Pilots, flight attendants lead public opposition to intrusive new measures

TSA employee reportedly admitted pat-down involving touching of genitals meant to intimidate people into using body scanners

As public anger grows over the TSA's body scanners and intrusive new airport pat-down procedure, a Web site is urging travelers to "opt out" from the body scanners and instead choose to have a pat-down in public view, so that everyone can "see for themselves how the government treats law-abiding citizens."

OptOutDay.com declares November 24 to be the day when air travelers should refuse to submit to a full body scan and choose the enhanced pat-down -- an option many travelers have described as little short of a molestation.

OptOutDay.com declares:

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. 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."

The goal of National Opt Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change. No naked body scanners, no government-approved groping. We have a right to privacy and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we're guilty until proven innocent.

According to SmarterTravel.com, the Web site is the brainchild of Brian Sodegren, who describes himself as "an ordinary citizen who is concerned about what is happening" and who "wanted to provide an educational platform and outlet to highlight what is going on."

Sodegren is by no means the only air traveler to be upset at the TSA's new procedures. But his recommendation that travelers instead choose the pat-down may be too much for the faint of heart, given the allegations of sexual impropriety being leveled at some TSA agents who carry out the procedure.

Numerous first-person accounts have emerged of parents outraged at their children being "groped" by TSA employees, or individuals attempting to avoid irradiation instead being traumatized by a TSA pat-down.

In one incident now becoming famous online, a woman at Miami International Airport had her ticket torn up and was confronted by 12 Miami police officers after questioning the new procedure.

The Atlantic's Jeffery Goldberg reported in late October that a TSA agent admitted to him that the point of the intrusive searches was to acclimate people to being body-scanned at airports.

I asked him if he was looking forward to conducting the full-on pat-downs. "Nobody's going to do it," he said, "once they find out that we're going to do."

In other words, people, when faced with a choice, will inevitably choose the Dick-Measuring Device over molestation? "That's what we're hoping for. We're trying to get everyone into the machine." He called over a colleague. "Tell him what you call the back-scatter," he said. "The Dick-Measuring Device," I said. "That's the truth," the other officer responded.


Pilots and flight attendants are not exempt from the new screening procedures, and unions representing them have begun urging their members to resist. The head of the American Airlines pilots' union stated last week:

There is absolutely no denying that the enhanced pat-down is a demeaning experience. In my view, it is unacceptable to submit to one in public while wearing the uniform of a professional airline pilot. I recommend that all pilots insist that such screening is performed in an out-of-view area to protect their privacy and dignity.

The pilots' union at US Airways has also come out against the new policy. US Airlines Pilots Association President Mike Cleary said in a statement:

Let's be perfectly clear: the TSA procedures we have outlined above are blatantly unacceptable as a long-term solution. Although an immediate solution cannot be guaranteed, I can promise you that your union will not rest until all U.S. airline pilots have a way to reach their workplace ... the aircraft ... without submitting ourselves to the will of a TSO behind closed doors.

This situation has already produced a sexual molestation in alarmingly short order. Left unchecked, there's simply no way to predict how far the TSA will overreach in searching and frisking pilots who are, ironically, mere minutes from being in the flight deck.

As we all know, it makes no difference what a pilot has on his or her person or in their luggage, because they have control of the aircraft throughout the entire flight. The eyewash being dribbled by the TSA in this instance is embarrassingly devoid of common sense, and we will not stand for it.

A flight attendants' union in Tempe, Arizona, representing mostly US Airways staffers, says its membership is "concerned" about the screenings. ABC 15 in Arizona reports:

A flight attendant who contacted ABC15, and asked not to be named because they are not authorized to be speak about the issue without union approval, says there have been more complaints from flight attendants filed Wednesday morning.

"They've already contacted the ACLU," said Volpe when referring to some members of the union. "We don't know if somebody may have had an experience with a sexual assault and its (pat-down) going to drudge up some bad memories."

The American Civil Liberties Union has opened a web page where members of the public can file "report abuse."

"The ACLU is collecting individuals' stories in order to determine the scope of this problem and evaluate future action," the page states.