Amidst the nationwide uproar over the full-body scanners recently installed and implemented in 70 airports around the country, some have decided to take on the all-seeing eyes of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and organize a national “Opt-Out Day.” Two protesters, George Donnelly and James Babb, have even launched a website called wewontfly.com.
But their efforts have been met with some harsh criticism. “A horde of paranoid zealots – techno libertarians, Tea Partiers, rabble-rousers, internet activists, and congressional demagogues – has decided to make it even worse,” a recent Slate article protested. “Rather than endure an electronic scan of your body at the security gate, they want you to ‘opt out’ and force the [TSA] to physically inspect you.”
“Ignore these imbeciles. Their plan would clog security lines and ruin your holiday for no good reason,” the writer firmly advised.
But in an interview with The Daily Caller, Donnelly said that he, and by his estimate hundreds of others, won’t be adding the TSA’s new approach to homeland security to their list of things to be thankful for this year. Instead, they will be exercising their right not to subject themselves to harmful radiation and virtual strip searches.
Donnelly told TheDC that he and Babb decided to launch the site and get behind organizing an Opt-Out Day after seeing videos of children being forced to go through the scans and pat downs.
“We saw video of kids being traumatized by this…and we both independently said we don’t want our kids to go through this. That’s what got us started,” said Donnelly.
Yet while many proponents of the protest view it as a healthy display of civil disobedience, others are responding with accusations that the only thing that will be accomplished is the creation of longer waiting lines and actual security threats.
Donnelly, however, said that just isn’t true.
“If a lot of people opt out, they’ll be in a separate line,” said Donnelly. “People willing to risk the scanner will have a shorter line so they’ll probably get through faster.”
He also said he has heard numerous anecdotal reports that when the opt-out line gets too long, TSA workers begin herding passengers through metal detectors to get things moving again. “I would not be surprised if it actually helps things go quicker tomorrow,” said Donnelly.
Exactly how many people will participate in the Opt-Out Day is hard to predict, but as the DC has pointed out, an increasing number of Americans are beginning to view the X-ray machines with a wary eye.
“I think it will show the TSA that security theater is not feasible,” he added. “They will have to go back to the drawing board and give us real security instead. “
The site, wewontfly.com, urges prospective flyers to say “I opt out,” when going through security.
“When/if TSA agents direct you to a full body x-ray scanner, tell them: ‘I opt out.’ Be prepared for screaming, intimidation and groping. Don’t let the TSA agents move you into a back room! Keep an eye on your property and stand your ground. Let every individual see how the TSA is treating peaceful travelers,” reads the site.
While the right to privacy and freedom from humiliation are at the top of the list of their concerns over the full-body scans, Opt-Out Day organizers, including Donnelly, argue that the new security measures aren’t even effective to begin with.
“Al Qaeda is a network organization,” Donnelly told the D.C. “There is no way they [the TSA] can protect us from this threat. Right now, people could detonate bombs in the security line.”
So what are the effective and non-invasive alternatives? Answering that is not easy; something Donnelly said he understands. However, according to Donnelly, there’s something to be said for airlines, airports and passengers working together so people can vote with their dollars for which airline they prefer to fly with.
“There are solid alternatives that don’t trample our basic human dignity,” Donnelly said. One suggestion he offered is behavioral profiling – a measure that is different from racial profiling in that it judges people’s reactions to questions, rather than how they are dressed or what they look like.
“Not all of us shop at the same supermarket. People have different tastes. People are willing to pay different amounts for different levels of security,” said Donnelly, who reiterated that the bottom line is people need to have a choice about what they are and are not willing to endure in exchange for the convenience of flying.
“The TSA is forcing us to trade large amounts of privacy and dignity for no additional security,” said Donnelly. “We need real security and not this kind of security theater.”