'Opt Out' Activists Take Aim at Airport X-Ray Machines

A group that styles itself as first amendment activists is again asking travelers to opt out of TSA airport screening that use backscatter X-ray body scan machines.

The original protest, launched during Thanksgiving 2010, was called a bust by some, but since then there have been some significant developments involving these machines.

How Safe are the Machines?

Opt Out and Film

The proper title of this year’s action is Opt Out and Film because those who take part are being asked to record their refusal to use a body scan and tape the ensuing pat-down – as one website put it, “Every attempt to intimidate and coerce Americans into a form of obedience that strips them of their basic human dignity will be caught on camera.” The TSA response is that, while “the TSA does not prohibit photograghs at screening locations, local laws, state statutes, or local ordinances may.”

Opt Out 2012 has already snagged a travel celebrity – author Christopher Elliott says he too will take part in the “peaceful protest” this week, citing inadequate testing of the machines and their potential dangers.

Concerns about X-Ray Body Scanners

In answer to health concerns, the TSA released a study that would seem to indicate that radiation issues are not a problem and the machines are safe; however, late last year, the European Union banned its backscatter units specifically due to unanswered safety questions. And the TSA itself removed some body scanners from LaGuardia and JFK airports, but said it was doing so only for reasons of speed and efficiency.

Texas Tries to Ban TSA Pat-downs – Again

As the TSA notes on its blog, anyone can opt out of any body scan at any time, but those who do must undergo a thorough pat-down instead.

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Published: November 21, 2012