Visitors to be Scanned Naked at US Airports
The only real security that a man can have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.
- Henry Ford
Washington - Airport security personnel in the US will soon be able to see passengers stark naked without their having to remove clothes, through a new X-ray machine that has generated much controversy. The agency in charge of the nation's air security expects to begin using later this year the controversial X-ray machine that will show airport screeners a clear picture of what's under passengers' clothes, whether weapons or just bare skin, according to USA Today. The refrigerator-sized new machines, considered a breakthrough in scanning technology, have been labelled "a virtual strip" by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). But according to transportation security administration (TSA), the new system makes it easy to see possibly dangerous devices.
Screeners plan to test these "backscatter" machines at several US airports. Security workers using the machines can see through clothes and peer at whatever may be hidden in undergarments, shirts or pants. The images also paint a revealing picture of a person's nude body. The devices can potentially be used to screen hundreds of millions of air travellers each year, although TSA says more study is needed to determine how the devices may be used at US airports. The agency has decline to say when and where it expects to test the machines.
According to American science and engineering (ASE), the machines costing $100,000 bounce low-radiation X-rays off a person's skin to produce photo-like computer images of metal, plastic and organic materials hidden under clothes. "Backscatter" technology has been waiting on the sidelines for nearly 4 years but seems poised now to move to the forefront of aviation security. The machines are already used by US customs agents at 12 airports to screen passengers suspected of carrying drugs. They are also getting a test run at a terminal in London's Heathrow airport, the first major airport to use them.
Source: daijiworld.com 18 May 2005
-------- Original Message --------
-------- Original Message --------
I'm with you - let's hope they get rid of these devices. I'll drive - or just not go - first!
Passengers Complain about Pat-Down Searches at Airports
Airport Screeners Say Getting up Close and Personal Is No Fun
by Ken Kaye and Colleen McClain Nelson
In the old days, the indignities of air travel involved intrusive elbows from seatmates and toddlers kicking your seatback. In the last few years, they included removing your shoes to get through security and having your nail clippers confiscated. And now this: full-body pat-downs - including bra checks - for people who set off metal detectors or are unlucky enough to be randomly selected. And no one, not even Grandma, is automatically exempt.
Shocked by what she perceived as far too intimate a security check, Melanie Higley burst into tears. First, the wand was placed too aggressively between her legs, then the airport screener at Dallas-Fort Worth International groped her, she said. Hysterical, she protested that she was being abused. The screener's response: She was just doing her job. Higley was then ordered to take off her tennis shoes, which she did - and threw them at the screener. "I was sweating, I was crying, I was a mess," said Higley, of Jupiter, who was heading to Palm Beach International with her family that September day. "I've never been touched like that before by another woman."
Scores of women, and some men, say they have suffered similar humiliation during a pat-down, standard procedure since 22 September in secondary screenings at airport checkpoints. Many protest that it is an unnecessary invasion of privacy, the security process going too far. "People should be outraged, fuming, doing something to change this," said Rhonda Gaynier, a New York attorney who said she was given a "breast exam" while flying out of Tampa in October. "It's like we have no rights anymore."
The Transportation Security Administration said the procedure is crucial to security. Less than a month earlier, two Russian airliners exploded, and authorities think two women hid explosives under their clothing. The TSA requires female screeners pat down women; male screeners check men. The back of the hand must be used on breasts, genitals and buttocks and passengers can request it be done out of public view. About 10 to 15% of passengers are selected for secondary screenings, chosen for a number of reasons.
The airlines are required to randomly select a certain number of passengers for closer inspection. The carrier will stamp the code "SSSS" on the ticket of a passenger selected for this process. Passengers who wear loose clothing are more apt to receive a pat down, as are travellers who set off metal detector alarms or exhibit suspicious behaviour, such as protesting when asked to take off their shoes. Most passengers understand the TSA must balance passenger privacy against the threat of terrorism, said TSA spokeswoman Lauren Stover. "They understand it is done for their safety," she said. "We also realise the need for people to adjust to this new procedure." Stover said the TSA is rigourously investigating all complaints, and if found valid, disciplinary action will be taken. No screeners have been punished, she said. "There may be a few instances where screeners took the procedure a little too far," she said. "But the screeners are still adjusting to this new process as well."
