Full Monty Scanner or Enhanced Pat-Down – the Only Options?

There are a thousand things wrong with flying, considering that it’s an excellent way to burn precious liquid fuels for something that does not produce lasting economic value, that it puts combustion products into atmospheric layers where they really do not belong, and a score of other things as well. In that way, it may be a bit strange to see advice that superficially is related to flying on the PRI blog. However, the actual issue at hand is actually not about flying, but about a government testing how much further it can go with tormenting both its citizens as well as its guests. You guessed it: this post is about how to deal with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) recent implementations of security procedures. Actually, this is a fairly general issue — it would be a mistake to believe that there are no plans to extend the measures introduced at airports to e.g. maritime transport as well.

Let us get an overview over the present situation: When going through U.S. airport security, depending on when one arrives at the checkpoint, one will be urged to go through one of the newly introduced full body scanners — or not. (As it happens, during peak flows the previous method of X-raying hand luggage plus metal detector scans still seems to be okay, strangely.) For passengers asked to go through a body scanner, there is the alternative option of submitting oneself to a manual security check, which recently has changed to become an "enhanced pat-down". It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to understand what that means.

Actually, if one thinks a little bit deeper about it, the ‘choice’ one has at this point as a passenger is a fairly interesting one. The most immediate observation is that most passengers are quite willing to accept what will be done to them, as they get the impression that they have exercised ‘choice’ in the matter. (Now, does that not remind us a lot of ‘bipartisan democracy’?) Likewise, the people employed to perform these security checks seem not to have any qualms about what they do to passengers, as they can always conveniently tell their conscience that passengers do get a ‘choice’.

But what sort of ‘choice’ is this? More importantly — what choices are missing here? If a passenger considers the options as they are presented to them, then, quite evidently, the choice one does not have at this point is to not be sexually harassed. One only gets to choose: (a) to have a picture of your naked body taken (I assume the majority of passengers never would consent to that if not under pressure) and stored digitally. (These days, even modern photocopiers come with hard drives that record every document ever copied on them — so how would anyone trust the TSA that this does not hold for their scanners?), or (b) being touched in a highly inappropriate way that has been explained at length in many other places.

To me as a sort-of external observer of the madness of western civilization, it was fairly revealing to see how society would respond to this. Of course, U.S. citizens approach the situation as they have been trained to: problems are solved by buying a product that has been invented to deal with this issue. Ah, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail to you, and in consumer zombie-land, that one hammer is the credit card.

Let’s consider a saner approach to all this. After all, it’s a petty game the TSA wants to play with its passengers. If I may say so, my hunch is that this is to a far lesser extent about security than it is about government testing the waters of how far it can possibly go in controlling and even humiliating its citizens and guests. Personally, I find that very concerning, as it indicates that a very dangerous process is going on. Quite likely, the U.S. has already gone further on the road to fascism than most people realize, and also, a key problem seems to be that in the U.S., most citizens are not sufficiently well educated to know how fascism works and what it looks like.

Here is a suggestion for a very simple alternative way to deal with the TSA which might just help to put an end to this nonsense. Just remember: if they tell you to do something, then either there is a valid reason for that or there is not. And as there can be no valid reason for having to submit oneself to sexual harassment of one form or another, there must be a better way to deal with them than the options they put in front of you.

a) Whatever you say to them, make sure you say it in a friendly (but if it has to be, determined) voice. This is the only way to take a strong position against them. Never ever swear at them. Make a conscious effort to remind yourself of that just before you talk to them.

b) When asked to submit yourself to a full body scan, opt for a pat-down. You do not have to state any reasons for doing so, but you may express concerns that these sophisticated devices might actually come with persistent storage, and you certainly would always object to being forced to have a naked image of you taken, as you consider this as a form of sexual harassment.

c) When opting for a pat-down, they will get a same-sex security assistant to check you. Better be prepared for this to be a particularly un-attractive individual. (Or, for that matter, an, erm, particularly attractive one.) Here, make the following requests — should these be denied, make sure you record the names of all involved, and make it very clear to them that they must expect being confronted with this in court later.

