TSA Agent Confession ~ More on TSA Body Scanners

by Beth Whitman (February 4th, 2014)

Beth Whitman Airport PatdownI’ve only ever walked through a TSA body scanner once. It was during a layover in an airport. I now can’t even remember which one. And it was only because after deplaning I was forced to go outside of the security zone and then back into another terminal to catch my connecting flight. The flight was already boarding and if I didn’t make my way quickly through security, I would have missed it. So through the scanner I went.

All other times, I opt for a pat-down. It’s not pleasant. Sometimes it’s embarrassing. And one time I know the female assistant got a charge at how aggressive she was with me (but that’s Newark Airport for you).

There are too many unknowns with the scanners for me to feel comfortable going through them. I maintain that if something is not healthy for children and pregnant women, how can it be OK for me?

In light of the recent confession by a former TSA agent, Jason Edward Harrington, that went viral on Facebook, all I can say is, “I told you so.”

When a former TSA agent admits, as Harrington does, that..

1) The scanners are not really effective
2) TSA agents don’t even want to stand next to the scanners due to potential radiation
3) The TSA agents who are supposed to be watching the x-rays in a private room have been known to have a romp in the hay, not paying attention at all to who’s walking through the scanner
4) The agents are so unprofessional as to make up names for attractive women passengers
5) The agents themselves know what a farce these security measures are

…then I think we all need to rethink what we’re doing.

I’ve been writing about why I won’t go through the scanners for years. And I’ve written about the potential health effects of the full body scanners. But I was surprised last year to hear from friends and acquaintances that they didn’t know you COULD forgo the scanner so I wrote this post to encourage people to opt out.

Still, many people don’t know that they have a choice. Or maybe they just don’t care.

Welp, I care enough about my health and privacy to leave early enough for the airport so that I don’t have to subject myself to the theatrical performance called the TSA body scanner. And, after reading this former TSA agent’s post, I’m so glad that I’ve stuck to my guns, so to speak.

Decisions made by the government (and I’m not talking about any specific administration) are often done so under pressure from lobbying groups (in this case likely the company that produces these $150,000 machines) and as knee-jerk reactions to give the appearance that they have a handle on a situation.

(You have watched Scandal, haven’t you? I’m not making up these conspiracy theories.)

The government’s gotta make it look like they are keeping us safe so we’ll keep calm and continue to travel and spend our money. But these approaches are farcical (read Harrington’s full post if you don’t believe me).

Really? Confiscate my unopened jar of peanut butter because it’s spreadable? Take away a child’s sno-globe? Come on.

Well, I guess I feel a little vindicated after all this. As I said, I’ve been writing about this for years and honestly feel like it’s fallen on mostly deaf ears.

Hopefully people are listening now that this TSA exposé has been written.

One man was quoted in Harrington’s article after being asked why he was opting out. He said, “Because those things don’t work. And I don’t want to be dosed with radiation by a thing that doesn’t work.” Well said.

Bottom line is that there’s just too much we don’t know about those scanners to walk through them. There have been no long-term studies done and NO ONE regulates them. So why risk it?

Travel Well,


Related links:
Opting Out of Body Scanners
Airport Opt Out How-to and Why
More on Backscatter Scanners
Security Alert – Peanut Butter is Spreadable

On February 4th, 2014 at 9:52 am, Michele Samuels said:

Hey, Beth. I saw one of your articles a long time ago and haven’t been through a scanner since……Thanks! I’ve never had a bad experience opting out, either. Usually they are very polite. I always do it in public, so there would be witnesses if anyone was inappropriate.
Happy Trails,

On February 4th, 2014 at 10:07 am, Beth Whitman said:

Good point, Michele about doing it in public. I used to go to a private screening room but that requires 2 TSA agents but it’s sometimes hard to round up even one and I think they are less invasive in public.

I’ve heard that they are terribly embarrassed by the process, too, so I empathize with them. But not that one agent at Newark Airport :-).

On February 19th, 2014 at 2:25 am, Dan said:

Its crazy the lengths we go through to travel. Being exposed to high levels of radiation shouldn’t be required to explore another culture or even visit a relative…

On February 19th, 2014 at 7:22 am, Beth Whitman said:

You’re absolutely right, Dan!

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