Group probes TSA’s ‘manipulation’ of opt-out protests
Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
The public interest group Liberty Guard filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Transportation Security Administration Monday to determine why many airport imaging scanners were reportedly shut down and roped off on November 24th, the day of a planned "opt out protest."
"We'd like to think that the TSA has been listening to citizens concerned about being given a choice between naked imaging or pat down searches of people’s private parts," former Congressman Bob Barr, the Chairman of Liberty Guard, said. "If this is the indeed the case, we’d like to commend the TSA for applying a bit of common sense to the controversial situation. However, it's far more likely the reason was political and we think the public should be made aware of the motivations of our country's security chiefs."
In a nationwide protest dubbed the "National Opt-Out Day," those upset with invasive new security procedures asked others to join their plan to opt-out of full body scans and undergo a physical pat-down in public view, in hopes of creating delays and endless complications for security agents. The protest was scheduled for November 24th, one of the busiest travel days of the year.
Numerous news reports declared the protest against the new screening procedures a bust, noting short wait times at airport security checkpoints.
"What some protesters threatened as an opt out day has turned into a TSA appreciation day," the agency boasted on its blog.
But reports from travelers and local news sources suggest that at some of the busiest airports in the US the TSA backed down and resorted to using the old screening procedures, such as metal detectors and less-intrusive pat-downs.
"We'd like to know if we can expect a policy shift from the TSA or if they were merely attempting to shut down the public outcry regarding their search procedures," Joe Seehussen, President of Liberty Guard said.
The Freedom of Information Act request also seeks any government documents that contain the following terms: national opt-out day, Bob Barr, Opt Out Alliance, Liberty Guard, John Tyner, domestic extremists, drudgereport.com, Matt Drudge, prisonplanet.com, Alex Jones, and "any other term or proper name germane to the aforementioned terms and matter."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says it has received over 900 complaints from travelers over the last month who've been subjected to the new screening procedures.
"The TSA agent used her hands to feel under and between my breasts," one woman said. "She then rammed her hand up into my crotch until it jammed into my pubic bone."
About 70 airports have put into use over 400 backscatter x-ray machines that can see beneath passengers' clothing. If the ticket-holder refuses the scan due to health or privacy concerns, they're subjected to an invasive physical pat-down. The new body scanners and pat down procedure have both received intense scrutiny amid reports of travelers feeling humiliated and traumatized.
Liberty Guard says the new security procedures are a violation of the 4th Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizure.