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Passenger's Rights For Airport Security Screening!

Jun 20, 2008
I am a former TSA officer and passenger advocate. My goal is to arm you with valuable and usable information to make your next trip through airport security an effortless one.

According to Homeland Security, you surrender your 4th amendment rights when either of these two situations occur:
* When you hand your bag over to an airline or TSA employee.
* When you walk through the metal detector at checkpoint.

You are now in the hands of the federal government. They may conduct any method of primary or secondary screening following federal guidelines. You do have the right to ask for a private screening at any time during the screening process or sit down if you cannot stand.

Recently, I have received questions about passenger rights relating to the Backscatter and Millimeter Wave body imaging technology. Passengers want to know if they have to go through the body imaging machines or do they have a choice not to.

My answer is you do have a choice! Before these new technologies, TSA always had an alternative screening method available and still does.

TSA has implemented two "Whole Body Imaging" technologies in primary and secondary screening called, the Backscatter and Millimeter Wave. Both are an effective way to detect weapons, liquid explosives and other threat items concealed under layers of clothing without physical contact in a matter of seconds. Both have privacy issues with the scanned images; however, TSA is currently working to rectify that problem. Images will be deleted immediately once viewed and will never be stored, transmitted or printed.

Currently, the Backscatter is being used in secondary screening in lieu of a pat-down and the Millimeter Wave is being used in primary screening in addition to the walk-through metal-detector. The Backscatter and Millimeter Wave are still in the pilot phase at several airports.

There is one question you need to ask TSA at your airport. Is the Backscatter or Millimeter Wave in the pilot phase? If it is in the pilot phase, it's offered on a voluntary basis and it's an alternative to the traditional pat-down. If it's not in the pilot phase, then be warned! When you decline, you will undergo additional screening using another screening method. One other method would be a full-body pat-down.

According to a TSA spokesperson, ninety percent of the passengers at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport prefer the Backscatter over a pat-down. It has not been determined how passenger imaging technology will be used in the future. If you feel this type of technology is not offering total privacy, then opt for a full-body pat-down.

In addition to Whole Body Imaging machines, you also have a Trace Portal machine called, the Puffer. The Puffer is different in the sense that it blows air onto you and then analyzes it for trace amounts of explosives.

I recently went through the Puffer machine and I can confirm that your skirt or dress will not fly up. It is impossible for any dress to fly up because there are no holes at the bottom of the Puffer. The holes are located only on the sides and blow air in that direction, not upwards. No Marilyn Monroe imitations here.

The same rule applies to the Puffer when it comes to having choices. Just like the Whole Body Imaging machines, the Puffer is still in the pilot phase at most airports. TSA does not require you to go through the Puffer; it is only on a voluntary basis.

You may always refuse to be screened by any technology. Just remember that if the technology is not in the pilot phase, then you will be screened by another screening method. Ask what your choices are first and then make your own decision. If at all possible, do not let TSA make it for you.

Happy & Safe Travels!
About the Author
Natalia Ippolito, a former airport screener and author of: I MIGHT AS WELL BE NAKED: How to Survive Airport Screening With Your Clothes On.

Receive her FREE Tip of The Week, Sample Chapter Ultimate Packing List or Unknown Violations and Fines Report at http://www.airportbook.com
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