Napolitano Defends Body Scanners and Pat Downs

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After a surge of criticism over privacy invasion at airports, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended new security policies and asked that the public be patient.

In an opinion essay penned for USA Today, Napolitano insisted the pat downs and advanced technology such as body scanners are two integral parts of a layered security approach, the "best defense" against potential threats.

Napolitano's message comes in the wake of a potential revolt against the Transportation Security Administration; a group is urging fliers to participate in a daylong protest in which travelers opt out of body scanners in airports across the country. Instead, travelers are asked to subject themselves to body pat downs in full view of other travelers.

National Opt-Out Day is planned for November 24th, the day before Thanksgiving-the busiest travel day of the year.

"The goal of National Opt Out Day is to send a message to our lawmakers that we demand change. We have a right to privacy and buying a plane ticket should not mean that we're guilty until proven innocent. This day is needed because many people do not understand what they consent to when choosing to fly," read the National Opt-Out Day website. A one-man show headed by Brian Sodegren, the day has been planned as a grass roots movement to educate the traveling public.

Recently, US Airways and American Airline pilots have also begun urging the avoidance of full body scanner at airports. The Allied Pilots Association, a union representing 11,000 pilots including those working for American Airline, has guided members to decline the scans.

"It's safe to say that most of the APA leadership shares my view that no pilot at American Airlines should subject themselves to the needless privacy invasion and potential health risks caused by the AIT body scanners," APA president David Bates said in a letter to members, according to a report by CNN.

In her column, Napolitano insists the body scans are safe and protect passenger privacy. She cited the technology used in the machines "have been independently evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory."

At the end of October, the TSA also rolled out a new "enhanced pat down," in which screeners use a more aggressive, palms-forward method. Many travelers believe the new procedure is much more invasive and no more effective than the previous pat downs.

Napolitano also defended pat downs, stating the procedure has "long been one of the many security measures used by the U.S. and countries across the world to make air travel as secure as possible."

Besides Napolitano, other officials have stepped up to defend the airport security procedures as well. John Pistole, head of the Transportation Security Administration, said Monday on NBC's "Today" show that the TSA is looking for balance between security and privacy. Pistole insisted, "everybody wants the best possible security."

Photo by eyeliam on flickr.

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