Social Question

josie's avatar

Is the aggressive TSA pat-down the new protocol, or is it punishment for refusing the scanner?

Asked by josie (29299points) November 17th, 2010

I fly pretty frequently. I have been patted down a few times at airport screening over the years (although I fit none of the profiles of a likely terrorist).
Pat downs were, in the past, thorough, but not terribly intrusive. Lately, in the news, I have been hearing about pat downs that laid it on pretty heavily in the crotch and butt area.
I dismissed that as routine American bitching.
I have a friend who also travels frequently, and out of concern over the scanner radiation, opted out of the scanner in favor of a pat down. He described it to me and I was surprised to hear how aggressively they checked out his “groin” and butt.
This guy, like me, is not squeamish and has endured plenty of shit that would make an airport pat down seem no more intrusive than walking through a metal detector. In other words, I do not think he is exaggerating.

Next time I fly (this weekend) I am going to refuse the scanner so I can find out for myself, but…

Is it likely that the TSA’s, who have become increasing rude and surly as the years have gone by, are punishing people who are not cooperatively submitting to being zapped in a scanner?

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33 Answers

marinelife's avatar

No, that is not it at all. It is the would-be underwear bomber that we have to thank for the increased pat-downs and the full-body scanner.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Some guy is willing to set his nads on fire to bring a plane down. You don’t think they’re going to check that area out?

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Actually, I think the new and improved pat down is retaliation. There’s an ex-TSA agent who has an… interesting blog, to say the least.

Shut up and get in the scanner

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

syz's avatar

You know, if someone does sneak a bomb on board, TSA will get excoriated for “not keeping us safe”. They get screwed no matter what they do. And the perception of rude is a two way street – I can’t believe how some people act in public.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

This is an interesting article from Uberpollster Nate Silver. He describes a pat-down he got after going through the scanner.

“My first experience with the full-body scanners, on a flight back to Kennedy Airport from San Diego last month, was also a negative one…the lines were quite slow — possibly because the machines were coming up with a lot of false positives, myself included.As is my usual practice when passing through airport security, I emptied my pants pockets completely — there wasn’t so much as a stick of gum, a penny, or a taxi receipt in there. But the machine nevertheless insisted that that there was something in the back right-hand pocket of my jeans. When the official from the Transportation Security Administration asked me what I had in my pocket, and I told him that there was absolutely nothing, he then performed a pat-down. I was in a chipper enough mood that I wasn’t inclined to make a scene, but I did ask the T.S.A. official whether it was routine for the machines to see things that weren’t there, to which he declined to respond.”

Sooo. In addition to being stuck in a slow-moving line and subjected to potentially harmful radiation, you might have to go through a humiliating pat-down anyway. And, of course, you have to do all of this without shoes on your feet.

You know, you can’t be completely safe in anything you do. I think it’s time to put an end to this nonsense.

john65pennington's avatar

Consider this. if a person runs from the police, you can assume that he has something to hide or is a wanted person.

A person denying airport screening fits the same scenerio.

Its all about our security, in the heavens, at 35,000 feet above the earth.

iamthemob's avatar

if a person runs from the police, you can assume that he has something to hide or is a wanted person.

A person denying airport screening fits the same scenerio.

The first assumption is absolutely terrible, and part of the problem with relations between police and the general population.

It is just as likely that someone running from the police has a general, rather than specific, fear of the police based on community stories, whether true or not, about abuse of police power or personal observations of behavior, whether or not interpreted correctly. When I was training to assist in street law outreach programs, one of the most important lessons we attempted to drum into kids was that they shouldn’t run from the police, and the inevitable response was “They’re just going to arrest me anyway/plants something on me/beat me…I saw them do it to my cousin” or something of that variety.

Although legally you’re correct, it’s a socially irresponsible for us to validate it, as those who run are those most likely to be in a minority one way or another, or have had bad experiences with the police. Therefore, we perpetuate the problem.

Translating this to the airport screening issue is as socially irresponsible. Refusing the screening, as clear from the posts here, should not create an assumption of guilt. What it seems to show, overwhelmingly from my experience so far, is that people think TSA is going too far. We all know that it’s for our safety, logically. However, we already pour liquids into tiny bottles, relinquish our drinks at screening, take off our shoes and go through detectors, take out our laptops and take off our jackets, and get randomly selected for pat-downs anyway. The fact that people don’t want to go through a full body scanner that reveals mountains of information that is irrelevant to us getting on a plane, potentially, and also exposes us to radiation the long-term effects of which will be unclear is actually a reasonable response. To think that it means that the passenger has something to hide is validating a built-in government suspicion of its citizens.

