Friday, February 10, 2012

The TSA Patdown-SFO Style

Full Body Scanner at Charleston, SC
A few weeks ago, I had to fly from SFO to JFK, which was the first time dealing with security at a major airport since the new full body scanners were implemented. Now, given I parked my car in Orinda and miscalculated a bit how long it would take to get to the BART station to get to the airport, I was running 30 minutes behind my initial plan. I had my boarding pass printed, but I was still sweating it a bit. 

Well, I got to the terminal around 10 minutes before boarding and 40 minutes before my flight. I saw the security line wasn't too bad, so I breathed a sigh of relief. I saw people going through the new scanners, which reminded me of some kind of huge radioactive photocopier or worse...

I noticed how nobody was opting out. There were signs and messages on the large screen TVs saying you could opt out, but I don't think I saw one person do so. Now, I think the press and the TSA have been trying to tout these things as safe and it's clearly not as bad as "carousel" in Logan's Run::

or a disintegrator chamber::

so, I thought the compliance behaviors indicated that there was little perceived risk by my fellow travelers.

Now, I do know that there's some controversy with mammograms, in that high risk women for cancer might be increasing their risks with that procedure. While the dosages are low, radiation has a differential effect on people. In other words, your mileage may vary. Practically every study on the topic states that unnecessary radiation should be avoided at all costs. It should be noted that the probability of dying from a terror strike and from radiation emitted from the scanners is the same

There is a controversy with these full body scanners—the radiation risks are unknown and Senator Susan Collins {R-ME} wants to change that with new legislation requiring thorough tests of the devices. TSA head John Pistole originally told the Senate that he would commission more independent research on the risks, after Europe banned the machines, but has waffled, subsequently.

While I was pressed for time, I thought a few extra minutes of a patdown might be worth avoiding extra radiation {there's cancer in the family}, so I opted out. The security agent was a bit surprised that someone was opting out and it took a while for a male agent to set things up for my screening. I could have opted for a private area screening, but I decided to be the daily spectacle. The guy was professional and told me exactly what he was going to do, in great forensic detail. Lots of attention on the collar and belt. I think they might be deliberately steering clear of people's "junk" after the San Diego incident

So, was it that invasive? Well, I'm really not one who enjoys strangers touching me, but it really didn't bother me that much. Maybe because I was more concerned about boarding my flight that I wasn't perturbed, but I must say I'm still much more spooked by the scanners. I could see how shut-ins, touchy feely types, and, well, pervs, might actually like the contact.

I've blogged on the radiation technology on ThickCulture in 2010 and I pretty much stand by those thoughts. I don't think these technologies are making us safer, but are giving the appearance that something is being done to make us safer.

I made my flight, but now I'm facing the JFK version of the same—unless I manage to get a flight out of White Plains.

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