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Holiday travelers greet security tactics with weary resignation

Airports around the country experience smooth operations despite the crush of Thanksgiving travelers and warnings about protests and delays related to new TSA safety procedures.

November 24, 2010|By Michael A. Memoli and Bob Pool, Los Angeles Times

"If he thinks this is an appropriate way for us to deal with security, as he has defended, then I've said, OK, Mr. Obama, take your wife, your two daughters and your mother-in-law to Washington Reagan National Airport and have them publicly go through both the body scanner and the full enhanced pat-down in front of others," said Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and current talk-show host, on Fox TV recently.

"And if it's OK for your wife, your daughters and your mother-in-law, then maybe the rest of us won't feel so bad when our wives, our daughters and our mothers are being put through this humiliating and degrading, totally unconstitutional intrusion of their privacy."

Some travelers on Wednesday also had serious concerns about the new rules.

Brian Thomas and Jessica Knutson, Brooklyn residents traveling together to Thomas' hometown of New Orleans, arrived for their flight out of New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport four hours early in anticipation of taking part in the "opt-out" campaign and enduring a pat-down search.

They cited concerns about the level of radiation in the X-rays and invasion of privacy as their reasons for not wanting to walk through one of the new scanners. Despite government assurances that the radiation levels are negligible, "they say one thing, and 30 years later we find out something else," Knutson said.

Both also questioned why the more aggressive pat-downs had been introduced at the same time as the scanning machines.

"You reach this place, and all of a sudden it's OK to touch my groin," Thomas said as they waited in the departure lounge. "This is really the only instance where people feel their freedom is being taken away."

Others couldn't resist a bawdier take on the topic.

In Atlanta, Charles Sanders, a 71-year-old shoeshine man, told client Jennifer Walker that the hubbub was all coming from "these old women" worried they'd be busted with all the "false stuff" that was artificially enhancing their figures.

"Oh, is that it?" said Walker, 37, who was heading to San Francisco after her shoeshine.

At Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, Darnell Martin, 37, said he went through the full-body scan, but it didn't bother him. He was waiting to catch a flight to Las Vegas to visit family for the holiday.

As a medical equipment salesman, Martin said, he's used to technology. Though he didn't ask for the pat-down, it wouldn't have bothered him either, he said.

Plus, "I'm going to Vegas," he said jokingly. "People pay money for that in Vegas."

Memoli reported from Washington and Pool from Los Angeles. Times staff writers Richard Fausset in Atlanta, Christopher Goffard in Santa Ana, Nicholas Riccardi in Denver, Tina Susman in New York and Chicago Tribune reporter Angela Rozas contributed to this report.

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