Alaska State Rep. Chris Tuck has a special Christmas message for Alaskans: Feel free to opt out of the TSA full-body scanners.
Tuck, a conservative Democrat from Anchorage, appears in an unusual television ad warning travelers that new full-body scanners at Alaska airports do allow TSA screeners to see through your clothes.
If you don't want inappropriate pictures of you or your children taken and stored or if you're concerned about the possible health effects, all you have to do is say 'I opt out.' It is your right, Tuck says, standing in front of the state seal.
Instead, they will pat you down, and if they touch you inappropriately, call the airport police. This is still a free country, he says before wishing everyone safe travels this holiday season.
Tuck said the air time is costing him $2,060 and that he's paying for it out of his Public Offices Expense Term, which is where legislators are allowed to put surplus campaign cash after winning an election.
The state representative believes that TSA's Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) units are conditioning Alaskans to give up their rights. TSA installed body scanners at the Anchorage airport on Dec. 9 and later placed scanners in Fairbanks. The scanners are to arrive in Juneau and Ketchikan in the coming weeks.
Tuck plans to introduce legislation during the upcoming session to mitigate what he calls TSA's invasive techniques against Alaska residents.
I think the TSA has purposely implemented invasive, degrading procedures, further pushing people to give up their rights and freedoms. And that includes the freedom to travel, which in Alaska underscores our freedom to assemble, Tuck told the Alaska Dispatch.
I think there's undue fear being instilled in American citizens. The procedures we have are invasive and degrading. We need to speak up. And we need to opt out, he added.
In part, Tuck may be right. In July, a federal appeals court said many passengers remain unaware of this right (to opt for a pat-down), and some who have exercised the right have complained that the resulting pat-down was unnecessarily aggressive.
However, TSA disagrees with the ad on several points.
According to TSA spokesperson Kawika Riley, the body scanners at the airports in Alaska do not use backscatter - they have newer Millimeter Wave technology, different from the controversial scanners in the Lower 48 that raised concerns over privacy.
The new scanners do not show an actual image of the traveler scanned, instead displaying a generic gray human cutout. In these scanners, any image hidden beneath the passenger's clothing is indicated by small yellow squares.
All imaging technology at airports in Alaska produce a generic image that is the same for all passengers, Riley told the International Business Times. These machines use a software upgrade to highlight alarms, which has fully addressed any privacy concerns. TSA has committed that all new imaging technology units deployed in the future will also use the automated target recognition software.
As we have said all along, our machines in airports do not have the ability to and will never save images, Riley added.
TSA also claims that the imaging technology screening is safe for all travelers and that the technology meets all known national and international health and safety standards, adding that the energy emitted by millimeter wave technology is 1000 times less than the international limits and guidelines.
While there's no silver bullet, imaging technology is a valuable tool to detect potential threat items concealed on passengers, Riley said. We routinely find prohibited or illegal items on passengers, which illustrates our ability to detect threats concealed under clothing - such as explosives. ??The use of imaging technology has led to the discovery of more than 300 dangerous or illegal items hidden on passengers.
Watch Chris Tuck's controversial ad below: