As public grousing about intrusive airport-security procedures continues to grow louder in the U.S., an online group is calling on passengers to opt out of “enhanced” scanning and force security staff to use rigorous new pat-down procedures on them.
So called National Opt-Out Day is set for Nov. 24, the day before American Thanksgiving and one of the busiest air travel days in the U.S.
“The goal of National Opt Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change,” the movement’s leader, Brian Nordegren, writes. “We have a right to privacy, and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we’re guilty until proven innocent.”
Airport-security procedures have leapt to the front of the American news cycle this week thanks to a viral video recorded on a cellphone.
Thirty-one-year-old software programmer John Tyner recorded what happened after he refused to go through a full-body scanner that projects a ghostly, nude image. Tyner also refused the alternative: an “enhanced” pat-down.
“If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested,” Tyner told the security officer, creating a now widely used catchphrase.
Tyner was surrounded by security and police, escorted from the security area and then, in a Kafkaesque twist, threatened with huge fines because he’d left the security area.
He now faces a U.S. Transportation Security Administration investigation and a possible $11,000 (U.S.) penalty.
A small-scale revolt – first taken up by airline pilots – has now begun against the scanners. On top of the privacy concerns, some are now wondering if the scans are dangerous.
That, added to a new pat-down procedure that applies open palms to the groins and chests of many travellers, including children, has tapped in to a growing anger about the hassles of air travel.
The growing unease prompted Washington’s Homeland Security czar, Janet Napolitano, to write an op-ed urging patience.
A CBS poll published this week showed that the overwhelming majority of Americans approve of the scanners – but it’s not clear how many of them will be flying next Wednesday.
However, if even a significant minority of travellers decides to act on National Opt-Out Day, all of those flying in or through the U.S. next Wednesday will want to come to airports armed with a surplus of patience.