With less than two weeks left to comment on the ‘nude body scanners’ in airports — and civil liberties on the front pages — it’s time for a final push to get the word out. So a loose coalition of grassroots volunteers and privacy and civil liberties organizations is calling for a “Day of Action” on Monday June 17. If you’re sick and tired of wasting billions of dollars and giving up your rights and dignity whenever toy fly, read on for how you can help — and why it matters.
Effective comments – and why they matter
Back in 2010, EPIC sued the Department of Homeland Security to prevent the “advanced imaging technology” (aka nude body scanners) from being used as primary screening in airports. The court ruled against them on most counts, but agreed that the TSA had violated the law by failing to get public feedback before introducing the machines. The TSA finally started the ‘rulemaking process’ in March this year, and the deadline is on June 24.
People and organizations can submit comments online via regulations.gov, or by FAX or mail (see the first comment for information on FAX and mail). The number of comments sent in to the TSA matter. If the TSA doesn’t get a lot of comments, they’ll say it shows that most people don’t have any problem with the body scanners or TSA’s other security procedures. But if there’s a much more vocal response, it’s much harder for the TSA to ignore them – they’re required by law to reply to all the issues that are brought up in the commenting period.
Buried near the end of the rulemaking document are the four alternatives the TSA is considering for walkthrough metal detectors (WTMD), nude body scanners (AIT), and explosives trace detection:
|1||No Action||Under this alternative, the passenger screening environment remains the same as it was prior to 2008. TSA continues to use WTMDs as the primary passenger screening technology and to resolve alarms with a pat-down.|
|2||Pat-Down||Under this alternative, TSA continues to use WTMDs as the primary passenger screening technology. In addition, TSA supplements the WTMD screening by conducting a pat-down on a
randomly selected portion of passengers after screening by a WTMD.
|3||ETD Screening||Under this alternative, TSA continues to use WTMDs as the primary passenger screening technology. In addition, TSA supplements the WTMD screening by conducting ETD screening on a randomly selected portion of passengers after screening by a WTMD.|
|4||AIT Screening(NPRM)||Under this alternative, the proposed alternative, TSA uses AIT as a passenger screening technology.
Alarms would be resolved through a pat-down.
The most important thing to cover in your comments is which alternative you recommend — and why. EPIC supports alternative #3, and I agree. My reasons include cost, effectiveness, impact on business and travelers, and privacy. Of course there are a lot of other reasons to be against nude body scanners. tsacomments.net has information on a lot of them, along with some suggestions about what to discuss — and links to different organizations submitting comments.
The most effective comments include personal experiences. For example, many travelers say they received coercive and punitive pat downs when they tried to opt out of body scanners. If that happened to you, please add your experience in your comments to the TSA. You should also be specific about what you want to happen; EPIC recommends that commenters support “Regulatory Alternative #3″ (the use of walk through metal detectors and explosive trace detection devices) and support the right of passengers to opt out. You don’t have to include your name or address; if you do, it will become part of the public record.
How you can help
The first way you can help is to submit a comment. Not only does this directly help with our goal of getting as many comments to the TSA as possible, it makes it easier for you to help get the word out and get others involved. You don’t need to wait for Monday to do it — so please start now!
The other way to help is to get the word out. Tell people you think might be interested in the issue. Ask them to submit comments — and enlist their help in passing the information along. Talking in person and on the phone is great; email and sharing information on social networks and Skype is also powerful. It’s not an either-or thing!
- Between now and Monday, let people know about the day of action, and share the link to this site and tsacomments.net. Email the links, tweet them, post them on Facebook or Google+ or Tumblr or Reddit or wherevery you hang out. If you blog, start working on a post to publish Sunday night or Monday. If you know journalists or bloggers, let them know about the upcoming event. Forward the Facebook event to your friends.
- On Monday, follow up with the people you’ve already talked to; share the link to your comments and to tsacomments.net; tweet up a storm; post to your favorite soial networks — and ‘like’ and upvote other people’s posts!
- And then after Monday and until the 24th, keep following up. The more times people hear about an activism campaign, the more likely they are to take the time to participate; and everybody’s busy and prone to procrastination, so reminders are helpful.
This is our one chance to tell the TSA to stop electronically strip-searching us, stop abusing and humiliating people, stop making kids cry. Now is the time. We may not get another chance.