ACLU Received Over 900 Complaints - “Enhanced” TSA Security Measures


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ACLU Received Over 900 Complaints - “Enhanced” TSA Security Measures

Shane Nolan

November 29, 2010 - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has received over 900 complaints in the month of November from travelers who have been subjected to the Transportation Security Authority’s (TSA) new “enhanced” screening procedures.

The procedures include sending travelers through backscatter X-ray machines that produce naked outlines of travelers’ bodies and subjecting them to thorough pat-downs that include TSA agents touching their breasts and genitals on the outside of their clothing.

Most of the complaints, which were submitted through an online form on the ACLU’s website, came from travelers who reported feeling humiliated and traumatized by the procedures. Some of the excerpts include:

“The TSA agent used her hands to feel under and between my breasts. She then rammed her hand up into my crotch until it jammed into my pubic bone.” “I cried throughout the groping and have had intrusive thoughts since. It was humiliating.”


“The procedure was violating, degrading, invasive and humiliating.” “It was so rough that I felt the effects of it throughout the day.” “I do not feel safer. I feel violated.” The following can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office: 

“The government must keep us safe, but it must do so in a way that is sensible, effective and constitutional. The new 'enhanced' security methods are far more intrusive than other methods but have not been shown to be any more effective. Nobody should be forced to choose between 'naked scans' and intrusive groping by strangers to keep our airplanes safe.” 

Several radiation safety authorities including the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements, The Health Physics Society, and the American College of Radiology, have stated that they are "not aware of any evidence" that full-body scans are unsafe.

However, other radiation authorities, including the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nuclear Energy Agency recommend against using ionizing radiation on certain populations like pregnant women and children, and opponents of the devices say that no long-term studies have been done on the health effects of either backscatter x-ray or millimeter wave scanners.


Opponents of backscatter x-ray scanners, including the head of the center for radiological research at Columbia University, say that the radiation emitted by some full-body scanners is as much as 20 times stronger than officially reported and is not safe to use on large numbers of persons because of an increased risk of cancer to children and at-risk populations. 

Unlike Backscatter and active millimeter wave systems, Millivision full-body scanning systems do not expose travelers to radiation associated with Backscatter and active millimeter wave systems but can still detect objects that would not be identified by metal detectors.

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