From Tracie: Vacation Choice: Naked Pictures or Federally Mandated Molestation

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Vacation Choice: Naked Pictures or Federally Mandated Molestation

Next week my seven year old daughter, Katarina, and I will be traveling to Arizona to visit family.  It is a trip that we are both very excited about, there will be many special memories made while we are there. We both love to fly. In fact for a lot of years I thought about one day becoming a flight attendant.

Katarina and I will go to Arizona next week.

We might even just stay in Arizona.

That is not because of all the family fun we will be having. It is because of the AIT Full Body Scanners that the Transportation Security Administration is going to be using as primary security for Sky Harbor International Airport when it is time for us to return to Florida.

What is the deal with these scanners?

There are questions about the safety of the scanners, but that is not what I am concerned with today. Today I want to talk about the invasion of privacy.

I'm sure we all remember the TSA worker in Miami who was made fun of by a supervisor about the size of his penis, after going through an AIT scanner.

Earlier in the year, the UK said that children under the age of 18 must be exempted from going through the scanners because the images created would violate child pornography laws. In March that decision was reversed, because the government decided that "to exclude children risked undermining the security measures". This decision was made even though the security minister admitted that the scanners are only 50-60% effective and a week prior a security guard at Heathrow Airport was caught staring at images of a female colleague in a body scanner. Their reasons for scanning minors did not address the problem of the illegal images that are being created in the process or the violation that is taking place.

I have spent most of my day looking into this situation, finding out what our rights are where body scanners are concerned. I have been calling airports, airlines, the TSA, and researching online.

I know that TSA employees have to pass a background check before being hired. But as TSA officials said when asked about a TSA employee who was arrested for the statutory rape of a 14 year old girl, "Unfortunately these checks do not predict future behavior".

I understand that the person actually viewing the pictures is in a separate room and does not know the identity of the person pictured. This does not offer me any comfort. Often when perverts buy images of child pornography, they are not in the same room as the child being pictured and do not know the identity of the child. Does that make child pornography okay? Of course not. It is also not okay for a TSA employee to view images of my child or me where our naked bodies are visible. I will not consent to that.

I was told that we can legally opt out of walking through the scanners, and instead be patted down. When I asked for further information about what a pat down would consist of, people where hesitant to answer. One security employee at Sky Harbor told me that they are not allowed to discuss the pat down procedure over the phone. He said that I would have to "ask for it at the airport and see what happens".

That did not make me feel very good about the pat down procedure. The big news on the pat downs is that they have recently changed the way they are conducted. Some of the new procedures are covered in this video from ABC15 in Phoenix:

While the video shows snippets of pat downs happening, and discusses that breasts will be touched, it does not discuss what else will be touched.

After speaking with four different TSA employees on the phone today, I finally got one to be honest with me about what exactly the pat down would include. She told me, "They will touch you with an open palm. They will touch your breasts and feel completely around them. They will touch your butt.  They will run their hands all the way up your inner thigh and touch your crotch area."

I asked if that would apply to my seven year old daughter as well, and she answered affirmatively.

Let me make this very clear. 

The choice is: 
Allow the TSA to take images of your body where you will essentially be naked. Images of your children's body that in any other setting would be considered criminal. 


Allow a TSA agent to pat down your body in such a way that they will fondle your breasts and touch your crotch. An act that if preformed on your child in any other setting would be considered sexual abuse. 

Essentially, the choice is:
You can give up naked pictures of yourself 
allow the federally mandated molestation.

These are your only choices when using an airport that has the AIT Full Body Scanners as the primary security.

After explaining the new pat down procedure to me, the TSA employee said, " you do not want your child to have to go through one of these pat downs. They are extremely invasive and upsetting". She didn't really have to tell me that, because I already knew from the description that there was no way I would allow anyone to touch my child in this inappropriate way.

I realized that we will not ever fly out of Sky Harbor International Airport again. This started my search for an airport that did not yet have these scanners in use. When I spoke with a different TSA employee about an hour later to ask questions about the airport in Tuscon, she wanted to know why I was trying to find an airport that did not use the scanners. When I explained to her about the pat down procedures being unacceptable, she told me that the agent I spoke to earlier should not have told me that. That they do not touch anyone's crotch at any time during a pat down.

Then I found an article from CNN. It details the experience of a CNN employee, Rosemary Fitzpatrick, with the new security pat down procedures. She clearly says in the article that the screener briefly touched her crotch. She also says, "I felt helpless, I felt violated, and I felt humiliated".

