AIRLINE passengers are threatening to unleash chaos at American airports during the busy Thanksgiving period next week with a campaign of mass disobedience against increasingly invasive security procedures.
Two internet campaigns, one calling for a flight boycott on the eve of Thanksgiving, the other urging travellers to refuse full-body scans, have sprung up in protest at measures seen as heavy-handed from the Transportation Security Administration.
Civil liberties groups are pursuing several lawsuits against both the use of scanners and the invasive pat-downs travellers must submit to if they refuse to go through the machines.
Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, airline passengers have been subject to an ever-increasing array of checks and scanners.
They have Richard Reid, the so-called shoe-bomber, to thank when they are forced to remove their footwear. The foiled “liquid-bomb” plot is responsible for the prohibition of all but the smallest quantities of liquids, creams and gels from hand luggage.
The full-body scanner, by contrast, owes its rollout nationwide to the Christmas Day bomber who hid explosives not in a gift package but in his underpants.
Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who became a national hero for landing his US Airways flight safely in the Hudson River after a collision with a flock of geese, is among those who refuse to pass through the scanners. He says that they expose crew to excessive radiation, which they already suffer from while flying. Most passengers object on the grounds that the “porno scanners” are an invasion of privacy.
Those who refuse to comply must submit to an “enhanced pat-down” so thorough that it has led to brawls and accusations of molestation. John Tyner became a hero to millions of passengers when he was thrown out of San Diego airport after threatening a security guard with the words: “You touch my junk and I’ll have you arrested”.
Protesters organising the OptOutDay.com campaign over Thanksgiving are urging passengers to insist on having a pat-down, in the hope of bringing airports to a standstill. Another campaign, WeWontFly.com, is asking travellers who are able to take alternative transport to eschew air travel altogether.
“TSA is not going have the manpower to stick their hands in the pants of every man coming through,” said James Babb, the advertising consultant who co-founded the campaign. He said some men were planning to arrive at airports wearing kilts but no underwear, while others are vowing to stage “nude protests” inside airport terminals.
John Pistole, the TSA chief, called the planned opt-out “irresponsible”.