Pat-down row rages as travelers decry privacy-stripping rules

This article has been written by Sanskrity Sinha for IBTIMES.COM

The raging row over pat-downs and new body scanning rules at airports in the U.S. continued unabated on the Thanksgiving eve with holiday travelers threatening a pre-Thanksgiving no-fly-day boycott even as President Obama instructed the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) to make airport security measures less intrusive.

Joining the fray, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center urged TSA on Wednesday to stop invasive screenings at the airports. According to officials, the intrusive body scans and pat-downs have traumatized some of the survivors of sexual assaults and that the procedures violate one’s rights to privacy.

“In a culture wherein we encourage our children and fellow citizens to speak up if anyone touches them in an inappropriate manner, we want to encourage a society where feeling safe also includes mutual respect and dignity,” Delilah Rumburg, CEO, National Sexual Violence Resource Center and Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, was quoted as saying by the media.

The frustration among travelers is palpable.

Terry Herman, a Chicago-based consultant and motivational speaker, who is over 55 years old, says the experience is “horrendous”. “A female security official began intrusive and degrading pat-downs at Chicago airport, including touching my breasts and groin area after running her hands up the outer and inner leg portions,” she said, adding that pressure need to be mounted over the U.S. government to begin developing a profiling system. “The greater majority of the flying public ends up being offended and violated and stripped of their privacy rights,” she pointed.

From the Thanksgiving holiday season through Christmas to the New Year, travelers fly to distant places. Earlier this month, ATA had projected that about 24 million travelers will fly on US airlines during the 12-day Thanksgiving holiday season alone. However, with the ongoing row over body scanning rules at airports, airlines industry feared cancellations of bookings during the holidays adding to the number of travelers taking up the road transport way this year.

The rage seemed to settle down though, as most of the Thanksgiving travelers surrendered to full-body scans as well as pat-downs on Wednesday, said media reports. "If that's what you have to do to keep us safe, that's what you have to do," Marti Hancock, a 58 years old traveller, was quoted as saying by the AP.

Positive response from celebrities has also come up. Julie Benz, the American actress, says she is open to TSA pat-downs. "I think right now, unfortunately we live in a time where security on flights is very important. TSA is working it out. Is this the right choice? Who knows, but it is a choice, and I'd rather be safe than sorry," she was quoted in media reports.

TSA beefed up security rules ahead of the holiday season last month as America has had terrorist attacks earlier during holidays. “Al-Qaida and affiliated groups are interested in having a maximum impact with their attacks around American holidays which has led to enhanced security measures,” TSA chief John Pistole said.

However, it is these enhanced measures that have outraged Americans and have sent shock waves to other countries as well in the past. In August last year, Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan was questioned for two hours by U.S. immigration officials until the Indian Embassy sought his release.

This article has been written by Sanskrity Sinha for IBTIMES.COM


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