The bare facts about “Opt-In” Day and a media-fabricated crisis that fizzled

Like most Americans, I was relieved that there were no major disruptions yesterday, which was one of the busiest air travel days of the year.

The day ended with a defiant TSA calling Nov. 24 Opt-In Day — a not-so-subtle dig at the activists who asked air travelers to opt out of the full-body scanners.

“What some protesters threatened as an opt out day has turned into a TSA appreciation day,” the agency said.

The mainstream news media followed in lockstep. “Travelers at area airports Wednesday appeared to be opting out of the much-hyped National Opt-Out protest against the see-all body scanners,” wrote the New York Daily News.

To read the coverage, you would think this was nothing more than a media-fueled nonevent. But a closer look at the facts suggests that’s not necessarily accurate.
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From the frontlines on Opt-Out Day: “Today was different from anything that I have ever experienced in my years of flying”

Edmond Valencia had an 8 a.m. flight out of Albuquerque today, and since this is one of the busiest days for air travel, he arrived with time to spare.

It’s a good thing.

There were protesters at Albuquerque Sunport holding signs that said, “The Terrorists are Winning,” and “Go Ahead and Sexually Assault Another 2 Year Old.”

They were being interviewed by print and TV media. The man stated that he is a Marine veteran of three Iraq tours. He felt that the liberties he fought for were being eroded by the actions of the TSA.

Then it was Valencia’s turn to go through the security line. He flies about once a week, so he’s used to the screening procedures. Or so he thought.
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A surprising 70 percent of air travelers support National Opt-Out Day

Despite the government’s insistence that American air travelers broadly support its new airport security measures — which include either a full-body scan or a so-called “enhanced” pat-down — a weekend poll by the Consumer Travel Alliance finds public sentiment has turned against the policy.

Asked whether they supported National Opt-Out Day, on which air travelers plan to call attention to what they say are overly invasive TSA screening techniques by intentionally refusing the full-body scans at the airport, a surprising 70 percent answered “yes.” The poll of more than 1,000 travelers suggests that air travel could be slowed significantly or even grind to a halt on one of the busiest travel days of the year.

The Consumer Travel Alliance and several other groups that represent travelers, including the Business Travel Coalition, do not believe Opt-Out Day is the best way to promote change. In fact, history suggests litigation combined with public pressure is a more effective way to change TSA practices. (Two policy changes last week involving the screening of pilots and children under 12, were a direct response to lawsuits and intense public pressure.)

There were strong opinions on all sides of this issue, with supporters saying civil disobedience was the only option and the detractors accusing the organizers of Opt-Out Day, and even this site’s publisher, with endangering national security.
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Weekend survey: Do you support National Opt-Out Day?

National Opt-Out Day is taking place on Nov. 24, one of the busiest travel days of the year. It’s a direct response to the Transportation Security Administration’s new rule that says you must either submit to a full-body scan or receive an “enhanced” pat-down.

According to Opt-Out Day’s organizers, the goal 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.

The TSA, meanwhile, released a statement late yesterday that tries to defuse the planned event. “There are so many rumors floating around right now that it’s hard to keep them all straight,” the agency says on its blog.

(Some of the “myths” to which it refers could easily be cleared up by answering a few direct questions, which the TSA seems unwilling to do. But I digress.)

So here’s the question: Do you support Opt-Out Day? If so, why? If not, why not?

Here’s a link to the survey.

Also, if you’re flying Nov. 24, will you opt out of the scanners?

Please if you’d like your comment to be included in the results, and don’t forget to include your full name, city and occupation. Or you can also leave a comment.

Update (noon): Despite insisting that it will not change its policy, TSA Administrator John Pistole this morning announced crewmembers will be exempt from screening. Cracks are already starting to form. Wonder what will happen next?