Indianapolis Airport Backscatter X-Ray Fun

When I was travelling to Washington today, I had a fun experience at the Indianapolis airport. Well, the first real fun thing is that this stupid CLEAR thing is dead (this was where you could buy yourself into a priority lane at the security checkpoint). Well, the second nice thing was that preferred (status) customers can now use the retired CLEAR lane (yeah, I was at the top of the line ;-)).

However, the TSA officer directed me to a line that lead to a Backscatter X-Ray scanner. So first, I don’t really mind the scanner too much … well, kinda … it takes nice pictures of your girlfriend.

However, there was a huge sign “We respect your privacy and the use of the scanner is optional”. Well, so I decided to not follow the 300 lb guy in front of me (I am wondering if the officers checking the scans get extra pay). The “normal” metal detector right next to it was empty anyway. So what I did was just walk by the officer at the scanner and said that I’ll just use the metal detector instead. Wow, what followed was really unexpected. She shouted “code 5” at me (as if I knew what that meant) while I proceeded through the metal detector. This apparently meant that I had to go through a manual search … because I refused to use the backscatter x-ray … so much about “optional” and “respect privacy”.

The manual search was really funny. The guy apologized for every single time he touched “sensitive areas” and explained that he would use the back of his hand *lol*. Of course, I kept complaining and eventually talked to the boss of the checkpoint (without much success). He even mentioned that backscatter will not be optional after the testing period. I’ll check Chicago next week but I haven’t seen them there yet.

Update: Btw., Europe is *not* better. Well, at least when you travel to the US. I was going back from Italy through Amsterdam where they had the same things at the gate! Yes, at the gate. Because apparently there are some silly US rules that they have to have a higher security. Refusing to go through was even funnier. So I had a family in front of me and they made the grown-ups go through the scanner while the children were just led through the metal detector (which was closed and they had to turn on for every single use). Well, ok. So I told them that I have concerns about my privacy and health and didn’t want to go through (remember, it’s Europe and there should be some laws … I hope). So they started discussing and showed me the screen of the thing. Well, how could I know what happens to the pictures that were *not* on the screen??? Then they started to explain me that this scanner would work with sonic waves … however, the label clearly said “backscatter” so I didn’t quite trust them. Then I asked why children don’t go through that thing and the answer of the “checkpoint lead” was *very funny*: they’re too small and the scanner can’t reach them. The next thing was that they wanted to deny boarding … fine. I demanded to talk to an airline representative what to do about it and suddenly I got my manual search. They said something in Dutch that I didn’t get … but the search was very thorough. I also had to take my shoes off while everybody else who walked through the scanner that “can’t scan children because they’re too small” did not take their shoes off. Well ,I started arguing again but all I got was “that’s a US regulation”. Very funny. So small terrorists, it’s not rocket science how to game those rules ;-).

Update2: I had four more of those “refusing to go through backscatter” at different US airports … and I have to say that I never went through one. However, I got a private search every single time I refused. And I heard that they’ll be mandatory soon … they also reached Germany (Hamburg) :-(. Well, well, there goes our freedom due to our fears.

Update3: My server is suffering from the fefe effect, so I apologize for any waiting time :-).

Update4: The picture above is apparently a fake — never trust BILD! Sorry, only in German. (Thanks Hanno)