My TSA semi-groping

So I finally had a chance to say no to an airport porno-scan ...

Published December 10, 2010 3:11PM (EST)

It's depressing to see how swiftly Americans have bowed to the Transportation Security Administration's latest escalation of security theater. At Boston's Logan Airport this morning, I watched traveler after traveler meekly enter the jaws of the "backscatter" X-ray machines that do a rough equivalent of a strip search (and which have not been proved safe to my satisfaction).

This was my first opportunity to decline, and I took it. The TSA people pulled me aside after I went through the metal detector, and one of them did what the agency calls an "enhanced pat-down" but which critics call a full-on groping when it involves serious investigation of genitals.

In my case, I have to go with the enhanced pat-down description. The man doing it was polite, and while he didn't grope in the harshly invasive ways I'd been expecting, he was thorough.

I asked him if this process was as demeaning to him as it was to travelers. He didn't reply in words, but rather with a semi-shrug. I hope he was indicating Yes.

By Dan Gillmor

A longtime participant in the tech and media worlds, Dan Gillmor is director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication. Follow Dan on Twitter: @dangillmor. More about Dan here.

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Transportation Security Administration