  1. You want the pat-down to be done in a dedicated area, away from the eyes of the public.
  2. You want a non-TSA person (maybe two) to be present as a witness who would be willing to testify in court should there be any reason for a lawsuit. See if you can get the procedure filmed by that witness, if possible.
  3. You certainly want the security assistant to use fresh gloves for hygienic reasons.
  4. Ask them to explain the pat-down protocol step by step to you. Make sure the witness gets that as well.
  5. Ask this question: "Is the enhanced pat-down procedure actually warranted for security reasons, or has it been deliberately made unpleasant to discourage people from not submitting themselves to the body scanner?" (If you get an answer similar to the one I got — a la "actually, it’s both" — this will quite likely be relevant in court.) Make sure the witness gets the answer.
  6. Let them perform the "enhanced pat-down", but before they go too far (where that point is reached depends on you) and e.g. start to pat down your trousers, ask them to stop for a second. Then, regardless of what they say, take off your trousers and hand them over to them for the pat-down. (We’ve presumably all been to the beach and have no problems showing or seeing naked legs, so that should be fine, right?) Furthermore, you are in an enclosed area where the public cannot watch, so this is no reason for any complaint either. After all, you are just making their life a bit easier, and there is no reason whatsoever security-wise why your trousers would have to be on your body for the pat-down.
  7. If they try to stop you, or still insist to touch you, take their names and IDs, don’t stop them, and make it very clear to them that you will meet again in court, for what they’re doing is not justifiable as a security measure, but instead is clear and definitive sexual harassment. And what’s most important: don’t get angry, but smile. If it helps, think about this: you will bring that to court, and they might just have made you a millionaire.


  1. “Of course, U.S. citizens approach the situation as they have been trained to: problems are solved by buying a product that has been invented to deal with this issue. Ah, if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail to you, and in consumer zombie-land, that one hammer is the credit card.”

    This is a pretty pathetic assessment of our response.
    The people no longer control the government here.

  2. But, Christian, we must ask why? And America is not alone in this… We must ask why to your question about how the people came to be no longer in control of government. This, we need to change.

  3. This post appears to drift substantially from the topic of permaculture. More importantly, without this type of screening how do you propose to avoid any new “shoe” or “underwear” bombers?

  4. By flashing backwards in time a bit we are able to see clearly the illogical reasons for this so called new security measure, besides the known growing fascism. The fellow with the ‘underwear bomb’ had been reported to authorities that he was mentally unstable and had radical ideologies by his own father. He was also on warning & no fly lists for possible problems in numerous countries and within numerous organizations.
    Plus, we have the American couple, both lawyers that witnessed the exchange at the airport counter where Mr. Bomber was standing at the check-in desk with a well dressed Indian gentleman and they over heard that he had no passport and appropriate documents to board the flight. The well dressed man was saying they do this all the time because he was a refugee from the Sudan or some country and fled without his papers.
    Later, the lawyer couple watched him board the flight. Then after the failed bombing incident they reported what they over heard. The airport reviewed the security tapes and denied seeing the bomber with a well- dressed gentlemen. Not to be intimidated, the couple said, ‘ Let us look at the security tapes’! Then out of the blue, Voila! Lo & Behold…….on second look the security tapes Did in fact reveal the bomber at the counter with a well dressed Indian gentlemen.

    So, all the alphabet organizations and the Homeland Security which was created to funnel & channel all this hot tips like the one from the bombers own father, and coordinate all the data in one cohesive place, added with security cameras, added with the fact that all the passengers on the plane had to produce the appropriate documents like a passport and picture ID’s to board the plane, except the one guy that gets on the plane without documents and following all the security procedures to eliminate bombers is allowed to breach & break all protocol is surprise, surprise the guy with a bomb!

    This is all like a Hollywood film……the Three Stooges ( government agencies providing security) meets Ocens Eleven ( the bombers) . Then WE the PEOPLE are to be punished and have more freedoms taken from us as citizens do to the fact that the Government organizations created to provide security are in effect unable to do their jobs due to incompetency or private agendas!


    If they offer up Porno scanners & sexual molestation as an option to begin with with the people say no. If they first create a problem and then help with the media to create the desired reaction, you then get the solution and the people ask for it thinking this will keep them safe!

    Vote with your wallet, if people stop flying. The airlines will go nuts! Plus as the article mentioned, slow all the lines down by asking for personal pat downs with witnesses and video cameras, but more importantly start calling your Senators & the House of Representatives, don’t take this lying down, don’t be sheep and do nothing.

    Push Back!