I am willing to sacrifice some personal dignity to gain the privilege of air travel. I understand why these procedures are in place. But to consider that behavior that one exhibits in refusing one procedure in favor of another as guilty behavior makes the Department of Homeland Security seem more like the Department of Shut Up and Listen to Your Daddy.

El_Cadejo's avatar

“if a person runs from the police, you can assume that he has something to hide or is a wanted person.

A person denying airport screening fits the same scenerio.

The first assumption is absolutely terrible, and part of the problem with relations between police and the general population.”

I couldnt agree more. “hey if you got nothing to hide why dont you let me look through all your personal belongings?”

iamthemob's avatar

@uberbatman – It’s the same reasoning that creates a likelihood that people will consent to police searches of their bag/car/house that you mention. Often, people think that (1) they don’t have a right to refuse the search, or (2) that if they do, it will create a suspicion such that the police will be able to search their stuff anyway.

If the police have a right to search your car, then it doesn’t matter what you respond. However, if you consent you have waived Constitutional rights. And unlike Miranda warnings during arrest, the police do not have a duty to inform you of your right to refuse.

As a matter of practice, everyone should refuse consent.

El_Cadejo's avatar

Yup its complete bullshit how many people get tricked into doing things they wouldnt otherwise submit to.

john65pennington's avatar

Sorry folks, but the stats back me on people running from the police.

iamthemob's avatar

(1) What statistics?

(2) How were they gathered?

(3) How are they sampled?

(4) How are they updated?

(5) What do they control for in terms of variables?

etc., etc. ... ;-)

El_Cadejo's avatar

uhhh yea, I dont care if I have something on me or not, I still dont want you looking at my shit end of story. You may be in favor of no privacy but that doesnt mean all of us are.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob I don’t logically know that the scanners are there to make us safer. I think they’re there for the appearance of safety. As Rafi Sela, the security consultant at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel-Aviv, says “I don’t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747.” If you could guarantee me that if everyone went through the scanners, no one could ever get a bomb on a plane again, I might consider it. But these are just making us 2% safer with 5000% less dignity.

@josie TSA is totally admitting (now) that they are now doing enhanced patdowns. They have also admited it is to punish travelers… “However, when meeting with privacy officials at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and TSA later that month, I was told unofficially that there were two standards of pat-downs. One for the normal situation where passengers are going through metal detectors and a different pat-down for those who refuse to go through the whole-body scanners.”

With this latest announcement, TSA admits that it has been clandestinely punishing passengers for refusing to go through the invasive whole-body scans with an even more intrusive aggressive pat-down and that soon those more invasive pat-down will creep from airport to airport.”

iamthemob's avatar

@papayalily – I agree that the measure of safety provided does not warrant the invasion of privacy (I’ll say privacy because I don’t really think that a “right to dignity” is something that we should be concerned about). I don’t want to – and don’t think I did – indicate that these measures were an effective way to increase safety on flights. And I agree with you on a practical front that I would require a guarantee of safety to go through the scanners.

I won’t. Absolutely not. And the fact that the TSA is doing enhanced patdowns, and that they are doing them because of the refusal is exactly the problem that I had with @john65pennington‘s statement regarding suspicion above – the exercise of one’s right to refuse a search may be ineffective in some situations (such as when an officer judges that there are additional elements to create a suspicion that there is illegal activity), and therefore the search wouldn’t be a violation of their rights, but the exercise of such refusal should not, in and of itself, create an additional suspicion that gives the officer the right to ignore your refusal.

Knowing this is the case, I think that it sets a dangerous precedent. Personally, I think that the problem is not that we have to get patted down now to get on a plane (I’m not all that offended by someone touching me…), but that the reason for it is a way for the government to create suspicious activity to get around Fourth Amendment rights.

The act is no big deal. The reason is incredibly scary.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob I think the act is a really big deal. I’m not a criminal; there should be no reason for me to ever have to be molested by a government official.

iamthemob's avatar

@papayalily – But doesn’t that logic then require that in order for any inspection to occur at all you must display some sort of suspicious behavior? I agree that I think the pat down is too much, and not really helpful in terms of a cost/benefit analysis.

