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TSA Myth or Fact: 'Blogger Bob' Provokes a Stream of Comments From Pat-Down Protesters

Colorful comments on the TSA website reveal how many people are unnerved by the seemingly endless tightening of security at airports in the United States.
 
 
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Transportation security officials insist they came out ahead from a Thanksgiving holiday that at one time looked like it might turn the nation’s airports into endless misery. The organizers of National Opt-Out Day encouraged travelers to resist controversial body scanners by opting for even more controversial pat-down searches. But major news outlets depicted airports operating smoothly.

To be sure, there have been ugly gaffs for airport security screeners in recent weeks that required follow-up apologies from the Department of Homeland Security. Federal officials are still mostly claiming post-Thanksgiving that Americans generally supported the procedures they put in place to keep terrorists off of commercial airliners.

Airports aren’t the only place to look for angry Americans lashing out, however. Where else might there be resistance? On the Internet, of course. The Transportation Security Administration’s Web site hosts a fellow nicknamed “Blogger Bob” who’s responsible for debunking perceived myths about airport security circulated by mainstream journalists. Sometimes Blogger Bob is right and deadline-conscious reporters haven’t done their homework.

Other times the TSA doesn’t help itself by appearing to muddy the truth even further. Blogger Bob attempted to fact-check the press on Nov. 18 with a series of “myths” countered by the TSA’s own “facts.” Readers reacted in the blog’s comments section by the hundreds. These remarks on many occasions intelligently poked holes in the TSA’s “facts,” or at least demonstrated there was still significant room for public debate.

Elsewhere you had to look beyond colorful language to sometimes find reasonable insight, after allowing for the frustration any self-respecting American could experience with modern air travel. Some of the reactions we list below are included simply because these people could be our readers for all we know. Let them speak. In each instance, you’ll first see the TSA’s myth v. fact followed by responses that appeared online.

The answers to Blogger Blog if nothing else illustrate how many people are unnerved by the seemingly endless tightening of security at airports in the United States, despite the TSA frequently pointing to a CBS poll that concluded four out of five travelers support full-body scanners. That claim is attacked by commenters, too.

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Blogger Bob:

Myth: The TSA pat-down is invasive.
Fact: Only passengers who alarm a walk-through metal detector or AIT [Advanced Imaging Technology, i.e. body scanner] machine or opt out of the AIT receive a pat-down. For this reason, it is designed to be thorough in order to detect any potential threats and keep the traveling public safe. Pat-downs are performed by same-gender officers and all passengers have the right to a private screening with a travel companion at any time.

Chris Bray:

Blogger Bob, you have a bureaucrat’s gift for changing the substance of a criticism as you pretend to respond to it. You seem to be unable to notice what you’re saying as you say it. Compare the format:

1.) Is the new pat-down invasive? No, it’s only for people who set off a metal detector or refuse AIT.
2.) Are you going to punch me in the face? No, blueberry pancakes.

Only you don’t notice that your non sequiturs are non sequiturs. … Even when the TSA has destroyed itself, you’ll all still be hopelessly obtuse about what happened and raging at the ‘myths’ that undid you.

TSA head John Pistole told a Senate committee Nov. 17 after undergoing a pat-down himself that it was “more invasive than I’m used to.”

Anonymous:

The ‘fact’ portion does not even address the invasiveness (which was confirmed in statements by the head of the TSA). It’s a lie to call this a myth when you can’t even disprove it.

 
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