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November 10th, 2010
09:55 AM ET

Pilot refuses full body scanners, questions security practicality

With all the responsibility they're already entrusted with, do full-body scanners make sense for commercial pilots?

The head of the pilot union at US Airways and the Allied Pilots Association president at American Airlines recommend that their pilots not go through the much-talked-about full body scanners, now in airports across the country.

They blame repeated doses of radiation.

Patrick Smith, commercial pilot and columnist of Salon’s, has refused body scans in the past and talks to Kiran Chetry on American Morning today. He says he agrees with the pilot groups refusing the scans, but not with their health-related reasoning.

Watch the interview to see why he thinks the body scanners are a plain waste of time for pilots.

Filed under: Airline safety • Airlines
soundoff (19 Responses)
  1. Savvy Traveler

    There is no security practicality for these devices, since they can't detect explosives hidden in a body cavity. And if you don't think that's a threat, talk to the Saudi prince who nearly lost his head when a terrorist tried to blow him up with a rectal bomb. Not kidding.

    TSA is feeling the heat from the public on both the strip search scanners and the sexual assault pat downs. We need to keep the pressure up. Call your Congressional representative and/or pass out informational fliers about this next time you fly. Fliers here:

    November 13, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
  2. Kat T.

    Seeing all the freedoms we have lost since 9-11 makes me realize that the terrorists really have won. We are no longer a free society. Very sad.

    November 13, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  3. Gibson_fan

    To quote a favorite author of mine:

    "A nation consists of its laws. A nation does not consist of its situation at any given time. If an individual's morals are situational, that individual is without morals. If a nation's laws are situational, that nation has no laws, and soon isn't a nation.

    "Are you really so scared of terrorists that you'll dismantle the structures that made America what it is? If you are, you let the terrorist win. Because that is exactly, specifically, his only goal: to frighten you into surrendering the rule of law. That's why they call him "terrorist". He uses terrifying threats to induce you to degrade your own society.

    "It's based on the same glitch in human psychology that allows people to believe they can win the lottery. Statistically, almost nobody ever wins the lottery. Statistically, terrorist attacks almost never happen."
    – William Gibson, "Spook Country"

    November 12, 2010 at 12:42 pm |
  4. Truth

    Here's a thought for limiting the radiation:

    When there are no passengers, the lying dolt TSA ( thousands standing around) will be cut from the deck and the pilots can get back to doing their jobs – at least those who are left.

    November 12, 2010 at 9:45 am |
  5. CTed

    Wow people really fell for the "Terrorist on every plane" crap. They have you scared, they way they want you. How many planes have been hijacked in ALL OF TIME? How many planes in Israel (who don't use these scanners and think they are a waste), or in Spain who has had Basques for years, or in ireland when the IRA was conducting terrorist attacks. How many have been bombed out of the sky in all of history? how many shot down with stingers?

    What are we so afraid of? They convinced you that we have to fight a never-ending "war on terror" from now to eternity.... and everyone has bought it. These machines are simply not necessary, and these security measures are simply unconstitutional violations of our rights.

    November 12, 2010 at 1:35 am |
  6. dontflyanymore

    The choice of being irradiated and virtually strip searched or having ones genitals groped in order to travel WITHIN our own borders is no choice. TSA is trampling all over the fourth amendment. This isn't about privacy, it's about unreasonable searches. Been molested by the TSA? Make a report at Concerns about the rapidscan? Go to

    November 12, 2010 at 1:21 am |
  7. andrew

    Stranger Danger!
    Just Say No to GateRape.

    November 11, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
  8. TexasLady

    In response to Duke, re: Texas law. As a TSO (Transportation Security Officer) in Texas, I have this to say: Patting down a child on the checkpoint is a matter of Federal law, not state. You step in my checkpoint, it's federal rules. Why is it not theft if I force you to 'voluntarily abandon' your pocket knives. Why is it a federal fine if you try to take a gun through the checkpoint? Because federal rules apply.

    And to all of those who think we're doing the enhanced pat downs in such a way as to make you uncomfortable intentionally, think about this: Of the thousands of people we deal with every day, do you really think we want to touch your crotch longer than we have to? Think about how many of those pat downs we have to do, and then ask yourselves if we're doing it for the Hell of it.

    You do not want to know what I've found hidden in the last week 'down there' on that pat down.

    November 11, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    Is this guy gay or something I thought it was for the health reasons. If I fly ed frequently I'd ask for a Radiation pass so I'd get a pat down instead. This guy even disproves the pat down. This is for our safety now I'm sure he's gay for not wanting a pat down.

    November 11, 2010 at 2:05 pm |
  10. Lisa

    People! PLEASE, PLEASE write your elected officials! It takes about 20 mins of your time to compose a simple letter and cut & paste to each of your officials in your state and district.

    No one can complain here if we don't take stronger steps to stop this insanity.

    I am a pilot, yet I am unable to spout off my voice about 911 reminders and flying airplanes into buildings when I am being subjected to day after day of TSA screening. Or, I'd get a nice set of time off, without pay......

    I agree with Duke, we all need to approach this from a molestation standpoint AND sue TSA for severe privacy invasion by our lower intelligence, menial work level TSA "agents".

    November 11, 2010 at 1:33 pm |
  11. james

    You guys serious?

    They aren't worried about you blowing up a bomb at the airport, they are worried about you doing it in the air and taking the plane over and using the plane as a bomb, or doing it in the air and bringing the plane down in the city or a neighborhood.

