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Interactive: Full-body scanners

Video: Despite tougher security, millions fly in stride

  1. Transcript of: Despite tougher security, millions fly in stride

    LESTER HOLT, anchor (Kabul, Afghanistan): want to begin back home with a Thanksgiving eve trip home that many feared would dissolve into chaos at the airport because of something called National Opt-Out Day . It was a plan for a protest against those new TSA screenings and pat downs, but so far tonight, looks like travelers have been more interested in getting where they're going than in making a point. NBC 's Tom Costello is at Washington's Reagan National Airport . Tom , what's it look like there?

    TOM COSTELLO reporting: Lester , good evening to you. The talk is whether, in fact, all of this concern about passenger outrage may have been more hype than reality, because behind me we have smooth sailing at this TSA checkpoint. Same thing at checkpoints across the country. Very few people opting out, and very little in the way of a slowdown at any checkpoint.

    Unidentified Woman #1: Your Fourth Amendment right.

    Unidentified Woman #2: You can opt out. You can say no.

    COSTELLO: Despite sporadic calls for passengers to take a stand against the TSA 's new procedures, travelers today seemed more interested in getting home for Thanksgiving .

    Unidentified Woman #3: Doing what I have to do to see the folks.

    Unidentified Man #1: People are really moving through pretty briskly.

    COSTELLO: The TSA reports checkpoint wait times across the country have been running below average...

    Unidentified Woman #4: Please be prepared to remove all jackets, coats, sweaters.

    COSTELLO: ...very few passengers opting out of the scanners. NBC correspondents have also have been watching the travel day.

    TIM MINTON reporting: I'm Tim Minton at LaGuardia Airport in New York , where the TSA says nobody's opted out of full-body scanning and there's been almost no wait at security all day.

    KRISTEN DAHLGREN reporting: I'm Kristen Dahlgren at Chicago's O'Hare Airport , where security lines are moving quickly and the TSA reports no signs of any protests. The bigger concern here may be the weather.

    MIGUEL ALMAGUER reporting: I'm Miguel Almaguer in Los Angeles , where the TSA says there were no major problems at LAX this afternoon. In fact, many passengers got through security in about five minutes.

    COSTELLO: On a cold morning in California , one traveler wore a bikini to avoid a scanner pat down.

    Unidentified Woman #5: I don't think there's many places to hide anything in a bikini.

    COSTELLO: While Bobby Burke and Monique Richards flew out of Chicago divided over the TSA .

    Mr. BOBBY BURKE: If they have to be a little bit more aggressive in their search, you know, to scan you, I don't mind it.

    COSTELLO: Monique , though, opted out in protest.

    Ms. MONIQUE RICHARDS: It's just too much. It's like you want to be safe, but you don't want your -- you don't want to feel violated.

    COSTELLO: While a Gallup poll found 71 percent of regular fliers believe any loss of privacy from the scans or pat downs is worth it, the former LAPD terrorism and intelligence chief says, ultimately, the focus has to shift.

    Mr. ERROLL SOUTHERS (Former Los Angeles Airport Homeland Security Official): We've got to get to know our traveling public. We've got to understand how to find the bomber instead of the bomb.

    COSTELLO: But today, the biggest travel problem has nothing to do with the TSA ; instead, it was a computer crash at Spirit Airlines . Spirit says that, in fact, its computers have been up and running since about noon. Minimal delays there. The FAA says tonight it has some delays because of wind in the New York area. But beyond that, Lester , systemwide, a very smooth day for traveling.

    HOLT: All right. Tom Costello tonight, thanks.

    LESTER HOLT, anchor (Kabul, Afghanistan): Millions more Americans are making their Thanksgiving journey by car. I want to show you a picture that's pretty typical of what's going on tonight. It's the New Jersey turnpike between New York City and Philadelphia . The AAA anticipates 94 percent of people traveling 50 miles or more this Thanksgiving will be doing so by car.

