Flying Home Next Week? Know Your Rights

Published November 18, 2010

A man undergoes a full-body scan at Chicago's O'Hare airport, where I'll be next week. (AP)

A man undergoes a full-body scan at Chicago's O'Hare airport, where I'll be next week. (AP)

You may know by now that Nov. 24 — the day before Thanksgiving and probably busiest day of air travel this year — is “National Opt-Out Day.” It’s a protest against the full-body scanners at airports, the current target of the Internet’s rage.

The ACLU of Massachusetts has written a comprehensive guide to a traveler’s rights at the airport (and a PDF version). You are not required to pass through a body scanner, even if a TSA agent pressures you. Opting out would subject you to a “standard pat-down,” which you can request to do in private. If you choose to be screened in private, you can ask to take a witness with you.

WBUR’s Bianca Vazquez Toness reports Logan hasn’t gotten many complaints about the scanners. Boston will likely be the first in the nation to get “stick figure” scanners that don’t show “a person’s lumps and bumps.” The Herald gets an explanation from a TSA spokesman:

“All you’ll have is [a] stick figure and a little block around each anomaly on you,” George Naccara of the Transportation Security Administration said of the new scanners due to arrive by late winter.

“For example,” Naccara said, “if I walk through the new machine . . . there would be a block around my cell phone . . . a block around my belt. But there would not be a human image of me.”

Jeffery Goldberg at the Atlantic suggests a super-fantastic twist on National Opt-Out Day: Everyone at the airport should wear a kilt.

The TSA maintains that Americans would rather arrive safely than untouched. “I’m not going to change those policies,” the nation’s transportation security chief, John Pistole, declared. He spoke with All Things Considered on Wednesday.

The blog post that started it all is from a San Diegan who said he caused a scene after refusing to be felt up.