How to Fly With the Fourth Amendment

I am getting patriotic up in here.
WARNING: Staring at this image may cause extreme patriotic feelings

Not all airports use the scanners.
Even when airports have them, they may not be at all terminals.
Even when terminals have them, they may not be at all checkpoints.

You can keep your dignity and still get home for Christmas.

Here is a list of what airports use the nekkid machines: Flyer Talk Complete List of AIT At Airports

Here is where I checked what airlines fly at what terminals: — then browsed terminal maps

For my December trip to Las Vegas, I’m gonna go to the airport. I’m gonna ask the person who checks my boarding pass (before I go into the secure area) these questions:

“Are there backscatter or millimeter wave machines at this checkpoint?”
If so, “Will it be a problem if I refuse it and the enhanced pat-down?”

If no, I’ll go ahead. If yes, I’ll go home.

I think getting out of LAX will be OK, but getting out of Las Vegas may take more effort. Fortunately I have the resources to get a ticket with a non-nekkid machine airline or rent a car. Either is OK.

For my December trip to Raleigh, I’m on the fence. I’m flying United, which I know is behind nekkid machines at both LAX and RDU. I think the best thing to do is call United in advance and see what their advice is, then go from there. (I sent them an email but didn’t hear back; a phone call is more effective anyway.)

I’m lucky RDU’s Terminal 1 has no nekkid machines.

And GSO is only an hour away.

It feels good to have a plan.


Draws. Sweats. Eats too much sugar-free candy.

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6 Responses

  1. B says:

    I do not want to be sexually assaulted or harrassed in order to get on a plane.Nor do I want my 15 year-old so to go through it either. He is having enough problems with his twisted and curly0sued large intestine which will have to be removed at some point. Either way If you feel my nether regions or my childs you will be assaulted and I will be calling my bailbondsman friend to get me out of jail. You who felt me up will have a broken nose and probably a broken arm – worse if you do it to my minor child. How come I do not feel that enough people are concerned about this. If random person takes nekkid pic of me it is invasion of privacy and potential harrassment, if random person sqeezes me or fondles me it is sexual assault. I don’t need a right to fly – I have a right to personal safety and security.

    • Tory says:

      B — what the hey crappin’ hey?! Poor offspring intestine! I am owing you such a phone call. Take care of yourself and your offspring and try to preserve your record of not breaking anyone’s nose despite strong temptations and I will talk to you soon.

  2. Tory says:

    But I respect the consideration of your opinion.
    (Also note the TSA’s official position is “expect an unpredictable mix of security layers.” Does this make a difference? Is it legally possible to consent to “an unpredictable mix”?)

  3. Tory says:

    A.N. — Thank you for the update! That is good to know.
    Lance — The protocol was not publicized. You cannot find any information about the kind of pictures taken by the scanners or the nature of the enhanced pat-down on the TSA site OR at the airport. It took information percolating back from startled October travelers for me to know what was going on. I also had to contact the TSA directly to find out what moment causes me to “consent” to whatever search method they choose (thus costing up to $11,000 to walk away from.)
    I agree there is no right to fly. However I would expect the right to say — at any moment — whether another person is free to touch me or see me naked, without fear of arrest or $11,000 fine. According to the TSA, I give that away when I put my bag on the X-ray belt (details to follow in a post). I invoke the fourth amendment because it seems to be the thing that protects me from being viewed or handled against my wishes unless there is probable cause.
    (The scanners appear at what looks like half of all airport checkpoints. So “generally applied” may not be accurate either.)
    My creeped-out-ness traces back to the first time I stepped in a scanner without knowing what it did, which meant the government had viewed me naked without asking me. I don’t know enough to say for sure that that was legal or constitutional or whatnot, but it sure was creepy.

  4. A.N. Other says:

    United is in Terminal 2 at RDU – I went through there this morning (for a Delta flight,) and am going back through tomorrow (on United.) The scanner is present but I did not see any passengers in it. I was not asked to enter the scanner, only the standard metal detector.

    I can’t say how different it may be closer to the holidays – good luck!

  5. Lance says:

    I don’t have strong feelings about this one way or another, but I appreciate your blog posts for keeping the issue on my mind (other than as source material for Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me jokes). I appreciate it because it’s an interesting topic both from a politics and liberty standpoint, and as a case study on what upsets Americans.

    I’m posting this comment mainly to work out for myself why I have such an uneasy feeling about your invocation of the 4th amendment. I guess I just don’t see how a person’s expectation of junk-related privacy can be reasonable if the protocol is widely publicized and generally applied. If the courts had recognized a fundamental right to fly you could probably get them to take a closer look at whether the backscatter/patdown protocol is properly tailored to serve the government’s legitimate goals. But there isn’t a right to fly, and if you know that the TSA is requiring backscatter/patdown to get through security checkpoints, your reasonable expectation is that you are headed for a low junk-privacy experience.

    It seems like there are solid arguments against the new protocol. (Personally, I greatly doubt that the time and money costs of the new protocol are less than the benefit of what I imagine must be a very incremental decrease in the already-low chances that any given plane will get blown up.) But I don’t think the fourth amendment gets you where you want to go.

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