Michael Roberts, a pilot for ExpressJet Airlines, has refused to go through the scanner or be patted down. He probably won't be able to keep his job, because not going through security means no flying.

I understand the need for security. I do not complain when they make me take off my shoes, or when they do not allow me to bring large containers of liquid on the plane. I do not complain when they rifle though my  suitcases. I wait in line and put my belongings through the x-ray machine and walk through the metal detectors. If a TSA employee wants to pull me out of line and hand search my carry-on, I smile and say okay.

I will not smile and say okay to inappropriate pictures of me or my minor child.
I will not smile and say okay to inappropriate touching of me or my minor child.
I will not be bullied by the TSA. No one has the right to touch me or view my naked body.

You might think that I am secretly a conspiracy theorist or that I am overreacting. That is your choice.

It is my choice to not have my freedom stripped away and my body violated by strangers. It is my choice to drive three hours to the airport in Tuscon to be able to take what will probably be my last trip on an airplane to return home. As the scanners get installed in more and more airports, the choices for molestation-free flight will become less and less.

Benjamin Frankin is often quoted to say, "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserves neither liberty or safety."  I think that applies here.

What do you think? Would you go through an AIT Full Body Scanner? Would you put your child through one? What about the new Pat Down Procedures? Is that something that you would allow yourself or your child to be subjected to?


  1. I'm with you on this 100%. This is very unsettling. I'll be praying for you all as you travel. Love you!

  2. I had no idea. I absolutly will not allow for someone to touch me like that. I think it's absurd that they insist on images like that or the right to touch someone. Maybe I'll start driving and just eat the time on the road.

  3. Holy cow! I was so not aware of this entire issue! Is there a way for you to drive to another airport?

    Ick. I feel like I have to wash my hands now.

  4. The very first time I heard about those scanners I was mortified. I recently saw the piece on the new pat down procedures. Both options are horrid. I already do not feel comfortable being touched by strangers, I certainly do not feel comfortable being touched in private areas. I do not want to normalize this behavior in the name of "safety". It does not make me feel safe at all.

  5. Excellent Tracie and right on target. I completely understand the concerns of our national security but there is no way that a male TSA employee is going to "pat me down". Not that it makes me feel any less violated if by a female. Both the scanner and the pat down is truly a violation of privacy as well as legally allowing TSA employees to violate our bodies.

  6. I'm not going to fly. That's inappropriate and forced. What's wrong with that picture? It's exactly the kind of thing we are all trying to stop, for Pete's sake.

  7. For reals?
    I am appaulled.
    Never alright to see my daughters nekkid body. I mean, C'mon.
    They are not gonna have a bomb on them...

  8. No way would I allow my child to be put through that...or myself. This is insane!

  9. Tracie.. thank you for writing this blog, and for doing all the homework it took to learn just exactly what's going on, and for informing us all about it.

    I hope you both will be able to travel without being invaded and molested. (I'm so angry about what I have learned, I am having to bite my tongue). As far as I'm concerned, this is a blatant violation of our rights, and I don't understand how Anyone is even traveling by plane at all! Good luck honey.

    And don't worry about people crying "Conspiracy Theorist!".. Conspiracy Theories are coming true left and right now, and I think the very definition and understanding of the term is changing.

    All we really need to know is, Keep Speaking Our Truth as we See it.

    So thank you for speaking up, again. And God Speed. xx

  10. I am praying that you and K will somehow, some way, be able to avoid all of that. I would not want to go through one of those or be patted down like that, and there is no way in H-E-double-hockey-sticks that I would let either of my girls go through it.

    Praying, praying, praying.

  11. I am totally with you. I don't get why they have to implement this. It will make me think about driving on vaca instead of flying.

    I hope you have a good trip

  12. I love a post that takes a stand about something. To be honest, I hadn't thought a lot about it, but I certainly will now. That is amazing about the body pat. Why isn't this getting more media attention? And also? The airports are a total shit-show will no real protocol, each agent different, each airport different. Crazy.

  13. I cried *reading* this. Those so-called security measures are extremely inappropriate and definitely constitute a violation. I hope they never come in here in Australia, and I'm so upset that they are in other countries at all. I hope you find a way to get home that is safe for you and your little girl.

  14. Yeah, I think driving is the way to go...Authorities are getting so carried away!

  15. I really never thought about this issue before. I hope that you guys find a way to fly and avoid these violations.

  16. I have never been patted down and I travel quite a bit. I am alarmed. And if that is happening at that airport only, then I will never fly out of there!

