Overly Optimistic Projections by the TSA

On November 24, the TSA Blog declared victory for its full-scan machines.  In a post entitled “Opt Out Turns Into Opt In,” TSA’s Blogger Bob wrote that what was supposed to be a protest day turned into a “TSA Appreciation Day.”  The post cited scores of articles describing the absence of significant delays and few protests.  Yet the lack of significant protest can be explained by many things that have nothing to do with flyers’ support for the move to full-body scan machines.  The absence of significant protests no doubt had something to do with the fact that it was Thanksgiving.  More generally, travelers have one thing on their mind: to get to their destination with as little embarrassment and delay as possible.  Perhaps people might not want to make a fuss and been seen as troublemakers.  Or as between a pat down by a TSA guard, the full screen body scan might seem less degrading.

The TSA Blog fails to mention a Zogby poll released on November 23 that casts doubt on the theory that people have opted into full body scans.  The poll suggests that 61% of the 2,032 voters polled from November 19 to November 22 oppose the use of full body scans and TSA pat downs.  Republicans and Independents oppose full body scans in greater numbers than Democrats.  Of those polled, 52% believe that the enhanced security measures will not prevent terrorist activity, and almost half say it is a violation of privacy rights.  The poll also finds that when given a choice, likely voters will choose full body scans over the TSA pat downs (48% to 7%), but 42% would rather have neither.  So much for opting in.

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3 Responses

  1. Orin Kerr says:

    I read that TSA post as saying that there was Opt In just for that one day — the day declared National Opt Out Day — not that it was declaring victory for all days going forward.

  2. Danielle Citron says:

    Orin, The picture appended to the post says it all: two cute ten year olds with a poster saying “Thank you TSA for keeping my family safe.” The implication: full body scans make us safer and we should be grateful like those two little girls. You can read the post as you wish, and I see your point, but I take the TSA Blog posting as PR not just for Thanksgiving but for all days going forward. Danielle

  3. Dissent says:

    I also see Orin’s point but agree with you, Danielle, that the blog entry was an attempt to suggest that there is no real opposition to the AIT scanners or enhanced patdowns.

    National Opt Out Day may have “fizzled” in terms of the total number of people nationwide who opted out, but it certainly “sizzled” in terms of raising public awareness and getting Congress to look at the issues.

    Hopefully one consequence of the protest is that the administration will get off the damned dime and nominate people to fill the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. And hopefully Congress will fulfill its oversight function and help rein in some real abuses of privacy and civil liberties.

    So Opt Out Day is over, but the campaign to restore some sanity and civil liberties has just begun. Keep on blogging about the issues, Danielle!