The TSA, up until now, had given us the option of a pat-down instead of a full body scan. While the pat-down, which is sometimes quite invasive, causes far more discomfort than the scanner, it doesn’t produce a digital image of your naked body. For that reason, some prefer the pat-down.
Too bad. The TSA has taken away that option for some (all?) people.
Quietly, on December 18, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a change of the rules for the use of body scanning technology at airport security systems across the country. Now, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) can opt out of letting you opt out of using the body scanners. That is to say, they can decide—for reasons!—that you must go through the body scanners. Julia Angwin, an investigative reporter from ProPublica, made note of the rule change last night on Twitter. From the newly published rules:
“While passengers may generally decline [Advanced Imaging Technology] AIT screening in favor of a physical screening, TSA may direct mandatory AIT screening for some passengers as warranted by security considerations in order to safeguard transportation security.”
The report does not indicate what sort of “security considerations” may prompt the TSA to decide who may or may not opt out of screenings, so add yet another element of pure randomness to your adventures through security theater. The DHS makes sure to repeatedly point out, though, that the body scanners are no longer showing your naked bodies, but generic images with any locations of anything that scans as unusual highlighted for further review.
Mind you, the TSA is being sued by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the National Center of Transgender Equality, and the Rutherford Institute because they’ve deployed these body scanners before completing their federal rule-making process in the first place. This new documentation notes that the TSA “expects” to publish its final rules on the use of the body scanner machines in 2016, years after they started using them.