Flying with an infant for the first time (at the busiest travel time of the year) is nerve-wracking enough without having to worry about choosing between having a naked picture taken of me or being groped by a stranger for the sake of "security". I have some legitimate concerns about the lack of adequate training of Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) on proper procedures and also the lack of sufficient (or any) long-term testing on the health-effects of using these new full-body scanners. (I also am deeply troubled by the fact that so many survivors of sexual assault will have to potentially re-live their traumas at the hands of a TSO.)
Here's what some other folks have to say about it:
Lauren at Hobo Mama wrote a piece about her recent experience with the invasive new TSA screenings for children and pregnant women. She writes about the safety and privacy concerns of the full-body scanners, and the events surrounding her choice to have the enhanced pat-down:
"It was kind of creepy being touched by a stranger, even a stranger who was professional and calm.... There was something more invasive about having a strange official rub her hands over me than, say, having a doctor or midwife do the same. Part of the issue was probably that it was in such a public place, and not by my choice (in the sense that there was no ideal choice in this situation, if I wanted to fly home)."Dionna at Code Name: Mama wrote a great piece on the concern about TSA pat-downs for children. She spoke with a representative from the TSA Public Affairs Office and included the information from that conversation in her article. Among others, she asks the questions:
- Do the scans even work?
- Is there a radiation hazard?
- Why won't the TSA tell parents what the exact pat-down policy is for children under 12 years is?
- Why are TSOs (who are regularly touching adults’ and children’s genitals) allowed to hold a position of trust without submitting to a more rigorous criminal background check?
- Why should parents normalize the touching of a child’s genitals for any stranger who is not in a medical position?
- What do you do if you feel that a TSO has violated your rights or the right of your child during a screening?
I've read some about the concept of "Israelification," the idea that the U.S. should take some pointers from how Israel (a country that has known terrorism for generations) handles airport security. As I understand it, the security agents look at and talk to travelers, and they're actually trained to read and evaluate body language and behavior as a means of identifying potential security threats. From an article on thestar.com regarding Israel's security procedures:
"First, it's fast—there's almost no line. That's because they're not looking for liquids, they're not looking at your shoes. They're not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you.... Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes...and that's how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys."On a bit of a funnier note, have you seen these undergarments printed in metallic ink with the Fourth Amendment? From 4thamendmentwear: "4th amendment underclothes, for when unwarranted searches go too far." For those who choose to undergo the full-body scan, you can now make a statement about how you feel about it to the TSO looking at your naked body! (To be clear, I don't think having our rights violated is funny, and I think protesting injustices is extremely important, but wearing the Constitution on your underwear does make me chuckle.)
Finally, I saw this video on Hobo Mama's Sunday Surf and had to share it. It's informative and clever.
So, in light of all this, what am I going to do?
If I hadn't bought these plane tickets so long ago, I'd be seriously reconsidering taking this trip. As it is, my plans are set and I'm going to have to make the best of whatever happens at the security checkpoints. If I didn't live in the United States, I would not choose to fly here in light of these new security procedures. My experiences with this trip will definitely impact whether I'll be flying again soon.
At this point, I've decided to opt for the pat-down over the full-body scan, as I won't have anywhere to put Daniel down to not subject him to the machine. I hear that people traveling with babies who can't walk or stand on their own don't have to put down their babies and are instead given a modified pat-down. I'm hoping to be able to bring back quite a lot of frozen milk with me through security, since I'm still pumping daily so I can donate my extra milk. However, I plan to ask to not have it sent through the x-ray machine, since breastmilk is considered a medical liquid and is therefore allowed to have alternate screening.
What do you think about the new TSA screening procedures? Are they a violation of our fourth amendment rights? Should we "Israelify" our airport security? Will you be flying any time soon, and if so, what will you choose to do when you go through the security checkpoint?
*Edited in the evening of 12/9 to add: Read TSA's (inadequate?) response to the breast milk mom here on the TSA blog, and comments on it at Sustainablemothering. What do you think about this case?