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Oceanside Man Sparks Debate Over Airport Security Procedures


John Tyner, the local man who refused to submit to a full-body scan and pat-down at San Diego International Airport, has ignited a national discussion about airport security procedures. Are the new screening methods too obtrusive, or necessary to prevent against terrorist attacks? How might a campaign encouraging travelers to opt-out of the body scans impact one of the busiest travel weeks of the year?

John Tyner, the local man who refused to submit to a full-body scan and pat-down at San Diego International Airport, has ignited a national discussion about airport security procedures. Are the new screening methods too obtrusive, or necessary to prevent against terrorist attacks? How might a campaign encouraging travelers to opt-out of the body scans impact one of the busiest travel weeks of the year?


Bob Kittle, director of News Planning and Content for KUSI.

Ricky Young, watchdog editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune.

JW August, managing editor for 10News.

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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

The holiday travel season has begun. And the recently installed full body scan machines at Lindbergh field are busy. Their purpose is to ensure public safety. But those scanners have made some passengers uncomfortable, and one on the other hand man-made the news early this week by refusing the scan and a Pat down body search. So bob, before we get to the deeper issues, is there more to the story than one man's refusal to be searched and denied air travel that day.

BOB KITTLE: You know, Gloria, I think there really is. I think this guy, John Tyner, who famously said don't want touch my junk, he has touch aid nerve in the American psyche that goes back a long time. I know that some commentators have compared this to the revolutionary slogan, don't tread on me, but there is, I think an under current here in the American psyche that says government should leave me alone. I should have a certain, not just a zone of privacy, but the government is being too intrusive here, and in this case, intrusive in a very literal hands on sense. So I think this guy has touched a search, while the majority of passengers have said they don't mind the screening, I think a lot of people would object to the new Pat do you happen, if you will, pause it involves a very aggressive use of hands on one's body. So I think this new phenomenon is the broader backlash to the all intrusive government, I think this is the kind of thing that the tea party would love. This is the GOP getting too deep he involved in our lives.

GLORIA PENNER: Well, you got to the deeper issues before I was ready to, but I'm willing to jump in with you, bob, so I'm going to ask our listeners about that. You heard Bob Kittle's analysis of why the public is somewhat repelled by the full body scans. Do you go with him? Is this intrusion into your lives in a personal intrusion versus the public good? Our number is 1-888-895-5727. Bop opened up the subject, JW, do you think that's what's at issue here? A feeling of personal invasion of privacy?

JW AUGUST: That and plus the TSA, they had -- when they launched, they didn't have their act together, and they're still trying to get their culture together over that at that agency. They have problems with communication. I talked to some people who work the line, they got a thankless job. 30 grand a year, and people are always ticked off at them either 'cause the plane's late or how long it takes to process them. So many they're kind of in a no win situation. But a lot of this can be blamed actually at the agency and how they have been taking -- how they launched and how they take care of business, how nay communicate to thirds requirement own people.

GLORIA PENNER: I think there is some concern, for example, what do we really know about the extent of the training that TSA agents get to deal -- who deal with this rather sensitive practice? Do you know, JW AUGUST.

RICKY YOUNG: I'm not exactly sure. The *Tyner types showed some pretty interesting things they had to say about him, and their practices that I don't think would end up in priss releases. So whatever training they do I'm not sure got to the front lineups of the TSA. As bob noted, there is some support for these full body scanners, I think 80�percent of Americans support this. I think the other 20 percent all went to our website 'cause this story was huge. Our transportation reporter, Bob Hawkins broke it late Saturday night. Then it really took off Monday morning when the drudge report picked it up. Drudge has really been on the case of homeland security, you know, calling Janet Napolitano big sis, and this has become a big cause celeb in conservative circles of what's interesting that Tyner has no particular political affiliations, sort of calls him a libertarian, is disgusted with Republicans and Democrats, and doesn't think too much of the tea party, because he thinks they're in too good with the Republicans. So he's not latching onto anybody, so I think that independent streak makes him an appealing character to the public.

GLORIA PENNER: So he fits more into the libertarian independents than the tea party or the Republicans.