    LESTER HOLT, anchor (Kabul, Afghanistan): The weather is going to be a major factor, the upper Midwest and West on this Thanksgiving holiday. Here was the scene in Fargo , North Dakota , which got hit with heavy snow today and where more is expected tomorrow. Heavy

Photos: Thanksgiving travel

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  1. Travelers line up at Denver International Airport on the day before the Thanksgiving holiday in Denver, Nov. 24. Millions of Americans took to the skies on Wednesday for the start of the Thanksgiving holiday but air travel flowed smoothly despite protests over new security procedures, including calls for passengers to boycott high-tech body scanners. Over 160,000 people were expected to move through the airport on Wednesday. (Rick Wilking / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A TSA agent keeps a watchful eye on travelers moving through security lines at Pittsburgh International Airport, Nov. 24. (Jeff Swensen / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Protesters against the Transportation Security Administration's screening procedures stand outside Terminal Four of the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona, Nov. 24. (Rick Scuteri / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Waiting is a snooze

    A man yawns as he waits in a security screening line November 24, 2010 at LaGuardia airport in the Queens borough of New York City. Experts expect over 1.6 million people to fly over the Thanksgiving holiday this year, a 3.5% increase from last year. Airport officials are concerned that public protests against new security techniques such as National Opt-Out Day could further delay holiday travel. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Pre-holiday arrivals

    Long lines of cars form Nov. 24 as people come to pick others at the Los Angeles International Airport. (Jae C. Hong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. On the way to grandma's

    Six-month-old Dahlia Louise Abelin is held by her mother Suzanne Ehlers, 37, of Washington, as they board the baby's first train for her first Thanksgiving at Grandma's, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010, on a New York City bound Amtrak train at Union Station in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Getting the TSA pat-down

    A Transportation Security Administration officer searches a wheel-chair bound traveler wearing a burqa at a security security check point on Nov. 24 at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport. (Craig Lassig / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Security awaits

    Travelers wait to get through a security checkpoint Nov. 24 at Boston's Logan International Airport. (Michael Dwyer / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A sign of protest

    A protester, right, demonstrating against the Transportation Security Administration's latest security procedures, gets questioned by a Washington Airports Authority officer, second right, and other officials on Nov. 24 at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington. The sign reads "Tyrants Sexually Assaulting Americans." (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Showing skin to make a point

    This image from on a blog shows the back of a man who protested against the enhanced TSA pat-downs Nov. 24 at the Salt Lake City airport. The man wore an Speedo-style bathing suit to avoid a pat-down. (jonanderic.blogspot.com) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Travelers line up at Denver International Airport on the day before the Thanksgiving holiday in Denver
    Rick Wilking / Reuters
    Above: Slideshow (10) Thanksgiving travelers
  2. David Fitzsimmons / The Arizona Daily Star, Politicalcartoons.com
    Slideshow (20) Ha-ha-happy Thanksgiving
  3. Terry "Aislin" Mosher / The Montreal Gazette, Canada, Politicalcartoons.com
    Slideshow (6) Airport Body Searches
  4. Joe Heller / The Green Bay Press-Gazette, Politicalcartoons.com
    Slideshow (6) Holiday Travel
NBC News and news services

Explainer: Up in arms over pat-downs

  • Since the Transportation Security Administration initiated tighter airport security measures in late summer — including new X-ray body-scan machines that render subjects virtually naked and intimate pat-downs for those who decline to go through them — some airline passengers have taken offense at what they consider unreasonable invasions of privacy.

    Image: TSA screening
    Ted S. Warren  /  AP

    Click at left to review some of the most notorious confrontations between TSA screeners and unruly passengers.

  • Don't touch 'my junk'

    In one of the best-documented confrontations between a traveler and TSA employees, software engineer John Tyner told a screener at San Diego International Airport who was explaining the pat-down procedure, "If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested."

    Tyner, 31, who recorded the exchange using his cell phone camera, was on his way to go hunting in South Dakota when TSA agents asked him to go through an X-ray machine.

    "I don't think that the government has any business seeing me naked as a condition of traveling about the country," he replied.

    Tyner, of Oceanside, was informed that he could undergo a pat-down instead, but after hearing the procedure described, he made his now-famous "junk" comment.

    A TSA supervisor and police were called and Tyner was ultimately escorted out of the screening area and to a ticket counter, where his ticket was refunded.

    Tyner told the Los Angeles Times that his father-in-law, who went on without him, was initially upset that he had refused the body scan and missed the hunting trip. But by the time he had touched down in South Dakota, he had changed his mind.

    "He called me and said, 'You know, I'm really proud you took a stand on something you believe in,'" Tyner was quoted as saying.

  • Prosthetic breast examined

    A longtime Charlotte, N.C., flight attendant and cancer survivortold WBTV  that she was forced to show her prosthetic breast during a pat-down in August.

    Cathy Bossi, who works for U.S. Airways, said she received the pat-down at Charlotte Douglas International Airport after declining to do the full-body scan because of radiation concerns.

