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Kiwi Refuses Airport Body Scan

Stuck in Heathrow after Body Scan Refusal

by James Holder

Tuesday 23rd November 2010 6.45pm What rights do the general public have when faced with the prospect of spreading their legs and arms and getting x-rays forced upon them to make a naked image of their body? NONE! I can testify to this first hand as I sit, at this moment, in London Heathrow Airport writing this.

I’ve refused to allow the airport security to do a body scan on me (I’m happy to be strip searched and patted down but apparently that is no longer an option), and now I can’t fly home to New Zealand, my girlfriends waiting for me back home.....she’s not going to be happy about me being stuck here.....I’d say that I was generally a cheerful chap but slowly my mood is turning to frustration and helplessness, I just want to go home.

The drama unfolded this morning, I took the train to Heathrow, checked in for my flight with the very helpful airline staff, headed through passport control, courteous, professional and efficient, he checked my details and it was off to security check. Being a regular traveller I’m pretty used to the security processing, I removed my laptop from its case, my wallet, pens and cash from my pockets along with the assorted rubbish that seems to accumulate there....I remembered not to bring any liquids and I removed my belt. All pretty standard and non eventful, I walked through the metal detector without a beep.

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Then the fateful words unfolded “You’ve been selected at random for additional security screening”

Now you’re probably imagining that I’m a visual target for a random test, maybe I have dreaded hair? Islamic features? Baggy clothing that could hide weapons? Good looking young female? Nope, I’m none of these things, I’m a 28 year old male, blond hair, blue eyes, slightly lanky, wearing jeans and a sweater from New Zealand, a commonwealth country. So I guess that means the test is completely random which is good I guess, but then it also means that no one is excluded from being picked.

I was taken off the side, a couple of security officers told me that I had to undergo a “full body scan” (search Google images for “airport body scanner” to see what this entails) . The glass box stood in front of me and about 3metres away the door is open to the display room where some dodgy looking security officer would be inspecting my nude body on the screen magnifying areas that are “of interest” I politely refused the scan based on the principle that it is a step too far in personal invasion and I don’t wish to see it forced upon every traveller. I’m informed that this is the wrong answer and that I have no other choice.....

Let me get this straight, I’m not a prude, I don’t mind a bit of nudity, especially in the right company! But I draw the line when a device is being tested for further implementation on the public that allows someone to display live naked images of your body at their whim.

I offered to let them pat me down, but it was apparently the body scanner or nothing, I offered to let them strip search me and pat me down, but still the body scanner or nothing. The law it seems offers no rights to another option.

Marched back through security, back to the airline desk I was informed that I can’t go through security today, the airline staff, while sympathetic to the cause, couldn’t override the security officers.

So now I wait in the airport frustrated, my girlfriend waits in New Zealand, no doubt annoyed that I’m stuck. It’s that principle of this that gets me, what happens if they make this the standard procedure? Would you be happy for your son or daughter to be seen naked by a random security officer at their demand? Good looking ladies had better watch out too, guaranteed that there will be some ‘magnifying’ and leering going on in that closed room as live images of you ‘bits’ are inspected. Too bad if you’re pregnant and worried about the x-rays on your unborn child, you still get no choice. And no longer do you need to worry about your friends posting those embarrassing photos on Facebook of you, the new threat is your body scanner images photographed and posted ‘for a laugh’ on the internet.

Just give us other options, that’s all we ask! Pat down, strip search, anything? Who came up with this extra security anyway? Not the public, I’m sure if you took a survey of regular travellers it would show that they think enough is enough. If fact I imagine that the company that makes the scanners lobbies the government a bit, some more profit......who knows?

Not me, all I know is that I want to go home, to New Zealand, to my girlfriend......so I wait at London Heathrow Airport and hope that when I’m finally allowed to head through security again that I don’t get randomly selected......


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