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Transportation Security Administration

Opt Out Turns Into Opt In

Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Children with thank you sign for TSA.

What some protesters threatened as an opt out day has turned into a TSA appreciation day.

As reports continue to come with normal or below-normal wait times, this will be our final update of this post today.

Though volume was around expected levels, our preparations for today kept wait times at such a minimum that some airports are closing screening lanes due to a lack of passenger throughput.

In addition to our operational updates from the field, we’ve rounded up news coverage from across the country about today’s airport travel experience:

Additional Recent Clips, Op-Eds and Editorials

Operational Updates as of 5 p.m. EST:

  • Dallas/Fort Worth: One Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) opt-out today, and wait times consistently under 12 minutes.
  • Dallas Love Field: Wait times under 3 minutes.
  • Salt Lake City: Wait times no more than 5 minutes at both checkpoints one and two; when open, checkpoint 3 has a 2-minute wait time. Across the airport, we have all lanes open and 6 AITs in operation.
  • Atlanta: 39 total AIT opt outs today (again, out of 47,000 fliers). All were screened and continued to their flights.
  • Newark: Average wait times today by terminal were 6 minutes for A and C, 11 minutes for B.
  • New Orleans: The longest reported wait time was approximately 13 minutes. Six passengers opted out of AIT screening. All were screened and continued to their flights.
  • Iowa and Kansas: No disruptions, no wait times greater than 10 minutes. According to federal security director, lots of passenger compliments.
  • Denver: Current wait times are 3-4 minutes per checkpoint.
  • Colorado Springs: 5-minute average wait time, and no AIT opt-outs.
  • Minneapolis: Wait times are currently 5-10 mins. No incidents.
  • Detroit: No wait time over 20 minutes all day.
  • Green Bay: Wait time is 3 minutes.
  • Indianapolis: 24-minute peak this morning at 6 a.m. Nothing near since.
  • Louisville: 5-10 minute wait times.
  • Los Angeles: Los Angeles: 113 AIT opt outs across LAX’s 8 terminals, which is less than 1 percent of the approximately 50,000 travelers screened at LAX today. All AIT opt-outs were screened and continued to their flights.
  • Charlotte: 18,000 passengers screened so far today, and estimated 24,000 will be screened by end of day. 1 AIT opt out today.
  • Cincinnati: The peak wait time was 10 minutes, and average is 5 minutes.
  • Chicago O’Hare: The longest wait was 15 minutes at one checkpoint, and has been under 10 minutes airport-wide for the most part.
  • Cleveland: Under 20 minutes for wait times all day, with a 10-minute average. Current wait times are less than 5 minutes. 0.66 percent opt out rate today.
  • Boston: Approximately 56,000 passengers screened with 300 AIT opt outs, which is less than 1 percent of all travelers and less than a normal day at the airport’s 17 AITs. All were screened and continued to their flights. The longest wait time all day was 12 minutes in terminal A in very early morning, and it was very short lived given all lanes were open.
  • Detroit: 25,000 passengers screened today, and 57 AIT opt-outs. All were screened and continued to their flights.

Bob Burns
TSA Blog Team

Comments

Submitted by Anonymous on

Well there you have it. A handful of terrorists have forced America to transform into a scared, quivering mass. Congratulations Osama!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Huzzah! Huzzah for the Stakhonovites of the state security apparatus! Lubyanska security checkpoint exceeds all production quotas!

My guess: people aren't opting out because they don't want to be inconvenienced by the TSA anymore than they already are, and they don't want to inconvenience others. I doubt very much that this is a broad vote of approval for a child-groping, granny-scanning counterterrorist agency that has never caught a single terrorist.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Your boss asked us not to cause a disruption. We listened.

Will the TSA?

Submitted by Anonymous on

The relative lack of opt outs is not a glowing commendation on the TSA, in fact, the media coverage that ensued is more proof that the distaste is still fresh on everybody's minds. This will an ill-timed effort, in that many fliers no doubt were concerned with retaliatory detainments, and the wrath of their family if they dared to miss Thanksgiving. Just because nobody is staging a mass protest on the eve of Thanksgiving doesn't mean you can assume your love by travelers. We still despise what you have done to cancer patients, people with steel implants in their hips, people with colostomy bags, children without shirts, children with mental issues who didn't want to be touched, people sensitive to radiation, and people who frankly don't want their junk touched. Where did you get the part that most Americans are thankful for you today? I'll have a shot of that drink, it sure sounds potent.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Bob, how many strip-search machines were turned off or not in use? People can't opt out of something that's not being used.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Well Bob, you're lying. There were three opt outs in one group during the time I was going through at one of the airports you identify as "no opt outs".

