We Won't Fly" Campaign Organizer Talks TSA Pat-Downs, Body Scanners & Opt-Out Day by Jim Babb and George Donnelly
We Won't Fly" Campaign Organizer Talks TSA Pat-Downs, Body Scanners & Opt-Out Day
Jim Babb and George Donnelly have started a campaign called "We Won't Fly" to encourage people to "act now" and "travel with dignity." They are asking people to understand that Americans should not be "treated like criminals" when going through airports and are opposed to the new full-body backscatter x-ray airport scanner machines that have been put into airports over the past few months.
The two call the new machines "porno-scanners." And, they are terribly upset with the airlines, which have allowed government to violate customers' rights and liberties and effectively turn airports in the country into Fourth Amendment-free zones.
Several news outlets have picked up this story and are covering Americans' reactions to the "porno-scanners" and the new pat-down procedure. The story will only perpetuate as news media do their routine reports about Americans traveling for Thanksgiving.
George Donnelly agreed to talk to me over the phone about the "We Won't Fly" campaign and how he is giving Americans traveling on the Thanksgiving holiday an opportunity to stand up to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and opt-out of being scanned by the "porno-scanners."
On November 24th, the day before Thanksgiving, Donnelly explains, "If you haven't already decided to stop flying to get the airlines on our side in this matter, if you have to fly, if you decided to take that risk, then we urge you to opt-out of the scanners for health and privacy reasons and to take advantage of the meager choice that the government has given us and go through the pat-down."
The main goal of the campaign appears to be going after the control that TSA exacts over airport security. By igniting a consumer revolt, Donnelly hopes those participating in the campaign will push airline companies to ask TSA or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to break up the government monopoly on security.
"The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that 99% are going through the scanners and so it wouldn't take more than a few opt-outs to slow down these lines significantly," says Donnelly. "If security procedures become slow, this new procedure will not feasible anymore. And the government will be forced to roll them back."
The "We Won't Fly" campaign, Donnelly says, was "started in response to Michael Roberts, the pilot who took a stand. He refused to submit to the scanner and he also refused to submit to this overly invasive and offensive pat-down, this new pat-down."
Roberts blogged about his incident with TSA and started a "Fed Up Flyers" campaign to promote resistance against the "air transportation police state" that Roberts sees forming. That Roberts was willing to put his livelihood on the line as a pilot inspired Donnelly and Babb. They chose to put a campaign together "to bring attention to the issue and highlight the privacy and health risks associated with the procedures."
Since starting the campaign, Donnelly and Babb have been following incidents like a recent one that became a huge story--the incident with John Tyner at a San Diego airport where he told TSA he was not going through a scanner and then, when it was time for a pat-down, he said don't touch my junk. Tyner was "caught off guard," Donnelly suggests, and that's because this isn't the old pat-down that passengers may have found a bit acceptable. This one can be traumatizing, especially for women and children.
The campaign website highlights health risks posed by the machines, mentions how "numerous thefts [by TSA] have been reported at security checkpoints," and notes on how the scanners are "ineffective and unproven."
Donnelly says the feedback to the campaign has been "about 97% unqualified support" with many people showing their passion for this issue. The campaign has received personal stories from people who are upset. They have been following people all over the nation who have seen their campaign and plan to organize an action on Opt-Out Day.
However, there is one particular canard that some citizens are repeating (in addition to the idea that one should be groped and handled in order to keep this country safe). There is this idea going around that "flying is not a right" but rather "a privilege."