However, we can’t resort to the “I’m not a criminal and therefore I shouldn’t be subject to inspection” any more than we should resort to the “Refusing inspection is an indication that you have something to hide.” Constitutionally, the government is prevented from preforming “unreasonable” searches and seizures. It has been historically recognized that places where there is a distinct concern for public safety, where there is a likelihood of criminal activity because of the nature of the place, and where the government performs its functions are places where one’s privacy interests are lessened in relation to the public interest.

Airports are of a unique quality. They are considered legally to be like prisons, courts, legislative buildings, etc. I think we need to couch the issue on whether or not this goes too far rather than whether it’s appropriate to judge which person deserves to go through certain screening procedures.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob No, I mean, molestation is too far for a search, it is unreasonable.

iamthemob's avatar

@papayalily – you’re skipping a step by defining it as molestation – that’s completely subjective, and considering this is, in theory (and I stress in theory) meant to be a clinical encounter for a single purpose only, it can’t objectively be termed “molestation.”

If so, then a Terry stop-and-frisk, prostate checks and pap smears are all molestations as well.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob What’s a Terry stop-and-frisk?

iamthemob's avatar

A pat down of the outer layer of clothing in order to determine whether a person is carrying a dangerous weapon of other determinable contraband when the officer has a reasonably articulable suspicion that the suspect is engaging in criminal activity.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob The one using the backside of the hand?

iamthemob's avatar

Not so much. ;-)

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob Pap smears and prostate exams are completely voluntary. You don’t have to get a pap smear to go anywhere, to work anywhere, to generally go about your daily life. I know many people who aren’t comfortable with them, and they simply don’t get them. They’re also preformed by private citizens, instead of as a federal mandate. Enhanced pat-downs aren’t as optional, and they’re preformed by feds. Terry search-and-frisk I don’t really know about, so I won’t comment.

iamthemob's avatar

There are differences, of course. I would argue that both flying and the pap smear and prostate exams are wholly voluntary things. You can go through your entire life without doing either. However, it’s probably incredibly stupid to not get the exams…while not flying is a totally neutral decision.

My main point, though, is that there are two main ways I see in approaching the issue:

(1) as private citizens, we should not be subjected to searches unless they are based on a suspicion wherever we are, and this isn’t, and therefore represents an assault on the citizen, or

(2) searches of citizens in any context must be reasonable in terms of their goals, the invasiveness of the search, and whether the search is tailored and likely to achieve the goals stated, and because these new procedures can’t reasonably be said to represent a fair balance of those factors, they shouldn’t be utilized.

Both of us are in agreement about the fact that the searches are being done wrong, and for the wrong reasons. From a legal standpoint, I prefer to approach it from the reasonableness standpoint, whereas when we start talking about the fact that we’ve done nothing wrong and/or we’re citizens of a country, etc. ... we’re working from a status viewpoint. I just feel like we get into dangerous “profiling” territory at that point.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob The legal standpoint thing… There’s the view that you take if you were actually arguing the case, where you take into consideration past court rulings. And then there’s mine, where I think a lot of court rulings have been wrong and want to see them overturned, and I’m still going to think it’s wrong, even if SCOTUS doesn’t.
You can go your whole life without flying, but it’s increasingly hard to. If you want to move up in your career, you will most likely need to fly at some point. For those who already have jobs that require them to fly, they have the “option” of quitting their job and not being able to find a comparable one and being forced to move, to not provide for their families, etc.

iamthemob's avatar

What ruling do you find inappropriate and would want to overturn in this context?

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob Mmmm… Exactly what ruling I can’t remember, and I’m afraid that I don’t have the time to look it up. I’m sorta writing a paper due in a few hours…. (But Fluther is nooooo problem at all. Nope, Fluther is 100% not a distraction. Standards, ya gotta have them…)
ETA: I’ll try and find it later when I’m less… ya know, stupid with my procrastination and shit…

iamthemob's avatar

aren’t we all that kind of stupid. ;-)

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob I’m definitely a “why do today what you could put off till tomorrow” kinda gal

beancrisp's avatar

“The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home”.
James Madison

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