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 ‚Äúvery small percentage‚ÄĚ 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 ‚ÄĒ like, say, explosive chemicals in underwear ‚ÄĒ 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. Maria

    Are you all stupid??? You people are saying that no one bombs planes originating in the US...Morons..every one of those four planes on 9/11 all were from and going to a destination within the US. There are REAL people out there who want to hurt us...I work in the medical field and around an x-ray machine all day...there is NO hazard about a one time random exposure to that low level radiation....I think you are all a bunch of ignorant morons with no sense of security at all....

    November 23, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ohohoho

    These things are not effective. They just help reassure the paranoid people out there. You might as well not leave your house because there's a chance you could die somehow.

    also, i'd be fine flying however, if you just get all scared over a terror attack the TERRORists win. If you're plane gets bombed, well thats as far as you were meant to go.

    November 23, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Paul NYC

    As usual the "tough guy" businessmen of the world are hiding under their beds, afraid to go outside in case someone blows them up. No offense but anything can happen to anyone anywhere. The same businessman who thinks he's being protected from being blown up mid-air can still be blown up or shot down like a dog on the street, in his car, home or office. Chances are none of these things will happen even though everyone on the street is not being frisked for his pleasure. If it was such a danger, why haven't the zillions of terrorists that the frightened tough guys think are out there blown up lots of planes over the past ten years? There were no invasive searches yet it didn't happen. Why?

    November 23, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. noreaster

    They are not doing cross gender pat downs; in all my years of flying I have NEVER seen that, nor has my wife who is always patted down because of her replacement knee. Why are people so gullible to beleive everything they hear ot read?

    November 23, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Imran

    Shame on CNN. The TSA should be removed altogether. check this story out and check the references as well. F the TSA.

    http://vigilantcitizen.com/?p=5695

    November 23, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. wdcguy

    Totally overblown, I suspect by the Republican spin-machine. Get over it people and grow up.

    November 23, 2010 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Imran

    don't be fooled by Homeland Security

    http://vigilantcitizen.com/?p=5695

    They will strip you of your liberties one by one

    November 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. clc777

    look what happened in 9/11. They're trying to scare us trying to let us know about what and who, looks like our government has declared war on us not on who they say can come after us. Just remember this, this is a dress reversal to what is really going to happen in the next year and year after that.

    November 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. agrl4god80

    I'm actually apalled at peoples reactions. I'm wondering what personal privacy people are wanting? I've been pat down because I wore a post-op brace that had metal in it. It wasn't invasive. They explained everything before they did it, and they were very professional. It took extra time, sure...but invasive? NO!!!!!!!!! People will find reasons to complain....but I hope that they realize, that their complaining is going to lead to more people dead because they wouldn't sacrifice their "personal privacy" (which again, I don't understand...they don't touch places of personal privacy). I certainly hope that me or my relatives are not on a jet with a suicide bomber or terrorist because of YOU. I say, get over the pride and selfishness, and think of the safety of others. If TSA was out of line, the government would've stepped in already.

    November 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. ChrissyF

    It's not that people don't want to feel safe in planes. However, it's the cases we hear about the TSA screening children, the elderly and people with medical conditions that can get us riled up. I was once randomly selected along with my NINE year old brother to be subject to a pat down. I can assure you that i will NEVER wear a skirt to fly ever again. The TSA can keep me safe, just don't "touch my junk" or subject children to your "pat downs".

    November 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rochelle

    I think when we get in line, go ahead and get naked. Or just stand there in your underwear. Make TSA a little uncomfortable for a change.

    November 23, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. PREDICTA

    How many terrorists board planes in the US with explosives? Not one yet. They come from foreign airports where such procedures are not implemented. TSA pat down/scanner procedures so nothing to stop terrorists from boarding a plane in Europe and blowing it up on arrival in the US.

