November 23rd, 2010
12:06 PM ET

TSA complaints: Warranted outrage? Or all bark, no bite?

In recent weeks there has been growing vocal anger regarding the Transportation Security Administration's procedures relating to pat downs and the use of full-body scanners. But amid all of the noise, what are the real complaints, and how much of the outrage is simply that - a growing chorus of bandwagon anger.

There certainly has been no shortage of horror stories - a shirtless boy receiving a pat down,  a flier had to show her prosthetic breast, a bladder cancer survivor whose urine bag broke during a pat down - and countless other stories of uncomfortable encounters with the TSA.

The coverage of the isolated incidents being reported raises the question of whether they paint a picture that isn't the reality for the vast majority of travelers.

The concerns: Fact vs. fiction

Polls have found a majority of Americans support the scans, though they aren't as supportive of the TSA pat downs.

A CBS News survey showed 81 percent of people polled approve of the use of full-body X-ray machines. A Washington Post/ABC News survey found 64 percent of people supported the use of the machines, while 32 percent were opposed. When it comes to the use of pat downs, respondents were practically split down the middle.  However, 37 percent of all Americans said they "feel strongly" that the pat downs are overly intrusive. Still 70 percent of Americans questioned in the Washington Post/ABC News poll said the new TSA rules made no difference in their decision to fly.

Our partners at Time.com, who are taking a look at the TSA procedures, report that the head of the agency John Pistole has said the outcry has partially been fueled by media-fed misperceptions.  He said that only a “very small percentage” of the 34 million Americans who have flown since the new procedures took effect have been subjected to the pat downs.

Politico: Go ahead, touch my junk

The TSA even released a list of "myths and facts" about pat downs and other security measures.

No doubt passengers still have some concerns. What about their 4th amendment rights? Are the scanners safe? Do they even work? Can they actually stop terror attacks? How far is too far when it comes to a pat down? What are the medical implications of the procedures? And who exactly should be getting the pat downs?

For some, it’s a question of  pat down or blown up?

BusinessInsider.com: Sorry, Folks, We'd Rather Be Body-Scanned Than Blown Up In Mid-Air

"It wouldn't be a total oversimplification to boil the issue down to a single question: would you rather get screened or blown up," Time.com's Sora Song wrote. "The new TSA whole-body scanning machines are designed to catch potentially deadly threats — like, say, explosive chemicals in underwear — that metal detectors miss. The end result should be a safer flight. It's a no-brainer."

For all those complaining about the security check hassles, CNN contributor Bob Greene asks, would you rather have no security at all?

"You can walk into any airport, with or without a ticket, and wander unimpeded right up to a boarding gate. You don't have to surreptitiously slip past a security checkpoint, because there are no security checkpoints, " he said. ""If you are carrying a loaded gun in your pocket or underneath your jacket, no one will know. In fact, if you do have a valid ticket, there will be nothing to prevent you from boarding a flight while armed to the teeth with concealed weaponry."

"Would you feel safe? Would you want to live in such a country?," he adds.

"You did, if you were a citizen of the United States before the 1970s."

Why all the hoopla?

The firestorm has only grown as close-up photos of the pat downs grace newspaper and website front pages, while the mockery has only grown on late night talk shows, "Saturday Night Live" and YouTube.

And let's not leave the press out of it. Howard Kurtz, writing for the Daily Beast, agrees in part with Pistole that the media are certainly part of the blame.

"From network newscasts to local TV, from newspaper front pages to a blur of web headlines, it seems untold numbers of women are having their breasts touched and untold numbers of men are feeling the intrusive hands of government guards near their packages," he writes. "Actually, that’s far from true."

And when it comes down to it, Kurtz said, part of the media attention is due to how easy the story is to tell - and that it has all the makings of the perfect press story.

"The narrative combines a number of elements: Hassled airline passengers (who can’t relate to that?); terrorism concerns; invasion of privacy, and a hint of sexual naughtiness," he said. "But the key here is that every local news outlet in America could send a reporter or a crew to a nearby airport and grab a piece of the action."

Then there's the whole "National Opt-Out Day" issue. It could either, as some organizations suggest, delay flights or completely fizzle out. As Time.com points out, it might just turn into a "More Like Opting Out Of Making Your Flight" scenario?

