WASHINGTON — After weeks of public outcry and lawsuit threats, the administration bowed to demands Monday and announced that airport full-body scans will now include an array of free outpatient diagnostic services and microbrew selections. TSA Administrator John Pistole said the concession will “retool airport scanners for quick radiology, CAT scans, MRIs, bone densitometry, ultrasounds, and more for weary travelers.”
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said travelers can choose “long or short consultations” with the attending physicians. Travelers can also opt out of consultations “and just take their free scans and beer into secure waiting areas.”
Saturday’s 300,000-businessman “Don’t-Touch-My-Junk” March on the National Mall focused public attention on the “inhumanity of airport scanning and pat-downs,” said organizer Jeff Maltby. At the march, Maltby declared: “This administration had better keep its creepy hands off travelers or face something really bad.”
The demonstration turned violent when marchers taunted riot-control police and actually attempted to pat down several officers. The officers repulsed the protestors with deep cavity searches. Several protesters fainted, and many Blackberries were crushed in the altercation. On Sunday, Maltby and other organizers won their meeting with the TSA and expressed satisfaction with the compromise. “Things changed fast when you mentioned beer,” Maltby said to Pistole.
Prior to the administration’s outpatient decision, some pilot unions and passenger groups had said they would urge their members to boycott the scanners, forcing TSA officers to pat down thousands of additional travelers. “That is a nonissue now,” said Patty Amerine, union president of the Association of Flight Attendants. “They just had to say ‘free mammogram’ and we understood the need for added security.”
Senators had assailed the TSA Wednesday over the agency’s new, more invasive airport pat downs that have led to widespread controversy. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, told TSA Administrator John Pistole that the huge protest from travelers demanded that TSA soften its procedures. “Can’t we just give them a gift, or yknow, something free in exchange for the privacy thing?” Hutchison asked at a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee.
However, Pistole said that the new search techniques were necessary because tests of airport security had repeatedly identified the old pat downs as inadequate. “They’ve been missing all the underwear bombs.” More aggressive searches were required for those passengers who would not go through the scanners. “If you are asking me, am I going to change TSA policies? No,” Pistole told the committee. After a solid lunch, Pistole clarified to the committee, “Well, maybe.”
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., asked Pistole whether he had undergone the new pat down himself. Pistole said he and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, along with other administration officials, had insisted on having the search performed on them before it was unveiled.
“It is very, very thorough,” Pistole said. “I spoke in a higher-pitched voice afterward, but the free scans of my lungs quickly removed my doubts.” Napolitano added, “The New Belgium Fat Tire beer really put a smile on my face.” Napolitano explained that jalapeno rice cakes were now available for travelers who opted out of the available microbrews.
88% of business travelers polled said they would not mind spending two or three hours in a security line for the free medical work. “It’s a win-win situation,” said David Peterson, who spends three weeks a month on business travel. “With their new system, they can catch terrorist threats here in the airport as well as any ‘terrorist’ threats to my colon.” Executive traveler Janice Jensen chose a trial ultrasound at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and discovered she was pregnant with twins. “The entire line of travelers and security personnel cheered. I couldn’t have been happier,” she said.
Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted that adding physicians to the airport security process will also “reduce some of the pressures engendered by the administration’s recent changes in health care provisions.” Sebelius explained, “Any physicians wandering the streets can now be quickly employed in airport outpatient diagnostics.”
“This is unfortunately the world in which we live,” Sen. Lieberman, CT-Independent said. “Now, at least, travelers no longer have to choose between terrorism and cancer.”