  17. I had no idea Sky Harbor had those scanners. None. David was actually thinking of sending me and the kids to Arizona, but this is very unsettling to me. I have two toddlers. No way am I going to hand them over to be touched or photographed in such a way. And Ethan...Nope...Uh uh...I've taught Claire and Ethan that they make the decisions concerning their bodies (Grayson is still too young to understand) and I'm not going to let someone take that away.

  18. I agree with you 100% and think this is crazy. What is our world coming to. I wouldn't put my child through one but then again I won't let my kids out of my sight..thank god I don't have any.

  19. I think Benji was right once again.

  20. I have been living under a rock, apparently, but am so glad you've opened our eyes to this. Please keep us posted on what happens and how it all goes? This totally skeeves me out. Ugh. And I know it's an especially rough situation for you, Tracie.

    Keep on Keepin' on, girl. I know you can do it!

  21. I don't fly, so I had no idea of this scanner. I wouldn't put either of my daughters through that. I would have to drive or take a train.

    Stopping by from SITS Sharefest!

  22. Yes, thank you for the awareness and the conversation you've started here. A friend of mine from high school the spokesperson for Sky Harbor. Would you like me to contact her to get the "official" PR?

  23. I love that quote from B Franklin. It's amazing how much people are willing to sacrifice in the name of "safety". I feel exactly the way you do about the scanners. I hadn't realized there was any alternative. But now I feel like there really isn't because I would not chose to be pat down like that. David Foster Wallace has a great essay in the Atlantic on freedom and sacrifice. I think it's from 2007. Let me know if you decide to read it but have trouble finding it.

  24. Tracie,
    Oh my gosh! All in the name of safety? Please. So glad you started the coversation about this. I have heard bits and pieces, but yuck!

  25. Excellent post Tracie! Thank you so much for finding out all of this info and passing it on to the rest of us! It's just one of the many reasons that I love your blog so much!

    I won't get all political and go on for 10 paragraphs (and I sure could!) but I will say this much... I want the government out of my home, my car, my medicine cabinet and it's prying eyes and hands away from my body and the bodies of my family and friends. Period.

    If the airport that we fly out of most often changes to these new procedures, we will gladly drive any additional distance that it takes to get to an airport that doesn't employ the new procedures.

    Good God, what's next???

    Peace and Blessings,

  26. I think it's all out of control, personally. I fly a lot and I've been through the scanners and the pat downs. While they're not exactly offensively invasive, I feel like I'm being coerced unnecessarily. I agree with tightening security but it's sort of ridiculous the extremes we've come to. It's at the stage where it surely must be persuading some people not to bother flying.

    Plus I've been through European airports and never had either of those things happen, even en route to the States.

    I don't get what the point is of body scanning everyone when a) it's not all that effective and b) they don't check every piece of hold luggage that thoroughly. Someone wants to take out a plane, they're going to do it somehow and no matter what security you put in place, they're going to find another way.

    The pat downs I've had didn't include any crotch or boob touching though. They do feel up your inner thigh but not all the way up and they do the side of the boob and your upper torso but not the full breast.

    The scanners though, I don't know what they see because all you see is the little screen that says "OK" or whatever when you pass. But who knows what radiation those things emit and really, in a society where it's improper to be in public unclothed, what gives some dude in a uniform the right to look at everyone naked either? That's an invasion of privacy in my opinion. For a country so avid about being "free" it's getting further from it every day.

  27. I caught a quick piece about this on NPR that other day but the kids were talking and I missed most of it. I did catch that the TSA guy clarified that kids under 12 were exempt but I can't swear that he was 100% correct. I wouldn't want to put myself through those things but there is no way I would allow my toddler to be touched or viewed by anyone.

    I am appalled that we all just keep handing out our rights for the illusion of safety and security. Why haven't we as a society put our foot down and said "Absolutely not!"?

    Thanks for the reminder that I needed to get worked up about this.

  28. Tracie,
    I have been freaking out over this for weeks now... I am flying with my 13 year old daughter in 4 days. We are flying from Canada to Mexico so I wasn't that worried because the security has been different in the past on those vacation flights, but lately I have been becoming more uneasy about the whole thing.
    Thanks for this very informative blog post. I knew all about the scanner, but didn't know fully about the pat down and now that I do, I am really uncomfortable with both!
    Thanks for sharing... Just when I thought that I had my power back, that I was no longer a victim, no longer powerless... (and can afford to travel a lot!) this happens..
    Glad that I found this blog! You are a great writer!
    Hugs, Darlene