suddenly flying becomes a lot more complicated

suddenly flying becomes a lot more complicated

The past few days I’ve been reading up about the changes TSA has been making, as they implement the new full-body scanners at airports around the country. It has really been bothering me, the more I read about it. The basic premise is that every passenger is a terrorist, and you are required to prove you aren’t before they let you fly. That goes against the “innocent until proven guilty” ideology of our justice system. What’s next, being required to let the government periodically search our houses just in case we might be hiding something bad?

For those of you still in the dark, the full-body scanners have the ability to “see through” a person’s clothes in order to spot any weapons hidden underneath. However, unlike an x-ray, these show the outside of a person’s body – private parts and all. Also, these scanners are a blast of radiation – minuscule amounts, the TSA promises, but I think it still should make people stop and think of the potential health impacts. The alternative is an invasive pat down – where TSA employees use the palms of their hands to feel to make sure nothing is being hidden. They touch everything – not holding back the private areas – including going all the way up the inside of thighs and all around a woman’s chest.

When I heard about this, it immediately made me uncomfortable. I feel awkward when my OB or midwife does this – someone I know and trust – I feel like those are areas for my husband only. The thought of submitting to that makes me cringe inside.

Then I thought about Savannah being subjected to that, and I felt even more uncomfortable. I watched a news clip that had video of a 3-year-old girl getting the “pat-down” by a TSA employee (link below), and she is NOT happy about it. It made my heart tighten. I don’t WANT Savannah to be okay with strangers touching her. She has a right to her own privacy, and I think it’s dangerous for her to “get used” to something like this.

Here are some links I want to share with you about this issue:
A list of airports with the new imagining technology – the list starts about halfway down the page.

A very interesting news clip that talks about a variety of people with negative experiences with the TSA, including a disabled man having to remove his pants in public view, and a woman who was violently forced to the ground.

A video clip of a 3 year old girl getting a pat-down, and and she is not happy about it. This makes a mother’s heart cry, and the thought of having to go through such an ordeal every time you fly with kids is exhausting.

Some are saying that the photos released to the public by TSA are being blurred and not accurate representations of what TSA employees are actually seeing.

TSA promises that the photos are not being saved and are deleted from the computers, but it looks like a few have leaked already. I also read somewhere that TSA has said they save some pictures for “training purposes” (but, those could be pictures of willing volunteers and not unsuspecting passengers).

This article talks about the potential health concerns with the scanners. “The probability of dying from radiation from a body scanner and that of being killed in a terror attack are roughly the same…” Hmm well if that’s the case, then I’ll keep my dignity, thank you.

Passengers aren’t the only ones upset; pilots are too. In fact, two pilot unions have urged their members to opt out of the body scanner and go for the pat-down as well.

In Miami, there was an incident of one TSA employee attacking another. Apparently, some months before they had all gone through the full body scanner and since then, the one employee was teased mercilessly about the size of a certain aspect of his body.

One California man got into quite a bit of trouble when he tried to leave after refusing to be searched by the TSA. Apparently, you’re not allowed to leave either!

I just thought this article was interesting, about TSA employees not understanding how the body scanner works in their attempt to convince the passengers that it is perfectly safe.

Despite everything that TSA does, it sounds like they miss a lot of things as well. I think one of the biggest criticisms of all these new policies is that they are not effective enough to warrant the violation of personal privacy.

Here is another example of this happening, with specifics to the current controversial body scanner.

The personal story of a woman who describes what exactly the pat-down entails.

This is a humorous take on the new policies. (Warning: some may find it slightly crass.)

Want to do something? A Senate subcommittee is holding a TSA oversight hearing tomorrow, Nov. 17th. Here is more information about that, including applicable phone numbers.

These are just some of the links I’ve come across – I’m sure there are many others, if you Google it. I would love to say that we won’t fly again until this is resolved. However, that’s not very practical. A drive up to my in-laws in Massachusetts is 18 hours, which means it’s probably closer to 20+ hours with kids. It would take 4 days of driving for any trip we make there, and if Paul takes a week off work that still means we are driving more days than we’ll actually be up there. It’s very frustrating, and I’m not sure what we should do. I do know that we’ll probably limit our airline travel to “necessary” trips and limiting our visits to just once a year. Or maybe I will get used to strangers touching me and my family, and it won’t bother me. That has its own positives – I will then be okay with working at the local strip club for some extra money. (Just kidding. I know those two things are different, but right now it feels like a similar invasion of privacy.)

A few more links that I wanted to share.
A humorous video of a lady questioning a TSA employee, asking all the questions I’ve been asking, too.

Another site against the scanners and raising some good points of their risks. I hadn’t thought about the safety of my things while I am in the scanner – the site mentions how they’ve had issues at one airport with TSA employees stealing passengers’ things while they are otherwise occupied.

And, of course we expect to hear from Colbert about this! As usual, hilariously funny yet with truth. The guy he interviews makes an interesting point about how these policy changes are a sign that the terrorists have won.

Meanwhile, we are checking out Amtrak for our traveling needs. Much higher in cost than flying, but then what price do I put on my own privacy? (And, to be honest, the principle of the whole thing.) We haven’t decided yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.

11 thoughts on “suddenly flying becomes a lot more complicated

  1. I haven’t flown since 2008 when I was pregnant with Johnny. I really have no interest in flying anywhere now. Between obnoxious TSA and the thought of flying with little kids…NO THANKS.