In reality, we ask: Will this idea turn out to be of "Get Betty White on 'SNL'" Facebook campaign success? Or will people who have likely paid a chunk of money to go visit their families take the time to engage in an act of civil disobedience and disrupt air travel?
Perhaps, it's just (pun-intended) all up in the air for now.
soundoff (1,704 Responses)
  1. Tyhouston

    Pure disaster. CPS anyone? The lying org that pretends to care about the little children, splits good families apart while the abused are ignored? They cursaders of kids safty and rights and one word against them and your just a evil abuser? They police themselves... they treat you like garbage and if you complain arrest you and fine you.
    They are incompetent morons, toenail clippers arrest old ladies and they investigate themselves in every wrong doing? They steal luggage, destroy eclectronics, just break your belongings and no consequence in the fake name of Anti-terrorism. As a trained checkpoint guard from the military these idiots are pretending...and when called on being incompetent they investigate themselves and find themselfs innocent. Yeah airlines we stupid enough and painful to fly to begin with...

    November 23, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Piccolo Productions LLC

    why not use the system the Israelis use for security measures? I'm sure it isn't as controversial and evasive as this is

    November 23, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Name*Mike

    More BS that idiotic people believe, there keeping us safe yeah right. They want to do away with guns " it's keeps our kids safe" they listen and monitor all calls and say there listening for terrorists , now let's search em or scan em what's next folks think about it before you wave your flag!!

    November 23, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sandra

    rules are rules....body scan or pat down. Take your pick and quit whining.

    November 23, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • cloudcroftkid1

      Not these rules, not now not ever.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Altanta

      4th Amendment:
      "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

      I think it is safe to say that all those with some level of backbone recognize that the TSA pat downs go way beyond what is reasonable.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Altanta

    Why do we need security screens? We don't have them on the bus, boats, subways, trains – and as the article points out, not before the late 70s.

    The way we are approaching this is in a Chinese fingertrap way – deeper and deeper is the only path, where will it end? it's already ridiculous.

    Most importantly, it is EASY to bring perfectly innocent looking items on board that when combined WILL create an incendiary device that WILL take the plane down. Anyone with basic engineering and chemistry understanding can create this. So, what good is all this security nonsense?

    The ONLY reason the planes were brought down on 9/11 was because we had been indoctrinated by decades of government blather about being passive and not do anything. Any terrorist attempting anything on board now will be subdued, if not killed, by the passengers on the plane. The element of surprise is gone.

    So, yes, I'd feel perfectly OK with no TSA and no security inspections – it's all for show anyway as far as real security is concerned.

    November 23, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. aaaaaaaa

    How about stopping terrorists BEFORE they show up at the airports? Hmm that's an interesting concept huh?

    November 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bob Camp

    Can't somebody just wear a cast on their arm and hide explosives in it? Neither the machine nor the pat down would detect anything. Anybody can make a cast. I bet they don't have an option - they get the groping whether they want it or not.

    November 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. maxnewbold

    Its rediculous. People shouldn't have to decide between being able to travel, and being legally mollested by some random stranger with a glorified sense of authority. The TSA has never, not once caught a terrorist. Which makes it an obsolete waste of taxpayer money. Benjamin Franklin said it best " Those who would give up liberty for security deserve niether"

    November 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • cloudcroftkid1

      YES !

      November 23, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Christina

    I think the missing ingredient all the way around is common sense. Sure, I do not want someone "touching my junk" but I also do not want to blow up mid flight either. How can we balance the very real need for increased security with the also very real need of protecting our personal liberties? I have seen a great many folks complaining and making comments, what I have not seen yet is someone who is offering alternatives!

    November 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ituri

      Christina, in 40 years there has been ONE successful terrorist airplane hijacking in the USA. ONE. Uno, ichi, un, ONE. Singular. Get the point? There is no reason to justify such intrusive practices as these scans and body groping for such a small risk. It wasn't even airport security that failed on 9-11, it was our intelligent communities who failed to talk to one another. The Clinton Admin even warned the Bush Admin of the Al Quada threat before he took office. So that means we all need frisking like criminals? Its an absurd reaction to a realistically tiny threat.

      Also, as for other options, the rest of the world profiles to great efficiency. We could try that. Or a little common sense.

      November 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  10. rosemary

    Richwel, I actually thought your comment was really funny. I don't find humor in too much but I pictured this scenario, and really had a good laugh.

