procedures approximately 80% of the time I go through TSA security.  I'm never rude or flippant in security lines, in fact I'm soft-spoken and cooperative. But I look different -- I look just like the dyke I am. I make eye contact. I don't really know how to do "deferent" although I'm absolutely never belligerent or challenging.  But I don't dress like most other middle-aged women, and I usually fly with a lot of computer and camera hardware.

One memorable TSA agent repeatedly banged my laptop against the edge of a table after I ill-advisedly asked him to please handle it a bit more carefully. I've twice missed flights after having been left shoeless, sitting on a straight-back chair without explanation, not knowing where my carry-on bag has gone (ostensibly to be searched), not knowing where the TSA agent who walked away with my ID and my boarding pass has gone, only to have the agent come back holding my boarding pass, ask me what time my flight leaves, look at the clock and smirk and walk away again. This is what I've learned to expect, the last several years, if I have to take a domestic flight from anywhere to anywhere in the US. I've encountered precisely the same set of issues in Atlanta, New Orleans, Denver, Boston, Hartford, St. Louis, Chicago, Minneapolis, L.A., Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Great Falls -- you name the airport, I've probably had problems with security, there.

But since I'm already seeing police-state apologists and security-theater fans trying to discredit her version of events, or dismiss her story as hyperbole or exaggeration:  I believe Meg McLain

Date: 2010-11-11 04:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I've already canceled the flights I'd booked for next year because of this. I'll go Amtrak or Greyhound.

The saddest part is, most people will just shake their heads and put up with it.

Date: 2010-11-11 05:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
TSA personnel in Albuquerque and Oakland have been curteous, but still I'm glad I fly only 3 times a year.

Date: 2010-11-11 05:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
A courteous and funny TSA agent in New Orleans actually intervened on my behalf, once. With gentle humor she stepped in and completely de-escalated the situation I was in with another agent who was in the process of disassembling my laptop case and asking ever-more-belligerent and inappropriate questions.

That woman is still a hero in my memory.

Date: 2010-11-11 05:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
She probably has no use for bullies, and may have been on the receiving end in other circumstances. It'd have been interesting to hear what later went on between her and the jerk during their coffee break.

Date: 2010-11-11 06:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I haven't been on an airplane since before 9/11. I do eventually want to be able to fly to attend conventions and go to Chicago and Hong Kong to visit some of my Chinese relatives whom I only met when I was too young to remember/care... but things like this make me afraid of flying on airplanes, just because of all the shit you now have to go through to get on the airplane.

Date: 2010-11-11 07:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Alan, there are techniques that you can use that help a great deal. Don't let this stuff freak you out, just consider it educational, take the information under advisement, and plan accordingly.

I still have to fly sometimes, and don't expect that will stop in the foreseeable future -- so I make sure to leave myself ample time (usually about three hours, instead of the recommended two), pack light, and pack any hardware I actually must carry very carefully to make it easy to identify in the security line. Know the regulations ahead of time - like having any liquids or gels in the right sized containers and in a plastic bag, or taking off your shoes and jacket without being told to.

I make it a point to smile, be courteous and cooperative, and not carry anything that's going to be a bone of contention (like more than a hundred bucks or so in cash, and no tools), and whenever possible, I travel with a companion.

It takes me a lot longer to get through the line than it does Lisa, for instance,who often travels with me -- but generally the worst that happens is someone yells at me or says something deliberately insulting or provocative. I simply don't respond, and eventually end up cleared through the line. But I also make deliberate choices like walking through the full-body scanner, instead of objecting or opting-out. Keeping as low a profile as you can does help, even though it's sometimes frustrating, humiliating, or uncomfortable. It's actually not much worse than dealing with high school, usually. You can do it -- and travel is so very good for your brain.

If I have the luxury of time, energy, and the weather forecast is decent, I'll drive instead (like to Renovation next summer)...but sometimes it's just not going to be practical (like going overseas or even just to the east coast), so then I'll suck it up, pack carefully, hold my nose, and fly.

But like inkstaind-stars ( pointed out, above -- for anywhere on the continent, if you can plan a little extra time, you can take trains and buses, instead.
Edited Date: 2010-11-11 07:35 am (UTC)

Date: 2010-11-12 03:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Being prepared definitely reduces the amount of stress and anxiety. I'll keep all this mind until it comes time for me to fly again.

Trains and buses would probably be okay if I wanted to travel to a convention in, say, California. Since driving is not an option for me yet, I'll have to re-learn the airport experience if I want to go any further than that.

Date: 2010-11-11 07:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
My experience: I fly a lot and have never had an issue.

1) Arrive two hours (at least) before your flight, three for international. The biggest people meltdowns seem to be people in a hurry.

2) Avoid connecting flights where possible, even though they're often cheaper. This goes to point #1.

3) Be polite.

4) Be prepared. I always know how many bins I'll need and I always let them know that they'll need to review my CPAP.

5) Thank the people who screen you if you get extra screening. It may be theater, but so long as they're polite, I end with "thank you for ensuring my safety."

Granted, I probably look inoffensive to them, but I'll be opting out of the gratuitous radiation, so we'll see how long that lasts.

Date: 2010-11-11 09:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This whole situation actually has me pretty upset. I don't want my country to be turning into this... monstrosity. I don't want people to lie down and take it. The atmosphere (and the places this road goes to) terrify me.

Thank you for posting this. I'm actually planning to avoid flying as much as humanly possible.

Date: 2010-11-11 07:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
TSA released video of Meg McLain. I haven't yet watched, but it purportedly vindicates her:

Largest Ebook Library 2

Date: 2011-03-08 10:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Image (

Largest Ebook Library 4

Date: 2011-03-10 12:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Image (


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