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‘National Opt-Out Day’ Could Cause Holiday Travel Headaches

Many Travelers Plan To Refuse Use Of Body Scanners
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Airport scanner demonstration. (CBS)

Airport scanner demonstration. (CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Passengers normally don’t want to see long lines at the airport, but a protest against stepped up security is gaining momentum and it threatens to make a very busy air travel day worse than ever.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports that an effort to protest the use of body scanner machines could affect millions of travelers next week.

On the day before Thanksgiving, an estimated 200,000 people will travel through O’Hare International Airport, on the same day as an effort to get passengers to refuse the scanners.

Tenesha Willis said she’s traveling to Puerto Rico for Thanksgiving and has never had to go through a body scanner before, but if she’s randomly picked next Wednesday, she’ll join the “National Opt-Out Day.”

It’s a protest sparked by a website urging passages to refuse to step inside the scanner and have their naked profiles viewed by security.

“While national security is important, our privacy and, just right to privacy, is equally, if not more important,” Willis said.

By opting out of the scanner, Willis will be among the angry passengers who will force Transportation Security Administration workers to give them a pat-down.

Supporters of the protest believe if travelers experience what many see as an invasive procedure, they’ll put pressure on Congress to pass a bill banning the body scanners and the use of pat-downs.

“It’s very invasive, it’s very personal to have someone touching me,” Willis said.

Transportation expert Joe Schweiterman said that if many travelers refuse to go through the body scanners, it could cause a traffic nightmare in airport security lines.

“The airport system is gonna be stressed,” Schweiterman said. “One person deciding to opt out and then confront the person patting them down can lead to a three- to five-minute argument. You could have police situation. All that could translate into just disrupting the flow of people making connecting flights.”

Schweiterman is among those who think the body scanners offer the best security to protect the public. Many travelers agree.

“I don’t feel like my civil liberties are being impacted dramatically — I’d rather be safe,” traveler Bob Tuttle said.

Airport officials have said that if there is any problem with body scanner protests, they will be able to handle it. Because of the holiday, there will already be extra security on hand.

The planned protest will not affect Midway International Airport, where there are no body scanners.

CBS 2’s Mike Parker met with a mix of opinions Friday evening at O’Hare.

“This is a follow up of World War II when the Nazis told the Jews what to do,” an irate Manfred Baltscheit said. “Now, we’re being told what to do – the American public.”

“I’ve been patted down, and it’s not that bad,” passenger Rachel Soliman said. “I think it’s necessary.”

 

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