X-Ray Opt Out Difficulties at JFK Airport (NY)

As I approached the x-ray machine at the security checkpoint, I started to remember reading somewhere that it wasn’t obligatory to go through it.  Why should I give the airport full body images of myself that they may hold for an indefinite amount of time?  The x-ray machine is a virtual strip search with no suspicion of wrongdoing.  Psychologically speaking, people should not be made to feel like they needed to prove their innocence with no action or suspicion of wrongdoing.  With regards to the information in the x-ray image, that type of personal information is not something you want to hand over freely.  The issue at hand is not to determine what these images may be used for, but to realize that even if sinister usage is rare, we shouldn’t provide valuable information like this for free.  So, for privacy reasons as well as personal rights issues, I decided I would opt out.  I was nervous as I realized I may be the only person in the airport to do so.  I didn’t see anyone else request an opt out.  We were all being corralled through like sheep.  Human nature is often sheep-like in general.  We were designed to stay within the pack, to stay loyal to it, and that’s why the urge to fit in, especially at a young age, is greater than the desire to stand out and be different.  So despite the nerves, I decided to give it a shot.  What security responded with, however, was something greatly worth noting and sharing and I’m happy that I opted out so that I can share the reaction with everyone.

When I requested not to enter the machine, the security lady at JFK Airport told me that she wouldn’t do such a thing.  I repeated that I thought it was my right to opt out.  She responded vaguely admitting to such a protocol, saying that while she wouldn’t do such a thing, I may opt out but it would involve a longer waiting time, a “full pat-down”, and I’d have to wait for someone to free up for it.  I was surprised at this response and immediately I realized that there was a security policy to discourage people from opting out of the x-ray machine, a machine that would scan their entire body and save an image, who knows for what length; a machine that violates the fourth amendment of the Constitution and may be harmful for our health.  This was a peculiar time for me to practice my personal freedom because I was actually late for my flight; boarding had started 5 minutes before.  I notified her of this problem and she started getting snappy with me.  She exclaimed that she had already requested a pat-down expert and that I would have to wait.  She also said that she had warned me that this process would take a while so it was really my fault that I had chosen this path.  I waited and a full 5 minutes transpired before someone even freed up to come pat me down.  In that time, I would have gone through the x-ray and continued on to my gate.  When the security official showed up, I told him that my flight had started boarding.  He responded saying, “that’s what you get when you choose a pat-down”.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was being punished for exercising my right not to be strip-searched by a machine with potential health risks!  It was incredible.  There was no doubt about it; security was purposefully punishing those who chose to opt out verbally and by having no one ready to immediately pat you down once you elected not to use the machine.  You were made to feel like you made the wrong choice and the delay was significant.  I told the guy that I should not be punished for exercising my right and he iterated that if I had gone through the machine I would have been done already.  I was finally patted down thoroughly and by the time I was on my way, I would estimate that the process took about 10 minutes longer than if I had gone through the machine.  I ran to the gate and barely made my flight.

It’s clear that JFK airport security actively discourages passengers from opting out of the controversial machine.  Clearly security was understaffed and they should have appointed someone ready to pat down anyone who opts out.  We have to realize that we shouldn’t be made to feel guilty and subservient to security protocols that impede on our personal rights.  At the very least, JFK needs to change their security protocols so that there is always one guy ready to pat you down physically.  Hire another person!  OR maybe not have a pat-down guy at all and to just let opt-outers to walk through the metal detector and go on their way.


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