    Bossi said that when the TSA screener placed her hand on her prosthetic breast, she explained that she had undergone a mastectomy three years earlier. The screener responded, 'Well, you'll need to show me that,' and ordered her to pull the artificial breast out of her brassiere, Bossi said.

    "I did not take the name of the person at the time because it was just so horrific of an experience, I couldn't believe someone had done that to me," Bossi told the station. "I'm a flight attendant. I was just trying to get to work."

  • Pat-down busts urostomy bag

    Image: Thomas Sawyer
    Courtesy Thomas Sawyer
    Thomas Sawyer, 61, said he was left "humiliated" and covered in urine after undergoing a TSA pat-down.
    Thomas D. Sawyer, a retired special education teacher, was left soaked in his own urine after an aggressive pat-down by TSA officers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport burst his urostomy bag.

    Sawyer, 61, told msnbc.com that he was “absolutely humiliated, I couldn’t even speak,” after the incident on Nov. 7, as he was on his way to a wedding in Orlando, Fla.

    Sawyer is a bladder cancer survivor who now wears a urostomy bag, which collects his urine from a stoma, or opening, in his abdomen. “I have to wear special clothes and in order to mount the bag I have to seal a wafer to my stomach and then attach the bag, he said. “If the seal is broken, urine can leak all over my body and clothes.”

    That, Sawyer said, is exactly what happened during the pat-down.

    After passing through a security scanner, which apparently detected his urostomy bag, Sawyer was informed he needed to undergo a pat-down search. When he asked for a private search, two TSA screeners took him to a nearby office.

    Sawyer said he tried to inform them about his medical condition, but “they said they didn’t need to know about that.”

    Instead, one agent proceeded to run his flat hand down Sawyer’s chest, ignoring warnings not to press on the bag, Sawyer said.

    “But he ignored me,” he said. “Sure enough, the seal was broken and urine started dribbling down my shirt and my leg and into my pants.”

    The security officer finished the pat-down, tested the gloves for any trace of explosives and then, Sawyer said, “He told me I could go. They never apologized. They never offered to help. They acted like they hadn’t seen what happened. But I know they saw it because I had a wet mark.”

    The soaked Sawyer made his flight, but said he had to wait until after takeoff to clean up and change his clothes and urostomy bag.

    After his experience received widespread publicity, Sawyer said he received an apology in a phone call from TSA chief John Pistole.

  • 'Boxer rebellion' ends in arrest

    Samuel Wolanyk conducted a boxer rebellion of sorts on Nov. 19 when he stripped to his underwear at a security checkpoint at San Diego International Airport.

    Wolanyk, who was on his way to Barbados, shed his pants and shirt in a futile effort to avoid a pat-down after refusing a full-body scan.

    Unlike fellow traveler John Tyner, who was escorted to the airline counter to obtain a refund after warning TSA screeners not to “touch my junk,” Wolanyk was arrested for refusing to complete the security process.

    In a statement released by his attorney after the incident, Wolanyk said, "TSA needs to see that I'm not carrying any weapons, explosives, or other prohibited substances, I refuse to have images of my naked body viewed by perfect strangers, and having been felt up for the first time by TSA the week prior (I travel frequently) I was not willing to be molested again."

    Wolanyk's attorney said that TSA requested his client put his clothes on so he could be patted down properly but his client refused to put his clothes back on. He never refused a pat-down, according to his attorney.

  • Pat-down for shirtless boy

    A shirtless boy’s pat-down by TSA screeners at the Salt Lake City airport on Nov. 19 was captured on video by a college student waiting in a security line, triggering yet another outcry about what critics describe as over-the-top security measures.

    Utah Valley University student Luke Tait posted the video on YouTube, where it was viewed more than 765,000 times in three days.

    Tait said the boy appeared so shy he couldn't keep his arms raised for a pat-down, and the father apparently removed his son's shirt out of frustration to speed up the search.

    "I was shocked and realized something crazy was going on, so I took my BlackBerry off the conveyor belt and started recording," Tait told The Associated Press.

    "A couple of times the father raised the arms of the boy. That ended up not being enough, so the father got frustrated and tore his boy's shirt off," Tait said.

    That prompted a TSA officer to protest, "Sir, sir!"

    The TSA said in a blog posting that the boy was being searched because he sounded an alarm inside a metal detector. The boy's father removed his son's shirt to expedite the screening.

    "That's it. No complaints were filed and the father was standing by his son for the entire procedure," said the posting by "Blogger Bob" of the TSA Blog Team.

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