    November 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. lone smarty

    Alright, there are going to be a lot of haters, but you all need access to this information... The folks that are the threat are obvious about being what they are, crazy zealots/ terrorists, just look at the proof. Profiling with visual cues is the answer to gaining better security over what's been happening in our airports. Opposite profiling, such as frisking and harrassing little old white haired ladies, is certainly a waste of time and is a public joke on all of us. We need to be real about this folks, each time there has been a suspect bomber, it's been completely obvious to me at least that they exhibit threat like body language and that their projected persona fits the bill for being a terrorist. We need to agree that this is a truth, and that this is the only way to address this problem effectively. The whole "discrimination" BS that this country has chosen as a do not do "taboo practice", is exactly what will be our undoing as a nation. Food for thought people.

    November 23, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jonathan

    As more time passes and more people are subjected to radiation and groping, the outrage will inevitably grow and questions over whether it's justified or not will seem quaint.

    November 23, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Bigdeal

    I have flown over 100,000 miles this year, I have flown this amount of miles every year over the last 4 years. Funny thing is you don't hear the frequent flyers compliaining about this. The guy who blew this out of porportion was was an infrequent traveller. I will tell you, i feel much ssafer on a plane flying out of the US then I do flying out of international airports outside of the US.

    November 23, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Altanta

      Maybe we are more jaded? Or simply corporate lackeys used to putting up with activities that serve no purpose?

      November 23, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ituri

      The idea that those who dislike this new intrusive process are "non fliers" is a myth, and a bad one. Even if it were true (which it isn't), who the H are you to tell other people to give up their rights, even only "now and then" verses your business "once a month" standard? Do you even know where your nuts are anymore?

      November 23, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Cassandra

    It's funny that the only people who are complaining are those who don't travel frequently. Get a life people and travel. It's fun!

    November 23, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Altanta

      Fun? Unless you live in Asia, air travel hasn't been fun since stewardesses became flight attendants.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sleep Cycle

      ??? Where'd you get that impression? I fly frequently and this is insane.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      I've traveled extensively. Whether I wanted to or not, it came with being military.
      My greeting home from my Persian Gulf deployment was a TSA enhanced screening, complete with a literal scrotum squeeze. And I had boarded my flight from a SECURE US AIRBASE!
      Apparently, the TSA considers our military members of a terrorist organization.
      I guess they saw us when we got to the rear and hit the chow hall...

      I'm retired now and home. And I've declined several job offers as a contractor. I'll not be treated like a criminal while defending your craven butt.
      But, thank you for the wonderful transformation of our society in my near 5 year absence. You've successfully changed this nation from the United States of America into the Craven States of America.

      November 23, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ituri

      I fly several times a year and live over 2000 miles away from my family due to active military duty postings. Now, for the country I serve, you want to grab my NUTS to make sure I'm not going to down a plane. Thanks a lot for demanding I give up my self-respect and dignity just to go home and see my loving family during my few breaks from service. It'll go nicely on the plate vacant of individual freedoms you've handed over to fat government agencies.

      November 23, 2010 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • maggie

      Wzrd 1 - your point of view is part of the problem here. You assume that TSA a) knows who you are and b) cares. They don't and I don't. If you get on a plane with me, you're screened, like everyone else. If you don't like it, as you clearly don't, I think you've done the right thing by isolating yourself. Thank you for your service.

      November 23, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Dan

    I fly regularly...3-5 times a month...I don't understand all of the issues. The only objective here is to keep things safe or safer, so the bump your breast or rub your butt who cares? If you were wanting to conceal something where would you put it on your body? Not in a pocket or somewhere easy but in a private area where no one would probably touch or look...hence the full body scan or pat downs. People need to grow up and worry about things that are really significant. Also, if you don't like it...drive a car.

    November 23, 2010 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • tcaros

      The TSA are burger flippers.