    November 23, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJ

      I received a thorough pat down search by German security in Frankfurt before boarding a flight bound for the USA.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Phil

    You have to poll more people to get a sense of what the general public thinks. You can't have your poll ask "Would you object to a scan or pat down"? That question doesn't provide the results we're looking for. Pick one or the other or introduce a third option of not having a scan or pat down.

    The underwear bomber would have passed through security undetected. These machines only detect mass. If you spread the explosive thinly, you'll go undetected.

    I believe the scans are invasive and violate your rights and personal privacy. I believe they are an unnecessary measure and only lead to people being scared that they'll blow up in flight if they're not in place.

    November 23, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • PREDICTA

      And lets not forget, the underwear bomber did not board his plane to Detroit in the USA. He came from across the Atlantic where these invasive procedures are not implemented. How would pat downs in the US stop potential terrorists from blowing up planes when they land here?

      November 23, 2010 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  14. whatebz2all

    I rather take my chances having the plane be blown up than having children be touched like that or scanned naked. Sorry. This whole thing is disgusting.

    November 23, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • dway

      and uhh, uhhhh uhh and uhhhh that chicks a retard

      November 23, 2010 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • kreg

      Get over it. This is the world we live in. If you have that much of a problem with it, then don't fly... I'd rather we do everything possible to deter the crazies.

      November 23, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Sorry I fly and I want the scan (go look at the images they are NOT naked as you imply) they show NOTHING. As for your kids go complain to the ACLU and the other nuts that yell racist and gender profiling all the time because of them there are NO exceptions. But don't you worry because God created Cars, boats and trains.......Use them and leave us fliers alone.

      November 23, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hunt Maynard

      Nazi Germany 1933-1945 revisited. Hitler's second coming? It CERTAINLY looks like it.

      November 23, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • FreqFlier

      That's obviously the the rational choice. Not a single explosive ever been found on an aircraft originating in the US. EVER. And the cargo that flies below us still not screened!

      November 23, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • trublu

      Talk about distorted perception. You would rather die than be patted? That's your choice. Maybe all the people who don't mind being blown up should fly together from a designated airport and let other people fly with the peace of mind that they will see their loved ones again.

      November 23, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • NH

      The real story here is that the scans do absolutely nothing to make you safer. Study after study of airport security shows that none of this nonsense works.

      November 23, 2010 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • LearnMeGood

      This is ridiculous, there are many other attacks terrorists could incorporate that are far easier than hijacking a plane. Are planes safer? Yes. But whats the point when we are so many other vulnerable areas in our society.

      November 23, 2010 at 4:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Get Real

      Intimate patdowns are just a feel-good measure for the terrified. Planes being blown up midair by terrorists is so rare an occurance as to be statistically negligable. Using the same logic, it makes more sense to require breathalyzers for alcohol and dead-man devices in cars. You'd save more people.

      November 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • mark

      that big gal can touch my unit

      November 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Socco

      How can this one individual be credible to saying anything. Uhhh ummm uhhhhh how professional is that. She also says we want to keep the terrorists guessing????? and we do this by letting the children be physically abused, as we get herded around like cattle just to make sure another "terrorists" wont get us. I hope that those parents traveling realize what this can do to your children, and if they grow up getting shaped in accepting this then were just going to give up more and more of this so called freedom. Why i hate the news in the first place, the say the individual is some creditable person when all they do is say their name and what they do, where can people find this information where can we go to make sure this is even remotely true.

      November 23, 2010 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Terrorists will now carry their explosives inside their bodies. kreg, Robert, trublu, and CNN's Sora Song agree: "Rectal exams or blown up" is the only logic choice for ALL air travelers.

      November 23, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • clarence lacny

      I think you media people are making a mountain out of a mole hill. I have flown numerous times and have been subject to pat downs with absolutely no problem. In fact the TSA person explained fully each time what he was going to do before he even started. Give me a pat down any time rather than taking a chance that I would be blown up by some dumb fool. Take a real poll and I think you'll find out that the vast majority agree with me on this matter. And by the way,, find something else to write about. You've about beaten this one to death.

