"Invasive" airport security screening could cause Thanksgiving delays

FRESNO, Calif.

In an exclusive Action News Poll, conducted by SurveyUSA, 53% of Valley residents said the searches done by airport screeners are necessary. But 35% say they are unnecessarily invasive.

Critics say air travelers are either getting an electronic strip search or some inappropriate touching. But most of the travelers we talked to said it's what has to be done to keep everyone safe.

One by one, passengers leaving Fresno Tuesday threw their hands in the air and subjected themselves to a full-body scan.

Hidden away in a nearby room, a TSA screener is seeing images of their bodies that leave little to the imagination.

If passengers opt out of the electronic scan, they get an old-fashioned pat-down, with a stranger's hands touching every part of their body.

"(It's) embarrassing and it's humiliating," said Jennifer Phillips, who was returning to Newark, NJ, after visiting family in Oakhurst. "It's a little humiliating."

But she agrees with the 38% of Valley residents in our exclusive poll who said the personal searches should continue.

"I think we should just cooperate, do the best, move along and you know, provide that safety for all of us," said Phillips.

Still, 46% want the searches modified, and 9% want them to stop completely. But those opinions may be partially based on a lack of information.

The poll also showed only 30% of Valley residents think the full-body scanners are safe for frequent fliers. 21% said they're dangerous, and almost half of those polled said they don't know.

The only full-body scanner at Fresno's airport is what's known as a millimeter-wave machine. It doesn't emit radiation and research has proven it doesn't cause cancer.

Several other airports use the backscatter machine, which does emit radiation and might be more dangerous.

The potential danger and the embarrassing images are cause for concern to privacy advocates. They're encouraging passengers to opt out of the scans Wednesday -- a strategy TSA Administrator John Pistole says will only punish people trying to go spend time with family.

"I don't think that can help but avoid having a negative impact on people making their flights on time," he said.

Airport officials in Fresno tell Action News they don't think there's much enthusiasm for the "Opt Out" day, so they're not too worried about long delays Wednesday.

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