Air Travelers Forced To Choose Between Scanners, Pat-Downs
RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
A lot of Americans looking ahead to holiday travel aren't looking forward to new security procedures at the nation's airports. Some travelers are calling for a boycott over what they say are unnecessarily intrusive pat downs. And professionals have concerns about the new full body scans. Citing health concerns, pilots want to be exempt from that type of screening. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR: At a news conference at Reagan National Airport outside Washington, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended the new procedures.
JANET NAPOLITANO: We're not doing this just to do it. We're doing it because we need to keep powders and gels and liquids off of planes that are unauthorized, just as we need to keep metals off of planes. Now, this is being done in recognizing that we all have a collective role in our security.
NAYLOR: But some passenger advocate groups are balking and are calling for passengers to boycott the scanners and request the pat downs in a private room with a witness. Kate Hanni of Flyersrights.org says she's heard from a number of outraged travelers.
KATE HANNI: People who travel very frequently are actually saying I'm either not going to fly or I'm going to get arrested if they touch my genitals. So that said, why isn't TSA looking at alternatives? And we're trying, with our boycott, to get them to understand that they have hit the tipping point with the flying public, and they need to look at other alternatives than these scanners.
NAYLOR: But pilots say that flying several miles above the earth as they do, they're already exposed to higher levels of radiation on a daily basis. Sam Mayer is a captain with American Airlines and a spokesman for the pilots union, the Allied Pilots Association.
SAM MAYER: At 39,000 feet you're well above the significant amounts of the protective portions of our atmosphere that protect us from radiation. So we're up there with nuclear power plant workers to start with, on what has been our exposure to radiation. And then, you know, potentially adding the cumulative effects of these scanners over a 30 year career, it's just too big of an unknown right now.
NAYLOR: Pilots also make the argument that they're professionals and are in control of the plane anyway. They say there are any number of alternatives to the scanners, including forms of biometric identification, such as retina scans or palm prints. The American pilots have taken their case to the TSA and may be near a resolution, according to Napolitano.
NAPOLITANO: They have a legitimate argument there. We recognize that. We're working with the pilots groups, and we hope to very quickly be able to announce some things where pilots are concerned.
NAYLOR: Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.
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