      November 23, 2010 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      clarence lacny too. He supports rectal exams for all air passengers.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mo

      Again: What about THE NON-SCREENING CARGO BELOW US????, now that everyone knows that the cargo is not 100% revised, it will be much more easy to put something dangerous downthere. I'm a frecuent flyer and I accept all the measures to ensure a safer flight, but why the TSA is not doing the SAME EFFORT on screening the CARGO?

      November 23, 2010 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • roger

      So it's nice of you to volunteer every passenger on the plane and that also includes children to "possibly getting blown up" than to submit to a search from someone whom you will never see again in your entire life anyway. What a true American hero you are.. Get over yourselves you talk about the right to privacy and search? what about the Right to LIFE? if getting patted down because you don't want towalk through a scanner and are afraid someone seeing your junk offends you then you are already ashamed of yourself and need some self confidence couseling. I assure you if a plane does get blown up then you'll gripe about how inadequate the TSA search criteria is. I like being safe and knowing all I to worry about is drunk pilots or mechanical failure not religeous whack Jobs hell bent on destroying America. Get over it people!!

      November 23, 2010 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry Hiscox

      Dear CNN:

      My question for the day is: Do government luminaries, mandarins (i.e. congresspersons, senators, governors, cabinet secretaries, et alii) have to be subjugated by the TSA when they fly on commercial aircraft relative to their job√Č. I expect that reporters, and others that fly on Air Force One are throughly vetted before being allowed anywhere near the aircraft. Do they need to clear TSA security every time they fly with the President√Č A Canadian wants to know the level of paranoia in Fortress USA.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • TDC 'Tucky

      Since I have a whole bunch of stainless in my knee, I have been patted down after setting off the alarm for years. All over the country, the TSA folks have always gone out of their way to be respectful and actually usually apologize for slowing down my progress through the airport. I really don't see this latest up tick of security as being any more invasive than what I have seen in the past. The news stories, as usual are full of crap, and based on isolated incidents, of folks who are just too damned sensitive for their own good. Sorry folks, no complaints here! If they find the bomb or the shooter I don't have to make the choice of dying like a lamb led to slaughter or being a macho dude and trying to subdue the butt-wipe!

      November 23, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      You are saying you would rather have a dead child...than a live one that has been touched by an airport employee or scanned naked? It's all about the lesser of two evils.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • sara

      That's ok – just drive.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Socco

      @greg "Dont like it , dont fly"

      Typical American sheep.

      Sad that people have been shaped to just deal with it, rather than stand up for what is right. Glad those who helped revolution in this world didnt just deal with it.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Socco

      Why the heck should it be a lesser of the 2 evils? ITS STILL EVIL

      November 23, 2010 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • ssblyss

      These measures are taken to protect us AND the children. no wants this obviously, but I would gladly trade these procedures for safety. do not fly if you are uncomfortable, it is that simple

      November 23, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Dumbest...post...ever.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Why?

      What procedure did we use before that was fatally flawed? Oh, I remember, we just ran folks through a metal detector. It was so screwed up, all those planes that were taken down, especially since 9/11/01 – its about time we get in line. (sarcasm intended)
      We have had this equipment shoved down our collective throats. It does not make us any safer, only poorer – dang terrorist overseas laugh at us and this administration continue to make a farce of our freedoms.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      Children are not being touched inappropriately and noone is being scanned naked. The incident all over the news with the boy with no shirt on was misleading reporting. The child's father ripped his shirt off, noone at TSA asked him to take it off, or wanted him to do so. The images being showed on the news of the scanners are not the images seen by the TSA screeners. The actual images show no more than you can see standing in front of a fully clothed individual, except dark areas where something is hidden under the clothing. You can not see faces or genitals. It's great equipment that we really need to stop attacks that terrorists are planning every day. The old fashioned metal detectors do not work on explosives, and explosives are the weapon of choice of terrorists.

