November 23, 2010
Traveling? Know Your Rights When it Comes to Pat-Downs and Body Scanners
The reality of terrorism in the United States has resulted in tighter airport security procedures. Recently, the Transportation Security Administration introduced enhanced scanners (officially known as advanced imaging technology), much to the dismay of travelers, as they reveal one’s anatomy in great detail. Consequently, the new scanners have been compared to a virtual strip search. Some travelers are also concerned that the scanners might pose health risks such as cancer.
Some fliers have staged a boycott of the scanners, dubbed National Opt-out Day on Nov. 24, 2010. Their hope is that it will cause wide-scale delays this holiday and that the scanners will eventually be removed from all airports. Refusing to be scanned means you’ll be subjected to the new enhanced pat-down, which some fliers have deemed intrusive. Fliers have also complained that the TSA officers are overly aggressive during the pat-downs. Here are your rights when it comes to the new pat-downs and enhanced scanners.
Your rights as an air traveler
- If you refuse to go through the enhanced scanner, you have the right to request a full body pat-down.
- You have the right to have a travel companion present during your pat-down.
- Pat-downs should be conducted by an officer of the same sex as yourself.
- Pilots in full uniform and on company business are allowed to skip both the scanners and the pat-down provided they can show a government-issued ID and a company-issued ID.
- Children 12 years old and under should receive a modified pat-down
- All passengers are allowed to ask the TSA officer to conduct the pat-down in a private area.
- Depending on the situation, you could face a fine of up to $11,000 if you opt out of both the scanning and the pat-down and leave the check point.
- Advanced Imaging Technology screening officers are not permitted to have electronic devices with photographic capabilities, such as cell phones, in the viewing room.
- The TSA is not supposed to store your image from the enhanced scanner, (however there have been reports of leaked images).
- If you were treated inappropriately during your screening or pat-down, you have the right to complain. While you’re at the checkpoint, ask to speak with a supervisor or the customer service manager for the airport. After you’ve made your trip, also log a complaint with the External Compliance Division of TSA’s Office of Civil Rights and Liberties. You can also reach out to the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. In addition, you can go to the TSA Website and fill out a form listed under inappropriate screening/pat-down screening from the menu. Your complaint should include a description of the incident, the date and time it occurred, the name of the airport, and the airline you were flying with. It would also be helpful to include the name of the TSA officer.
Sheiresa Ngo is the consumer affairs editor at Black Enterprise.