4 months pregnant
That is of no consolation to Higley, an American Airlines flight attendant, who on 29 September was returning from vacation in Lake Tahoe with her husband and 2-year-old son - one week after the tougher rules went into effect. She was 4 months pregnant, it was her 39th birthday, and the family had to catch a connecting flight in Dallas. A screener asked Higley to step aside for a pat down and an additional check with the wand. "She put that thing in between my legs like you wouldn't believe," Higley said. "It was very offensive." Higley, who was not wearing any metal, said the wand beeped as it passed over the small of her back. "She grabbed my rear end in an offensive way," she said. "I spun around and said, 'Don't touch me again.' I was really starting to get offended." Just the same, Higley said, the screener "reached over and cupped my right breast. At this point, I'm starting to shake, I'm starting to cry. I said, 'If you touch me again, I'm going to hit you.'" Her husband, an airline pilot, tried to join in her protest, but he could only look on because he wasn't allowed near where she was being searched, Higley said. Asked to remove her shoes, Higley said she took them off and threw them at the screeners. "They had every right to call the police on me at that point," she conceded. "I was being very belligerent." The police weren't called, and she was eventually allowed through the checkpoint, but only after she had become hysterical. In the aftermath, she said she was mad at herself for not getting the screener's name and filing a formal complaint.
Not everyone has been reluctant to complain. Though the TSA won't release numbers, news reports and an informal survey of airport passengers indicate the agency has offended hundreds of women in the past two months.
At a security checkpoint 5 November at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Patti LuPone, the singer and actress, said she was instructed to remove articles of clothing. "I took off my belt, I took off my clogs, I took off my leather jacket," she said. "But when the screener said, `Now take off your shirt,' I hesitated. I said, `But I'll be exposed!"' LuPone said she removed her shirt after vehemently protesting, revealing the see-through camisole she was wearing. LuPone said she demanded an explanation. "We don't want another Russia to happen," she said one of the screeners told her. Next, she was given a pat-down by a screener who, she said, "was all over me with her hands." When she persisted in her complaints, she said, she was barred from her flight.
Traveller Debra Quarton-Pryce isn't convinced that skies are safer but she is certain that the searches are shameful. The California resident was subjected to the screening last month before boarding a flight from San Francisco to Vancouver. The screener "was touching all of my rear. She was touching all of my breast area. That's when I said, `Wait a minute.'" TSA employees are permitted to touch passengers' most sensitive areas - breasts, buttocks and genitals - with the back of their hands. But the process seemed invasive and unnecessary, Quarton-Pryce said. "You're not going to stop any terrorists this way," she said. "You're just humiliating people." Quarton-Pryce had read about the security changes. But that didn't prepare her for the experience, which unfolded in a public area with other travellers nearby. "I said, `I'm not a criminal,' because that's exactly how she made me feel," she said. A frequent traveller, Quarton-Pryce is less inclined to fly these days. And she's not alone.
Rhonda Gaynier, 46, a real estate attorney based in Manhattan, said she was humiliated at Tampa International Airport. She had been helping her parents set up their winter home in Zephyrhills and was planning to return to New York on American Airlines on 19 October when she was pulled aside. "They touched me between my breasts and I stopped them. When I refused to allow them to continue, they refused my boarding," she said. She complained to a supervisor, who told her the pat down was mandatory. "I said, 'That's ridiculous, you're treating me like a criminal. Another female screener was called to continue the inspection, she said. "She came around to front of my breasts and touched them with her fingertips. That's when I said, 'Whoa, what are you doing? I don't think that's appropriate.'" Gaynier protested again to the supervisor, saying the procedure was offensive. "He said, 'Ma'am, that's not offensive.' I said, 'Oh really; what if somebody touched your ... during a pat down?'" she recalled.