      Most of the complaints are coming from employees of private security companies that are looking to make millions by replacing TSA with their own companies, paying the workers less, and pocketing the difference. These companies pay a lot of money to Representative Micca from Florida. That is why he's working so hard to get the private companies back. This would be a huge mistake and jeapordize the safety of the public. Not to mention, the private companies would be required to follow all of TSA's policies and procedures, so if you think you get rid of the pat downs by getting rid of TSa, you're wrong.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • iaintnohick

      They can read a license plate from space, but they can't provide for both our safety and our privacy? I don't think so. Follow the money.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • pixelbreath

      Dont fly. save the sky for all american loving american

      November 23, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • FreqFlier

      Richard: – Children ARE being scanned, and ALL children will be scanned when these scanners are fully implemented.
      – The images are detailed enough to see the size of a man's penis. "Nakedness" is irrelevant.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • FreqFlier

      Richard: I have no affiliation with any security company. I must fly often for work (I've been scanned), and sometimes with my wife and kids. Google Michael Chertoff if you're looking to "follow the money".

      November 23, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • ttown

      That may be one of the most ignorant comments ever posted...seroiusly.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • ttown

      That may be one of the most ignorant comments ever posted...seriously, you are an idoit.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shamgar50

      Wow! And you can operate a computer?

      November 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • FreqFlier

      ssblyss, sara: I have to fly for work. I'm guessing you don't. If YOU are so terrorized by terrorists that you'll allow your children to be molested (and force mine to be), then why don't YOU stay home or drive.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • BRod

      I agree! I will go further to say that we have become a nation of cowards. The chance of being killed by a terrorist has always been an extremely remote one – even before all this TSA nonsense. TSA will not stop a determined terrorist. I'll gladly take the remote chance of being killed by a terrorist to being felt up and photographed by TSA on a regular basis.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ryan

      The fact that you think the alternative to being subjected to a naked scan or an invasive "pat down" is getting blown up is the problem. We've been flying in this country for 40+ years and not a single bomb has ever blown up an airplane. Get a grip on the reality of the situation. We are spending millions of dollars and invading countless people's privacy for a threat that is statistically negligible. The people that you are telling to not fly are far more likely to die in their car on the highway than you are to be blown up by an evil airplane bomb.

      The government does not have the right to see you naked or feel you up just because you bought an airline ticket!

      November 23, 2010 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jsliewer

      Your right. My thought on it is the whole idea is terrible. With both ways of doing it people feel violated. People who don't even come close to the usual hostile suspects. So for the system to make sense and not upset those who obviously are innocent (children, elderly) we should profile right? However, that violates our own rights and the morals of most of the country. So its a lose lose for us with either system. But, when was the last time you heard someone caught with the full body scan or pat down? When was the last time you heard of a plane or airport being attacked? I'm not recalling many since 9/11/01, maybe 2 or 3. None of which were very successful from what I remember. So with the lose lose situation and the systems already effectively in place (x-ray, metal detector and physical security) this whole issue seems unnecessary. Stop the violation and stop the complaining.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • MLasso

      The point is that this won't work. If you are willing to trade your life to take down a plane, any intelligent person can pull off that feat. The morons will set their feet or crotch on fire and all will survive. The only question is this; when will Al Queda get another group like 9/11, who are smart and dedicated and who will die for their cause. Stop them from getting into the country and we win.

      November 23, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • WakeUp

      How does this make us safer? This is in response to the underwear bomber. The underwear bomber only succeeded in killing his own groin. The shoe bomber didn't even manage to do that much damage. Yet every time one of these failures manages to burn a small patch of their own bodies, we all have to endure major invasions of privacy. We are sacrificing our own freedoms for an illusion of security. When did we as a people become such cowards?

      November 23, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Imran

    The powers that work from behind veils of protection are attacking America and the world as we know it. Don't be surprised if they stage something big to convince people that the TSA needs to bump up security. The TSA and Homeland Security should be disbanded. Check out the story below

    http://vigilantcitizen.com/?p=5695

    November 23, 2010 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
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