  5. Patrick, firstly I would say that this post fits very nicely into “People Care” (the second permaculture ethic, incase you didn’t know).

    Secondly, the simple solution in stopping bombers, is for the US to stop bombing innocent people themselves. All that’s needed to stop “so called” terrorism, is to stop participating in it!

  6. This isn’t that concerning, plane travel will be phased out as energy costs skyrocket, it will not be available to the mass of the population.

  7. Patrick,

    we are in a very difficult situation because there are on the one hand problems that urgently need to be addressed, but on the other hand, any effective measure to do something about them would readily be abused by a number of governments as a tool for more totalitarian control.

    Take whatever you want, loss of topsoil, emissions, water depletion, release of toxins, etc. All that desperately needs to be regulated, but the problem is that many a nation state would actually abuse such regulations for the primary purpose of oppressing their people. So, there won’t be any other way to avoid catastrophe than to make sure political processes become fully transparent again.

    Hence, this issue actually is quite topical.

  8. Alex,

    yes and no. I can well imagine that air travel will be among the first thing to suffer from prohibitively expensive fuel. (I still would like to know how they will spin it. Maybe the next major aeronautical accident will be exploited and sold along the lines of “we found more advanced ways to get from A to B that don’t involve that much risk and realize how misguided we have been in the past”. I think they will need something in order to not have to admit that, after all, it was Peak Oil that put an end to flying.)

    But I’d also expect them to let their funny security measures follow the people and just move all that to their ports. So, this is much less about public air transport than it is about violations of constitutional rights.

  9. Sven,

    we’ve seen it in the past that if videos documenting, say, police brutality in Germany were uploaded to Youtube, they were soon blocked by tagging them as “adult only”. See:

    Unfortunately, there still seem to be quite a lot of Blockwarte around in Germany – you know about the big wikipedia deletion debate, say?

    I think the advice given on fefe’s blog is quite useful – just use

  10. You might have seen this: actor on terrorist watchlist for organizing a screening of “Gasland”:

    I think it’s pretty evident that what’s going on is all about establishing the right mental framework to later give dissident voices some rough treatment without stirring up a public revolt. And people are much more willing to accept pretty much anything once they accepted that the state sort-of has a right to grope their genitals “for their own security”.

  11. Right on Thomas. The TSA’s job is to find out how cowed, docile, and dumb the American public is, then ratchet us down a few more notches. I welcome diversity among strategies to resist this oppression, and yours sounds like a good one. Personally, I’ve been planning on opting out (because they don’t want you to) and letting the groping happen in public with plenty of witnesses to see how horrible the event is.

  12. JBob,

    the problem with this approach is that it may well have the opposite effect.

    Indeed, you then help the TSA to make it very clear to passengers that they instead want to submit themselves to a full body scan.

    As I said, there are perfectly zero valid reasons why anyone should have to accept being sexually molested one way or another for some unspecified “security reasons”. I think any approach that sticks to this very principle should work fine.

  13. “Another agenda is to get rich. Terror plots, whether real or orchestrated, have created a market for security. Dual Israeli citizen Michael Chertoff, former head of US Homeland Security, is the lobbyist who represents Rapiscan, the company that manufactures the full body porno-scanners that, following the “underwear bomber” event, are now filling up US airports. Homeland Security has announced that they are going to purchase the porno-scanners for trains, buses, subways, court houses, and sports events. How can shopping malls and roads escape? Recently on Interstate 20 west of Atlanta, trucks had to drive through a similar device. Everyone has forgotten that the underwear bomber lacked required documents and was escorted aboard the airliner by an official.”


  14. “Oh, you didn’t know this? Israel, the country that tells us every day that they are plagued with continual terrorism has no airport scanners. They are illegal in Israel. They are considered dangerous and a violation of civil rights, even for Palestinian terrorists.

    A “Palestinian terrorist” inside Israel has more rights than a pregnant woman in America.”


    I don’t know what to think about this site, Thomas. When I posted my first link to it above I had not studied it much, and it might be anti-Semitic? If it is so please tell Craig, and we better delete this and the former link. I don’t like to link to sites that might encourage hatred, and if I’ve done so I’m sorry!

