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. JLawrence

    The terrorist commits a dastardly act. The citizens become worried and insecure and look to their government for protection. The government reacts...or overeracts. The citizens feel put-upon because of the govt's reaction and so the gov't catches hell for spending a great deal of money while taking what are percieved as Draconian measures. The terrorists win. This is the "Terrorism Do-Loop". Add to this equation politically correct security techniques and thus bogus security measures and you have the current situation. If you try to secure everything, you secure nothing!

    November 23, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tard

    Everyone is skimming over the real deal here!
    When the people flying for T-day and Xmas, tickets purchased 3 months ago, get home... they will be changing their summer travel plans to "Anything But Flying".

    Disneyworld? Yeah, baby, gonna be a light season.

    November 23, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Dj

    WFT is wrong with America? I would rather walk naked through security and be safe than make issues of these little things hindering TSA's efforts to keep us safe. Really?? why is everyone so against the body scanner? You'd rather risk getting blown up in mid-air Vs walking through a scanner? I think its a great idea. Bottom line – support TSA efforts to make our lives safe. No body wants to loose a family or a friend during the holidays. Let them do their job. God forbid, but if something was to happen, these same people will come back and say TSA diddn't do enough on their part.

    November 23, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • ronjon

      So, you been on any planes that have blown up lately?

      November 23, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      Explain to me why a three year old girl or boy needs to be patted down? Witnessing that makes me feel disgusted, not safer.

      November 23, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dj

      No system, no rule, no law in this world is perfect. You cannot have the best of everything – it just does not work that way. That life. Yes, a 6 year old being patted down doesn't make sense but if thats the price we have to pay to make our lives safer. I'll pay that price wouldn't you???

      Plane being blown-up = analogy for terrorist activities, didn't mean it in literal sense. Though, it is a possibility. Who knows what these crooks are stirring??

      November 23, 2010 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • sbo

      I think some people aren't aware of how things can be smuggled in the body – think of all the reports about drug smuggling, particularly on children. Materials can be smuggled on children and in private areas of the body, like bras – how hard would it be to remove that bra padding and slip in materials, pretty simple if you ask me cause you realize many bras have ALOT of padding. And if anyone wants to take a risk, please go ahead and play russian roulette with your plane and it's passengers. I prefer the one that has passengers willing to make this small sacrifice to protect their lives and that of others.

      November 23, 2010 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kardiac

      The first baby carriage to blow up will have you all demanding full searches on kids. Why would these people not use children? What evidence to we have that there's a line they won't cross?

      November 23, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • DC

      Dj,
      The effen thing that's wrong with America is that we're all sheep! If you did your research, you would know that these techical marvels (body scanners) cannot see what one may hide INSIDE their body...and are therefore pretty pointless. Furthermore, ALL passenger planes also carry cargo. Cargo that arrives from supposed "safe" sources and receives very little scrutiny! All this scanning & grouping is done to give the American sheep a false sense of security while stripping away the very freedom this country was founded on!

      November 23, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dj

      DC,
      I already said it Ill say it again, No system, no rule, no law in this world is perfect. You cannot have the best of everything – it just does not work that way. That life. I never said this is a full-proof system that will eliminate all threats and 100% secure our lives. All I'm saying is, even if this decreases the probability of "being blown up in mid-air" by 1%, I support the cause. Its people's lives were talking here!

      November 23, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Patrick Lewis

    False dichotomy. It's not "Strip or Die" it's a matter of how intrusive is intrusive. We've gone security crazy and it's not as much what they do now as what they will do in the future that concerns me. It's less of a slippery slope and more of a bad veer. Our tires are missaligned and if we don't keep pulling the wheel back toward center, we run into a jersey-wall.

    November 23, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa will

      Patrick what do you do for a living? can i use your response in a homework assignment?

      November 24, 2010 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bigfruitbasket

    Bring on the bomb sniffing dogs and ramp up profiling!

    November 23, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. sara

    Thanks to the media, this is out of control. Yes the media. People are hearing things second hand and not very good reporting. The media always needs something to get people all crazy. The body scan and pat downs have been going on for a while, this just didn't start yesterday. The media is most of our problems no matter what the issue, they are out of control. They like making money and this is an issue that helps. Slow news day again. Shame on CNN just can't let it go.

    November 23, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. habitual

    Warranted search? Yes.
    Warranted outrage? No.

    Move it along people.... move it along.

    November 23, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Baa-aa-aa-aa!

      November 23, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChipH

      You obviously haven't read the Fourth Amendment. Ronald Reagan must be spinning in his grave.

      November 23, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mikester

      You are an idiot!