Gaynier was denied boarding and escorted by police to the front of the terminal, where American Airlines agents found a flight for her on JetBlue. But that required another pat down, which she endured so she could get home. Later, she filed a complaint with the TSA and protested to her congressman, as well as to US Senator Edward Kennedy and the National Organization for Women. Gaynier refuses to fly again until the procedure is abolished. Instead of flying to Michigan for Thanksgiving, she has rented a car. She's also thinking about taking Amtrak to Florida to see her parents at Christmas. "I'm not going to fly if I have to get a breast exam to get on a damn plane," she said. Gaynier is exploring filing a class-action lawsuit. And she said she wouldn't set foot in an airport until the TSA changes its policies.
The underwire in some bras sets off screeners' metal-detecting wands, prompting TSA employees to touch that area with their hands. "It's not an acceptable behaviour anywhere to let someone touch your breasts," said Jen Rotar of Berthoud, Colorado. "And they expect you to let them do this in public." TSA guidelines stipulate that employees offer passengers a private screening, but Rotar and several other women said that option was never mentioned. Rotar, who was juggling a crying toddler as she passed through airport security in Oregon last month, said she was patted down and asked to lift her shirt to expose her stomach while standing in full view of several men. "At the end of the security gauntlet, my child and I were left utterly humiliated, violated and sobbing in the passenger lounge," she wrote to the TSA in a letter of complaint.
Men also complain
Men also are patted down, but women have been more vocal in expressing concerns. Though much fewer in number, some men do say they have been treated rudely. Carlos Gonzalez, 21, of Weston, said he was going through security in Fort Lauderdale to board a Southwest Airlines flight to New Orleans on 3 November when he was pulled aside. "I take my shoes off, put everything in the basket and go through the metal detector, but for some reason it kept going off," said Gonzalez, who works in security for a department store. Screeners asked him to stick out his arms and patted him down, much the way a police officer would frisk a suspect, he said. He said they didn't physically offend him, but yelled at him when he put his arms down without their permission, and made him feel like a criminal. "They were saying to me, `We're not even close to being finished. What are you trying to hide?' It was like this huge ordeal," he said. "I felt uncomfortable because it was a whole big scene, and everyone was looking over as I was frisked." Gonzalez said he didn't file a complaint because "I didn't get anyone's name and I just wanted to get out of there before I did anything I'd regret."
Others said they weren't offended by the pat down but simply felt uncomfortable. Elaine Fitzgerald, spokeswoman for the annual Air & Sea Show at Fort Lauderdale beach, said the wire in her bra set off metal detector alarms last Christmas, well before pat downs became routine. "They put me in a corner with my back to the public," she said. "They had a woman actually squeeze my bra cups. She apologised profusely. She seemed embarrassed. And I didn't like it one bit. But I was at their mercy, and I was late for a flight."
Unni Marie Berg, of Boca Raton, said because the pat down enhances security, "I don't mind at all. I think it adds a personal touch."
"I think it's a little uncomfortable, but if it improves security, it's necessary," said Miki Agrawal, of New York, who recently flew into Fort Lauderdale on business.
The experience isn't pleasant for the workers doing the pat-downs, either. At Screeners Central, a private website frequented by TSA screeners, a recent editorial acknowledged travellers' discomfort and detailed life on the other side of the wand. "Conducting a pat-down of a person who hasn't bathed, smells of urine or fæces, or has bad breath is not fun," one worker explained. "Probing the armpits, crotches and chest area of strangers is not something to write home about or something that professionals get giddy about." Eventually, the TSA might do away with pat downs, if it can hone explosive trace portals, which passengers walk through. Several airports are testing trace detection portals, which release several quick "puffs" and analyse the air for explosives. Those machines already are being tested at 6 airports, including in Tampa. Another device, known as a "backscatter" X-ray, can see through clothes. But it has triggered complaints because the machine provides a detailed outline of the body. "The good news is that aviation security has improved exponentially and that we continue to explore ways to tighten the bolt on our security system," TSA spokeswoman Lauren Stover said.
