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Full-body scanners, pat downs, protests to make for stressful Thanksgiving travel

An airport security official analyzes a full-body scan.

An airport security official analyzes a full-body scan. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Air passengers already bracing themselves for nerve-grating gridlock may have something else to be ungrateful for this Thanksgiving: invasive full-body scanners and pat-downs.

Many of the millions of Thanksgiving travelers taking to the skies this week will be subjected to the controversial measures for the first time, and protesters say it’ll be more ogle than gobble. And a planned grassroots protest could make waits at the airport even longer.

“They’re virtual strip-search scanners that produce a detailed nude image of everyone who passes through them,” City Councilman David G. Greenfield said yesterday. “The problem is they don’t work.”

Greenfield cited security experts at Israeli airports, widely hailed as the safest in the world, who say terrorists can sneak enough explosives through the scanners to “blow up a jumbo jet.” The councilman is spearheading legislation that would ban them in the city.

Homeland Security officials, however, said the machines are meant to detect non-metal explosives and said they don’t plan on easing security policies.

Kennedy and LaGuardia airports, which installed the machines last month, are among 69 airports that feature the $200,000 scanners. About 20 percent of travelers will be asked to use 400 scanners.

Outraged protesters are calling for a National Opt-Out Day this Wednesday — one of the busiest travel days of the year — urging travelers to forgo the scanners for the more intimate pat-downs.

TSA officials called the movement, which threatens to snarl airport traffic and create even lengthier lines, “irresponsible.”

Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the measures violate Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizures as well as certain federal laws.

His organization filed suit asking the program be suspended.

“The TSA is pretty off the rails. It feels it no longer needs to be held accountable,” said Rotenberg.

New Yorkers yesterday agreed that there’s a line to be drawn.

“They’re violating our civil rights and our right to privacy. The only good is for the people who invented those machines,” said Mike DiGuilio, 52, of the Rockaways.

Heidi Lee, Emma Diab and Reuters contributed to this story.

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The pros and cons of full-body scanners:
Case for scanners:

* Intended to detect non-metal explosives carried by potential terrorists, in light of recent chemical bomb plots

* A CBS News Poll found 4 in 5 Americans are supportive of the scans

Cases against them:
* No record yet available of effectiveness; no attacks thwarted

* Health risks associated with radiation, though TSA says there’s less radiation during a scan than during two minutes aboard a flight

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