Hate full body scanners? Here’s 10 things you can do.

Posted on
Nov 9, 2010

I feel badly. Yesterday I sufficiently freaked a lot of people out (I mean a lot of people. Thanks to everyone who retweeted the article) when I wrote about the invasive, privacy-violating, potentially-dangerous full-body scanners that are appearing in airports all over the U.S.

That’s not the part I feel badly about.

I feel badly because I told you about the problem, but I didn’t offer any solutions. And part of the reason for that was that I didn’t see that many viable ones. Unfortunately, the TSA and Homeland Security pretty much have full reign over this sort of thing, and can do whatever the hell they want (I mean, they have thus far). The other problem is that most people can’t avoid flying – a lot of us have jobs that require travel – driving or taking the train to our final destination just isn’t feasible. Still, there are a few things that you can do to make it clear to the TSA and the Department of Homeland Security that you aren’t going to stand for the full-body scanners.

1. Opt-out of the scanners, and select the pat-down option. You simply need to tell the TSA agent that you are opting out of the full-body scan, and they will give you a pat-down instead. Be warned that the pat-down is just as humiliating and invasive as the screens (perhaps more so). But it sends a message to TSA that the scanners are unacceptable. Give yourself a lot of extra time before your flight, since TSA officials have been known to keep people waiting for extensive periods of time. Their goal is to make pat-downs as unpleasant as possible for you (as it was for this blogger), in an attempt to force you back to the scanners.

2. Spread the word to your family and friends. Email them articles (like this one about the dangers of the radiation emitted by the scanners), encourage them to join Facebook groups, and do whatever you can to inform the people in your life about the b.s. we’re getting from the TSA.

3. Join my Facebook group. I’m trying to update the page with as much information as possible about the scanners and what you can do about them. And while you’re at it, why not “like” the ACLU’s Facebook page?

4. Had a bad experience with the TSA and the full-body scanners? File a complaint with the ACLU.

5. Write a letter to your congressperson. If enough politicians realize their constituents are concerned about this, something might actually happen. (Emphasis on the word “might.”) While you’re at it, you might want to send a letter to the major airline carriers that you use, as well as hotel chains that you frequent, letting them know that if the scanners continue, you’re boycotting travel.

6. Report any incidents that occur during pat-downs or body-scans with EPIC (the Electronic Privacy Information Center). EPIC has currently joined forces with Ralph Nader and filed a lawsuit to suspend the body-scanner program, and they need all the evidence and stories they can get. (Also, if they’re successful, I just might forgive Ralph Nader. But I probably won’t.)

7. Send a letter or email to the American Pilots Association (which represents 11,000 American Airlines pilots) voicing your support. Recently, the APA’s president called on his fellow pilots to refuse the new full-body scans, citing the unknown dangers of the machines. He also notes how the pat-downs that pilots are forced to undergo instead of the scans are demeaning and humiliating (after all, these are folks on their way to work).

8. Write about your experiences. If you have your own blog, let me know and I’ll help spread the word. If you don’t have your own blog, consider submitting an article to any of the many awesome travel sites out there – including my own (I mean, my site’s kind of awesome, right?)

9. File a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security. If you feel you’ve been treated unfairly, discriminated against in any way, or are forced to go through a full-body scanner even if you want to opt-out (yes, it happens), you can file a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (DHS TRIP).

10. Watch this video by the brilliant (and pissed off) Nicole, a U.S. citizen (and vet!) who had a panic attack in anticipation of the “security” measures she had to go through before a Jet Blue flight. It deserves some attention.

If you’re looking for more ideas, check out blogger Kimberly Wilder’s list (which includes the ever-creative suggestion that you should fart while receiving a pat-down), and the Massachusetts ACLU’s list of your options and rights when you go through airport security. And if you have any suggestions of your own, please share them below.

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