      November 23, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • JJJackson

      You are probably for the cavity searches used in other areas of the world? They conduct the searches right there in the airport behind a screen. You just have to spread your legs and let the agent probe you. It is done to search for drugs. Only now we have a better reason - weapons!! And all in the name of your "safety."

      November 23, 2010 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. StevenMN

    "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."

    What a stupid polling question! No matter how objectionable people find the new rules they're still going to fly. People NEED to travel. In most cases the only choice is to put up with the new rules or stay at home. Of course travelers aren't going to change their decision to fly.

    November 23, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fricsaid

      Steve, I respectfully disagree. I choose not to fly because of these new procedures. Many I know are doing the same.

      November 23, 2010 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eldon

      alot ofmy family who choose to fly didnt this year they drove instead

      November 23, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denizen Kate

      I disagree as well. I used to fly 3-5 time a year. Since the TSA began using these draconian methods, I've reduced my travel by plane to once per year at the most. In fact, I haven't flown in over a year now, and probably won't until sometime in 2012. I don't think I'm alone in this ramping down of air travel, either.

      November 23, 2010 at 1:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • StevenMN

      Just saying that for most travelers there isn't much of a choice. Are you going to tell your boss you refuse to go on a business trip? What about visiting your dying gramma in Puerto Rico or your vacation plans to Hawaii.

      November 23, 2010 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Bagu

    just keep popping those urine bags.... unleash the chaos

    November 23, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Raj

    This is way overblown and out of perspective. If you don't like it, please don't share a ride with him. Arrange your own flight, passengers and crew. I don't want to risk my and my family's life because you are paranoid about body scanners.

    Come to reality.

    November 23, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eldon

      the pilots union says the scanners may cause cancer ,are we going to get a ne insurance if you fly an get cancer the insurance companys dont have to pay?

      November 23, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChipH

      Grow a pair, Raj, or move back to Mumbai.

      November 23, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dave

    Even if 99.99% of America was against the scan CNN would still write an article like this. Propaganda, folks. They're trying to TELL you what you believe, and what you should.

    November 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • jesse

      You are related to the cry baby touch my junk guy are you not?

      November 23, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Nope. I'm an American who actually pays attention to history. But don't worry, Jesse, TSA has plenty of lube stored just for you.

      November 23, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Dave,

      And you are not trying to tell us what to think?

      November 23, 2010 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jesse

    Anyone complaining about search before boarding a plane should just stay at home or drive. This will makes the lines shorter and travel less stressful. So for all the babies and little whiners stay home and play with your junk, like the guy that wants to go hunting but gets all emo over flight safety.

    November 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      And for all the jerks and a holes, bend right over and take your loss of freedom with a smile! We know people like Jesse have a backside that needs plugged by total strangers.

      November 23, 2010 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fricsaid

      You're going to wish we didn't choose not to fly when you're paying more for tickets down the road due to the lost revenue the airlines will suffer.

      November 23, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      Fewer travelers = higher ticket prices. If that's what you want, I'm sure many people are happy to oblige.

      November 23, 2010 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Just Passing Through

      Yes, Jesse, go ahead and bend over for the TSA. Just don't expect the courtesy of a reach-around.

      November 23, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Green Leaf

      About 30,000 people die in car wrecks every year. About 200 people die in a plane wreck by terrorists every FEW years. Do you become "EMO" becuz you might die every time you get in the car? How do you get behind the wheel? Do you walk? You know, thousands more pedestrians are KILLED EVERY YEAR by a car accident than those who end up in a terrorist attack. How is it you don't worry about these BIG RISKS??

      November 23, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. tankrothchild

    Youtube Michael Chertoff and see who made the money from the xmas false flag plot

    November 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Huckleberry Finn

    I was humiliated...I am going to sue sue.........
    I had to go on CNN and tell the nation of my great pain....
    5 million should help...

    November 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
  15. itsocrazy!

    I'm okay with the body scanners with the pat downs they are too intrusive and personal. I am not a criminal and I do not appreciate being treated as one. I thought this great nation stood on the grounds of innocent until proven guilty it s a covenant between government and its people and the TSA are operating outside that by treating everyone as guilty until proven innocent and I believe that is the true issue and i don't like that they hide behind the fear mongering that cupping my breast during a pat down is going to prevent a terrorist attack.

    November 23, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oldledgefarm

      I bet you if the people who died in 911 were given the option they would have submitted to these searches a hundred times over vs. losing their lives. Stop whining, if you don't like it stay home.

      November 23, 2010 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • D

      9/11 was a tragedy of epic proportions. I'm not convinced random pat downs would have prevented it. There has to be a better way than treating every passenger like a suspected terrorist.

      November 23, 2010 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
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