I regularly see passengers off to the side at airport security checkpoints getting the full pat down. While my imagination runs wild (as it is wont to do) and I think they are “high risk” or suspicious travelers, the truth is, a large percentage of these folks are simply “opting out” of the TSA’s full body scan in favor of the pat down.
While TSA agents often sigh loudly when passengers opt for the pat down and it certainly slows the security process, it is well within the rights of any traveler to ask to bypass the full body scan to avoid potentially harmful radiation.
However, the Los Angeles Times reports that an independent analysis of full body scanners shows that they do NOT expose passengers to dangerous levels of radiation. But there’s a catch (isn’t there always a catch?). The independent analysis, conducted by Marquette University’s College of Engineering, did not use data from tests that they themselves performed. Instead, the data used was provided by the TSA. Call me crazy, but in my eyes, this makes the independent analysis not so independent. But if I have to choose between a quick full body scan by a machine, and a longer personal pat down by a TSA agent, I’ll choose the full body scan. Any day.