    If you fly a lot, you forget what it is all about, you just think of how much of a burden it is.

    Remember the real problem, this is to save lives, shut up about it already.

    November 11, 2010 at 12:22 pm |
  12. ronvan

    Problems like these are always double edged swords. We want our "freedom" yet if we do nothing then we open the floodgates for these sub human, religious zealots, and the rest of the crazies! IF the pilots get their way & the passengers still have to be "screened", for me, it is saying that the pilots are NEVER wrong and the passengers are ALWAYS wrong, and that doesn't work for me!

    November 11, 2010 at 9:23 am |
  13. MeLoN

    Americans are fickle people. They want to be safe and secure when they travel – yet they don't want securty imposed on them. Here's a thought – stop flying or come up with a better idea as to how to do it - or get rid of security altogether and hope there isn't a suicide bomber on YOUR flight. Can't be a suicide bomber on every flight. What's the odds of one being on the flight that you are on?

    November 11, 2010 at 6:56 am |
  14. hgft

    You can never be 100% safe, but you *can* allow all of your freedoms to be stolen along the way if you don't stand up. Realizing it is veteran's day, and as a vet myself, it is heartbreaking to think of those I know who were killed protecting our freedoms, only to have them taken away by our own government. Opt out of these invasive new screening machines every time, and make the TSA employee who gropes you aware of your discomfort, and your disappointment in them for selling us all out.

    November 11, 2010 at 4:23 am |
  15. hgft

    Not for the pilots – not for any of us! It's theater – invasive, creepy, perverse theater.

    I had my testicles touched 4 times after selecting an alternative screening procedure, rather than submitting to a backscatter xray device. I fly a lot, but yesterday was the first time since the "enhanced patdown". I can verify that there was a deliberate attempt to intimidate others from opting out, by calling out several times "male opt out", having me stand at the side like a "problem", and then seriously groping my upper thighs, butt crack, and scrotal area. But you will hear no one in the TSA admit that this is security theater at best – a minimal improvement in security for a serious degradation of personal liberty and privacy guaranteed in the 4th amendment. In any other circumstance I could sue for sexual harassment and win *easily*. And in the end, this does little to actually improve security – they still can't effectively screen bags / cargo, most airplane maintenance is done outside the US by unscreened individuals, thousands of airport workers enter the secure area everyday without being screened, and in the end, someone can just blow up a bomb *at the checkpoint*! Call your congressman, opt-out of the naked (cancer-causing) screening machines every time, and spread the word about how invasive the new screening machines are. The images are so detailed a TSA worker can tell if a woman is menstruating. I feel sorry for those of you with children, who will be viewed naked by some weird TSA creep behind a curtain. "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin

    November 11, 2010 at 2:32 am |
  16. Adriana

    I have to agree with the pilots. Airlines have been checking shoes, ok, checking baggage, ok, I see old people that can hardly stand up, being checked like some potential criminal. Those old guys I could have knocked out with my purse. No threat.
    But using these scanners, what happens when they get messed up and give an overcharge of radiation? We had that going on at one hospital here, people teeth and hair and nails fell out.
    . I do not get teeth ex-rays unless something really wrong.
    I think they need to use these things on packages that go on the planes. Coming from third world nations. open them. I believe all imports coming from other nations in those big crates, should all be scanned. they have found people inside.

    November 10, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
  17. Jean

    They are NOT looking for explosives. If they were, they would NOT be touching US without bomb proof gear, believe me. They are getting us all used to illegal search and seizure and treating us like criminals, with OUR tax dollars.

    November 10, 2010 at 6:28 pm |
  18. Duke

    It is my understanding that the TSA is now doing "enhanced pat downs" on children. In this State of Texas this may expose the agent to prosecution for indecency with a child or even assault. Parents who witness this behavior need to press criminal charges to protect all children in this country.

    Texas defines "Indecency with a child" as follows:

    § 21.11. INDECENCY WITH A CHILD. (a) A person commits an offense if, with a child younger than 17 years and not the person's spouse, whether the child is of the same or opposite sex, the person:
    (1) engages in sexual contact [defined below]with the child...

    ...(c) In this section, "sexual contact" means the following acts, if committed with the intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person:
    (1) any touching by a person, including touching through clothing, of the anus, breast, or any part of the genitals of a child.

    Texas defines "Assault" as follows:

    § 22.01. ASSAULT. (a) A person commits an offense if the person:...
    ...(3) intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative.

    There is a consent exception: § 22.06. CONSENT AS DEFENSE TO ASSAULTIVE CONDUCT. The victim's effective consent or the actor's reasonable belief that the victim consented to the actor's conduct is a defense to prosecution under Section 22.01 (Assault), 22.02 (Aggravated Assault), or 22.05 (Deadly Conduct) if: (2) the victim knew the conduct was a risk of:
    (A) his occupation; [e.g. professional athlete]
    (B) recognized medical treatment; or
    (C) a scientific experiment conducted by recognized methods.

    TSA employees may be wise to contact their union rep and refuse to conduct these illegal gropings as they are so clearly contrary to the 4th amendment and could potentially expose the TSO's to charges and lawsuits alleging indecency with children and assault.

    November 10, 2010 at 12:37 pm |
  19. Shane

    I refuse the body scanners as a frequent traveler. Sometimes my schedule has me in four cities a week, and it's just not healthy for a person to get four x-rays every week they travel. Now more than ever, a trusted traveler program is needed domesticaly.

    November 10, 2010 at 11:52 am |