Since the new procedures began, the TSA said it has received 239 "contacts" from people, some with questions, some with complaints. That number does not include complaints made to screening supervisors at the gates.
The agency emphasised that the number is small compared with the thousands of passengers who receive pat-downs each day. Travellers such as Keren Solomon said they would not know where to complain and aren't convinced it would do any good. Solomon, a market researcher who splits time between San Francisco and New York City, said the screening she endured in September seemed intrusive. "It sort of feels like someone is doing a breast exam at your doctor's office," she said.
TSA spokeswoman Andrea McCauley said she understands women's concerns about the pat-down procedures. "I do want to communicate: I'm a woman. I have to travel all the time," she said. "I'm obviously biased, but I want to know that I'm going to make it to my destination."
If you believe your screening was inappropriate, you should immediately ask to talk to a screening supervisor. You can also obtain a feedback form at any checkpoint. To make a complaint later, contact the TSA at 1-866-289-9673 or e-mail TSA-ContactCenter@dhs.gov. If you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against by the TSA, you can contact the civil rights office at 1-877-336-4872 or TSA.OCR-ExternalCompliance@dhs.gov. For more information go to tsa.gov.
Information from The New York Times was used to supplement this report. Dallas Morning News correspondent Michael Grabell contributed to this report. Ken Kaye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Funny Times November 2001 funnytimes.com
Federal VIP Penn
Last Thursday I was flying to LA on the Midnight flight. I went through security my usual sour self. I beeped, of course, and was shuttled to the "toss-em" line. A security guy came over. I assumed the position. I had a button up shirt on that was untucked. He reached around while he was behind me and grabbed around my front pocket. I guess he was going for my flashlight, but the area could have loosely been called "crotch." I said, "You have to ask me before you touch me or it's assault."
He said, "Once you cross that line, I can do whatever I want." I said that wasn't true. I say that I have the option of saying no and not flying. He said, "Are you going to let me search you, or do I just throw you out?" I said, "Finish up, and then call the police please."
When he was finished with my shoes, he said, "Okay, you can go." I said, "I'd like to see your supervisor and I'd like LVPD to come here as well. I was assaulted by you." He said, "You're free to go, there's no problem." I said, "I have a problem, please send someone over." They sent a guy over and I said that I'd like to register a complaint. I insisted on his name and badge number. I filled it out with my name. The supervisor, I think trying to intimidate me, asked for my license, and I gave it to him happily as he wrote down information. I kept saying, "Please get the police," and they kept saying, "You're free to go, we don't need the police." I insisted and they got a higher up, female, supervisor. I was polite, cold, and a little funny. "Anyone is welcome to grab my crotch, I don't require dinner and a movie, just ask me. Is that asking too much? You wanna grab my crotch, please ask. Does that seem like a crazy person to you?" I had about 4 of them standing around. Finally Metro PD shows up. It's really interesting. First of all, the cop is a BIG fan of mine and that ain't hurting. Second, I get the vibe that he is WAY sick of these federal leather-sniffers. He has that vibe that real cops have toward renta-cops. This is working WAY to my advantage, so I play it.
The supervisor says to the cop, "He's free to go. We have no problem, you don't have to be here." Which shows me that the Feds are afraid of local. This is really cool. She says, "We have no trouble and he doesn't want to miss his flight." I say, "I can take an early morning flight or a private jet." The cop says, "If I have a citizen who is saying he was assaulted, you can't just send me away." I tell the cop the story, in a very funny way. The cop, the voice of sanity says, "What's wrong with you people? You can't just grab a guy's crank without his permission." I tell him that my genitals weren't grabbed and the cop says, "I don't care, you can't do that to people. That's assault and battery in my book."
The supervisor says that they'll take care of the security guy. The cop says, "I'm not leaving until Penn tells me to. Now do you want to fill out all the paper work and show up in court, because I'll be right there beside you." The supervisor says it's an internal matter, and they'll take care of it. "If you want to pursue this, we're going to have to go through the electronic evidence." I say, "You mean videotape? Yeah, go get it." She says, "Well, it'll take a long time, and you don't want to miss your flight. We have no problem with you, you're free to go." The cop says, "Your guy grabbed his crank. That ain't right."