RICKY YOUNG: Yeah, he doesn't want to be labeled in any way.

GLORIA PENNER: Well, we just labeled him or at least I did. And

Mr. Tyner of course is the one who objected to having the full body scan or even the body search.

RICKY YOUNG: Right. And he did not say the phrase attributed to him, don't touch my junk, this is more of the Casablanca situation where he said something more along the lines of if you touch my junk, I'll have you arrested. He was raising concerns about this scan, you know where they said to him, we're going to be doing a groin check, that means I'm requesting to be placing my hand on your hip, my other hand on your inner thigh, slowly go up and slide down. One British pucblication said it sounded like something from a dodgy massage parlor.

GLORIA PENNER: And that was JW AUGUST, watch dog editor from the UT. Again, getting back to the training of the TSA agents, suggestions have been made, bob, that having people with some medical training in those jobs where there's actual body contact would be more acceptable to passengers. You know, it would be like going to a doctor's office and having some assistant take your blood pressure or what have you.

RICKY YOUNG: Well, the problem with that, Gloria, is that the doctor's office had a terminal with hundreds of people milling around you, so if you want to examined in front of hundreds of people, that's what the situation would be. But the reality is to me, I just have to question the effectives of these pat down searches of they are intrusive, if you've seen the demonstrations, if a woman is being examined, for example, by a woman TSA agent, the agent cups her breast with her hands and does a very, you know, closeup high in the thighs kind of check, men get the same kind of treatment from a male, SA agent, when it's being done properly, it's the kind of thing that almost anybody would flinch at. The other option, go through the full body scanner, if you've gone on the Internet and looked at some of the images, they are quite explicit. The news media don't show you the explicit photos because we don't want to offend people by being too graphic. But the reality is the TSA inspector running that machine can tell, for example, whether a woman is menstruating. It's a very intrusive picture that's being taken of your body.

GLORIA PENNER: But what guarantee of anonymity is there? We don't know who youure even though we may know what's happening in your body.

RICKY YOUNG: In theory, that's correct. The TSA agent says they don't see the passenger directly, that the passenger's face is not visible on the screen, and that the photos are never shared. But photos have wound up on the Internet one way or another. So I think we have to question whether the security of these scanner photographs is as sound as the TSA says it is.

GLORIA PENNER: Well, our phone lines are filled, and before we get to our first caller, and we are gonna do that, what bob is saying, strikes some alarm bells in my mind, JW, are we becoming a paranoid nation?

JW AUGUST: Are we becoming? Yes, we are paranoid. I think 911 set us down that course. And I think we have a right to be, frankly. And I fall on the side, I'm all for all the security you can have, I'm gonna get on the plane where they pat people down, they ought to fly into Israel.

GLORIA PENNER: What is the safety record with flying in or out Israel?

JW AUGUST: I think it's pretty good.

GLORIA PENNER: Just one other thing while I have you, JW, Congress man Bob Filner, San Diego, he's calling on house home land security committee to examine TSA's security screening procedures, he said that TSA needs to restore the public's confidence. So is he jumping on the band wagon here?

JW AUGUST: Congress man Filner? Jump on the band wagon? I don't think so. Wait a minute, didn't he have the wrestling match with the lady you don't think that's residue from that time? This announcement?

