Good news! As invasive as the TSA's new "enhanced" pat-downs may be, this is as far as they're going to go. Yesterday TSA Chief John Pistole definitively stated, "We're not going to get in the business of doing body cavities. That's not where we are." It's great news for those of us who like to keep our cavities to ourselves, and also great news for butt bombers. But with National Opt-Out Day just hours away, a recent poll shows that a majority of Americans are okay with the full body imaging scanners. And if you're in the minority and planning to opt-out in protest, the TSA wants you know that you'll be required to submit to the pat-down, or face an $11,000 fine.
The TSA can fine individuals [pdf] up to $11,000 for walking away from the airport security process. They have yet to do so, but with tomorrow's protest looming, the administration wants everyone to know that once you reach the screeners, it's either the porno scanner or the genital groping. But is the TSA all talk? John Tyner, the heroic "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested" guy, has yet to be fined for walking away after refusing the pat-down. "People in government" tell ABC that the fine is "mostly a deterrent so that terrorists cannot back out of a security check once it starts." Because you know the only thing terrorists hate more than America is having to pay a fine.
Pistole again urged travelers to submit to the porno scanners and not slow down the process by demanding pat-downs. "On the eve of a major national holiday and less than one year after al Qaeda's failed attack last Christmas Day, it is irresponsible for a group to suggest travelers opt out of the very screening that could prevent an attack using non-metallic explosives," said Pistole. (This very screening would not have stopped the failed underwear bomber.) And a new poll [pdf] shows that not everyone is outraged by the x-ray scanners: sixty-four percent of Americans support the use of the scanning machines. But when it comes to the pat-downs, 50 percent say they go too far, including a majority, 54 percent, of people who fly at least once a year.
Here in NYC, the Post got reactions from travelers going through security at La Guardia yesterday. The headline is "NYers Willing to Take a Frisk," and—surprise, surprise—all the quotes they get are from cooperative Americans who don't mind the new security measures one bit. "I don't mind at all," said wheelchair-bound Gene Asendorf, 71, after getting a pat-down. "I'd rather be searched than sorry." And 55-year-old Rick Bailer says he told a TSA agent, "Do whatever you need to do... I had a knee transplant seven weeks ago, and the titanium sets the metal detector off. They patted me down, and it wasn't bad at all."
In other TSA news, a scientist tells the Atlantic he has a simple fix for the uproar over the naked body scanners: distort the image like a funhouse mirror so nobody feels embarrassed. Also, a reporter for Slate visits the headquarters of the company that makes the scanners, Rapiscan, and finds that the company "is confident that scanning—specifically, more-automated scanning—is the future of airport security." Rapiscan can also add to its enemies list the group Fly With Dignity, which is organizing a grassroots movement to get the TSA to drop the scanning machines and enhanced pat-downs. If you want more airport security horror stories, they've got 'em!