So, I fill out all the paper work and insist on a number to call to register a complaint. She says that I filled out a complaint, and I say, "I want more, give me another number." She gives me a number that I find out later has been disconnected. I leave. I have a card with the name and number on it and the bad 800 number for the FAA. My flight is way delayed, so I go to Burger King with Glenn - and all the feds are now off duty and at BK and sneering at us.
The next day the woman in charge of public relations calls me to "do anything to make my McCarran experience more enjoyable." I was a little under the weather with allergies and busy, so I didn't call back until yesterday. It took some phone tag, but I finally got the woman on the phone. I was very cool and sweet. I explained the problem. "Do you allow your crotch to be grabbed without being asked?" I didn't exaggerate, I said that there was nothing sexual, I wasn't hurt, and it wasn't my genitals. I just said it was wrong. She said "Well, your feedback is really important because most people are afraid of us." She said, "I'd love to meet you so we could clear this up, and everyone wants to meet a celebrity." She said she had watched the videotape and there was no sound, but she saw him reach around. She said she couldn't tell me what was being done to him but... and I stopped her and said, she shouldn't do anything wrong. I said that I had talked to two lawyers and they said it was really a weird case because no one knows if he can be charged with assault and battery while working in that job. But I told her, that some of my lawyer friends really wanted to find out. She said, "Well, we're very new to this job..." and I said, "Yeah, so we need these test cases to find out where you stand." She said, "Well, you know a LOT about this." I said, "Well, it's not really the right word, but freedom is kind of a hobby with me, and I have disposable income that I'll spend to find out how to get people more of it."
She said, "Well, the airport is very important to all of our incomes and we don't want bad press. It'll hurt everyone, but you have to do what you think is right. But, if you give me your itinerary every time you fly, I'll be at the airport with you and we can make sure it's very pleasant for you." I have no idea what this means, does it mean that they have a special area where all the friskers are topless showgirls, "We have nothing to hide, do you?" I have no idea. She pushes me for the next time I'm flying. I tell her I'm flying to Chicago around 2 on Sunday, if she wants to get that security guy there to sneer at me. She says, she'll be there, and it'll be very easy for me. I have no idea what this means.
I tell her that I'm still thinking about pressing charges, and I don't just care about me, it's freedom in general. I say the only thing that was good about it, was that while they were dealing with me, maybe they weren't beating up people in wheelchairs. It was amazing. All she was trying to do was make me happy. She said she'd burned a CD ROM of my video and it was being sent all around and they were going to change their training. She said, "We're federal employees, we're working for you, you pay us and we want customer satisfaction. It doesn't matter what the law is, we have to make you very happy so your flying experience is a pleasurable one, and most people don't give us this kind of intelligent feedback."
So, that was it. I'm flying on Sunday, I have no idea what will happen. How crazy is this? Do I really have some sort of mysterious VIP status to shut me up? Should I press charges? She said she was going to talk to the cop. I said he didn't see anything. She said, "Well, he may be able to see the forest for the trees, because he was right there." I quoted his "crank" comment and she laughed and then knew that was a very bad sign. I said, "He'll tell you I was polite, cold, angry, and funny" - that's more than should be expected of me. I still don't know what I'm going to do, but my advice to everyone is complain all you can and call the cops. I think it might make a little difference. Maybe you can become a VIP too.
Penn & Teller are a couple of eccentric guys who have learned how to do a few cool things. Together since 1975, their award-winning theatre show has been a long running hit on and off-Broadway and continues to play to sold-out houses across North America.
If I had behaved the same way in a similar situation, I doubt very much that the outcome would have been the same.
Source: Funny Times November 2001
Professionals Must Enforce Security at Airports
I flew during the holidays and experienced the so-called "new airport security." Frankly, I thought it was a joke ("As Security Rules Tighten, Airlines Attempt Dodges," Our View, Securing the Skies debate, 27 December).
