RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Travelers across the country are wondering if this year's holiday travel season will be especially challenging, thanks to the controversy raised by rigid Transportation Security Administration screening techniques aimed at keeping bombs off of passenger airlines. Amid all the reports of probing pat downs of children, a nun, and a bladder cancer survivor with a urostomy bag (TSA workers allegedly broke the bag, leaving the man soaked in urine), a GOP lawmaker made a short speech on the House floor claiming that the screening violates citizens' Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. And an Internet campaign aims to launch a passenger-led revolt to opt out of the airport screenings on Thanksgiving Eve, arguably the busiest airline travel day of the year.
Appearing on the Today Show on Monday, TSA Chief John Pistole urged travelers to resist calls to boycott airport body scans as National Opt Out Day, the call to opt out of the body scans on travel-heavy Thanksgiving Eve, garners national attention.
It's not just the notorious pat downs that are causing a fuss. The airport security measures, while they may have public safety in mind, have come under fire due to the possible health risk of the new radiation-emitting backscatter body scan machines.
The screenings also hint notes of scandal. A Florida congressman is pushing for busy airports to get rid of TSA agents and instead bring in private security contractors. But wait! The plot thickens…that same rep also receives large campaign contributions from private airport-security firms, according to the Associated Press.
Sure, TSA agents are getting their share of bad press, but the probing pat downs haven't been peaches and cream for them, either, according to the TSA agents' union. MSNBC reported Monday that a passenger upset with the new procedures punched an airport screener in the face last week. Other workers have reported being harassed as passengers hiss scathing remarks like "Pervert!" or "Molester!" at airport-security workers. (Do we need to point out that the majority of TSA agents are probably just doing their job and not molesting anybody?)
THE DETAILS: On Monday, the White House announced it is reviewing TSA's screening procedures, but it's unlikely that screening guidelines will change in time for the holiday travel crush.
Even if airport screening procedures stay the same, it is important to note that not everyone is asked to go through airport scanners, although everyone will likely go through metal detectors (that's standard procedure). TSA did not respond to Rodale.com questions by deadline Monday, but an airport-travel expert quoted in other reports estimates that up to 20 percent of holiday travelers will be asked to partake in the 10-second scans. If just a small percent of those asked to go through the airport body scans say no and opt for the much more time-consuming pat downs, delays could be significant.