That aside, I don't think for a moment that there will be many (making the need to lie just silly, but that's another matter. After all, the gov't also told us Agent Orange was harmless: lying is in your DNA. But I digress.) There will be few because among other reasons FAR FAR more people who rarely fly are in the air this week. Those of us who do it all the time are just a bt less happy about your Kabuki theater.

Submitted by Anonymous on

If opt-out is so terrible, why is it an option?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Yes, it is well established that the average person will make the correct economic tradeoff that it is less costly to sacrifice civil rights than be a martyr. That doesn't legitimize your actions or even suggest people agree with them. However, I do think that when the passenger volumes are counted for this holiday season, you will see a material and visible negative effect.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I think I commented last week that it is a typical bureaucratic response to protect one's job by putting every ounce of resources into making today go smoothly. Don't worry, John, you will still be fired. And you deserve it.

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA's primary mission isn't to keep passengers safe. It's to keep passengers scared of threats that aren't nearly as big as they would have us believe.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Gizmodo says that TSA turned off the machines at most airports, and wasn't doing the full body searches. They ask if "no opt-outs" means "no AIT machines".

No waits. No lines. That's great, but this should be ringing alarms: For the first time in the history of Thanksgiving travel, there are no lines at airport security.

I want to know how much over-time TSA blew on this PR stunt.

Submitted by Mike on

Either the TSA has become the most efficient arm of the US Government, or the number of holiday travelers is likely far below normal.

My money's on the latter.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Great work today, Blogger Bob! We were thinking about your work at such a pivotal, possibly problematic time. Looks like you did a good job getting out the lack of delay and a positive story for TSA and USG!!

Doug at NASA

Submitted by Anonymous on

None of this post makes your procedures and less a violation of the 4th amendment. The majority of the people would let a police officer search their car if they were stopped for speeding but this does not give the cop a right to perform an unreasonable search.


My personal "opt-out" was not flying today and at the very least limiting my flying to times of absolute necessity.

Following the developments today I have noticed a few new reports of people being harassed for photography withing the screening area; and activity your own regulations allow. Perhaps you can brief your agents tomorrow morning on the fact that photography is indeed allowed, with very limited restrictions.

Submitted by Ayn R Key on

How much did you pay those actors to pretend to like the TSA?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Guess what, the frequent travelers still know what a travesty all this is. It violates the 4th amendment AND the scanners have not been proven safe.

The TSA needs to be transparent and accountable like ever other government agency.

Submitted by Anonymous on

When will the Fourth Estate do its job properly for once?

Submitted by D on

Where do you get the idea that today became some kind of TSA appreciation day? Certainly not from any of the sources mentioned in the content of this post.

Submitted by Jim DeLaHunt on

It's evident from this blog post that the Opt Out Day movement at the very least forced the TSA to pay attention to the backlash they generate. In that sense, Opt Out Day has already been a success.

There are reports that the TSA stopped using many of the AIT/Virtual Strip Search machines on Nov 24. Is this correct? What proportion of travellers were directed to magentometers and what proportion to Virtual Strip Search machines that day, and what are the comparable proportions for the preceding two weeks?

Fewer people directed to the Virtual Strip Search machines means fewer opting out of them. Rather than opt outs as percentage of passengers screened, the interesting statistic is what percentage of passengers confronted with a Virtual Strip Search opted out. TSA, for the above airports could you please report number of passengers who submitted to the Virtual Strip Search machines?

The other form of "opt out" is to not fly at all. Some people probably decided not to travel at all, or to travel by other means (e.g. drive). TSA, what are comparable numbers for total passengers screened from previous years? How do they compare to numbers screened this year?

Next Opt Out Day is November 26th. After that, November 27th is also Opt Out Day. And so on, until the TSA stops the insanity.

Submitted by Anonymous on

The operative phrase being, "our preparations for today"...

Don't kid yourself, BB. We know EXACTLY what liars and sheisters the TSA is comprised of.

Pull back on the screenings.

Put on more staff.

Proclaim from the highest hill, "Alls well!"

It's not gonna work.

The public is outraged over the conduct of the TSA and this outrage is not going to go away.

Submitted by Anonymous on

0 comments... Yeah, I bet.

If there's a lack of comments it's because they're being censored or because people are scared of no-fly list retribution. Chilling effects in action.

Astroturf! Astroturf Everywhere!

TSA is an unamerican disgrace to the founding principles of this nation.

John Pistole is giving 2012 to the Republicans, and yet Obama still stands by him.

I'll feel safer in airports when the TSA has been replaced by private security companies which are more competent and responsive to the desires of the American People.

Submitted by Kdt on

Sooo, what you're saying is "We told you so! The American public is perfectly willing to trade its privacy and dignity for the illusion of security!"

[Cut to: Bob doing stock evil laugh: "Muahahahahahaha!!!"]

Well-played, TSA, well-played. Let's see how things go when your naked radiation shower/opt out gropefest is deployed and actually activated at something more than 10 percent of the country's security lines.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Don't forget to mention all the porno-scanners that were turned off for the day.