      We need to end this GW Bush era paranoia. GW Bush and his corporate elite cronies masterminded 9/11. That's why we can't find Bin Laden. He is a "made up" fictional person; likely a covert operative with makeup and whig.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steven

      Exactly. Common sense prevails.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kbamy

      I agree with you, we do need to sacrifice some things for safety, but the real problem is not the technology its the people who are using it. Many of the individuals abuse the rights to look at someone in a very compromising position (whether it be for safety or not.) If the images and the people going through the scanner were treated with dignity and some sort of decorum this would be fine. But thats not the case. There is mocking and harrassment that goes along with the scan... The technology is not bad, its the people that abuse it that are making this a huge deal

      November 23, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • SomeGuy

      The problem is that none of these theatrics uncover someone bringing a concealed explosive in a body cavity. These scanners are not skin penetrating. Someone who actually wants to bring a plane down and not just instill fear will use the same "smuggling" methods as drug mules have been using succesfully for years.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Let's see how you like it when they bump your daughters breast or rub her butt.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • remfpog

      Well, first was the shoe bomber. We take off our shoes. Then it's the underwear bomber, we get pat-down/scanned. Guess what's next? Some might enjoy a cavity search, but many won't.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      "People need to grow up and worry about things that are really significant."

      I wish the government would apply this logic to the TSA. What marginal benefit are we getting in implementing these measures in response to already incredibly rare events?

      November 23, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deej

      I absolutely agree with you Dan, safety first. The pat downs are to protect and keep hidden things off planes. The screeners are not trying to get a vicarious thrill, like you say, it is to protect us! Much ado about nothing! Those of us who must fly a lot want safety. Of course nothing is 100 % safe, but I want to be as safe as possible.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Yes, of course. I'm sure you would have gladly paid the tax on your tea in Boston becaues it was for your own good. We should do everything our government tells us. We shouldn't worry about the undiscolsed amount of radiation from the machines. We shouldn't be concerned that the former head of DHS has a giant financial stake in the Rapiscan machines and racked up $250 million in government sales. We shouldn't be concerned that we are all considered suspects instead of citizens. We shouldn't be concerned that strangers are fondling the genitals of strangers. We shouldn't be concerned that the images ARE in fact being transmitted. We should just be quiet like you and take whatever they dish out. Please don't have children.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ncomp

      I agree...You want to be safe don't you? So why the complaints? If it turned out that a terrorist got on the plane with a bomb, they would then be ridiculed for that...never happy!

      November 23, 2010 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      its a was of time and same goes for the body scans the pearl earing could be C4

      November 23, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      the bra could be laced with C4 made right into the threads

      November 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tannim

      We call paid TSA shills like you "sheep trolls".

      Odds of dying on a plane crash: 1 in 2.6 million. Odds of being hit by a car: 1 in 50,000.

      Let's put the TSA on street corners, shall we? More safety risk there than in the airport.

      Sorry, no. The next terrorist threat isn't from domestic air travel, and it isn't a license to grope, either.

      The TSA "FAQs" above have been long debunked.

      This is mere theater, and not a real security system.

      Put security back in the hands of the airlines and make them compete, and then best will win on merit–not government-forced compliance with immunity from criminal acts.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aaron

      were gona need dogs to sniff peoples private areas for chemicals

      November 23, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim J

      BRAVO!!!!!!!! Well Done!!!!!!!! If you don't like the search, don't fly! I am a retired law enforcement officer. The public dosen't realize that the "private areas" of the body is where criminals conceal contraband. Do you think for one moment that the screaners are delighted with this policy??? Sept. 11 changed the way we live! ACCEPT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      November 23, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • B Sadler

      My only concern is the full body xray scanners long term exposure affects. Most travelers fly less than 5 times a year. I am a business travel that passes through security 2-4 times a week. That's ~100-200 times a year. I know opting out of the scan for a full body 'groping' is possible. So let's see...radiation exposure or being groped 200 x's a year... Painful either way.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • East 4th st Kid

      Well Dan, My only concern is to date all our security measures have been REACTIVE to some specific breach. This has caused others and myself to wonder if a terrorist hides some device or / explosive in a body cavity are we looking forward to a body cavity search? . As a retired Law Enforcement Officer I can tell you most american flyers won't want to bend over and spread those cheeks. Our country is Notorious for REACTIVE thinking when it comes to security. for example a prisoner once 100 years ago escaped in a barrel and for the next 50 years every barrel was searched twice before it left the prison however escapes continued in other ways.and no one was a PROACTIVE thinker.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • bob

      if i wanted to conceal a bomb and get it through airport security i wouldnt put it in my pocket OR hide it in my underwear. i would hide it in my rectum. just like al quieda did last august in an attack in saudi arabia. this method gets past scanners and pat downs 100% of the time and the only cost if a .99$ bottle of ky.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • oz ro