A. Can anybody validate that?

BOB KITTLE: Well, yeah, JW is certainly correct that Congress man Filner has had, I believe, two run ins with security and baggage personnel at the airport. So perhaps he has a little bit of a personal ax to grind here, but more significantly, Gloria, of course the Democrats will be in the minority in Congress next near, but Darryl Issa of Oceanside has said that he wants to provide over sight of TSA abuses, and he is the governing chairman of the over sight committee of if he wants to.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay, well, let's turn to our callers, they look as though they have some really interesting comments based on my computer screen here. We'll start with Kim in normal heights. Kim, become to the Editors' Roundtable.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, thanks very much for taking my call. I am a frequent traveler between San Diego and the east coast because that's where all my family is. So I don't really have the option of not flying, therefore I have been opting out of the full body scanners, and I've gone through the enhanced pat down a couple of times, and my understanding is that I've not been treated appropriately, I've not been offered a private screening, I've always had a female agent groping me in public, which is fairly uncolorful, but I don't really have a choice, and I guess the thing that bothers me more than anything else is that the whole body scanners have not been shown to be an evidence based effective method of screening for potential terrorism. So we're being subjected to the scanners and the pat-downs without any really foundation of knowledge and research that shows that that I work. And I would just really prefer that we move to a system like one of the editors was just talking about in Tel Aviv, the Israeli system is much more and not about -- as security experts have started calling it, because it's very much about show and not about what actually works, and the Israeli system uses profiling they do grill them in that they ask a lot of questions and ask what type was responses travelers give, and that way has been shown to be really, really effective.

GLORIA PENNER: Well, Kim, I'm sorry to interrupt you, but the question that I was going to ask, I guess of the editors, I want to get it in so that we don't forget it, and that is that that sounds, what Kim is talking about, the grilling, the asking the questions, behavioral profile, the evidence based, that sounds to me, Ricky, as though those agents have to have a lot more training than the agencies that we have who do the pat-downs or take the pictures.

RICKY YOUNG: Yeah. I mean J. W mentions these are fairly hoe paying Jobs, and I think they come with not as much training as the Israelis have. So that would certainly be a solution, but I don't know how much it would change things at the front lineup. I was gonna ask Kim if she's still this.

GLORIA PENNER: Are you there Kim.

RICKY YOUNG: She's finish. I was just curious in whether she would be participating in the op out Wednesday. She's a frequent traveller so.

GLORIA PENNER: She is there.

NEW SPEAKER: I unfortunately am not traveling, [[]] but I do support all of the people who will be opting out. There's definitely a psychological component in that the TSA denies it, but I think the pat down is so incredibly unpleasant that we will just lineup for the scanner. conscientiously make that decision to go through the pat down as inconvenient and unpleasant as it may be, provided they're not cancer survivors or sexual assault survivors, then the more of us that can do that, the better.

GLORIA PENNER: Thank you very much, Kim, we appreciate your comments. And we'll be back in just a moment, take more of your calls, and take more calls for the editors. This is the Editors' Roundtable, I'm Gloria Penner.

In is the Editors' Roundtable, I'm Gloria Penner, we are talking about body scanners, the electron con, and the personal pat down kind, and the recent we're talking about it is because there was an incident earlier this week that attracted a lot of attention, when some man refused to accept the body scab and actually wasn't allowed to fly. And was, I think, kicked out of the airport. So we're wondering about whether personal privacy is more important than the public good. This is not a question, that we have raised yet on this particular segment, but we will, and keep that in mind, gentlemen, first we're gonna go with one of our callers, by the way, with me today, Bob Kittle from KUSI, 10 News, we have JW August, and JW AUGUST from the panel Theresa you're on with the editors.

NEW SPEAKER: I just wanted to let you know, and this is my comment, you know, I think people really are forgetting 911. This guy just put us back -- way back. And we're not the only ones that are looking at us. The whole world is looking at us, and once we start to get lax about what's going on out there, terrorism is a real threat. And you don't think that they're watching our news, you don't think that they're looking at us, they are. And I just want to say that this guy really is -- has put me and my family and lots of other people's safety at risk. And for what?


NEW SPEAKER: So I think that I'm in favor of the pat downs, I think it's necessary, yes, it's a little inconvenient. But I think America needs to know that we're safe.

GLORIA PENNER: Thank you so much, Theresa for your comment. And before the editors respond, let's hear from feleashia in Coronado. You're on with the edit are ones.

NEW SPEAKER: And good morning, I just wanted to make this comment. I was passing through the San Diego airport two weeks ago, and I opted for the pat down, I'm 69�years old, I'm not shy about having my body touched, four children, seven grand children, when I went through the pat down, it was so aggressive, I was shocked. I opted for the pat down because I did not believe that the radiation issues have been fully vetted with regard to the machines on the scan. And I just wanted to make sure I was keeping myself safe. Frankly, I'll never go through the pat down again.