Submitted by Anonymous on

interesting.

Submitted by C Cooke on

I decided to drive; not flying seemed sensible.

Submitted by American on

How is this a commentary on passengers' attitudes or a "failure" of opt out day? it just as readily could be a reflection of a change in TSA behavior, which I find more likely. Scanners weren't in operation in many places, fewer people were selected for scanners, and perhaps - just speculating here - screeners were advised to not be as invasive during patdowns.

You're wrong Bob, and now I'm convinced you are a liar. You've already been caught lying about how many opt outs occurred in Denver - and you're lying about what is behind this easy travel day too. We're not backing down.

Submitted by Shawn W Roy on

Isnt it obvious that there are no wait times because people are choosing not to fly??!!

Submitted by Anonymous on

Nice sign. I'll show up with an anti-tsa sign instead of the pro-tsa one. I'm sure it'll be fine.

Submitted by Amulbunny's Ran... on

Sounds like the number of travelers was diminished so the airlines lost some money today from those people who decided to stay home or drive.

Oh well, such is the stuff life is made of.

PS: that picture did not tug my heartstrings.

Submitted by Anonymous on

I opt out of the AITs.

Instead of the promised enhanced patdown, ORD sent some AIT opt outs through the plain old WTMD.

I see you are somehow able to post the wait times today. How come http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/waittime.shtm has been under construction, seemingly ineptly, for years?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Boy, aren't you gloating, TSA. How disgusting.

I personally know 20 people who cancelled airline reservations completely due to your new policy. They refuse to allow themselves or their teenage children to be subjected to the new policy.

I had calls from 5 people who were terrified going through your scanners at Boston Logan today - the intimidation was in full force, and no one dared opt out because they put the biggest, scariest looking guy there to glare at everyone.

Submitted by Anonymous on

All of my family members decided to stay at home this year. I know I won't fly until the policies change. Good luck with propaganda, Bob.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Delays, protests, etc. are not the issue here. The bottom line is this: Many Americans, myself included, DO NOT TRUST WHAT OUR GOVERNMENT CHOOSES TO TELL US. I am old enough to know of specific, verified instances in which "my" government has lied, concealed and otherwised obstructed or obscured for no reason other than to protect a bureaucrat's backside or avoid losing a well-funded project. You're a nice enough fellow I'm sure, and I would be happy to share a beverage with you at any time, but I cannot trust what you tell me in your official capacity because what you are told as a TSA employee has a fair chance of being inaccurate or incomplete based on the government's past record.

Our government has often decided that it is better to conceal than to reveal even when the consequences of not providing the truth are horrific, and as a result its credibility has been severely damaged. People might get upset by the facts, but not nearly as upset when facts are withheld and the truth (along with avoidable damage) only becomes known later. Facts, presented by disinterested third parties who have a modicum of credibility, are a great tool in building trust; that does NOT include the manufacturers of AIT devices or the TSA. I'm an adult and I can make (hopefully) good decisions when I have enough information to do so. Denigrating reasonable requests (peer-reviewed information, for example), simply confirms people's suspicions. What would be so bad about allowing such material to be published? I'm sure some would object because the terrorists might better know how to circumvent the machines, but dosing tables do not reveal things like beam modulation patterns. The TSA has also shown a cavalier attitude about safety, which doesn't help. For example, why are there apparently no dosimeters used by TSA agents -- including those operating the pulse X-ray systems that scan bags? You may be satisifed with the claims that the machines are safe and only produce low doses and can't hurt the operators or the public, but there are recorded incidents where supposedly safe machines (with interlocks and failsafes built-in) went horribly awry and no one knew because no one was measuring anything. If the TSA can't figure this out or worse, isn't worried about basic precautions, how can I trust it?

As much as you may dislike it, the burden of proof rests on the TSA to show that it is indeed doing the right things, and that it has in fact taken all of these things into account. Digging heels in, abusing or mocking concerned citizens, completely ignoring reasonable requests, or using a complaint system as a stress-reliever rather than a feedback mechanism is not the way to gain the public's trust or to make your job easier.

You may find what people are saying to be laughable, but remember that they are making conclusions based on a lack of information. Rather than jeer them, it's more constructive to provide the information they lack. Some of us are just genuinely concerned, and until our concerns are allayed by actual data, we will choose not to fly or subject ourselves to what we find to be objectionable security procedures. At the same time, we recognize that there has to be a balance given the security mandates, and unfortunately, the TSA has demonstrated very little of that. If someone would simply recognize that there is an issue and try to at least resolve it, that would go a long way towards making everyone a little less uptight; defensive, obtuse responses are not a good policy.

Sorry to go on so long, but I'm trying to be civil here, as quaint as that might seem these days.

