I’ve been posting up a storm about why the new TSA body scanners are unethical and arguably illegal (and I’m not done yet). If you agree that the TSA has violated a line that should not be crossed in a democratic country that ostensibly values human rights, here are a few things you can do.
Right now, you can complain (politely) to the chair of the Senate transportation committee, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (WV), at 202-224-6472. The committee is holding an oversight meeting on the TSA tomorrow morning (Wed., Nov. 17) at 10 a.m. I just called and they were very nice to me, even though I’m not a West Virginia constituent. You can also go to the National Opt-Out Day website and see if your state has a senator on the committee. The site provides contact info for all committee members. I’ll probably call at least a couple of the senators from the states where I’ve got a personal history (North Dakota and California).
I just mentioned National Opt-Out Day in passing. This is a concerted effort to get passengers who are outraged about the TSA’s procedures to opt out on November 24. I don’t know the fellow behind National Opt-Out Day, Brian Sodegren, but he appears to be just one guy, not an organization, which makes me tend to think he’s just a fed-up citizen and not a minion of the Freepers, for instance. His website doesn’t sound any obvious right-wing dog-whistles, and a quick Google search doesn’t flag Sodegren as any flavor of extremist. Even if he were a Freeper, though, I’d be happy to make common cause on this issue, because civil liberties don’t belong to any particular political constituency. I’m staying home for Thanksgiving, but if I were traveling, I’d definitely join in. I hope the protest will call attention to TSA abuses and wake up some Americans who up until now simply trusted that everything the TSA does should make us safer.
Some people are choosing to boycott flying until the new policies are rescinded. I can’t do that because I need to visit family on the other side of the country, but if you want to join them – or even if you just want to follow breaking news on these issues – check out their Facebook page, We Won’t Fly. I agree with commenter Mark (who brought the page to my attention) that we need to act on a number of fronts. The intent of this tactic is to put pressure on the airlines and other branches of the travel industry, which will then put pressure on the government.
When I fly on December 2, I plan to opt out. I’ll politely but firmly state that I do not consent to having my breasts or genitals touched, I’m merely not resisting. I’ll also decline my “right” to be hand-screened in a private space, which only removes accountability. We have the right to a witness in private screening, but I’m flying alone, and I don’t consider a second TSA screener an impartial witness. Let the world see what the TSA is doing! The violation is in the invasive touching, not in the view that onlookers will get. If I’m subjected to invasive screening, I will document it. I’ll ask to lodge a complaint with the TSA. I’ll register it with the Electronic Privacy Information Center’s incident reports. (EPIC is suing to have the scanners removed from service). I’ll also report it to the ACLU. I’ll call my senator, Sherrod Brown. And of course I’ll blog about it!
I also thought about wearing only a swimsuit under my coat the next time I fly. This would underscore the ludicrousness of patting someone down when every curve and bump is visible. But overt protest actions only make sense if you can get them filmed, and I’m unfortunately traveling solo. (Also, I really do need to get to California, so getting kicked off the flight is not an option.) It turns out that one of Germany’s fringe political parties, the Pirates, beat me to the idea.
If you’ve got more ideas, leave them in comments, and I’ll do a follow-up post.