The White House and the head of the Transportation Security Administration said Monday they will consider making some changes to controversial new airport security policies, but not anytime soon.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said he expects the security procedures will evolve over time. "Our goal must be to maximize protection and security and minimize inconvenience and invasiveness," he said.
The comments come amid a public outcry over full-body scans and enhanced pat-downs, and calls for a day of protest on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days of the year.
TSA chief John Pistole urged passengers angry over safety procedures not to boycott airport body scans. He said the actions would only serve to "tie up people who want to go home and see their loved ones." Full story
UPDATE NOV 22 2:52 P.M.: The latest Twitter craze: #TSAslogans:
"Can't See London, Can't see France, unless we see your underpants..."
Michael Krasny on Forum today talked with NY Times business travel Joe Sharkey about the new airport screening procedures that have been causing so much of a stir.
I have not yet had the pleasure of having to choose between being irradiated or groped by a government employee, so I can't really comment on whether the whole thing is a tempest in a teapot or an unconscionable encroachment of my civil rights. But I do know this: I have seen a lot of posting about this on Facebook, and once that happens, an official issue has been born.
As the pat-downs make their prime-time debut during the Thanksgiving rush, the San Mateo and Santa Clara district attorneys offices said Wednesday that they would bring charges against TSA agents at SFO and San Jose airports, respectively, if they committed sexual crimes during searches. They said charges would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and that prosecutors would take into account the fact that the agents were doing a job.
If they cross a line, that's sexual battery, said Steve Wagstaffe, San Mateo County's chief deputy district attorney.
Wagstaffe said it's no different from when prosecutors charge dentists, doctors or police officers who abuse their power by touching people in a sexual manner. He said the key to proving a criminal offense is the sexual intent behind the groping.
"TSA does not have any special immunity from everybody else," Wagstaffe said. "If an employee of TSA inappropriately touches the privates of another person, and they do so with a sexual or lewd intent, then that's either a misdemeanor (if it's over the clothing) or a felony crime (possible when touching the skin)."
Meanwhile, there is growing concern on how successful protestors will be in their efforts to get the public to engage in their version of civil disobedience. One group is proclaiming Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving, "National Opt-Out Day." From the site:
The goal of National Opt Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change. We have a right to privacy and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we're guilty until proven innocent. This day is needed because many people do not understand what they consent to when choosing to fly...
You have the right to opt-out of the naked body scanner machines (AIT, or Advance Imaging Technology, as the government calls it). All you have to do is say "I opt out" when they tell you to go through one of the machines. You will then be given an "enhanced" pat down. This is a right given to you by the TSA. There is no intent or desire to delay passengers en route to friends and family over Thanksgiving. We want people to stay within the confines of the law, and exercise their right to a pat down because of the lingering questions over the scanners. Once people go through the new security protocols, they may have reservations about the new virtual strip searches and enhanced pat downs - especially for their children or spouse or other loved one. We would hope those that have concerns would write Congress to demand change.
Here is the now-famous (status attained within the space of a couple of days) cell phone audio/video, recorded by would-be airline passenger John Tyner, of an obstreperous opt-out encounter with TSA. And here's his Nov 13 blog post that has been passed around between disgruntled libertarians and non-nudists everywhere.