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Monday, November 22, 2010

TSA vs Passengers: Anti-TSA Sentiment Heats Up

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Passenger Chooses Strip-Down Over Pat-Down

When a San Diego man opted out of security screening using the Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) at Lindbergh Field Friday, he stripped down to his underwear in an attempt to avoid the pat-down procedures.

Samuel Wolanyk took the protest started Nov. 13 by Oceanside's John Tyner to a whole new level.

While Tyner videotaped his refusal to be patted down, telling the agent "If you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested," Wolanyk decided to give TSA a look at his body down to his Calvin Klein's.

Through a statement released by his attorney Sunday night, Wolanyk said "TSA needs to see that I'm not carrying any weapons, explosives, or other prohibited substances, I refuse to have images of my naked body viewed by perfect strangers, and having been felt up for the first time by TSA the week prior (I travel frequently) I was not willing to be molested again."

Wolanyk's attorney said that TSA requested his client put his clothes on so he could be patted down properly but his client refused to put his clothes back on. He never refused a pat down, according to his attorney.

Wolanyk was arrested for refusing to complete the security process. A woman, identified by Harbor police as Danielle Kelli Hayman, 39, of San Diego was detained for recording the incident on a phone.

San Diego has played a central role in the debate over the need for AIT machines in our nation's airports. From Tyner's videotape and U.S. Rep. Bob Filner's call for a congressional hearing, to the parody song penned by Poway musician and Grammy-winner Steve Vaus. This Wednesday, one group is asking Americans to opt out of the AIT machines.

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Pat-Down Backlash Grows During Holiday Travel Rush

s backlash against airline passenger pat-downs intensified with a viral online video, the nation's top airline security official said Monday that his agency is walking a fine line between privacy concerns and public safety.

A short video clip circulating on the internet shows a shirtless boy receiving a pat-down from a Transportation Security Administration agent. His father watches, hands on his hips, obstructing part of the view.

But the words playing in the background are clear.

"Are they harassing a kid?" one man asks.

"It's ridiculous," another voice chimes in. "Unbelievable."

Finance student Luke Tait said he started recording the incident with his cell phone when he saw the "visibly upset" father while waiting in line Friday at the airport in Salt Lake City, Utah.

"It was an interesting situation. I never saw a little boy with his shirt off getting a pat-down," Tait told CNN.

TSA spokesman Dwayne Baird said screeners searched the child after he set off a metal detector alarm.

"The father removed his son's shirt in order to speed up the screening process. Once screening was complete, both proceeded to the gate for their flight," Baird said in a statement.

Asked about the incident Monday on CNN's "American Morning," TSA Administrator John Pistole said his understanding was the same as the account given by Baird.

The TSA is trying to strike a delicate balance, Pistole said -- ensuring the safety of the traveling public while taking privacy concerns into account. "The bottom line is, everybody wants to arrive safely at their destination," he said.

In the short term, no changes will be made as the holiday season approaches. Some 2 million people a day are expected to travel on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

A Michigan man, who endured an "extremely embarrassing" pat-down earlier this month, disagreed.

"These new pat-downs have to be stopped until [TSA agents] are trained and are comfortable doing what they need to do," Thomas Sawyer told CNN's "American Morning."

Sawyer, a bladder cancer survivor who has worn a urostomy bag since a surgery three years ago, said a TSA agent at Detroit Metropolitan Airport caused the seal of the bag to open partially during a pat-down, spilling urine on his clothes.

Sawyer said he tried to caution the agent against pressing too hard on his abdomen because of the bag. The agent didn't understand and continued with the search, Sawyer said, and "pulled the seal kind of half-off" the bag.

"These people need to be trained on medical conditions ... and emotional conditions," Sawyer said Monday on CNN's "American Morning." He said the agent "didn't apologize, he didn't do anything."

"I'm a good American, I know why we're doing this and I understand it," Sawyer said. "But this was extremely embarrassing and it didn't have to happen. With educated TSA workers, it wouldn't have happened."

Pistole pointed out that the pat-downs are not mandatory -- passengers receive them only if they opt out of a screening with advanced imaging technology. The technology is the TSA's best effort, he said, to head off attacks like the would-be Christmas Day bomber last year. Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab allegedly had a bomb sewn into his underwear on a flight from Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to Detroit, Michigan.

Asked whether the technology and pat-downs would have been able to find that device, Pistole said he believes they would have, saying it would have shown up as "an anomaly" with the imaging technology and then might have been located in a pat-down.

There has never been an explosive found on a flight from one U.S. city to another, Pistole acknowledged. But, he pointed out, domestic terrorists exist -- Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph and Ted Kaczynski, for instance -- and there are people who want to do the government harm. While America is "fortunate" that such an incident has not occurred on a domestic flight, he said, it could conceivably happen.

"We welcome feedback and comments on the screening procedures from the traveling public, and we will work to make them as minimally invasive as possible while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve," Pistole said in a statement released Sunday. "We are constantly evaluating and adapting our security measures, and as we have said from the beginning, we are seeking to strike the right balance between privacy and security."

But Rep. John Mica told "State of the Union" Sunday the enhanced screening shows the TSA is "headed in the wrong direction as far as who they're screening and how they're doing it."

"I don't think the roll-out was good and the application is even worse," he said. "This does need to be refined. But he's saying it's the only tool and I believe that's wrong."

The Florida Republican, who will be chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in January, has argued that airports should hire private security screeners.

The ramped up use of pat-downs and full-body scanning is needed to stop non-metallic threats including weapons and explosives from getting aboard planes, the TSA says. And it appears that most Americans agree.

In a recent CBS News poll, 4 out of 5 Americans supported the use of full-body scans.

President Barack Obama stood by the new controversial screening measures Saturday, calling methods such as pat-downs and body scans necessary to assure airline safety.

The president told reporters that the balance between protecting travelers' rights and their security is a "tough situation," but stressed that such methods are needed after what happened last Christmas Day.

But Obama's support hasn't stopped a growing group of objectors, from civil rights and privacy advocates to scientists and pilots, from loudly claiming these measures are too invasive, ineffective and possibly unsafe.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asked by CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday whether she would submit to an enhanced pat-down, laughed and said, "Not if I could avoid it. No, I mean, who would?"

Pistole noted Monday Clinton went on to say she understands the importance and focus on travelers' security.

Some are calling the frenzied travel day before Thanksgiving "National Opt-Out Day," urging travelers selected for full-body scanning to refuse.

Travelers have the right to opt out of full-body scanning, according to the TSA, but the pat-down alternative has, in turn, created its own public furor.

Last week, a San Diego, California, man's viral video of his clash with security screeners spawned several T-shirt designs with his "Don't touch my junk" quip.

And CNN affiliates around the country have reported examples of passengers who say they find pat-downs embarassing or invasive.

But on Sunday, Pistole told CNN that the outcry over the new screening was overblown.

"Very few people actually receive the pat-down. In spite of all the public furor about this, very few people do," he said.

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Sources: CNN, Denver Post, MSNBC, NBC San Diego, The Guardian, Youtube, Google Maps

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