  15. Good point Craig, how did the people get into the position of being no longer in control of government?

    From my studies into history and the corruption of freedom, it seems to me that it is through the control of ideas, philosophy, language and the legal system

    Before Christianity, Rome and the other barbaric institutions of Babylonian commerce and empire, we seemed to live in small tribal communities in freedom, sovereignty and harmony. Then it seems ideological empires came and destroyed this harmony, and imposed state religion and culture over it, seeking to control and dominate and destroy matriarchal society

    From what I can tell it is the same priesthood throughout the ages that has mastered the art of control and manipulation through images, ideas and language, using fear and enforcement by religion and the legal system. If we look at the inquisition and even today, it seems the church is seeking to destroy or convert the existing natural systems of tribal society. A big clue to this is the surprising lack or discussion of the history of pre-christian Europe, of course being rubbished as ‘pagans’ and ‘idolaters’ by religions. I believe they have sought to destroy the self-image of man as being less than, incapable of managing his own affairs, and needing an external authority, which of course is untrue and ridiculous. At the same time they have hidden themselves in robes and holy garments or been acting behind the scenes as the true puppet masters, studying and applying the art of politics, psychology and manipulating the masses over centuries, all kings serving the priesthood.

    The word govern-ment has a clue as who actually governs our minds? For the majority I would say seem to hand it over the ‘institutions’ and the priesthood that have an agenda. The ‘new order’ of globalization is simply Rome coming back. The answer might be to deprogram ourselves of all the lies and start acting as the authorities we truly are, instead of as someone’s property

  16. HI Everyone! OH, oh, does this mean no more carrying vermipost worms in one’s pant pockets when travelling overseas? Personally, I like the way the MIddle East terminals are set up with lots of security coming in and out of the airports and they treat the women with so much more respect and we have our own screened off section when being frisked, which I don’t mind, just not in front of screeners. Zaynab

  17. Interesting discussion, missed the article when it was originally posted.

    One of the main reasons this is so relevant to permaculture is that American and European governments want to CONTROL the population by making people dependent on government and big corporations – like Monsanto, Chevron, big ag, big banks, etc.

    Jbob wrote:

    “The TSA’s job is to find out how cowed, docile, and dumb the American public is, then ratchet us down a few more notches.”


    We can (still) watch the video in the US, unlike the Germans. How much longer? We’re looking at internet regulation and already sites with controversial content are banned at libraries and government computers.

    I grew up in socialist Germany and it was wonderful to have totally free health insurance (including dental and vision) and “workers’ rights”, good pay, long paid vacations and paid sick leave for EVERYBODY. But it always was somewhat of a police state and you really weren’t supposed to leave your house without ID.

    Then the terrorists came along in the 70s (Baader, Meinhof Complex) and that’s when the police state went into full swing and I ended up in the US in the early 80s.

    America seemed to me like a truly FREE country then. The cops couldn’t have cared less about my visa and I could drive 3000 miles across the country without ever being stopped, searched, having to show ID, etc.

    Now Germany embraced America’s pure capitalism, the benefits are gone and the corporations rule. And America is turning into a police state.

  18. Christine,

    for clarification: when you write about terrorism in Germany and “ending up in the US”, this somehow contradicts your claim of having grown up in “socialist Germany”.

    So, I take it you grew up in west Germany and only refer to it as “socialist” here because it has a health insurance system which is, erm, a bit less socialist than that of the “socialist UK”.

  19. Thomas, sorry for the late reply.

    I’m from WEST Germany, which as you pointed out, is considered a socialist country by many Americans, just like the UK or France. Unfortunately, German health care, employment benefits, etc. are no longer what it used to be and calling it a socialist country now is really absurd.

    And there are certainly varying degrees of “police states” and when comparing it to the former communist East Germany or Bulgaria, West Germany wasn’t so bad. It’s all a matter of what you’re used to.

    I drove to Berlin through the former East Germany and it was a horrible experience. Living in West Berlin seemed to me like living in a giant prison.

    But it really didn’t bother me when I was visiting the Middle East during the various wars. I often had to stop at major intersections to show my passport while a machine gun was 2 inches from my brains. It was “odd”, but just the way things were there.

    The Arabs were the kindest and most generous people I ever met and unlike in communist countries, people were extremely friendly and outgoing and they invited me and my friends into their homes.

    In communist countries, people were afraid to talk to me. I still see the fear in an older woman’s eyes when I asked for a bank.

    One can only hope that it’ll never come to that in the US, but that may be exactly where we’re heading.

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