      Hopefully you guys will wake up form these puppets and know the real government. I would highly recommend you go watch on you tube renaissance 2.0 lesson 1 and go from there. You guys really need to wake up.. Sad how you people are played.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hawkeye8080

      Here are the public's choices: 1) significantly intrusive pat-downs; 2) full body scanners; 3) extensive profiling (i.e. the Israeli system); 4) don't fly......it is a priviledge not a right.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ngek

      I agree the TSA are just doing their job to make this country safe! Why does some people keep on complaining and whinning about this issues? Does anybody ever think about the folks that work on TSA... Does anyone ever ask them if they like rubbing butts the whole day? If a terrorist gets inside the country and just blow them self at the public who's gonna get blame 1st? The TSA! So shut up people if you don't like tight airport security then hike.. if you're too lazy stay home and scratch your balls.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • pilot125

      The fact is, this is not making us any safer. its a dog and pony show just like half of tsa. I laugh every time i look at half of these clowns at the checkpoint. I felt much safer when the Guard was there armed. Show some force that we are not afraid of these terrorist. I am sure the fat dorky tsa agent really deters them ! Do not let them win people

      November 23, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • glouman

      Grow up folks. The nextthing these whiners will say is that we don't need cops on the street either. The mere fact that TSA exists is a huge deterent.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peggy

      I agree with Dan. Get real, people. I would not want to get on a plane where there are passengers that have not been screened. What's the big whoop?

      November 23, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • pilot125

      How many people that say grow up, deal with it, its no big deal have actually flown since this has went in effect?

      November 23, 2010 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • duh-pig

      Amen to taking a car or they could GO Greyhound. It would be a good time to go on standby because there should be plenty of seats available because the optouts are getting patted down or standing around whining while the rest of us get scanned and catch our flights on time. The airline will make out financially too because a lot who miss their flights will have nonrefundable tickets. Life is tough!

      November 23, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • mockingbird52

      If TSA is so good, how come they have never found a terrorist yet. only folks that forgot to leave their nail clippers and pocket knives at home. The guys that want to destroy America are a lot more adaptable than the fed. gov. They are the speed boats and the fed. gov. is an ocean liner. By the time we get something in place, they have improved and moved on. We have to be smarter, which seems to be a problem.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • jr9426

      Here is my Problem with this Dan, These TSA Agents are not changing their gloves after groping somebody's armpits, crotch, butt crack, whatever. How do I know the the person before me didn't have lice, or herpes, or some other nasty virus or bacteria? These enhanced searches are letting the TSA touch people in some dirty places and I don't want them touching me and possably spreading something nasty.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Dan, you're absolutely right. Before I retired recently I was flying at least once a month and security never was a bother. Unless of course some nitwit forgot to take of his shoes, or argued with the security folks. Then everyone gets delayed. These nitwits that don't like airport security probably won't wear seat belts, smoke in the restrooms, won't use condoms and all the other personal restrictions that thinking people see a need for. Hopefully those folks will STAY OFF MY AIRPLANE.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Paddywhack

      Two problems:

      Problem the first: Mr. Pistole has successfully implemented an absurd procedure to protect us from yesterday's tactic. (That tactic, before this "protection" was implemented, had resulted in exactly two incidents that come to mind: one moron that couldn't light his shoe and another that did nothing more than scorch his own privates.)

      Problem the second: We have allowed the terrorists to win by being as just as fearful as they wanted us to be. This measure is not rational and it is not proactive. It is motivated by fear and it is reactive. This is fear talking.

      We have the terrorists right where they want us.

      November 23, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • TC

      This is nothing. Trying flying around overseas. They will take your checked luggage and go through it infront of you. They will take apart your baby's stroller and check their diaper too. It's the price you pay to fly "safer". So get over it. I want everyone I fly with scanned or searched. If you are worried about your kids going through airport security, then explain things to them. Do I have to remind over protective parents that childern have been used to smuggle contraband? It's sad we have to think about that, but it's a reality.

      November 23, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      I don't accept any of this. Last week my doctor tried to grope my junk. He said it was for my safety but I know better. He is part of the system that is violating my rights and personal freedom. It is the Bush/Cheney/Obama/ conspiracy. They orchestrated 9/11 and now my doctor is trying to grope me!

      Seriously, some of you people need a life and others need medication.

      November 23, 2010 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
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