There’s been a great hullabaloo very recently here in the United States over the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s implementation of its so-called “Advanced Imaging Technology,” aka naked full body scans, and its equally unnerving intimate pat-down procedure.
One of the things that’s inflaming the situation is the apparently inconsistent level of training and frequent insensitivity of the TSA officers across the country.
I recently had a conversation, for example, with a pilot whose 18-year-old daughter was chosen for a naked full-body scan. She told her Dad after going through the process that the screener had said to his colleague through the headset: “We have a real beauty coming through.”
The pilot was outraged, but had to rush off to catch his flight.
But if he’d had an iPhone or iPad and had downloaded myTSA, he could have quickly gone to the “About” section, picked the “Provide Feedback to TSA” option, airport and checkpoint location, and entered the details of the incident.
In addition to the reporting function (which in my mind is buried) you can get Federal Aviation Administration updates on airport status nationwide, query a database for items you can bring aboard a plane, and get other travel tips through a guide that the app provides.
The TSA’s app also (ambitiously) promises to provide security wait times, but it appears that this functionality has been discontinued for now. The administration was relying on the notion of crowd-sourcing that information.
So TSA HQ is trying to be helpful, but it seems that many of the on-the-ground staff could use some training: The pilot, and the “don’t-touch-my-junk” software programmer from San Diego, as well as the hundreds of people who are flooding the phone lines of the members of congress, are among a larger body of people who are really unhappy about the airport procedures.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center for its part reports that it has received around 600 responses to its August solicitation for incident reports at airports with the new procedures in place. The group has also gained access to dozens more complaints from travelers through several Freedom-of-Information Act requests.
Some say that frequent travelers haven’t complained because they fear repercussions. With the TSA’s threat of fining individuals who refuse screening with $11,000 fines, that attitude doesn’t seem too paranoid.
For those who have complained, the record shows that many passengers are angry about the cavalier way they were treated, and the lack of information provided to them.
For example, a 10-month pregnant woman selected at the Baltimore, Maryland airport for the full-body-scan objected to not having been informed that a pat-down was an option.
“”If I had known what the machine was, I would have asked for an alternate searching method but since these devices are relatively new, I had no idea why they asked me to step up on the podium,” she wrote.
Another 58-year-old woman who was selected for scanning at Tampa International Airport reported that when she entered the scanner she was trembling and that a TSA supervisor said that she wouldn’t be able to fly if she didn’t stop trembling.
Finally, she had a pat down when she couldn’t hold her arms higher for the scanner.
“This humiliating procedure almost cost me my flight out of Tampa and I almost missed watching my daughter’s graduation from the Air Force,” she wrote. “I will never fly out of Tampa airport or any airport with a naked scanner.”
Good choice. At least she didn’t threaten to make life miserable for everyone else by jamming up the airport just before Thanksgiving.