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Group Plans National Opt-Out Day to Protest Airport Security

There’s a movement afoot to designate November 24—the day before Thanksgiving—National Opt-Out Day, in an effort to draw attention to what many travelers feel are invasive new security measures from the TSA. National Opt-Out Day asks people to opt out of the TSA’s body scanners in favor of the new enhanced pat downs, and to have that pat down completed in full view so “every citizen [can] see for themselves how the government treats law-abiding citizens.”

The movement’s organizer is Brian Sodegren. In an email, he described himself as “just an ordinary citizen who is concerned about what is happening” who “wanted to provide an educational platform and outlet to highlight what is going on.”

According to the National Opt-Out Day website, “The goal of National Opt-Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change.  No naked body scanners, no government-approved groping.  We have a right to privacy and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we’re guilty until proven innocent.

“We hope the outrageous experience then propels people to write their Member of Congress and demand change.”

But clearly, the goal is to not only expose the problems citizens have with the pat downs (and, presumably, start a revolt against the practice), but also to snarl the security process wherever the scanners and pat downs are in use. The day before Thanksgiving is one of the busiest travel days of the year, after all, and airports are already overwhelmed with travelers. It doesn’t take much—a snowstorm, fog, or a citizen revolt—to throw an airport into total disarray.

Chaos makes great news, sure, and news makes great exposure for a cause such as this, but I wonder if throwing a wrench into people’s holiday travels is the best way to win hearts and minds. Sodergren told me, “There is no desire to inconvenience passengers, but merely educate and advocate change.” Fair enough, but if National Opt-Out Day is even moderately successful, it will absolutely slow down the security process. Whether that backfires and annoys people or has the intended effect of raising awareness, well, we’ll just have to see.

It should surprise no one that we’ve reached this point. Body scanners have been unpopular since day one, and the TSA’s new enhanced pat downs, which have been likened to molestation and groping, have only increased the public’s disdain for the agency. Pilot unions at American and US Airways have urged their members to avoid the scanners, and now a local flight attendants’ union in Arizona has done the same.

My own views on the subject are well-documented. The choice between a full-body scanner and an enhanced pat down is hardly a choice at all, and subjecting innocent citizens to invasive violations of privacy strikes me as an abuse of power. So I’m glad to see a gathering opposition to the TSA’s policies, and though I do have concerns about backlash, I certainly encourage frustrated travelers to take part in National Opt-Out Day.

I’m just glad I’m not flying on the 24th.

Readers, will you opt out on the 24th? Should every day be National Opt-Out Day?

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