Friday, November 12, 2010
Travel Industry, Pilots Meeting With Homeland Security Over TSA Checkpoint Furor
The rising furor over aggressive airport-security patdowns and the use of and procedures for those new body-imaging machines has prompted a meeting today between top Homeland Security officials and travel industry representatives.
Representatives of the industry, including airline pilots who increasingly are vowing to "opt out" of body-scans, are meeting today with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and with John Pistole, the former deputy FBI director who became the T.S.A. chief in July.
Napolitano, Pistole and others in Homeland Security and the T.S.A. were evidently caught flat-footed by the public outcry that followed a new program of more aggressive patdowns that started on Nov. 1 -- at a time when airline passengers increasingly were being confronted with the body-scan machines.
[Some conservative and libertarian media are engaged in a relentless campaign denouncing the T.S.A. and the intrusive patdowns. See this for an example.]
There are also increasing calls -- especially by groups like the pilots -- for an independent assessment of the real radiation risks associated with the backscatter form of the machines. The T.S.A. has cited studies showing that the radiation effects are "minuscule," but pilots and others are expressing concerns about the backscatter machines and about cumulative effects of repeated doses. See also here.
The former Homeland Security boss, Michael Chertoff, runs a consulting firm that represents the manufacturer of those machines, which the T.S.A. is buying along with another version of imagers that use less controversial millimeter wave technology. Here's some background on Chertoff's business interests, and the business interests of other well-connected officials, in the body-scan industry.
The U.S. Travel Association, a trade group for the travel industry, which accounts for over $700 billion in direct spending in the U.S. annually, has expressed concerns that the security-checkpoint furor will crimp the ongoing rebound in travel, as people simply decide a trip isn't worth the hassle of the related trip through the T.S.A. paddle-wheel at the airports.