    I’m not impressed with TSA and their ability to keep us all genuinely safe. They don’t seem competent.

    It really is ridiculous all the protocols in place now, and I really don’t think we’re all that much safer.

    And can we please have better rail transit in this country already?!

  2. Kacie: Amen to the rail transit!!! I would LOVE to see some alternatives to flying/driving. I am always jealous of Beth when she takes the train to Missouri!! Wish we had something like that. I would love to see something between Atlanta and Orlando, and Atlanta and a place like Boston. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

  3. I would so love to take a high-speed train from here to Indianapolis or something. Amtrak does do it, (I think) but it’s longer than it would take to drive. Routes aren’t everywhere and it’s pretty inefficient I think.

    Megabus goes from Pgh to NYC now (I think?) and I’d do that if I didn’t have kids, but with them? Eeep.

  4. High-speed rail is a big deal in the news lately. Billions have been offered to states to build high speed rail, and some states are refusing the funds on the basis of reducing the deficit- they see high speed rail as a waste (and, they don’t like Obama). Lucky for you, Ashley, Florida is one of the leading states building the infrastructure- so maybe Georgia will follow suit & connect up to Florida’s rail, once it is in place.

  5. I started looking into Amtrak last night and I’m excited about that possibility. For us, it would be the same as driving (about 18 hours). However, looks like it might be a little more expensive than flying. I would SOOO prefer a train over a car though.

  6. I looked into the Amtrack thing, too. I am not a fan of flying normally (ear issues), but this has really kind of sealed it for us. Amtradck is slower than flying, but it looks like it includes meals and such, and lets you take more baggage. It would be cool if you could get a train that has the sleeper rooms, those look nice. I think we are still in the driving phase of life, but since most of our travels are within 10 hour distances it seems ok for now.

  7. Molly: I wonder if Amtrak would make traveling easier for you, since you could get up and move around? The sleeper cars look pretty cool – we are seriously considering it, despite the cost.

  8. I took Amtrak from Chicago to the Detroit area once to visit Matt, and let me tell you, that was a long ride. Problems with Amtrak: lots of random stopping for freight trains, not terribly secure, can be incredibly crowded. However, you don’t have to deal with the security of airports, which speeds things up, and it’s definitely a more exciting view :)

    Seeing how I’ve been on a lot of flights lately, I feel like I personally know the TSA people. Things I’ve been annoyed with: getting held up for 15 minutes in security at Port Columbus because of a BANANA (they thought it was a bomb), getting stopped at Midway by a very rude officer because I had a teething ring in my bag (going to a baby shower), which they insisted contained water (not to mention the packaging was sealed and it was air filled), generally really long lines, people cutting in said lines, running out of bins for putting carryons through the belt, etc.

    That being said, my biggest issue is that TSA doesn’t seem terribly knowledgeable or aware of basic procedures. I have gotten a pat down before, which wasn’t terrible, just sort of embarrassing. Not sure about the x-ray machines … looks like we’ll get them soon at Midway, so once I experience them I’ll let you know how bad it is :)

  9. Ohmigosh, I’m shocked! I don’t keep up on the news because we don’t get any channels, and I never look up news online. Just one more reason to be outraged at the government, and I too wonder how many liberties they will take away, privacies they will infringe upon in the name of public safety. It seems like this is not necessary a hard thing to go through (as opposed to a physical pat down), but could be simply an invasion of privacy – and who knows what will happen to the images they take of your and your children’s bodies?

    We don’t have money to fly, but if we did, this would totally nix it for us. And if the TSA isn’t upfront about just how explicit the images are (or have the potential to be), do you think they would be up front about the levels of radiation? No, because the public doesn’t need to know.

    I, too, am a very private person and feel uncomfortable in different situations. I’ve gotten better with it the second time around, but I don’t even like to nurse in public (even fiddling with a nursing cover makes me feel awkward, because it’s obvious what I’m doing). If I wear a shirt that is more low-cut, I get self-conscious and keep feeling the need to adjust my shirt or change altogether (even though I don’t have much cleavage to speak of!).

  10. We were very concerned about flying this vacation, since they changed the policies after we booked our vacation. I don’t want anyone taking naked pictures of Elijah and exposing his developing brain to radiation OR especially touching him. He doesn’t even like me cleaning him and I don’t want him to think it’s okay for STRANGERS to do that to him. Our society is so two-faced, with emphasis on child molestation and then INSTITUTIONALIZING it.

    Before all this, maybe 8 years ago, I got singled out for being the only brunette and I had to unbutton my pants for a woman to put her hands down them…IN FRONT OF EVERYONE. I had no idea they could do that, wasn’t prepared and didn’t know what to do. It was one of the worst, most humiliating experiences of my life, and, yes, I compare it to being molested. It’s one thing to go to a doctor and ask for them to look at you and diagnose a health issue, and quite another to be physically violated just because someone is suspicious of you. To me, that’s a poor excuse.

    And it is so telling that the TSA is secretive about the whole thing. I bet if they go too far they say, “But no one will ever believe you….”

    Thankfully, we didn’t have to go through a scanner but I am not flying on a plane (or most importantly, putting my son on one) until I am assured the policy has changed again. Orlando will have one less vacationing family to include in its tourism numbers.

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