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Airport travel starts smoothly, with no sign of delays from scanner protests

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As Thanksgiving travel ramps up At Reagan National Airport, so does controversy over body scanners and pat-downs at the nation's airports.

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Organizers of the protest, which began online a little more than two weeks ago, say they want to focus the growing anger over the TSA's enhanced security procedures, and they are willing to risk long delays and making other travelers mad to do it. The agency implemented the enhanced techniques after a failed terrorist plot late last month to blow up cargo planes headed to the United States.

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One unruly passenger or several travelers opting out could spell a long day at the airport for many others. A full-body scan usually takes five seconds, with an extra 15 to 30 seconds to produce the images. A full-body pat-down by a security official of the same sex takes at least twice as long, one to two minutes on average, according to video of the frisks.

"I just want to know if the TSA workers actually believe they are keeping people safe by feeling us up if we opt out of the full-body scan," said Cara Eshleman, a baker from Arlington County who is flying out of Reagan National Airport on Wednesday and plans to opt out if she is directed to a full-body scanner. "It's too bad I already bought my ticket. If I'd have found out about this before, I wouldn't be going anywhere for the holidays."

At Dulles, Lori and Roger James finished a late breakfast before heading to the security gates.

The Scottsdale, Ariz., couple had a nine-hour layover before a flight to South Africa. They both planned to go through a metal detector or body scanner because it's "quick and easy," Lori James said. Roger James frowned at the idea of a pat-down.

"They ain't touching me," he said, shaking his head.

Reginald Henry, who has worked as a TSA officer at Reagan for seven years, said he has handled passenger pat-downs the same way as other security policies - and has received few complaints.

"My interactions with passengers have all been positive," said Henry, of Fort Washington. "I tell them what I am going to do as I am doing it, so it is not a surprise to them. . . . I treat everyone the way I would want to be treated. Some folks come to the airport already stressed out about traveling, so I try to put them at ease."

Criticisms of protest

Some aviation security experts say the public firestorm is largely being fueled by a few privacy-obsessed individuals, many of them self-identified as libertarians, and is not emblematic of the wider feeling among Americans that such screening, although intrusive, is necessary to ward off terrorist attacks.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Monday found that 32 percent of Americans object to the full-body X-ray machines, 35 percent say they may present a health risk, and 50 percent oppose the new pat-down searches.

A majority of those surveyed in the Post-ABC poll supported using passenger profiling.

Several aviation security groups have consulted with Israeli officials, whose Shin Bet security service at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport routinely frisks passengers thoroughly and asks specific questions about a traveler's job, home town, trip plans and other personal information.


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