GLORIA PENNER: Thank you, Felicia. Well, our callers have opened up a lot of good subjects here. Bob Kittle, one do you want to respond to.

BOB KITTLE: Just briefly, I think Felicia has raised the issue how absurd it is to be patting down 69-year-old grandmothers from Duluth. , the vast majority of passengers do not need to be subjected to an intensive search. We are scared of the notion of racial profiling, therefore we say everybody has to be subjected to the same kind of intense examination that someone from Yemen who's just coming to the country meets. So I think it's insane, really, almost to subject all travellers to the kind of inspections that we do want.

GLORIA PENNER: Are you saying that a 69-year-old grand mother from Duluth could not be a terrorist.

BOB KITTLE: No, I'm saying that the reality is that 69-year-old grandmothers are not terrorists. Not that she can't be, but that's not -- you upon, let's be sensible about some of this. Of we're taking children out of their strollers and inspecting their diapers to make sure there are no explosives in them. This is absurd.

GLORIA PENNER: Well, but you heard on the other hand what Felicia had to say, I believe that was Felicia. Of who said that she was -- was it Felicia or Theresa?

JW AUGUST: Theresa.

GLORIA PENNER: Theresa, I'm, Theresa, who said that we need these. Of we need these because otherwise we're going to send the word out to the world that we are lax. JW?

JW AUGUST: I just wondered, I wish we could talk to Theresa again. Has she been through the pat down? Because it is aggressive. We've been through this before, it was the buzz story, and seen demonstrations of this, and it's very aggressive. Why couldn't they put a screen up and screen people? When they first started after 911, they did the screen at the gate, and put them behind the screen and did an aggressive pat down, that will be a solution of at least allow people friacy if they have to do this.

GLORIA PENNER: That sort of brings us to the time question, and I really would like all of our callers in, in, and chain, and Jeremy, and Ruben, please go to our website,,/Editors' Roundtable, and write your comments so we have a common sense to think about them and respond. Final question on this, and this one goes to you, Ricky. Private versus public. In this case, it is invasion of one's privacy, maybe even the fourth amendment to the constitution. Again, unreasonable search versus the public good, which was something that Felicia brought up, you know, concern about whether we are protecting ourselves, all the people, by individually going through some discomfort. Well, you do a protection against unreasonable searchs and is shes, but as the DSA agents told John Tyner, you check those rights at the door, when you get on the airplane. You don't have a right to fly on an airplane. It's a business that you can patronize if you play by their rules and their rules require this at this time, and there's a lot of people like the woman you're mentioning who think for the public good, they'd rather fly that way, I heard J. W say the same thing. Then there's the John tiners of world who think this has gone too far. This will come to a head next Wednesday, on opt out day, there's a movement to have the people opt out of the scans, which would create havoc at security when everybody has to go through these pat downs.

GLORIA PENNER: And you're talking about Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

RICKY YOUNG: One of the biggest travel days of the year, if not the biggest. And it'll be very interesting. Upon what I've been trying to cob septualize, who are these people who would buy a $400 air ticket, and then opt out of the -- under examined is the idea that he got his money back. Of how the heck does anybody get them?

GLORIA PENNER: On a nonrefundable ticket.



RICKY YOUNG: That's the real consumer story here.

GLORIA PENNER: That's the big story. Bob, since you introduced the whole story, do you have any final sage comments maybe about the concern about X-rays? Especially with airport personnel?

BOB KITTLE: No, Exactly, the air line pilots' association has raised this, because pilots and flight attendants who have to go through the screening at an airport perhaps multiple times every workday are being exposed to more radiation. That is a very serious issue. The fourth amendment issue will ultimately decide this, and the Courts -- and it may ultimately go to the Supreme Court, and the Courts will decide whether this violets the fourth amendment unreasonable centuries. Ful . The government can make a good case that this is necessary to protect the public, and the Courts are would defer to the government's ability to do this.

GLORIA PENNER: Okay. That's Bob Kittle's words of wisdom for the day. And thank you very much, thanks again to the callers. Excellent calls.

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