NEWS

Protest Calls for Opting Out of Full Body Scan on Busiest Travel Day of Year

By Matthew Harwood

The row over full body scanners just got more acrimonious as a grassroots campaign has called for minor civil disobedience at airports on the busiest travel day of the year, while a man's refusal to submit to a pat-down search over the weekend has gone viral on YouTube.com.

Led by activist Brian Sodegren, reports Wired.com's Threat Level blog, "National Opt-Out Day" calls for air passengers to protest  the Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) widespread deployment of full body scanners, which critics call a "virtual strip search," the day before Thanksgiving. According to his call to action at OptOutDay.com, Sodegren writes enough is enough.

"It's the day ordinary citizens stand up for their rights, stand up for liberty, and protest the federal government's desire to virtually strip us naked or submit to an 'enhanced pat down' that touches people's breasts and genitals in an aggressive manner," he writes. "You should never have to explain to your children, 'Remember that no stranger can touch or see your private area, unless it's a government employee, then it's OK.'"

On November 24, Sodegren wants anyone uncomfortable with TSA security screenings to opt-out of submitting to a full-body scan. According to the TSA, passengers have the right to opt out of a full body scan, but then must acquiesce to an enhanced pat-down search if they want to clear security and make their plane.

The intended effect of Sodegren's is simple: if enough passengers join in his protest, security screenings will take longer, creating bottlenecks that cause screening delays during an already chaotic day for commercial aviation. Sodegren's protest has received support from the Privacy Coalition.

"We want families to sit around the dinner table, eating turkey, talking about their experience - what constitutes an unreasonable search, how forceful of a pat down will we allow on certain areas of our body, and that of our children, and how much privacy are we will to give up for flying?" he writes, adding "We do not believe the government has a right to see you naked or aggressively touch you just because you bought an airline ticket."

Over the weekend, another air passenger at San Diego International Airport gained instant notoriety for refusing to submit to either a full-body scan or an enhanced pat-down and posting video of his encounter with TSA screeners on YouTube.com. In three videos uploaded to YouTube.com as well as recounted in an online testimony, 31-year-old software engineer John Tyner told TSAs screeners that he would not undergo a full-body scan or an enhanced pat-down search.

When approached by a TSA screener ready to conduct the pat-down search, the screener tells Tyner that he will touch his groin area. "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested," Tyner tells the screener. The videos have since gone viral.

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