ACLU Continues To Receive Complaints About New Airport Screening Procedures

December 2, 2010 12:00 am

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Low Number Of Complaints To TSA Does Not Indicate Public’s Endorsement Of Screenings And Pat-Downs, Says Group

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union continues to receive complaints about invasive airport screening procedures through an online form on its website, in addition to the over 1,000 complaints it received in November alone, the group reported today.

This week, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) head John Pistole reported that the TSA received only 49 complaints over the Thanksgiving weekend. But the complaints received by the ACLU indicate that the relatively low number of complaints TSA has received does not indicate that Americans are not concerned about these invasive security measures. Most of the complaints received by the ACLU came from travelers who reported feeling humiliated and traumatized by the procedures, which include aggressive pat-downs and X-ray machines that produce naked images of travelers’ bodies.

The reports received by the ACLU suggest there are several reasons people are not submitting complaints directly to the TSA. Some people said they did not know they could file a complaint with the TSA, and others said they thought it would be useless to communicate with an agency as large as the TSA. Some complainants reported that they had not filed a complaint with the TSA because they were afraid of being put on a watch list or otherwise retaliated against by the government. Large numbers of innocent Americans have been caught up by the government’s out-of-control watch list system.

The effectiveness of body scanners is also uncertain. It remains far from clear that the machines would have detected the “anatomically congruent” explosives used in the attempted Christmas Day attack and a study by British officials found the scanners would not be effective for stopping terrorist threats to planes.

The following can be attributed to Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project:

“The low number of complaints received by the TSA is not an endorsement of the security procedures, but rather a result of real or perceived problems with the TSA’s complaint system. As the abundant complaints received by the ACLU illustrate, Americans do not want to be forced to choose between letting government agents touch their bodies or take naked pictures of them. The government should heed the very real complaints of countless Americans who object to the invasive new procedures and develop security measures that are safe, effective and respect civil liberties. We must strive to be safe without abandoning our most sacred freedoms.”

To read more about the ACLU’s work around airline security, go to:

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