Naked scans or groping? Know your rights at the airport

Affiliate: ACLU of Hawaii
November 23, 2010 12:00 am

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ACLU of Hawaii to encourage travelers to voice their objections to TSA’s abusive new policies


HONOLULU – Criticizing the new Transportation Security Administration (“TSA”) measures to screen airline passengers as an unacceptable choice that violates fundamental rights, provides a false sense of security and is particularly harsh on Hawaii residents and visitors, the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii (“ACLU”) will be at Honolulu International Airport tomorrow handing out its “Travelers, Know Your Rights at the Airport” flyers from 1:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. on the sidewalk outside Lobby 4 on the Second Floor.

Many airline travelers have already undergone naked scans of their bodies or intrusive and humiliating manual searches by TSA. The ACLU is receiving an increasing number of complaints from travelers upset about how they were searched and others who want to know what to do if they object.

“Given the intrusive nature of these searches, we want travelers to be informed about what they may experience at the airport. The ACLU is very concerned that these unlawful, invasive and ineffective TSA searches provide a false sense of security,” said Laurie Temple, ACLU staff attorney.

“Hawaii residents and visitors to the islands are amongst those who are hardest hit – there is no choice but to fly and suffer through a degrading physical groping and massive invasion of privacy. These new TSA policies violate any standard of decency in addition to eroding the fundamental right to privacy and to be free from unreasonable searches.

The ACLU’s action tomorrow will also encourage travelers to contact their elected officials to demand that Hawaii’s airport officials remove the current body scanners and cancel plans to implement more. The ACLU has conveyed its concerns to Senator Daniel K. Inouye, a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security, and plans to contact the rest of the congressional delegation.

The national American Civil Liberties Union and state affiliates have received hundreds of complaints from travelers about TSA’s new policies and procedures and use of “Advanced Imaging Technology” body scanners. Scanners currently in use by TSA at the Honolulu and Lihue airports produce naked pictures of passengers’ bodies as they pass through security checkpoints. These graphic images show highly personal details like colostomy bags, adult diapers and mastectomy scars and have not been proven to be effective in preventing terrorist attacks. Passengers who “opt out” of the body scanners are subject to “advanced” pat-down searches that involve open-palmed patting and squeezing of the entire body, including genitals and breasts. These manual searches have been likened to sex assaults and, while offensive to everyone, are particularly traumatizing for children, individuals with prostheses and other medical devices, those who believe the policies violate their religious beliefs, and those who have been sexually assaulted.

With serious questions being raised about the effectiveness of the naked body scanners and invasive pat-downs, the government must consider alternate security measures that will actually make us more secure without compromising our privacy and dignity.

For more information on the ACLU and its actions to press for effective national security measures, please visit

The mission of the ACLU of Hawaii is to protect the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the U.S. and State Constitutions. The ACLU of Hawaii fulfills this through legislative, litigation, and public education programs statewide. The ACLU of Hawaii is a non-partisan and private nonprofit organization that provides its services at no cost to the public and does not accept government funds. The ACLU of Hawaii has been serving Hawaii since 1965.

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