During one of my trips, I saw an elderly couple, both probably in their early 80s, subjected to a body search while just behind them in the line a swarthy, mustached individual who appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s - dressed in a mixture of fatigues and warm-up clothes - passed through the security checkpoint without any questions. I seem to remember that the people who committed the 11 September terrorist attacks were young, swarthy mustached individuals.
I don't think we can have effective security at airports unless we recognise that we are at war. Political correctness has no place in a war setting. We must have qualified individuals manning the security checkpoints. I'm thinking of people who have the skill and training to examine individuals using profiling techniques. We should use common sense in our security measures at airports and check everyone - but check those who fit a profile even more closely.
Also, I see no reason to have National Guard troops wandering around the terminals. What real purpose do they serve except political window dressing?
It's time for the politicians to get "out of the loop" regarding airport-security measures and turn the responsibility over to professionals - not to a Transportation Department agency, but federal law-enforcement organisations experienced in providing security. The FBI and the US Secret Service could do a better job.
Bernard R Jacobs
National Identification Cards
I'm a Boeing 757 captain with 28 years of experience. I've had 14,000 hours of flying time. I have a bachelor's degree in aviation, and I am a US citizen. Last week, while traveling in uniform to work, my suitcase and flight bag were opened and dumped on the floor in the initial screening. Then, since my ticket was one-way, the same thing was done to my flight bag when I got to the boarding gate. Later, still in full uniform and with an airport identification card, I was asked by a screener to take my shoes off. Mind you, I don't blame the screeners; they're doing their jobs. But I'm ready to quit flying, so I can imagine the public's disdain.
We need either a national identification card, a national security card or a national traveler's identification card - and we need it now. I'd be the first one to sign up. A national identification card would make it possible for passengers to use a separate security line. It could be used in government buildings, entertainment complexes, as well as large businesses. I'm sure there are those who oppose a national identification card, including some local "authorities" such as airports, and county and city governments afraid of losing the money generated by current identification card fees. But they should be the first ones on the bandwagon, if they really care more about security than their own interests.
President Bush says Americans are willing to accept delays, but he hasn't experienced them. Business fliers are becoming fewer because of all these hassles.
For a perspective on a de facto US national identity card, please see the article And I'm Still Not Socially Secure! on the page following this one.
Passengers are scanned with wands at a security checkpoint in the Minneapolis-St Paul International Airport during the weekend between Christmas and New Year's Day.
Source: USA Today Thursday 3 January 2002; photo credit Ann Heisenfelt, Associated Press
Preventable crash? The Navy's unmanned "Deep Drone" recovers
Poor Oversight, Training, Analysis Plague Program
by Alan Levin
Washington - The federal government's program to oversee airline safety is plagued by poor training, inconsistent management and inadequate analysis of the data it collects. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), criticised for failing to detect problems leading to airline crashes, needs to speed improvements in the inspection program, says the Department of Transportation's inspector general. "The system is not reaching its full potential, and significant challenges to full implementation still exist," says a summary of the report, which will be released at a hearing before Congress on Thursday.
The report praises the goals of the safety program and says the agency has made significant improvements in the past year. But the report is the latest of several to say that the agency stumbled when it introduced its Air Transportation Oversight System in 1998. Instead of relying on a limited number of inspectors to check aircraft, the FAA decided to push carriers to make managerial changes to emphasise safety and to conduct extensive analysis to spot safety problems before they cause harm. The changes were spurred by the 1996 ValuJet crash, which was blamed in part on inadequate maintenance oversight. The investigation of the Alaska Airlines crash in 2000 also is focusing on maintenance problems.
FAA officials acknowledge that introduction of the program was rocky. But they say most of the early problems have been solved and with time the new program will provide far better results. However, the inspector general found these problems:
Source: USA Today Tuesday 9 April 2002; photo credit Spike Call (in 2000), US Navy via Reuters
For articles on bioterrorism, patriotism enforcers, airport security, children in war, McCarthyism, humanitarian killing, Voice of America, pipelines, truth, lessons, anthrax, hatred and pain click the
"Up" button below to take you to the Index page for this War on Terrorism section.