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Air travelers tweet: TSA pat-downs and scans evoke humor, tears

Thanksgiving travelers are reporting their TSA encounters via Twitter and Facebook. The pat-downs and full-body scans range from entertaining to violating, they write.

A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) worker rubs her hands across a female traveler's chest during an 'enhanced' pat-down at Denver International Airport, Nov. 23. Any passenger who opts out of the body scanning machines, or whose scan turns up something suspicious, receives the physical search.

Rick Wilkins/Reuters

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Most of the 24 million air travelers flying this week will encounter the newly strengthened security measures for the first time.

What are they experiencing? Some have reported their checkpoint experiences to the world, via Twitter and Facebook. Their stories range from serenades of Christmas carols to allegations of bigotry.

Some knew what to expect, having read or watched news about the 411 new scanners and the new pat-down procedures in place at 69 American airports. Others had no idea that anything had changed.

In one encounter, a checkpoint supervisor told an upset passenger that she would be “thankful” for the invasive checks when she saw “those people praying on their prayer rugs.” Many travelers, however, reported no problems at all.

The Transportation Safety Administration has repeatedly cited a CBS news survey, which found that 81 percent of passengers thought body scans were a good idea, as evidence that the outcry over the scans and pat-downs comes from a very vocal minority.

But when that survey was conducted, no more than 10 to 15 million passengers had gone through the scanners. The great majority of survey respondents based their answer only on what seemed like a good idea in theory.

Now that theory is confronting the often-uncomfortable reality of X-ray and millimeter wave scanners that can look through clothing and “enhanced” pat-downs that require extensive physical contact.


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