Submitted by Chris Bray on

How many terrorists did the TSA catch at your airport security checkpoints on Wednesday? And with Wednesday's numbers taken into account, what's the running tally of terrorists caught in airports by the TSA since the inception of the agency eight years ago?

Submitted by Anonymous on

In response to the claims that most AIT machines were off - not even an option to opt-out of - TSA should post the total number of passengers who were selected at each airport, not just the number who opted out. As a government agency under an administration who claims "openness," this would be the appropriate thing to do.

Submitted by Earl Pitts on

So Bob, did these preparations include shutting down most of the NudeOScopes, telling people to be extra nice, and actually having adequate staff for once?

If you changed your methods because of possible backlash, then the protesters won, despite what you claim.

Lines were shown as short at BWI for once. Given that on any given day when I've flown out of BWI, the lines at the D concourse are almost to the E, that tells me something changed. TSA doesn't magically become that efficient overnight doing what they normally do.


Also interesting to note that with the enhanced patdown being lessened (from many reports), and less NoS use, no planes fell out of the sky. What does that tell us about how essential these things are?

Also, if you watched the news, you'd see Amtrak and the highways are packed today. If you actually watched the interviews, many of the people cited TSA as the reason they didn't fly today. I think Wired was right when it said people opted out of opting out, but not for the reason they said. They just opted out of flying altogether.

TSA claims that it screens on average 2 million people a day - you've even made that claim. Yet reports were showing that an estimated 1.6 people were traveling on the busiest day of the year? That's 20% less than your average, Bob. Travel was light last year too, and even if it was up slighly this year, that's still not much.

So, this is a big propaganda yawn, Bob. I find it interesting that you can spend so much time on propaganda and spin today to address the needs of the public but you ignore those on your blog. It tells a lot about where TSA's priorities are: propaganda.

Earl

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA,
If you truly care about our safety, you need to look at the real science behind the body scanners. The Terahertz waves rip apart DNA. Do you know what that means? It means DEATH and DEPOPULATION. Do not ignore the true dangers. You can't claim that you just didn't know the dangers 2 years down the road when there is a wave of cancer in this country and miscarriages. Again, if you truly CARE about the SAFETY of Americans, you will get rid of the body scanners. Just for your information, if the CIA was abolished like President Kennedy was planning to do before the CIA/Mossad killed him, you would not have to worry about terrorism. ~A Retired Military Member

Submitted by William on

In your attempt to influence public opinion, you missed a story...

http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.cfm?ID=1925

61% of people don't like your current policy...which in Washington terms means that you're going to change the policy (whether you like it or not).

Moreover, the stunt that you pulled today hasn't gone unnoticed by the media. Between your Twitter feed and this blog, just how much time, effort, and money have you wasted?

I am already in touch with my Congressional Representative with this blog and Twitter feed. As this is an issue that gets him or her media coverage, I imagine that you'll be hearing about it.

BTW, many thanks for not printing my previous comment. Now in addition to violating habeas corpus, you've violated my right to petition the government.

Submitted by Adrian on

Isn't it a little misleading to give the total number of passengers screened, since not all passengers had to go through an AIT. Wouldn't more relevant numbers be number of passengers screened by the AIT's?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Hmmm.... you do say that opt-out day failed, but the airports were AWFULLY empty, don't you think?

Submitted by Anonymous on

For the busiest travel day of the year the lines and crowds were very small. Appearing less than normal Monday levels. Perhaps American just decided to not fly and thus avoid the entire issue?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Wow. Which TSA employee's kids were those? Probably didn't get groped either.

Submitted by Brylnt on

Yes, thank you TSA for taking away my Fourth Amendment rights. I'm so thankful for your services that I decided to cancel my holiday flight plans and will now be driving approximately 1400miles round trip to visit my family - whom I have not seen in a year.

I would rather risk the 11.01% per 100,000 people fatality rate on the roads than give up my Constitutional rights as a U.S. citizen.

Again, thank you for making me safer.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Congratulations! The public has been completely cowed into ceding both their rights AND their dignity. Next budget year ask for more money, you'll need it for gloves when the body cavity searches commence.

Submitted by Anonymous on

"Approximately 56,000 passengers screened with 300 AIT opt outs, which is less than 1 percent of all travelers and less than a normal day at the airport’s 17 AITs."

How many of those 56,000 were screened with AIT? You can't say only 1% opted out if everyone didn't have the choice. If only 600 passengers were screened with AIT, and 300 opted out, well then there was a 50% opt out rate. Please clarify.

I've also come across a number of reports from travelers commenting on AIT not being used at their airports. If this is the case, then perhaps it explains the lack of interruptions.

Submitted by AmericanSecurit... on

Sweet so this posts means we can bring signs to show our disapproval of the screenings?

Awesome.

Thanks for letting us keep the 1st amendment at least, even if we must give up our 4th to be safe.

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