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Opt Out

August 22, 2011 - Meg Alexander
I don’t travel a lot by plane, so flying out of the Boise airport recently was my first experience with TSA’s full body scans. Like the rest of the cattle, I made my way through the line, spread my legs, and held my arms up as if I were under arrest, standing motionless for several seconds to pose for my naked picture. When I was done, a female TSA agent asked me if I had a belt on — no belt, just cotton leggings under a cotton skirt — but the machine couldn’t see through the layers, so she pulled my skirt and leggings down a bit and felt around inside my underwear. Wow. Talk about feeling dirty.

My sister, on the other hand, was right behind me in line, and she had the sense to opt out. The TSA agent explained the pat-down protocol to her, including pulling her shirt up partway. When my sister said no, she wasn’t going to let them do that in front of everyone, they then offered to take her to a private room for the pat-down.

While the pat-down wasn’t necessarily enjoyable, based on my sister’s description, it wasn’t any worse than what I went through. Most important, opting out requires extra time and labor from airport security, and if enough people exercise this right, the system would have to change. Personally, I won’t be objecting myself to that kind of scrutiny of my naked bod — and yes, they do see everything, if not, what’s the point of the scan? Oh yeah, and you can call me crazy, but I guess I’d like to keep my radiation exposure to a minimum.


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Body scan image, courtesy of TSA