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8:48pm on Friday, 11th March, 2011:

Security Scare


Jacket off, belt off, shoes off ... watch off? Pockets completely empty — no handkerchief, no comb?

Oh oh, that could only mean one thing: a dose of backscatter X-ray (the one that X-rays through your clothes) (not through my teeth, though, I could have smuggled something through in my dental work).

OK, well even though I know backscatter X-rays are going to cause cancer in 10 or so people who are subjected to them at American airports this year, it's not my country so I didn't ask to be patted down instead (which I also know is a legal option, albeit not one calculated to enamour foreigners to the Department of Homeland Security).

The woman behind me in the line, however, decided to assert her right.

This caused something of a panic. There were only two female officers on duty: one would have to conduct the search and the other would have to witness it. This would mean that there would be no female officers available to pat down any women who set off any alarms. They were faced with a choice: let the woman who insisted on a search in privacy get away without being searched, or not send any other women through the body scanner until they were done. They chose the latter: women were to be sent to the regular metal detector only men would get the whole "we can see you naked" treatment.

So, if you're a terrorist, you now know to send a decoy through first who demands a private search, and then you can send through the one with the underwear made of semtex.

This isn't the end of the story, though. I was in front of the woman who asserted her rights, but the computer said that I was her. The officer stopping me from leaving kept saying to his supervisor "I have a male in front of me" and the supervisor (presumably looking at the X-ray images remotely) kept insisting that the computer said I was female, 5 feet 3 inches. The argument went back and forth for several exchanges; well, when I say "argument" I mean "repetition of original statement". Eventually, the officer decided to break the cycle and said, "well the computer must have miscounted then" and let me go.

Gawd knows how his supervisor got to be a supervisor, but I guess if I'd been taken away to be strip-searched by two female officers the truth would have finally emerged anyway...

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).