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Globe Editorial

Airport screening: Patdown or perish

November 21, 2010

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The new “enhanced’’ patdown by airport screeners has sparked an unfortunate backlash among some fliers and privacy advocates, who are threatening to disrupt security lines this week. One group’s avowed goal is to make the screening procedures a topic of discussion over Thanksgiving dinner, apparently by delaying everyone’s efforts to get to Thanksgiving dinner. The protesters should stay home. In case they don’t, the Transportation Security Administration should lay on extra personnel to move them along as quickly as possible.

The new procedures are in response to the deadly threat posed by terrorists with explosives in their undergarments. Last Christmas, a man in a diaper-like contraption tried to bring down a transatlantic jet. Fliers are now required to go through an electronic screener that shows the full outlines of their body. Those who find the electronic image intrusive can request a patdown. But the patdown is quite thorough, including what some have depicted as a grazing of the private parts.

Anyone who is prone to blush and hide should remember that the images of passengers taken by full-body scanners are no more invasive than scans taken at hospitals every day. There is no evidence that TSA employees won’t be just as sensitive as medical technicians. Smart fliers should accept the electronic screening, but if overcome by modesty, they’ll have to trust the patdown. There is only one other option: Don’t fly.