Pat-downs not slowing PDX air travel

Pat-downs not slowing PDX air travel

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by Associated Press and KGW Staff

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kgw.com

Posted on November 24, 2010 at 11:42 AM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 7:53 AM

PORTLAND -- The lines of Thanksgiving travelers moved smoothly at airports around the country Wednesday morning despite an Internet campaign to get passengers to gum up the works on one of the busiest days of the year by refusing full-body scans.

The Transportation Security Administration said very few passengers opted out. And there were only scattered protesters — including, presumably, a man seen walking around the Salt Lake City airport in a skimpy, Speedo-style bathing suit, and a woman reported to be wearing a bikini in Los Angeles.

Portland International Airport does not have the full body scanners that have created controversy at other airports. A small group of protesters waved signs from an overpass on Airport Way.

After days of tough talk on the Internet and warnings of possible delays, some passengers decided to go to the airport especially early and were pleasantly surprised.

A loosely organized effort dubbed National Opt-Out Day planned to use fliers, T-shirts and, in one case, a Scottish kilt to highlight what some call unnecessarily intrusive security screenings.

The screenings have been lampooned on "Saturday Night Live" and mocked on T-shirts, bumper stickers and underwear emblazoned "Don't Touch My Junk," from a line uttered by a traveler in San Diego who objected to a pat-down.

But the weather was shaping up as a much bigger threat: A ferocious, early-season snowstorm was expected to delay air travelers and drivers in the West, and heavy rain was also forecast in the Midwest. Windy weather in New England could also create snags.

Wait times for security checks at major U.S. airports from San Francisco to New York were 20 minutes or less Wednesday morning, according to the TSA, and no serious disruptions were reported

Asked early Wednesday if the protests were having any noticeable effect, TSA chief John Pistole told The Associated Press, "Not that we've seen overall. I mean we've, you know, had a couple of one-offs here and there."

"So far, so good," he said. "No long wait times or anything."

One Internet-based protest group called We Won't Fly said hundreds of activists would go to 27 U.S. airports Wednesday to pass out fliers with messages such as "You have the right to say, `No radiation strip search! No groping of genitals!' Say, `I opt out.'"

The full-body scanners show a person's contours on a computer in a private room removed from security checkpoints. But critics say they amount to virtual strip searches. Some have complained that the new enhanced pat-downs are humiliating and intrusive, too.

TSA officials say the procedures are necessary to ward off terror attacks like the attempted bombing of a Detroit-bound plane last Christmas, allegedly by a Nigerian man who stashed explosives in his underwear.

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