There will be no intimate, offensive or indecent physical examinations of air travellers using Australian airports when body scanners are introduced in the New Year.

A spokesperson for the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese, confirmed that Australia would not go down the same path as the US Transportation Security Administration, which has caused uproar at American airports by requiring physical genital area touching and feeling searches of those passengers and pilots who refuse to submit to revealing imaging X-ray scans before boarding aircraft.

The spokesperson said that a final decision on the technology to be used initially at a number of Australian international air terminals had not been made, but that the selection would seek out the devices that produced the least possible amount of radiation and coded the data so that the operators could only see stick figures on which suspicious objects would be identified by symbols.

The scanners would be used for secondary rather than primary screening.

Plane Talking understands that instead of ordering persons who refused body scanning to submit to a hands on experience, the Australian way will be to deny boarding to the passenger, who will be told to leave the terminal.

No scan, no fly. Simple. (Maybe). Certainly different to the inane situation in San Diego in which John Tyner, a software engineer, who refused to have ‘my junk’ touched by a TSA official, was then threatened with a $10,000 fine if he left the terminal, even though he had cancelled his flight, received a refund for the fare, and no longer had any reason to be at the airport.

The public anger over the new TSA get-naked-scanned or get-physically-examined procedure continues to grow in the US. The media is full of stories questioning government mandated molestation as a prerequisite for boarding an airliner, and social media videos of passengers being ordered to submit to manual checks that would in criminal law be a sexual or indecent assault.

These incidents have also involved children and elderly passengers.

In the past week an Opt-Out protest movement has begun to grow through social and public media in the US, with calls for mass refusals to submit to physical checks or electronic strip searches next Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and one of the busiest days for domestic air travel in the US. However there are some doubts that many travellers would give up their turkey and family reunion feasts on that day, even if they start to cut back on air travel at other times.

In Australia, part of the emphasis of the evaluation process for secondary scanning machines has been on the potentially harmful cumulative effects of low levels of radiation on those who operate the machines or who as other airport workers or pilots have to cross the landside/airside security divide many times a day.

In the US however the TSA prohibited the wearing of radiation dosimeters by its airport workers, thus removing the risk of employees being able to prove excessive exposure to the scanners.

It could be that the theatrical and often hysterical political investment in security paranoia in the US has finally outreached itself. Literally.

Postscript: This appeared on the Pprune site tonight.

It raises an important security question for Australian airports, and needs its own post as soon as travel and connections allow.


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